Conduits of Blessing or Stagnant Ponds?

Sunday Chronicles. #110, Sept. 23, 2018

Conduits of Blessing or Stagnant Ponds?

Gray thunderheads over Springfield, MO filter out much of the sun shining above them. Temps are much cooler with a hint of fall. Physically, I’ve had a tough week, and I’m feeling old today. Yesterday, son Jon drove me to Ozark, MO to renew my driver’s license. (SP offices that handle those duties are closed on Saturday.) The eye exam showed my left eye is getting weaker. Many things I enjoy doing– reading, writing, cooking—require good vision. So I was feeling down…but the mail brought a card from a friend with the picture of a droopy teddy bear penned on a clothes line by one ear and dripping water. The heading asked, “Feel like you’ve been through the spin cycle?” My mood exactly! Ps. 124:8 was printed on the inside: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  I thought, “Well, since He did that great creative act, He can surely help my little problems!”

Stiffness in my knees has made getting in and out of cars and walking with canes more difficult. I participated in MV Chapel via TV today; I sang with them and followed the sermon with my Bible open. The Holy Spirit was with me even as He was present in the chapel. Our chaplain was back from his vacation, and he lead the opening. The speaker was Donna Barrett, the newly appointed general secretary of the Assemblies of God. Her topic was “Remembering” and she based her remarks on I Cor. 11:23-26, the Scripture that most of us associate with communion. Her first point was from Paul’s statement that he was passing on to the church at Corinth “what he had received from the Lord”; not something stale and lifeless, but a fresh download from God. She challenged us to keep our spiritual life fresh and to be conduits of blessing for others.

Point 2 was “Remembering the gravity of sin” from the phrase “the same night He was betrayed.” Jesus, facing death and knowing that His betrayer was at the table, yet gave His disciples final instructions. She admonished us to ask God to search our hearts for unforgiveness, a critical spirit, or other “secret” sins.  She quoted Dr. Dobbins as saying that his greatest concern for the A/G fellowship was that we would lose our fear of sin and cease to be thankful for the price Jesus paid for our redemption. Point 3 was not to hide in externals and forms of worship but nurture our fellowship with Jesus by being forgiving of others and quick to repent and apologize when we did wrong. Point 4 was based on the phrase “when he had given thanks” in V. 24. She encouraged us to develop an “attitude of gratitude.” She mentioned that giving thanks is a powerful tool in spiritual warfare. I have found this true in my life.

She had my heart when she told us about some of the problems of the Grant Beach neighborhood that borders the A/G headquarters offices on the west. When she moved here two months ago, she began walking in that area until someone advised her it wasn’t safe for her to walk alone there. She challenged us to join her in prayer that God would heal that neighborhood and bring change to lives broken by sin.

I’m no stranger to the Grant Beach area. When we came to Springfield in 1972 we bought an older home in that neighborhood. I could walk to the A/G offices where I worked; Weaver School is less than a block west of our old home, so I our children walked to school. We soon learned that many of the older homes in that area had been cut up into cheap rental units and that drug use and alcoholism were rampant. Some of my A/G friends advised that I should move to a better neighborhood, but that home was right for us. I didn’t have to tell my children what sin did to people’s lives; we had front-row seats to view the effects. The principal at Weaver was not only a dedicated educator but also a woman of faith. She welcomed my assistance in PTA and counseling parents. I have no doubt that God sent us there. Another A/G family, here for the husband to attend the Assemblies of God Seminary, moved in across the street and joined us in praying for and assisting our neighbors. We left that neighborhood when we moved to pioneer the church at Ridgedale in 1998. Now, this woman has taken up the burden. I applaud her for her concern for a neighborhood almost in the shadow of A/G offices. Please join us in prayer for those so near to churches and help, but yet so far from Jesus.

Your prayers are very much appreciated, as are your visits, cards, e-mails…all the ways that you encourage me. Although Nelson has been gone almost 18 months now, living alone is not any easier. More medical issues are surfacing, and I see another doctor this week. Yet I am fully aware that “my help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  Please continue to pray for the lonely believer in a closed country. I will let you know when I hear more from the missionary who requested prayer for him…Peace, jwb

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Seeking Greatness or Servanthood?

Sunday Chronicles #109, Sept. 16, 2018

It’s still summer in Springfield, MO with blue skies, hot sun, and temps near 90…predicted to stay with us all next week. Mind you, I’m not complaining, just reporting! But I will complain about an allergic reaction to what I assume is pollen, possibly ragweed. Runny eyes, itching skin, and nasal congestion! It’s time for fall.

For those of you who are praying for the lonely believer in a nation that opposes Christians, please continue in prayer especially tonight. He is scheduled to go before a tribal council on Sept. 17 …which is now beginning in that nation.  He is the only Jesus follower in his village. Pray he can be bold in his witness and that his testimony will bring others to faith in the living God.

Another friend of many years moved to Heaven last week: Lloyd Colbaugh, a brilliant, talented man, yet courteous and humble, he did design and art work for foreign missions publications when I came onboard as a writer. Through the years since, we’ve maintained a friendship, read each other’s writings, and exchanged ideas. I shall miss his clear thinking and succinct comments. His going also makes me ponder when it will be my turn to go.

I watched/listened to Maranatha Chapel this morning on TV. Our chaplain is still on vacation, so the speaker today was the assistant chaplain. Her subject was “Why Are We Serving Jesus?” from the text Mt. 20:20-28. This is the occasion where the mother of Jesus’ disciples James and John comes to Jesus with a request: she wants her sons to have prominent positions in the earthly kingdom they are expecting Jesus to set up. Of course, she doesn’t realize what she’s asking (Have I been guilty of prayers like that? Oh, yes!), and Jesus responds that He can’t make that promise because His Father is the one who decides those things. When the other ten disciples heard about this mother’s request, they were indignant. Some of them undoubtedly had hopes of having important seats in Jesus’ cabinet, too. They had not yet understood that Jesus would die, not set up an earthly kingdom at that time. Jesus had tried to prepare them (Mt. 16:23; Mk. 8:33) but when He talked about His coming death, Peter took him aside and scolded Him, saying (my translation), “You shouldn’t say these things, Lord. You’re discouraging us!” to which Jesus replied in strong language: “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

In an attempt to settle the issue of who would have places of honor in His kingdom before His disciples had a 10/2 split, Jesus called them all together and explained that His Kingdom would not be like those of this world where rulers exercise authority over their subjects. He explains the ground rules for His kingdom in MT. 20: 26-28: “Whosoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you would be your slave; even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

That brings us to the question: Why are we serving Jesus? Certainly, there are benefits to being His children, but is that an acceptable reason for service? Are we Christians for what we can get out of it? It seems to me that the only acceptable reason for serving Jesus and His people is love. “…he who abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him….We love, because He first loved us.”(I John 4:16-19 RSV). This subject is much deeper than we can explore in today’s space….but  our lives will intersect with hundreds of people as we go through life. Whether our interaction with each person is limited or lengthy, will they go away from us feeling loved? Will they see Jesus in us? Years ago a student in one of my high school classes came to me with a question about what happens after death. Knowing her family attended a church of a different religious group, I suggested she ask her pastor or someone in her church. She looked at me aghast and said, “Mrs. Booze, you are the only Christian I know!” Since then I’ve often wondered, How many of the people I interact with during a day or week or month, see me as the only Christian they know? And how well do I represent Jesus to them?

Thanks to all of you who prayed for me during my struggle with “the little foxes.” Your cards, emails, comments on FB, gifts, and visits lifted my spirits. I pray that God will be gracious to you and make His face shine upon you this week as you share love with those you meet. Remember, to someone, YOU are the only Christian they know! Peace, jwb

Contending with “The Little Foxes”

Sunday Chronicles #108, September 9, 2018

Contending with “The Little Foxes”

A rather dreary Sunday afternoon in Springfield, MO with heavy clouds hanging overhead. The gloom seems appropriate to the type of week I’ve had – nothing too serious, but continuing health issues, especially with eye, ear, and intestinal tract problems, and a series of small aggravations that got me down. Some of those “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:25 NIV) included a flat tire on my Lincoln which was a sharp reminder that Nelson took care of all things car, but now I have to decide what to do. After a few phone calls, and a series of instructions to press”1” or press “2” or say “yes” or “no,” I got a real person to come out and change the tire. Fortunately, the spare, which had not been used in I don’t know how long, still functioned. Now I need to get the flat tire to a repair shop to be ready for the next encounter with flats.

Next my favorite touch lamp, which has been my bedside partner for more years than I can remember, quit responding to touch one night at a late bedtime. It still burned brightly but has no on/off switch, so I couldn’t turn it off. I unplugged it and made do with a small nightlight. The final blow came Friday when I got a bill that was much higher than I had expected. I hit bottom, sat down, and cried.  Of course, I prayed, but I didn’t get an immediate response. If Nelson had been here, he would have said, “Don’t cry, Mama. It’s all right. God will help us.” But he’s not here….

This morning I watched Maranatha Chapel service on T V. Our chaplain is on vacation, and Rev. Owen Carr, a longtime friend and now also a Maranatha resident, spoke. Although he is in his mid-90s, Bro. Carr is still an able minister. He based his sermon on the phrase, “How Much More…” beginning with Heb. 9:11-15, empathizing how many blessings we have through Jesus Christ. He mentioned Luke 12:28, 29 where Jesus is assuring His followers that since He clothes the lilies with such glory, How Much More will He care for them. In the next verses, Jesus tells His hearers that the Father in Heaven knows their need for food and drink and will supply all that life requires if they seek first His Kingdom and do His will. Bro. Carr referred to other Bible stories such as the ravens who fed Elijah and the widow who used her last meal and oil to make him a piece of bread. He also mentioned 1 Tim. 6:17 where Paul writes “…God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy.” The Holy Spirit blessed these scriptures to my heart.

Now I start another week, thankful for friends who stand by me when an attack of the “little foxes” gets me down. I am well aware that the kind of problems which discouraged me this week are minor compared to life-and-death situations that others face. I also know believers in other nations who live with persecution so severe that my little difficulties would seem frivolous. But I have to be honest in my struggles; that doesn’t change who God is or what He can and will do. Some of you may be dealing with “little foxes” that sap your spiritual strength. We are not alone. Remember Elijah, after that great victory on Mt. Carmel when God sent fire down from heaven, ran in fear from Jezebel and prayed to die. Exhausted and in despair, he fell asleep under a juniper tree. God, in loving concern for His weary servant, sent an angel to prepare food and care for him.

Apparently the “little foxes” in Song of Solomon were damaging the vines and stealing the grape harvest. May God give us the spiritual stamina to overcome them and take part in the joy of bringing in the harvest. Peace, jwb

“Praise God for every wondrous gift of joy, every heartfelt kindness, every forgiving friend, every caring stranger, and for His love that is constant forever and ever.”  (Author unknown)

 

More Than Enough

Sunday Chronicles, #107, September 2, 2018

Dear Readers,

After a week that included torrential rains and T-storms, we are blessed with a balmy Sunday afternoon in Springfield, MO. Even with beautiful weather, it has been a somber day for me. Today marks 18 months since Nelson went home to Jesus. The statement that best explains the feeling in my heart is “Grief is love with no place to go.” I’m trying to turn that love into helping others who need someone to care.

Health issues kept me at home today. but I listened to Maranatha Chapel on TV. Chaplain preached a powerful sermon on God being a God of abundance: He gives abundant pardon for sin, abundant grace for enduring hard things, and abundant life to those who walk with Him. From the story of the feeding of the 4,000, recorded in Mark 8:1-10, Chaplain pointed out that Jesus and His disciples were in a Gentile area where a crowd had followed Jesus for three days, listening to Him teach. They were without food, and some had walked a long way to get there. If Jesus sent them away hungry, they might faint before they got home.

The disciples were concerned that Jesus expected them to feed the men, and they had only 7 loaves of bread, with no place to get more. Jesus takes what they have, multiplies it, and feeds the whole crowd. It was more than enough—seven baskets of scraps were left over! These same disciples had seen Jesus feed 5,000 with a boy’s lunch only a few weeks before. Why didn’t they believe He would make what they had enough to feed this crowd? I can’t point my finger at these disciples, because time after time Jesus has provided for me when I didn’t have enough. But, like the disciples, the next time I’m out of money for bills, strength to do a needed task, or courage to face some hard thing, I look at my natural resources and despair. But God is also abundant in love for His feeble children, and He gently multiplies what little we have to meet the need.

In my reading this week, I was challenged by a very old story of a German artist who was hired to paint a scene of the crucifixion for the local Catholic church. When he tired of working on it, he decided to take a break and start on a different painting. He hired of a Gypsy girl for a model and was paying her to stand quietly as he painted her. While he mixed paints and used his brush, she studied the painting of Jesus and questioned the artist about who the Man was and what was happening to Him. Finally, in exasperation, he told her the story. When he finished, her eyes were full of tears, and she said, “You must love Him very much since He did all that for you!”

These words struck the painter’s heart. He finally found peace when he attended a Bible study, heard the gospel, and came to faith in Christ. He wondered what he could do for the One who loved him so much. He was inspired to use his paint brush to share the gospel. Soon a painting of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns hung in the local museum. Engraved on the frame were the words, “All this I did for thee; What hast thou done for me?” One day a wealthy young nobleman, Count Nickolas Zinzendorf, stood before the painting. Through those words the love of Christ laid hold on his soul. He stood there weeping until the curator told him it was time to close. When he left the gallery, he began a new life, using his wealth and lands to shelter persecuted believers. He became their leader, and the group developed into the mighty Moravian Missionary movement.

The question comes down to us: Are we using the gifts with which God has endowed us to share His love? It can be an act as simple as a friendly smile or an encouraging word, a listening ear, a caring heart, or time spent in prayer. Or it can be as life changing as putting everything we are and have into the Master’s hands for His use.   

May the God of abundance meet all your needs as you watch for opportunities to share His love with those around you.   Peace, jwb

P.S. Keep praying for the lonely believer in a closed nation. He is scheduled to go before the tribal council on Sept. 17. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give him boldness to witness as Peter and John did in Acts 4.

Thought Potpourri: Mundane and Divine

Sunday Chronicles #106, August 26, 2018

 

Greetings on a hot,  sunny afternoon in Springfield, MO!  After a week of cool temps in the low 80’s, intermingled with light rain showers, the Great Southwest has sent us another blast of summer! (Temps in 90’s

and climbing!) I attended chapel here at Maranatha today. After getting up early and making myself presentable to be seen in church, I went out to drive my old Lincoln. In its youth it was endowed with several features that I have never understood; one is an Anti-Theft device. Today this device had somehow locked the steering wheel, and I couldn’t get the ignition turned on. While sitting there considering my options, Melinda called. She kindly offered to come and drive me to chapel, so I got there after all. I’m afraid I’m becoming a big nuisance to my kids! (Do you hear the “Amens”?)

 

My devotional reading this week has ranged from chapters in Ezekiel to the writings of “Brother Lawrence” and the visions of Julian of Norwich. Both of these saints lived in the dark time of the Late Middle Ages, yet they walked with God and paid a dear price to know Him intimately. God help us not to let technology overload, sound bites and tweets, cellphones and videos, keep us from devoting quality time to God.  Along with reading, I have continued to sort boxes of correspondence from the late 1960s and early 1970s. (My trash cans are overflowing!) Among the letters was one dated February 10, 1970, from Bro. Robert Cunningham, then editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. He was informing me that an article I had submitted to the Evangel would be printed in the March 8, 1970 issue, and he noted that a $4.00 honorarium check was enclosed! In the 1960s I had done freelance articles for the C. A. Herald and other youth publications, but I have no memory of this Evangel article. It must have been among my first in that publication. I should look it up in the PE Archives and see what I said! Or maybe not!

A prayer focus has been a request from a missionary for a new believer who is the only Jesus follower in his village. He lives in a tribal region four hours from any other believers. In his nation those leaving the major accepted religion endure intense persecution, often death. His family disapproves of his action; he has been brought before the elders and warned of the seriousness of his choice. In an area where family approval is everything, he has been shut out. The appeal for prayer said he was intensely lonely and discouraged. Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen his faith and give him courage to remain true to Jesus. I don’t know if he has access to a Bible in his language or even if he can read. But in closed nations Jesus often appears to those seeking Him in dreams and visions. Pray that the Holy Spirit will minister to this man and that his wife will come to faith in Jesus. He is scheduled to go before the tribal council again in September. Join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will give him boldness to witness and that the light of the gospel will penetrate other hearts.

In preparation for future teaching, I have focused on the Apostle Andrew. He and another disciple of John the Baptist were with John the day after John had baptized Jesus. Jesus came walking by, and John said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”  Andrew and the other disciple (who is not named) immediately left John and followed Jesus. After spending time with Jesus, they were convinced that He was the Messiah. Andrew immediately brought his brother Peter to Jesus. Thus began their 3-year journey as Jesus’ disciples. Peter takes center stage, but Andrew appears two other times bringing someone to Jesus. In John 12:22 Greeks who had come to Jerusalem came to Philip asking to see Jesus; Philip turns them over to Andrew, who takes them to Jesus.  In John 6:9, Andrew brings the young lad to Jesus who has the 2 small fish and 5 barley loaves that Jesus used to feed the multitude. How did he meet the boy? Was Andrew more approachable, easier to talk to, so that people didn’t mind sharing their desires and ideas with him? I don’t know, but I’m looking closely at the references. You’ll hear more later. I’m working to gain strength in my legs to use the walker more hours each day and continue to do as much as possible for myself. Your prayers, visits, shared food, and those special friends who have continued to encourage me multiple times with cards and e-mails – all are appreciated. “Thank you” seems TOTALLY  inadequate, but I pray God will bless each of you! Peace, jwb

 

 

Honest Faith

Sunday Chronicles #105, August 19, 2018

Greetings from Springfield, MO where we have cloudy skies, light rain, high humidity—all-in-all a rather dreary day. Last week’s Chronicles had a higher readership than usual and, to my delight, sparked more comments. Since I love hearing from you, perhaps I should take up writing romance novels!

A visiting speaker in our chapel today spoke on the topic of faith, using 2 Tim. 1:3-6 as the basis of his sermon. He talked about the word “unfeigned” which the KJV uses to translate the Greek word in V. 5, where Paul comments on the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. NIV uses “sincere;” MSG “honest;” and Berkeley “unalloyed.” These choices show us that Paul is talking about a faith that is not put-on to impress someone, but that is the true intent of the heart. I will admit that faith is somewhat of a mystery to me; sometimes it is present when I least expect it; at other times, I beg for it and it doesn’t seem to be available. But “honest” and “sincere” in relation to our dealings with God and others, I do understand. Just as Timothy’s faith was molded by his mother and grandmother, so my concepts of honesty and faith came into being by observing the actions of my parents.

In 1935-36, in the heart of the depression, my father pastored a small Pentecostal congregation in Nuyaka, OK. He led them in building a tabernacle-style building with money he made arrangements to borrow from a bank. In the spring of 1937, when the Nuyaka church seemed to be doing well, my father took the pastorate of a church in the rural community of Beckett Mountain near Rosebud, AR. The only place for us to live was a run-down share-cropper’s cabin on land owned by one of the deacons. It consisted of one large room and a lean-to kitchen on the back with a small porch on the front. Mom and Dad spent the summer trying to make it livable, covering the walls with cardboard and then heavy building paper and adding a small side room so my teen-age sister could have her own bedroom. The church building there was only a shell, no inside ceiling and only partially floored. As soon as crops were gathered, Dad and the men of the congregation began work to finish the inside of the church. When that was done, they built a new 4-room parsonage—two bedrooms, a living room and an eat-in kitchen. We moved into it in early spring 1938.

A few weeks later, Dad got a letter from the Nuyaka church saying that they had been unable to make the payments on the money Dad had borrowed to build the church, and the banker was threatening to tear down the building and sell the used lumber to get part of his money back. Now here’s where I saw my dad practice the honesty part of faith: Since he had arranged for the loan, he felt responsible to see that the loan was repaid; he resigned the Beckett Mountain church, loaded a trailer with our household goods, and we returned to Nuyaka. Dad talked to the banker and asked for additional time to pay the load; the banker agreed, saying he would much rather have the money rather than the used lumber. Dad did something he knew how to do: on donated land, using a borrowed team and plows, he planted a cotton crop. The congregation helped pick the cotton (I helped, too!) and when sold, it made enough to pay off the loan.

I grew up knowing that when I misbehaved, if I told the truth, I would be punished according to the seriousness of my actions. But if I lied to Dad about what I had done, my punishment would be far greater! Maybe this is what “honest faith” means to me: you do right to the best of your understanding and you trust God to do right by you, not always what you want, but what He in His wisdom has designed for your good. Perhaps later I’ll write about how God used that move back to Nuyaka to bless my parents with a home of their own, something they had never had! “Honest faith” changes our lives because it does not depend solely on us; it depends on the character of God who is faithful even when we flounder (2 Tim. 2:13).

This move to a smaller apartment is stretching me to adapt to what I can do and leave what I can’t do alone until I have someone to help. Using the motorized chair more has resulted in increased stiffness in my knees. Last week I began a new course of physical therapy, working toward being able to use with my walker longer without depleting my energy. Your visits, cards, e-mails, help with shopping, bringing food … every kindness you give is deeply appreciated. Thank you for being the hands of God extended! Peace, jwb

Past or Future: God Is there!

Sunday Chronicles 104, August 12, 2018

Greetings from Springfield, MO on a balmy Sunday afternoon. I’ve now completed two weeks of living in my new “digs” as one of my younger friends dubbed it. And “digs” describes most of what I’ve been doing: digging in boxes looking for things I know are here, but I don’t know where. Late yesterday I started unpacking a small box labelled “Keepsakes.” I expected to sort it in about an hour. Turns out the box had been packed in the 1970s when we moved to Springfield and had followed us around for nearly 50 years without ever being unpacked! What a walk down memory lane…some laughs, some tears. Letters from friends, Valentines to me from Nelson, wedding announcements and photos from young people we had mentored in our first years of pastoring. Time seemed to stand still as I relived those long past events.

In the box were several items from 1953, my first year in Junior College at Southwestern in Waxahachie, TX. Programs from church events, musicals we saw in Fort Worth, and the Junior/Senior banquet which I attended with Nelson who was graduating from the 4-year Bible program. We had started dating in the fall of 1953, and after a few weeks, I felt I should be up front with Nelson; so one evening in Dallas, sitting together on a park bench, I told him I enjoyed his company and the times we spent together, but I had grown up as a preacher’s daughter and I’d had enough of parsonage living. Therefore, I wasn’t interested in a serious relationship with anyone called to ministry. He assured me we could just be friends, so we continued the weekly double-date the school allowed.

Then the night of that Junior/Senior banquet, when we returned to the girls’ dorm just before curfew, he stopped by some shrubbery (known as the “kissing place”) and told me he loved me and wanted to court me. I don’t remember what I said; I know I felt terrible, like I had been leading him on. I went inside with tears running down my face and was immediately surrounded by girls who thought we had broken up. I finally got away to my room.

Whatever I had said to Nelson didn’t deter him in the least. He came back to Southwestern for a 5th year and courted ardently – flowers, cards, surprises, milk shakes delivered to my room after curfew – anything he suspected would please me. His being a 5th year Senior and well- respected on campus, he got many extra privileges; also, I worked in the business office for Vice-President Claude Kendrick which gave me some special standing. After several breakups (my choice) and getting back together (his persistence) we became engaged, and the rest is history! Now history continues with my only grandson who is heading to college next week…sixty-five years from my first venture into Higher Ed.  The world has changed, but thank God, He remains the same. Our chaplain opened the service here today by reading Psalm 34:7-10. Verse 7 tells us the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him. Isn’t that a comforting thought? Missionaries have often recounted to me how God sent angels to guard them in dangerous places.

As I struggle with the limitations of aging, my grandson will be entering doors of expanding opportunities…but God will be guiding both of us as long as we seek to honor Him. “My tomorrows are all known to Thee; Thou will lead me all the way.” (Howard l Brown; Margaret W. Brown.)

Wherever you are in life, the Good Shepherd will continue to lead you. If you stumble, He will pick you up and carry you until you are strong again. He’s there — all the way through this life – and even beyond! At the end, He and His angels will bring you into His Great House for eternity. Go forward this week rejoicing that the best is yet to come! Peace, jwb