A Teacher at Heart

According to the Myers-Briggs assessment, I have an ENFJ personality. If you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs, it is an introspective self-report questionnaire indicating differing psychological preferences in how you perceive the world and make decisions. The test attempts to assign four categories: introversion or extraversion (I or E), sensing or intuition (S or N), thinking or feeling (T or F), judging or perceiving (J or P). You can read more about it and take a free version of the test here.

ENFJ’s are teachers at heart. We are the benevolent pedagogues of humanity. According to the Myers-Briggs type, we possess the following personality:

  • We have tremendous charisma by which many are drawn into our nurturant tutelage.
  • We have tremendous power to manipulate others with our phenomenal interpersonal skills and unique salesmanship, but it’s usually not meant as manipulation because we generally believe in our dreams, and see ourselves as helpers and enablers, which we usually are.
  • We are global learners and see the big picture. Many of us have tremendous entrepreneurial ability.
  • We are organized in the arena of interpersonal affairs. Our offices may or may not be cluttered (mine is cluttered, yet orderly).
  • We know and appreciate people.

I offer this insight to raise awareness about the importance of knowing yourself. How you’re made. How your wired. With increased self-awareness, you can start to understand why you’re here and build habits that allow you to experience passion and purpose. Such purpose ultimately yields clarity of calling, i.e. how you deliver your purpose to the world.

Understanding that I have the personality of teacher, enables and empowers me to focus on that gift in all that I do. Good teaching requires kindness, gentleness and patience. Being able to teach indicates an inward, temperamental aspect to compliment the external effectiveness with others. And being entrusted with such ability means being a good steward of the talent on loan from God.

It’s one thing to be a teacher in practice and another to be a teacher at heart. Good teachers see possibilities in people. They are hopeful that others can learn and grow. They don’t assume people are what they are and will never change. Rather, good teachers want to influence, to shape, to guide. They want to inform, present facts and provide motivation. They want to teach and through words change people, not simply judge them for where they are.

Good teachers are called to a kind of patience that is forgiving, a type of forgiveness that hears someone say or do something wrong and doesn’t give up on them. Rather, we take a deep breath pray for patience, and begin the hard work of teaching. We make our case and without being patronizing, we teach. We just keep teaching and teaching and teaching.

For those of us with teaching personality-types, let’s cultivate the heart and approach of a good teacher. Let’s give the space and provide the gracious teaching that forgiveness makes possible. Let’s hope for change, and pray for change, and under God, let’s seek to change people through careful patient, teaching.

Jesus Christ is the single greatest teacher the world has ever known, and it’s no accident. God gave Jesus his heart and his Spirit to teach because God loves to teach.

God is a teacher at heart.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 6 – Marty Muchnok

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling and Neighborly Love, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Episode 6 – Marty Muchnok

Marc interviews Marty Muchnok, President of First National Insurance Agency. Marty answers three thought provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t and issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Marty describes how he proactively planned for helping homeless people on the streets of Pittsburgh, how he hopes to minister to others in retirement and how he has a dream goal that is a work in progress.

Neighborly Love, Episode 6 – Marty Muchnok (2-19-21)

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Men have their choice in this world. They can be angels, or they can be demons. In the apocalyptic vision, John describes a war in heaven. You have only to strip that vision of its gorgeous Oriental drapery, divest it of its shining and celestial ornaments, clothe it in the simple and familiar language of common sense, and you will have before you the eternal conflict between right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and slavery, truth and falsehood, the glorious light of love, and the appalling darkness of human selfishness and sin. The human heart is a seat of constant war. … Just what takes place in individual hearts, often takes place between nations, and between individuals of the same nation. Such is the struggle going on in the United States. The slaveholders had rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879 (National Archives Gift Collection)

Frederick Douglass delivered that message in a speech at Zion Church in Rochester, New York on June 16, 1861. He also published it in Douglass’ Monthly in July 1861. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American, or immigrants. He also believed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, American’s founding documents, provided the proper framework for the establishment of the liberty and justice of the slaves in the country at the time.

Both Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln were on the right side of history. And like Lincoln, Douglass was a member of the Republican (big “R”) party and championed the participation of all people in republican (small “r”) self-government. Douglass wanted all slaves to be free and to be treated like everyone else. He did not want free blacks to be treated differently, but rather wanted whites to just get out of the way. In What the Black Man Wants in 1865 he wrote, “What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. … Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!

Douglass continues, “I am for the ‘immediate, unconditional, and universal’ enfranchisement of the black man, in every State in the Union. Without this, his liberty is a mockery; without this, you might as well almost retain the old name of slavery for his condition; for, in fact, if he is not the slave of the individual master, he is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right. He is at the mercy of the mob, and has not means of protecting himself.” I can’t help but to reflect on the statement, “… He is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right.

Slave owners were tyrants. In fact, all slave masters are tyrants. Always were and always will be. This holds true for the “slave masters of society” who seek to place themselves above the law. Douglass said it best, “The tyrant wants no law above his own will, no associates but men of his own stamp of baseness. He is willing to administer the laws where he can bend them to his will, but he will break them when he can no longer bend them. … Where labor is performed under the lash, justice will be administered under the bowie knife. The south is in this respect just what slavery has made her. She has been breeding thieves, rebels and traitors, and this stupendous conflict is a result.

Does this remind you of anything today? I can’t help but to think about our political oligarchy. Our political class acts like and feels like a modern day aristocracy, modern day tyrants. What Frederick Douglass said about black slave owners in 1861, could be said today of them. “Just what takes place in individual hearts, often takes place between nations, and between individuals of the same nation. Such is the struggle going on in the United States. The slaveholders had rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

What does he mean by “serve in heaven.” Let’s unpack that.

It means to humble yourself before God and allow Him to work in and through you. Then you will begin to bear the very fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. Fredrick Douglass allowed that to happen, as did Abraham Lincoln. Many people in American history fighting the good fight “between right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and slavery, truth and falsehood, the glorious light of love, and the appalling darkness of human selfishness and sin” allowed this to happen. It is only by co-laboring with the Holy Spirit that ordinary people accomplish good and extraordinary things on earth and learn what its like to “serve in heaven.”

In 1865, President Lincoln concluded his Second Inaugural Address with these words, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God give us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Amen President Lincoln. Amen Mr. Douglass. I pray we learn from your example of co-laboring with the Holy Spirit to attempt to draw America back to increased fidelity to it’s founding principles. For we must be reconciled one to another on the basis of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” That is the basis of “a new birth of freedom.”

PS: Happy Birthday to Frederick Douglass. He was born on February 14, 1818.

Game On

The following are statements from two influential people in American history. Try to guess who they are and when they said them.

Statement #1:

“An informed patriotism is what we want. Are we doing a good job of teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly what it means to be American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that American was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties.

But now, … some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of American is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer in style. … We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.

So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important – why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, four years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I read a letter from a young woman writing to her late father, who’d fought on Omaha Beach. … She said, ‘we will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did.‘ Well, let’s help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”

Statement #2

“Fame is a four letter word. And like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job (is), we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen, day and night. The conductor of the orchestra at The Hollywood Bowl, grew up in a family who had little interest in music, but he often tells people he found his early inspiration from the fine musicians on television.

Last month, a 13-year old boy abducted an 8-year old girl. And when people ask him why, he said he ‘learned about it on TV. Something different to try. … Life’s cheap. What does it matter?‘ Well life isn’t cheap. It’s the greatest mystery of any millennium. And television needs to do all it can to broadcast that. To show and tell what the good in life is all about.

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own. By treating our neighbor, at least as well as we treat ourselves. And allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Who in your life has been such a servant to you? Who has helped you love the good that grows within you? Let’s just take 10 seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life. Those of us who have encouraged us to become who we are tonight. Just 10 seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time. (10 second pause)

No matter where they are, either here or in Heaven, imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now. We all have only one life to live on Earth, and through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.”

Old Glory

Statement #1 was said by Ronald Regan toward the end of his Farewell Address as President in January 1989. Statement #2 was said by Mister Rogers during his acceptance speech at his Television Academy Hall of Fame induction in 1999. Fast forward to 2021. Why does it feel like we didn’t heed their wisdom?

Both Ronald Regan and Fred Rogers were humble servant-leaders and key influencers in politics, education, business, media and arts & entertainment. They wielded their influence in a kind, gentle and attractive manner with different audiences. They were able to integrate their interests and aptitudes into a coherent whole that gave a special power to their lives and influence. They were careful not to use that influence carelessly. They did not often endorse viewpoints or tell others how to live. Instead they led—as the best leaders do—through example.

I pray that new leaders emerge with the same spirit, grit and influence as Ronald Regan and Fred Rogers. Make no mistake. We are in a war for the heart and soul of America. It is a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of our good people. At risk is what Ronald Regan so eloquently warned, an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.

That is what is at stake in the fight we are in. We can see today the totalitarian impulse among powerful forces in our politics and culture. We can see it in the rise and imposition of doublethink, and we can see it in the increasing attempts to rewrite our American history.

President Regan, Mister Rogers, I’m sorry I’m a little late to the game, but I am ready to fight the good fight, just as you did, in a humble, gentle, neighborly, servant-minded manner. I’m suited up, have my helmet on and chin strap tight.

Game on.

Leadership: The Chicken or The Dog?

Honey the Frenchie of BlueCairo Frenchies

Leadership is essentially the stewarding of influence, and a leader must account for the use of the influence that their leadership position offers them. A leader must aim to build a relationship with their team that transcends performance metrics. They must aim to inspire, train, mentor and be a blessing to their team.

To illustrate that point, let’s use an analogy of two completely different mindsets: (1) a poultry breeder and (2) a dog breeder. Poultry is bred strictly for its ability to lay eggs or provide protein. Dogs, on the other hand, are bred for their friendship and help. While the dog is treated like a member of the family, chickens usually end up in a pot. Team leadership can be approached with similar mindsets. One leader may treat their team as cogs of production and another may view them as humans and friends.

By Stephen Ausmus, USDA ARS – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID D004-1 (next)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3823953

Leaders who are humbly aware and acknowledge that they are temporary stewards of their influence, are like a nightlight in a dark room. Their light shines in the darkness, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, as though the darkness cannot overpower it.

Reflect on that for a moment. The. Light. Shines. On.

In reality, none of us really own anything. Our life, our talent, our gifts, our leadership is on loan from God. We are merely lessees. God is the lessor. We are stewards of everything we have been given.

We can choose to be nightlights in a very dark world. Or we can choose to snuff the light out. Both options are available to us. It’s very similar to the choice we have to treat and lead people.

Chickens or dogs? Cogs or friends?

Forgive. Learn. Labor.

I have learned three keys to staying young and free for as long as I live. They are not rocket science, however they are hard to truly understand.

First, keep forgiving. The only person that unforgiveness hurts is you. Sure, it’s difficult to let go of resentment towards someone who has hurt you, however unforgiveness causes stress and unhappiness that eventually creeps into relationships with other people. When you chose to forgive, you find freedom. If you have bitterness in your heart, then here’s what to do:

  • Assume responsibility for your unforgiving spirit. The other person is responsible for your pain, but you are responsible for harboring bitterness.
  • Confess honestly. It’s ok to admit you’re bitter. It’s ok to want justice. But an unforgiving spirit will return unless you can let go of your anger.
  • Pray for the perpetrator. Ask God to release you from the prison of bitterness. This is the best way to break the hold it has on you.
  • Express gratitude that you have, indeed, forgiven. Such an attitude of gratitude helps to resist the temptation to rehash the past.

Second, keep learning. Treat every opportunity to forgive as an opportunity to learn and grow. In fact, there is no growth without tension. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is a natural law so use it to your advantage. Learning is the perpetual process of planting seeds that will germinate and bear fruit. Never stop planting seeds. The day you stop planting is the day you stop learning.

Lastly, keep laboring. Even when you choose to retire from your career, you should never stop working. This is why I’m a big fan of treating a career as a ministry, which means serving others in God’s name. This is why I’m a life coach. Whatever your age, look for opportunities to serve others. Understand your purpose, seek clarity for your calling, identify a big dream and transform your career into a ministry. You’ll stay young at heart for all of your days.

If you can truly understand these concepts, then you’ll have a new lease on life. You’ll understand that freedom is an opportunity to serve one another through love. This is what it means to be a neighbor. This kind of love means surrendering our selfish motives, but that doesn’t mean we lose freedom. In fact, the opposite is true. We’re liberated to do exactly what God has called us to do.

Keep forgiving. Keep learning. Keep laboring.


Sadly, Joanne Rogers, the wife of Fred Rogers, the creator and host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” died on Thursday at her home in Pittsburgh. Mrs. Rogers said in a TEDx Talk in 2018, “So much a part of me was Fred. One of the things he talked about was making goodness attractive, and I think that’s something that we can try to do, and it’s quite an assignment.

Joanne Rogers with her husband, Fred, on an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” during the 1970s. She spread his message of kindness after his death in 2003. (Credit: Photofest)

Fred Rogers considered the number “143” to be a very special number. According to The 143 Club, an organization that provides financial support to the Fred Rogers Center, he once said, “It takes one letter to say I and four letters to say love and three letters to say you. One hundred and forty-three.” In fact, he liked the number so much that he maintained the weight of 143 pounds for the last 30 years of his life.

The level of will that Mr. Rogers had, both physically and mentally, was understated. But nothing manifested his will better than the number 143. And nothing captures the spirit and strength of his character than the May 9, 1969 episode of “Mister. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In that episode, Mr. Rogers made a statement about how ridiculous it was for white people to not want black people to swim in the same swimming pool in pools around the country. He took a stand against racial inequality when he invited Officer Clemmons, a black policeman, to join him in a small pool on a hot summer day. They both took off their shoes and socks, cuffed their pants and had a friendly conversation while wading their feet in a small plastic children’s pool.

Fifty years later, we’re still fighting racial inequality, unfortunately. The more things change, the more they stay the same. While our culture has dramatically changed, there is still a feeling of inequality. If you do a root cause analysis of why people still feel that way, I believe the answer points to their inability to embrace 143. They simply can’t universally say “I love you” to others, no matter their color, gender or ethnicity. It’s a matter of the heart. Whether a white person doesn’t want a black person in their pool, or a black “diversity, equity and inclusion” executive labels God-fearing white patriotic Americans as “white supremacist,” neither viewpoint is constructive or helps the conversation.

To truly unify our society, we need bold leaders, like Fred Rogers, to enter worldly arenas with a kind, gentle, compassionate and forgiving heart AND an indomitable spirit determined to influence minds and hearts to usher in God’s Kingdom on Earth. We need to nurture these types of “neighborhoods” of influence.

We all need to make 143 our favorite number, just like Mr. Rogers. Then it will truly be a beautiful day in our neighborhood.

Neighborly Love Podcast, Episode 5 – Leslie Humes

Ordinary People. Extraordinary Conversations.

If “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” collided at an intersection, then the Neighborly Love podcast would be the result. It features casual conversations over coffee in a “virtual coffee shop” that lean into the power of empathy. It’s about feeling heard, valued and understood. It’s about serving others. It’s about depositing money in our relational banks.

Neighborly Love is an original podcast by MindWolves. Host Marc Casciani, author of Craft Your Calling and Neighborly Love, interviews ordinary people about their heart for God and serving other people for the greater good.

Episode 5 – Leslie Humes

Marc interviews Leslie Humes, Team Lead and Learning Coordinator at FNB Insurance. Leslie answers three thought provoking questions: (1) Tell me about a time when you did something nice for someone?, (2) What would you do for a living if money weren’t and issue?, and (3) Do you have a dream that involves serving others? Leslie reveals her “acts of service” love language, touchingly describes how she cared for her mother-in-law, conveys her passion for gardening and dream of opening an “old-time” general store that is fed by a world-class greenhouse operation and feeds a built-in restaurant and café. For Leslie, it’s a manifestation of her ministry to serve people by sharing the secrets of gardening and planting to build deeper roots in life. She was inspired by the book, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Neighborly Love, Episode 5 – Leslie Humes (1-15-21)

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Life is a Series of Projects

My life has been a series of projects. The first project spanned 17 years, and it prepared me to enter the world as an adult. My mother and father were the “project managers,” and I am grateful for their stewardship.

The next project formally equipped me as a problem-solver and ran 5.5 years. When I exited the world of higher-education from Penn State University, I had credentials (BSME & MSME) and credibility for the arena of commerce.

Project #3 entailed engineering work in process control & automation of manufacturing systems. During that project, I was mentored and groomed as a sales & business development professional. It lasted 5 years.

For Project #4, I was fascinated with this new thing called the Internet and decided to acquire skills to help me navigate it’s emergence. To accomplish that, I helped startup an information security company, one of the first of its kind, while going for additional higher-education and another credential (MBA) at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. That project ran 7 years.

Venn diagram of Greek, Latin and Russian Cyrillic upper case graphemes

For Project #5, I reluctantly entered the world of big insurance. I say reluctantly because I did not like the industry’s stereotype. However, I took the leap of faith because of a good friend who sold me on the opportunity to transform the industry. 15 years later, the project is ongoing, however we’ve made significant progress. Little did I know my prior solutions, connections and experiences with projects #3 and #4 would intersect with #5 like a Venn diagram. Looking back, I see they actually built upon each other.

As I look forward to the rest of my life, I can’t help but to see it as a sequence of more projects. With each one, I am navigating closer to something that is very meaningful. Even when the project doesn’t work, when it’s perceived as a failure, the learning experience increases my chances for the next one to work. I simply need to be patient and persist.

When done with a generous heart and cohesive team, projects are even more fulfilling. In fact, others root for you to succeed. Here’s to the progressive realization of worthy projects based on worthy ideals. A worthy ideal is the thing you never give up pursuing regardless of how many times you fall down or fail trying.

What does your life’s project portfolio look like? Are you playing it safe and conforming to what others say you should do? Are you being selfish and greedy and too risky? Neither extreme is healthy.

A healthy, balanced, generous mindset entails being driven by good habits, passion and purpose. Your “daily bread” should be comprised of doing things and serving others that have a high success rate and produce many small positive outcomes. These are the fundamental building blocks by which successful projects are accomplished. When you see your moment to take a shot at a big positive outcome that has a low chance of success, take it. Dream big and act on faith. In fact, if you can do it on your own power, then the dream is not big enough. The Dream Project is the one you need God’s help to complete.

Planting Seeds in a Pandemic

What does a farmer do before she plants seeds? She tills the soil. Tilling is actually a form of deep cultivation that is necessary when preparing a new garden bed or when adding large amounts of organic material. Tilling will cultivate the soil 8-10 inches deep, perhaps even more if you are creating a new garden bed in an area where the soil is very poor.

Ridge Plough Photo by everythingmotoring.com

What if this pandemic is the equivalent of tilling the world’s soil? I believe it is, especially in the USA. I believe God is using it to till our soil, and He wants those of us who are faithful to plant seeds in faith. All throughout history, those believers who planted in faith received a “Well done my good and faithful servant.” They pushed through their comfort zone and did things that were viewed as contrarian to current culture.

“It was by faith Abraham obeyed God’s call to go to another place God promised to give him. He left his own country, not knowing where he was to go.” (Hebrews 11:8) What would you do? Abraham was in the last phase of his life, just about to “retire.” Then God said, “No, don’t get comfortable. Get ready for the greatest journey of your life.” When you live by faith, it involves going to places you were never planning to go.

Are you waiting for this pandemic to be over and for things to go back to “normal”? Well, I think you’ll be waiting a very long time.

Rather than wishing and waiting, embrace and plant. Embrace what’s new and different as opportunities to plant seeds in freshly tilled soil. I would encourage you to see it that way. Of course, that’s what coaches are supposed to do, encourage their athletes to push through and past their comfort zones. For those who don’t know me. I’m a coach. That’s how God made me.

A coach inspires. A coach motivates. A coach teaches. A coach pushes their students into uncomfortable territory and creates learning moments so they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally and spiritually.

Also, I am a coach of faith, pushing myself and my athletes into uncomfortable, worldly arenas to compete for hearts, minds and influence. My aim is to help form good habits, passion and purpose and to forge a joyful diligence, which feels like hard work (no pain), and humble desperation, which feels like you’re working for God, not yourself (no gain). Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit’s passion and purpose that fuels us.

We don’t have to be perfect in our diligence and desperation. We only have to be steadfastly resolute. The root word of steadfast is steady, and the Hebrew word for steady is a verb meaning upheld. Therefore, to be steadfastly resolute in faith is to be upheld by God, i.e. to be dependent on the upholder. To have a steady heart in an unsteady world, among unsteady people, during unsteady days, we need to know that and by whom we are upheld.

Being upheld allows one to be gracious when others are harsh and unkind. Being upheld empowers one to be merciful when others are cold and unforgiving. Being upheld emboldens one to be righteous when others indulge and rebel.

Being upheld dissolves fears and becomes a kiln for courage and boldness in an unsteady time. Being upheld enables us to faithfully plant the seeds He wants us to plant today.

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