The Bridge-Building Ministry of Encouragement

Debbie Kitterman’s class comprised a delightful balance of both brown and white faces, and when she overheard the symphony of Spanish and English conversations, her curiosity was piqued. At the first opportunity, she approached the pastor of the Hispanic congregation that was hosting her class.

“How come half of my class doesn’t speak Spanish?” she queried. “Do they attend your congregation?”

“No,” he replied. “During our joint staff meeting, I mentioned to the pastoral staff I was going to have you come teach my congregation on how to hear from God, so word got out.”

The desire to hear God’s Truth and to encourage others through His Word was strong enough to bridge the gap between two cultures, and if we were honest, this is a bridge upon which we all need to place the soles of our feet. Finding that Christians everywhere need a bit of help getting outside our comfort zones, Debbie Kitterman has shared her own journey along with the good news that God intends for us to build one another up as we speak words of Truth. In The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others, we find Kitterman’s confidence and fervor flow from years of learning alongside biblical characters like little Samuel that the voice of God in our ears and in our hearts requires action on our part.

God the Holy Spirit is Living and Active

Debbie’s ministry trumpets the “freelance nature of the Holy Spirit.” The third Person of the Trinity is living and active, through His Word and in His people. Those who put Him in a box miss out on the full display of His power at work in ordinary people.  Furthermore, we are built for connection, for relationship with God and with each other. Living in harmony with the example of Jesus means embracing a lifestyle of encouragement. “Jesus had radical encounters with ordinary people every day. By listening to the Father’s voice and doing what the Father said, Jesus was able to release heaven into the situations and lives of those He encountered.” (21)

When we take the risk of sharing God’s truth with others for the purpose of encouraging them in their walk with God, that movement into obedience may have the domino effect of moving them into obedience as well. As we align our words and our actions with the plumb line of Scripture, we will find ourselves swept up into the bridge-building ministry of a God whose invitation is open and full of hope:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”  (Isaiah 43:18, 19)

Many thanks to Chosen Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Rejoicing in God’s Redemptive Work,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Practical Help for Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline

Among the assorted ranks of those who practice journaling, you can record me in the column labeled “intimidated.” Observation, application, and interpretation of my reading primes the pump, but never are my entries particularly stirring or insightful. My pages are scattered with partial outlines, first and second drafts of biblically-inspired poetry, and lists of questions alongside scribbled notes from podcasts and commentaries. Add to these the assortment of written prayers and rants (what Madeleine L’Engle would have called “tirages”), and it’s clear that my journals are not a great example of why anyone should start journaling as a spiritual discipline.

Or maybe they are?

Author Deborah Haddix decided a long time ago that “formulating thoughts, getting them into words, and putting pen to paper simply required more energy than [she] wanted to expend,” and so journaling was just not for her. However, when friends began to share their experiences of deep spiritual growth and communication with God through the discipline of journal keeping, she began to listen and decided to give it a try.

She learned that journaling is not nearly as narrow as she had thought. Rather than staring at a blank page, she found freedom to use drawing, paper crafting, photography, and even decorative lettering as an expression of her heart to a God who is NOT in the business of putting His children in ill-fitting boxes. The result of her discovery and the fruit of her learning process is Journaling for the Soul (Nourish the Soul), a handbook of journaling methods that goes beyond pen and paper and invites readers to span the spectrum of spiritual disciplines in their walk with God.

Soul care is a crucial (and over looked) element of self care, and it takes time and a level of commitment to focus on engaging with God in relationship. Investing the time to cultivate that interaction is an invitation to slow down, to replenish, and to exhale.

Slow Down

“Slow me down, Lord,” is the prayer I bring to the table almost every day when I open the sacred pages and begin to seek the “wonderful things” promised there.  For a successful and satisfying experience with a spiritual journal, Haddix recommends baby steps in the beginning. Give yourself permission to try new methods and also freedom to discard any that do not help. For example, since crafting is something I do with my grandson these days, it would get in my way during my quiet time. I’m not likely to try vision boards or mapping, because for me, the words themselves are what speak to my heart. For me, dealing in images feels like work, but I have creative friends who thrive in that medium. With that in mind, there is freedom to work within our God-designed personalities and preferences.

Replenish

The last thing we need when we come before the Lord is a sense of panic that we’re already behind or that we have failed. Keeping a journal is terrific for accountability, but even this can get in the way of meeting with God. Deborah’s advice is to move forward without giving up or being weighed down with the idea of catching up. While consistency is always the goal, failure should not be allowed to cast a shadow on the new day and the new mercies God is offering.

When you open your journal, send the art critic and the editor out of the room! Perfectionism will trip you up every time, no matter what method of expression you’re using. God will not deduct points from your journal-score for each coffee stain or misplaced scribble.

Exhale

One of my favorite parts of journaling is looking back at the lessons and insights from the past, and Deborah has made the excellent suggestion that, going forward, I should leave space on each page for writing an “insight line” when I return to an entry, an opportunity to record fresh thoughts on the same topic, new lessons, or ways that old reflection is still working its way out in my following life.

While I have tended to connect journaling with the discipline of Scripture reading, it is also a tremendous help in the disciplines of prayer, Bible memorization, and meditation. Several pages of fun lettering and decorating ideas prime the idea pump while lists of questions get the ball rolling for self-reflection.

A journal is a tool and maintaining it is a means to an end:  deeper communion with God. It should not become the main thing, but rather a means for documenting the main thing, which, of course, is a living and active relationship with God. When I read The Journals of Jim Elliot, I was amazed at how much mundane (and even sort of bombastic) wool-gathering there was in its pages. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” is Jim’s brilliant statement of a spiritual principle, but, rest assured, he did not spout such riches on every page — and neither will we. Our journals are home base to the space we create to be with God, and we will be wise to take lots of grace in our stumbling steps toward intimacy with Him.

When God meets us over True Words and makes good on His promise to reveal “wonderful things” to us when we open our eyes, a spiritual journal is a record of that miracle.

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Journaling for the Soul (Nourish the Soul) simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

More on Spiritual Disciplines

If this post has piqued your curiosity about the journaling life and ways to deepen your walk with God, be sure to check out these related posts:

David Mathis refers to the spiritual disciplines as “Habits of Grace,” and that is the title of his book which organizes habits of grace according to three broad principles by which one may walk in the path of God’s grace:

  1.  Hearing God’s Voice;
  2. Having His Ear;
  3. Belonging to His Body.

Then, Enjoying the Truth by Keith Ferrin offers tips for becoming a more consistent and effective student of the Word.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

God Has a Bigger and Better Story for You

We are a story-telling family, composing on-the-spot homespun tales, filling up the long minutes of road trips with audio books, laughing together over replays from crazy conversations, and delighting in glory-moments together after the fact. As our family continually rotates in wider orbits, stories have become the fibers that connect us, that keep us known to one other.

I’m grateful that all our story threads are woven into the fabric of the huge over-arching narrative found in the pages of Scripture. This once-upon-a-time-that-really-happened got its start in the mind of God, but the plot first hunkered down in the idyllic setting of Eden. Nancy Guthrie picked up her pen, gathered up the tangled threads of that story set in a garden, and she moves forward in hope through the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in her latest book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story

On her meandering way from the thunderous God-force of creation to the end of the ages, she shares stunning truth about “what the original garden has to show us about the more secure, more satisfying, and more glorious garden we’re destined to live in forever, which will be even better than Eden.” (14) It’s easy to forget that Eden was born out of an uninhabitable wasteland on a planet that was “formless and empty.”

  • Guthrie follows this story of wilderness through the Old Testament and the wanderings of the discontented Israelites, the ruins of Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had had their way, and into the New Testament where Jesus passed His wilderness testing and Paul lived pinned down by a thorn in the flesh, but found contentment in his spiritual wilderness;
  • Then, there’s the story of the tree, a symbol from Genesis to Revelation that pops up in the appearance of the lampstands in the Tabernacle and in prophetic symbolism. By grace, we are invited to find our way to the tree of life by way of Calvary’s tree;
  • The story of God’s image is full of hope, for though it was marred, it was flawlessly revealed in Christ and will ultimately be restored in us;
  • The story of clothing begins with God providing for Adam and Eve with love and tenderness that points to the truth that one day we will be beautifully clothed in “the greater glory Adam and Eve forfeited” (70);
  • The story of the Bridegroom features Eve as the original bride in the very first wedding conducted by God which went terribly wrong. That pain resonated throughout Israel’s history, but the ruined bride will one day be restored and presented to God’s Son, the second Adam’
  • The story of sabbath began before there was Law and remains as God’s gift;
  • The story of offspring unpacks Psalm 91 within the greater context of God’s sovereignty over evil and the “Offspring of the Woman” (Jesus) who will put an end to evil once and for all;
  • The story of a dwelling place assures believers of God’s intention to make His home with us–an intention that cannot be thwarted even by our own fumbling and fluctuating intention to cling to Him. The tabernacle, the temple, and God’s indwelling Spirit all bear witness to His zeal and devotion;
  • Finally, the story of the city reveals that all of Scripture points toward the story of two cities– “the city of man and the city of God. And what matters most about your story is which city you have made your home.”

Nancy Guthrie renders biblical theology with beauty and a depth of emotion that motivates me to become a better learner, and a more passionate student of Scripture and observer of life. A firm grasp on the gospel-oriented-big-picture of the Bible’s 66 books will change the way you read. God takes a long view of goodness and hope, and his promises for our welfare point to a life that exponentially transcends the three-score-and-ten we fixate upon.

A good foundation in biblical theology also impacts on the way we pray.  For example, God’s promise of protection in Psalm 91 is not the lucky-rabbit’s foot that means our children will “never face danger or death in this life. But [rather that God] has promised to gather his own to himself, where he will protect them from ultimate and eternal harm.”

Following the threads of these nine stories reinforced my understanding of God as both transcendent and relational. Finding myself within the context of His desires for me — a hope that far exceeds my own aspirations for myself and those I love — opens my eyes to the beauty of struggle and the redemptive nature of waiting as we fix our eyes upon the unseen, and trust God for a future home that will be truly (and amazingly!) even better than Eden.


Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Grace and peace to you,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Storysimply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Celebrating the Labor and the Love

Most days on this country hill are a blur.  With every line in my planner filled, there’s also the background music of laundry and continual cleaning.  In the winter, there’s a voracious wood stove; in the summer there’s a garden that needs constant attention. Stuffing a ratty t-shirt into the washer’s maw, I try not to think about the fact that it was only yesterday that I hung this very same t-shirt on the clothesline.

The steady thrum of activity is the glue that holds a home together, and one of the most startling discoveries of my life has been that it is possible to find a fulfilled and meaningful existence in the midst of mind-numbing routine.  It turns out that it’s not what you’re doing that makes a life.  It’s why you’re doing it.

Why do I do what I do every day in my home?
Why do you do what you do?

Hopefully, we are both coming to the conclusion that our labor of love is a fulfillment of God’s great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbors.
And sometimes, for me, the hardest “neighbors” to love are the ones who share my last name and my DNA. Loving others in our homes is more than a feeling, and it is likely to include the inconvenience of vacuuming the mud from their shoes, replacing the groceries they consume, and washing loads and loads of dishes and bedding.

To Love Is to Labor

To love is to labor, and for the believer, there is an inseparable connection between the routines of domesticity and the quotidian mysteries of spiritual practice.  Just as the swiping of crumbs off the dining room table will never be a once and done affair (at least at my house!), neither are the practices of spiritual formation.  In tending to the health and wholeness of our souls, every day there will be “crumbs” that need brushing away, and this is a good thing, for it keeps us mindful of our creaturely dependence on God. 

In Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, Jen Pollock Michel, asserts that “housekeeping” corresponds to a term found in the Hebrew Scriptures: avodah.  It shows up in the contexts of “work, service, labor, duties, ceremony, [and] ministry . . . It is also the word that signifies the priestly work of the tabernacle and temple.  ‘Avodah reminds us that worship — and its attendant calls to vocation — can share the banality and ordinariness of everyday work.” (116)

The Spiritual Discipline of Housekeeping

It is, therefore, possible to draw parallels between the nature of worship and the importance that hands-on housekeeping plays in the ebb and flow of a well-balanced Christian life:

1.  Housekeeping is an act of generosity.

God’s work in creation and in redemption is clearly housekeeping.  In Scripture, He finds lost things; He prepares tables of abundance and blessing in hard places; He kills the fatted calf and invites the neighborhood to a party.  Therefore, engineering the comforts of home, taking on the mess in the bottom of the refrigerator, and performing the domestic routines that preserve order and hold chaos at bay create a feeling of home wherever they are performed with love, and they pre-figure God in His role as Homemaker.

Mired in the here and now, we forget that the work of home is the work of spreading God’s glory throughout the world.  By entering into the reality of that today, we leave a mark on those we serve and prepare our hearts for a future of greater work and greater joy when we will see that there has never been a mundane task without purpose in God’s incredible universe in which nothing goes to waste.  Every little task, every intentional act of service points back to the God who made us and forward to an eternity in which the connection between worship and work will be forever eliminated.

2.  Housekeeping is a work of welcoming and provision.

Just as the incarnation brought dignity to the mortal body and to the notion of occupying a particular time and space, God’s compassionate homemaking sets the standard for the work of His women and men who long to create safe and welcoming spaces for His glory.

There is meaning to all the mundane tasks that are stuck on replay in this mothering life.  In our ordinary chores and in the act of corralling chaos into order, we image God. Organizing a cluttered closet, sanitizing a nasty high chair tray, distributing clean and folded laundry to the four corners of the house — these are all as quietly mundane as the work God does in our time to water His trees with rain or, in history, to arrange for the Exodus 16 manna that faithfully fed a generation of Israelites.

God has instituted practices of housekeeping that draw His children into the hands-on love.  Mercy, justice, and sandwich-making hold equal real estate in the values system of heaven, for the God who works and has worked on our behalf invites us to join Him in the Great Work:

“Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us,
yes, establish the work of our hands.”  (Psalm 90:16,17)

Let the work of housekeeping continue, and may we find fulfillment in the smallest task performed for the greatest worship of God!

Joining you in the holy work of sandwich-making and laundry-folding,

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

God Has an Ever-Unfolding Vision for You

The knock at the door came as no surprise. Rahab was used to furtive visitors at all hours as male customers came to her door, and yet this pair was different, for they were part of Israel’s advance surveillance strategy, the first wave in their mission to conquer Jericho for the glory of God. It was Rahab’s quick thinking that saved the spies, rescued her own family, and earned her a paragraph in the Hebrews 11 honor roll of faith.

God’s vision for Rahab was larger than anything she had ever dreamed, and it was this dramatic turn-around that inspired Becky Moreland to name RAHAB ministries in 2002, when her vision for impacting lives on the streets of Akron, Ohio was just getting off the ground. Reaching Above Hopelessness and Brokenness, RAHAB’s outreach ministries serve women and children who are trapped in lives of addiction, prostitution, abuse, and fear. Team members do their work directly on the the streets of Akron, exposing the darkness of the sex trafficking industry, praying on the spot with the needy, and cooperating with law enforcement officials to protect women who live in continual danger. Their safe house provides a refuge to women with nowhere else to go, and their plans for a juvenile safe house will be an invitation to home for girls ages 11 to 17.

God’s Ever-Unfolding Vision

Bring Me a Vision: A Story of Redeeming Hope is the true unfolding of Becky Moreland’s story. Founder of RAHAB, she lived her own miracle of turn-around and her co-author Pam Ecrement bore witness to it, first as her counselor and then, later, as her friend and colleague in ministry. When Becky first approached Pam for counseling, she was seeking help for her children, but Pam soon learned that Becky’s own traumatic childhood was impacting her mothering in ways that were detrimental, in spite of her best intentions.

Becky learned early on that the world was a dangerous place, and it was risky to trust even the adults who were supposedly in her life to protect and care for her. A victim of serial abuse, Becky learned to close off her early memories, setting the stage for poor relational choices and a downward spiral into alcoholism and immorality.  Pam Ecrement brings a counselor’s voice to her description of Becky’s life, lending a helpful sub-narrative that spills over to educate the reader on the complexities of tangled generational webs of sin and sadness. The glory of God is put on display as His story runs its course in the life of an ordinary woman who has been impacted by the love of an extraordinary God.

RAHAB continues to provide rescue and resources for victims of trafficking, and you can learn more at their website. Furthermore, all proceeds from the sale of Bring Me a Vision will go directly to fund RAHAB’s continued outreach. The book is available only through the Resources page of Pam’s website, A New Lens, and you can click here to order your copy.

Let the unfolding of Becky’s story encourage you that God has a vision for you as well, for these are His Words to His beloved:

Thus says the Lord,
    who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters. . . 

 “Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”  (Isaiah 43:16, 18-19)

Because God’s Vision for You Is Also Amazing,

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Do Good So That Goodness May Be Done

When the herald sounds the arrival of a Great One,
Heads turn.
Eyes focus on The Coming.
This is the goal, of course,
For greatness must be seen.

But
“Sound no trumpet,” said Jesus
To those who would do good for others.
Fold the bill to hide Ben Franklin’s face in the plate.
Avoid the conversational boast, so casual:
“When I took on my third Compassion child . . .”

In the synagogue,
In the streets,
In the moment,
Mute the fanfare,
Shut the door,
Shut your mouth.

And do good.

Do good, so that goodness may be done.
Do it for the Father who sees in secret
And for Him alone,
For His Greatness must be seen,
And this is your reward.

 


Because the Sermon on the Mount demands an exceeding and often unseen righteousness,

michele signature rose[1]

Photo by Wim van ‘t Einde on Unsplash

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Run Toward the Darkness with Borrowed Light

In times of danger and disaster throughout history, true believers have made their mark by running toward the darkness. Whether it was a plague in second century Rome or a twenty-first century hurricane in America’s deep south, if we follow Mr. Rogers’s advice and “look for the helpers,” we might be surprised by how many of them are Christians who have chosen to be part of this particular dark setting in order to put the Light of the World on display.

As Christians, we have no light of our own, but the nature of our Borrowed Light is so compelling that others are drawn to its warmth and luminosity, just as we are drawn to the borrowed light of the moon against an inky sky.  In her poetry collection (The Consequence of Moonlight: Poems), Sofia Starnes has expressed this exact quality of sainthood, the here-ness or there-ness of a life that “orbits the earth but [is] not of the earth.

It is the discipline of recalling the source of our Light that keeps the underlying Presence in proper view. G.K. Chesterton borrows the same reality for his own timeless metaphor, for “just as the sun and the moon look the same size” at first glance, a right understanding of the universe soon reveals that “the sun is immeasurably our master, and the small moon only our satellite.” (229)

An accomplished poetess, Starnes employs delightful wordplay to embody the intangible to convey the loveliness of her observations:

“I wonder how such puny a word as pit,
could be both seed and slum, both dormant agency
and tomb; both conflict verb–met up against–

and scoop; a stone that yields, yields small,
yet hurts the hand. I wonder how,
but pittances deceive; thus is the way of potency

and plea; the oil is notched by hooves
and by the Fall, and then by falling fledglings,
insecure.

How measured is the earth for gift and scar,
for creaks and croons, for the precarious child.”  (69)

Borrowed Light for Living

One of my favorite elements of poetic writing is the surprising Scriptural connections that arise. Writing of Israel’s waste and desolate places, the prophet Isaiah imagines the complaint of future generations:  “The place is too cramped for me, make room for me to live.” (Isaiah 49:20 ESV) The poem “Catacombs” (64) adds to the imagery with comparison to an 80-year-old woman’s real-life six-day confinement in earthquake rubble, prompting the reader to examine her own surroundings. From what cramped places may I also emerge unscathed and with a great story to share?

Let us continue to trust in the borrowed Light that dwells in power, living our way into richly share-able tales by holy risk and trusting in the the “Lord of spill and swell” (118). May we also, in our own day, run toward the darkness with a glorious excess–“not merely patched: pampered, festooned, unspent,” but instead (YES, Lord!) trusting in the future of “a risen body our flesh has never dreamt.” (118)

Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Consequence of Moonlight: Poems simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Rejoicing in the Brilliance of Our Borrowed Light,

Image Credit:  Calvin R. Morin (on the bridge to Rackliffe Island) 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.