Category Archives: Random

You Were Created to do Good Works

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord,  ‘plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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This is one of my favorite verses of Scripture, and one I turned to whenever I am feeling discouraged.  It reminds me that God does not want me to fail.  He wants me to prosper, and He wants to bless me, as He also wants to prosper you and bless you.

If you have not experienced God’s love in a personal way, you may wonder why the Creator of the universe would want to prosper you. Why would He even care about you?

God cares about you because He created you.  He created every person to enjoy a special, personal relationship with Him.  God knows you intimately.  Psalm 139:1 – 4  describes this intimately in some detail.

“You have searched me, O Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.”

You are so precious to God that He knows your thought before you can express then. The psalmist goes on to say that there is no place where we are out of God’s reach or thoughts.  And it speaks of our conception and development, “For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (v. 13)

God took care to when He created you. He designed to fulfill His purposes and plans for you.  He created you to fellowship with Him.  “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)  We fellowship with God when we abide in Him through prayer, worship, and Bible study.

God also created you with a purpose in mind—a role for you to fulfill that is uniquely your role in life.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God created you—yes, you—and me so that we can fulfill His purposes in our life.  When we work to fulfill God’s plans for our life, we recognize that we are doing the work we were created to do.  This brings great joy and a sense of fulfillment, as recognize our purpose and our value as a child of God, created in His image to do good works.

“May He give you the desire of your heart, and make all your plans succeed.”  Psalm 20:4

If you have never considered that God loves you and created you for a purpose, you may not have experienced the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior and having your sins forgiven. Please click on Basics of Salvation in the tool bar above to learn how you can invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.

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My novels, Restorations and Reconciliations, are stories of individuals struggling to find peace and happiness in life. Their journeys lead them to realize their need for God and that He has a wonderful plan for their lives.

5 Tips for Dealing with Inflation

Inflation continues to rise, with no end in sight. At 9.1% over the past 12 months, we are facing the highest rate of inflation since 1981. Here are some tips I have culled from various experts.

1. Review all subscriptions and recurring monthly payments. Are you paying for movie channels that you rarely watch? Is the fee you are paying for Amazon Prime saving you money or costing you money? Do you need all the cell phone data that you are paying for?

2. Set up autopay. Some insurance companies, utility companies, and cell phone service providers offer customers discounts for signing up for autopay. Check with your providers to see if this can save you money.

3. Get discounts for paying annually. Many insurance companies charge a service fee to those who pay bills monthly or quarterly. You may be able to make annual or semi-annual payments and eliminate the service fees. Likewise, if you have a lawn care service, you may be able to get a discount by paying for the summer season upfront.

4. Lower grocery bills by shopping sales, using coupons, and planning meals. Likewise, lower fuel consumption by planning trips, car pooling, riding a bike, walking, or using public transportation.

5. Reduce discretionary spending. Increase the time between hair cuts and manicures. Reduce or eliminate gym memberships. Hang on to your current electronics rather than trading up to ones with new features.

Keep in mind that small reductions in spending can add up to a significant amount of money over several months. These savings may be enough for you to take a much-needed vacation this summer or splurge on a fancy dinner out for your anniversary. Cutting back is much easier if you are saving with a specific reward in mind.

Woman reviewed receipts with laptop and notebook
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To learn more about how to honor God with your money and build treasure in Heaven, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

How Great is Our Creator

Carl Gustav Boberg penned the lyrics to “O Store Gud” (O Great God) in 1885.  This song was later translated into English as the beloved hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”  The opening stanza proclaims the wonders of God’s creation.

“Oh Lord, my God
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”

Photo of a galazy
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In 1885, astronomy was a well-developed field of study.  The Congressional Record of 1886 reported that scientists had counted nearly 300,000 stars, 476 new nebulae had been discovered, Andromeda had been identified as a massive spiral nebula, and the Milky Way was thought to be the only galaxy.  About 40 years later, Edwin Hubble discovered that Andromeda is actually a galaxy and that the Milky Way is one of many galaxies. One hundred years after Boberg composed his tribute to God’s amazing creation, Carl Sagan postulated the existence of billions and billions of galaxies.  His estimate was too low by a factor of more than 117 times according to the newest estimations that between 6 and 20 trillion galaxies exist.

I read this new estimate yesterday online.   I was astonished by the arrogance of the author to attribute this amazing and ever-expanding Universe to the Big Bang.  He even stated that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 million years ago.  He did acknowledge that the Universe is infinite and that it is impossible to accurately estimate how large it is, but he failed to mention our Creator at all.

In 1885, Carl Boberg’s comprehension of the size of the Universe was a fraction of what astronomers have observed it to be today. Yet, Boberg was awed by the amazing God who created the Universe.  He worshiped the God of creation and wrote powerful lyrics that should remind each of us that God created the world and all that is in it.

As you look at the stars or at nature, ponder the wonder of our Creator who created an infinite number of galaxies and an infinite variety of plant and animal life.  In the first chapter of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul warned that no person has an excuse for failing to recognize the existence of God.  He wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Picture of the heavens
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Paul goes on to say that those who fail to honor and glorify God think that they are wise, but they have actually become fools. “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1: 21 – 23)

Paul’s words echo those of the psalmist David, who wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”  Psalm 14:1     

Open your eyes to the beautiful and wonder of creation, and open your hearts to our wonderful Creator who loves you so much that He desires to have a personal relationship with you.

Eating Well on a Tight Budget

Inflation has soared to an annual rate of 8.6%–a rate that has not been experienced in America since 1981.  Steve and I were newlyweds in 1981.  We were in graduate school, and money was tight.  We had to live on a strict budget and had only $20 a week to spend on food.  Even though $20 bought a lot more in 1981 than it does today, we had to shop carefully to make ends meet and dining out was not an option.

Mom and daughter checking grocery list while shopping; daughter is in the grocery cart
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$20 in 1981 had an equivalent purchasing power of $64.31 today.  We were shopping for just the two of us and, with careful planning, we were able to eat pretty well.  There is much concern today over rising food prices and food shortages. So, I decided to share some habits that helped us through our graduate school years.

  1. We created a list of affordable meals that we enjoy.  I have shared that list below.
  2. We checked the grocery ads to see what was on sale before planning our meals for the week.
  3. We made a grocery list and stuck to it.
  4. We clipped coupons and used them, if the product was the best deal.
  5. We shopped at the same store every week and bought many of their store brands.
  6. We purchased 1/2 gallon of milk and one bottle of juice each week.  We brewed tea and made lemonade from a powdered mix.  And, we drank a lot of water out of the tap.
  7. We purchased one snack item each week.  Usually, it was a box of crackers.  Occasionally, we bought a bag of cookies or chips.
  8. We grew fresh vegetables in a community garden for university students.
  9. If we could not be home for lunch, we packed a lunch.
  10. We were diligent about eating leftovers and not letting food spoil.

I should also mention that we tithed regularly throughout these lean years, and we trusted God to meet our needs. 

The economic health of our country has significant impact on our financial wellness and bank balances.  Our economy will go through periods of inflation and periods of recession.  Interest rates fluctuate, and the stock market can increase and decrease dramatically.  All of this is out of our control. 

Yet, the Bible tells us not to fret or worry about what tomorrow brings.  God is in control, and God loves us. We have a responsibility to manage our finances as best we can and to seek God’s guidance on financial decisions.  We must follow the Biblical principals of money management set forth in the Bible, and we must trust God that our lives are in His hands.

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Luke 12: 22 – 31

If you are looking for affordable main dishes, this is our list from our graduate school days:

  1. Hamburgers in mushroom gravy.  We used golden mushroom soup.
  2. Tuna casserole made with canned tuna, peas, cream of celery soup, and egg noodles.
  3. Pot roast simmered in the crock pot.
  4. Spaghetti with homemade sauce, sometimes without meat.
  5. Baked chicken and stuffing.
  6. Hot dogs.
  7. Salmon patties, made with canned salmon.
  8. Whole chicken cooked in crock pot with vegetables.
  9. Grilled hamburgers.
  10. Tacos.
  11. One pot chicken and rice medley, with onion, carrots, celery, and bell peppers
  12. Grilled chicken leg quarters.
Plate of spaghetti with loaf of bread in the background
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What are some of your favorite affordable main dishes?

To learn more about how to honor God with your money and build treasure in Heaven, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

Time Management, Creativity, and REM Sleep

I have a good friend, Johnnie, who has expertise in many subjects, including time management. Time management is essential for Johnnie, as she balances family time, church service, and volunteering with SCORE with the four businesses she currently owns and manages. She also manages to include exercise, prayer, and devotional time into each day.

Earlier this week, I asked Johnnie how she plans her days and if she devoted some time each day to each business or if she focused on different businesses on different days of the week. This lead to Johnnie sharing some her time management tools. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned the importance of being quiet and still for a few minutes upon waking to continue in the creative sphere of REM sleep. I had never before considered that sleep had an impact on creativity, although I read studies that demonstrated that long period of quiet are a boost to creativity.

Coffee, note pad, and flowers
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Despite this being a new concept to me, I immediately recognized the truth of Johnnie’s statement from my own experiences and those of my husband, Steve.

Steve is a civil engineer. He deals with complex issues in designing sites for buildings and subdivisions and coming up with a good solution is often challenging. He is prone to wake up in the early hours of the morning with a solution having come to his mind. It is not uncommon for him to rise at 4 or 5 am to work on a plan. I believe that these solutions arise from the creative state the brain enters during REM sleep.

Personally, I have found that I if I can stay in bed and be still for a few minutes after waking that I will have a creative spurt. Suddenly, I am inspired with ideas for the next scene for a novel I am working on or a blog post to write.

If you want to increase your creativity, I encourage you to spend some time in the morning being quiet. Let your creative mind continue to work after sleeping, and listen for the still, small voice of the Lord speaking into your life.

Some of Johnnie’s other time management tips included (1) start the day with worship–she exercises to praise music, (2) schedule a time of prayer at the beginning of each day, (3) set aside one or two days a week to be less busy and more focused on projects that require concentration and/or creativity, (4) turn off your phone and ignore email for blocks of time each day, and (5) schedule most meetings on one or two days a week.

Woman with journal and a cup of coffee
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Johnnie is the author of Legacy Moments–Transformation that goes Beyond Change. You can learn more about Johnnie and her coaching services at JohnnieLloyd.com

To learn more about how to be a faithful steward of your financial resources, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

The Peace that Passes Understanding

My mother used to love to tell the story of how I came home from Sunday school when I was five talking about “the peas is pass is.”  She was quite puzzled and was unable to decipher what I was trying to say.  The next Sunday she asked the teacher, who explained that I was trying to say, “the peace that passes.” We had sung the song “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy” in class.

One of the lines of the song goes link this: “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding, Down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.”

As a five-year old, I had no clue what “the peace that passes understanding” was. It is a fun catchy song that has stuck with me through the years. Over a lifetime, I have experienced many instances of this amazing peace.

The song comes from Philippians 4: 6, 7, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (King James Version)

White dove. The dove represents the Holy Spirit, who brings peace into uor hearts.
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The New King James Version begins “Be anxious for nothing.”  This exhortation was needed in the days of the early church as followers of Christ faced intense persecution.  They had much to fear, yet Paul admonished them to not live in fear, but to come to the throne of God with their needs and to trust God to meet those needs.

This directive is still pertinent today. We face threats and stress from many sides.  Some threats are applicable to every person who lives: financial stress, health challenges, political unrest, and economic pressures. Other threats are directed specifically at the Church. As Christians, we are under intense pressure to compromise our beliefs and our values in the name of being politically correct. Christianity has not been outlawed as it was in Paul’s day, but Christians are under attack daily.

And God is still the answer. When we bring our trials, challenges, and tribulations to the throne of God, the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s peace.  A peace that does not make any sense—that surpasses our understanding.  In those moments, we know that our lives are in God’s hands. He is walking beside us through each and every trial.

Whatever you are walking through today, do not be filled with anxiety.  Rather, bring your needs to God, with thanksgiving.  God will hear you, and He will walk this path with you.  Then you will experience the peace that the world cannot offer.

Bring your problems, your worries, and your cares to God.  “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”  I Peter 5: 6, 7

Praise–My One Word for 2022

My Word Word for 2022 is praise. I want to focus on praising God every day, for God is worthy of my praise every day.

Praise is defined as “to honor, worship, and express admiration to God.” It also means “an expression of respect and worship to God.

God deserves our praise, and He desires our praise for many reasons. Here are a few.

  1. He is the Creator. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” Romans 1:25
  2. He is faithful. “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1
  3. He does mighty works. “Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song.” Job 36:24
  4. He blesses us. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 3:1
  5. He provided for our salvation. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
  6. He has compassion on us. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
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As you focus on the many ways that God has blessed you and continuous to bless you, I hope that you will find that praise comes naturally and easily. May your goal be, as Paul’s was to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13: 15 -16


Grocery Shopping Amid Empty Shelves and Rising Inflation

The government announced last week that the inflation rate for December 2021 was 7%.  This is the highest rate of inflation since 1982.  Two of the hardest hit sectors were energy and food.  MarketWatch reports that prices for eggs have increased more than 20%, beef and chicken prices are up 13 – 15%, and coffee is up 10%. 

To make matters worse, grocery prices are expected to rise another 5% in 2022.  The biggest increases are expected to be for steak, chicken, mayonnaise, eggs, cereal, and vegetables.

Additionally, grocery shelves are emptier than we are used to seeing them.  Inflation and shortage combine to make feeding your family more challenging than we are used to dealing with in America.  And it is wreaking havoc on family budgets.

To keep your budget in balance, you must (1) find ways to keep your grocery spending within your means or (2) cut expenses in other areas and allocate more money for groceries.

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So, I am offering these ideas to help you eat well and stay within your budget.

  1. Eliminate waste. Americans waste on average one pound of food per person per day.  To reduce your food waste:
    • Plan meals and shop using a list.
    • Check the vegetable bins in your refrigerator daily to assess what needs to be eaten and plan meals accordingly.
    • Keep a food log, so you know when you cooked each dish.  Check log to see what needs to be eaten first.
  2. Make the most of leftovers—turn leftovers into soups, casseroles, and sandwich fillings.
  3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook in a crockpot or instapot to tenderize.
  4. Buy store brands. You may have to try multiple stores to find the brands you like best.
  5. Shop at multiple stores to get the best buys and find items that were out of stock at your usual store.  Plan trips, though, to save gas and time.
  6. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN—but be prepared with backup plans, as shortages are expected to continue.
  7. Plant a garden and grow some of your own produce.
  8. When you find a good price for produce, stock up and freeze or can the excess.
  9. Shop at Discount stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Dollar General.
  10. Buy less than perfect or ugly produce.  Prepare immediately or process to eat later.
  11. Purchase meat that is nearing its sell-by date and has been marked down. Cook immediately or freeze.
  12. Invest in food storage dishes to keep leftovers.
  13. Invest in a vacuum sealer to freeze uncooked meats and leftovers to be eaten later.
  14. Search Pinterest and other internet sites for new recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.
  15. Challenge yourself to come up with new recipes using items you have in your pantry.
  16. Ask God for wisdom to help you make wise shopping decisions.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

I hope that you will find some of these tips to be helpful as you navigate empty grocery shelves and higher food prices.

What grocery saving tips can you add to this list?

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  

Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Snow Challenges and Helpful Neighbors

If you watched the news last week, you probably saw reports of the complications of a major snowfall. Most news stationed carried stories about the many travelers who were stuck on I-95 in Virginia for up to 20 hours. The worst backup were in the Fredericksburg and Stafford areas. This is my neck of the woods.

Although the weathermen correctly predicted the timing and severity of the snow fall, many of us were skeptical. As we listened to the forecast on Sunday January 2, the temperature was 67 degrees!

The temperature dropped dramatically on January 3, accompanied by a major snowfall. Most neighborhoods in our area reported 12 – 15 inches of heavy snow. By 9 am on January 3, my neighborhood had lost power. It was restored 32 hours later. Many communities were without power for more than a week.

View of snow from my window
View from our front door

I was blessed by the helpfulness of our neighbors and to read about acts of generosity on social media. A Facebook friend without power reported that a friend brought over a pot of hot soup. One with power offered her basement to someone needed a warm place to spend a cold night. One of our neighbors plowed our driveway and many others. Another neighbor made a treacherous trip to the grocery store; while there he called us to ask if we needed him to pick up anything and advised us to not try to leave the neighborhood due to downed trees.

Adversity brought out the best in many people. They exemplified Christ’s command to care for those in need.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25: 34 – 40

With the weatherman calling for more snow this weekend, I am thanking God for great neighbors who help one another in a time of need caused by weather challenges.

Last-Minute Donations

2021 is quickly drawing to a close. However, there’s still time an impact in the lives of others by making tax-deductible donations before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.  Here are some ideas.

  1. Operation Shoebox.  Shoebox collection week has come and gone.  However, you can still participate in Operation Shoebox by packing a shoebox online at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline/   You select the items you want to include in your box, and volunteers will pack the boxes, which will be delivered in the coming months.  You can also donate $9 to deliver a box that another person has packed.
  2. Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog,  You can purchase gifts year-round to help those in need.  Gifts options include providing food to hungry children, purchasing chickens or honeybees to help a family start a business, providing clean water for a community, rescuing children in crisis, and assisting refugees.  Learn more at:  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/gift-catalog/
  3. Disaster Relief.  Every year many communities are impacted by natural disasters. Many, many families lost loved ones, homes, and belongings in the tornadoes that ravaged five states recently.  A super typhoon struck the Philippines days before Christmas. Please consider making a donation to an organization that provides disaster relief.  These organizations include:
    1. The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org/
    2. Convoy of Hope  https://convoyofhope.org/
    3. Salvation Army https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/
    4. Samaritan’s Purse   https://www.samaritanspurse.org/
  4. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital– https://www.stjude.org/  Make a donation to help a critically ill child get needed treatment at no cost to their parents.
  5. Your local food bank.  Food banks serve their communities year round to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food.
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There are many, many other charitable organizations that are fulfilling Christ’s command to care for those in need. Pray earnestly about which organizations God would have you support.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ” Matthew 25:34-40

NOTE:  Donations sent by mail and postmarked by December 31 are considered as 2021 donations, regardless of when they are received. 

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