Author Archive: bjaybrooks

Celebrate With Gusto!

Please enjoy a great Blog by Jonathon!


Last Friday, on the twelfth of April, I arrived at the age of 35. I believe birthdays are special and to be celebrated with gusto! The incredible people in my life seem to agree with me because many made a big deal out of my birthday. So here is the story of some of the happenings on last Friday and Saturday.

For starters on Friday I took the day off of work to make for a three day birthday weekend. Mom and Dad and I had lunch at The Tasting Room at Walker’s Bluff with a couple of bottles of wine. After returning home from a delicious lunch consisting of pizza and tacos and wine I was in need of slumber. I took the birthday nap because I had to rest for the evening festivities. It was a good nap.

After waking the next plan was to meet my friends…

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Maundy Thursday

‘Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter.  It commemorates the Maundy and the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.’    Wikipedia

‘Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words ‘I give you a new commandment.’      Wikipedia

I had a painting, depicting, DaVinci’s Last Supper.  I purchased it, on a gracious payment plan, at Down’s Furniture Store in Elkville, Illinois when I was working for them and I was a lad of 17 years old.  It was one of my prized possessions and I admired it daily!


Our little church had a convention and ministers and congregants from all over the country came to our little town, and we, the young men who were living in the house and sharing expenses, kept a minister from Canada.

When the minister saw my, beloved, Last Supper painting…he criticized it as inaccurate and told me that I should be ashamed to have it hanging…in our humble house.

I responded that I would endeavor to forget his crude comments and I would thank him to be a a, grateful, guest…as I would continue to be a welcoming host!


I had a bust of Christ, for many years, that depicted him with his crown of thorns, and weeping.  The artistic depiction was so life like that each time that I beheld it…I pondered on the suffering of Jesus.


Also, I had a painting of Jesus looking over Jerusalem.  Now, the painting was not expensive and I was given it as a gift from my mother…not long after I became a christian.  The portrayal was so empowering to me…as a teenager attempting to follow Christ…that I can visualize it in my mind’s eye…anytime that I think about it.


‘On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’

‘He replied, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, The Teacher says: My appointed time is near.  I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.’

‘When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’

‘They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’

‘Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him, But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!  It would be better for him if he had not been born.’


‘Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’

‘Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

‘While they were eating, Jesus took the bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat, this is my body.’

‘Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’


‘When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.’

Matthew 26: 17-30   NIV

In our sad and sullen and forlorn world…we need the Last Supper and the crucified Christ…and his resurrection!

The christian gospel is a message of inclusiveness and love.  When I began to follow Christ, as a 12 year old, it did not make me hate or cause me to want to marginalize large groups of humanity that were different than me.  Jesus example was to care for the sick and the poor and the destitute and to love each other as he has loved us!

I attended an Easter Sunrise service, as a young married man with my new and precious wife, Mary Jane!  As we sang hymns and watched the sun come up…I reflected on the opportunity that God had, freely given, his creation…for joy and peace and happiness!

‘For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’    Psalm 30:5   KJV


Note: The Last Supper photos and the bust of Christ are courtesy of Google.

Spring Renewal!

IMG_4328 2I may feel, oh so bad and listless, in the winter…but once spring has sprung…I experience renewal!

IMG_4352 2The dark and forbidding days are passed and the blooming of the red bud and the dog wood trees brings a surety that we can do anything that we put our minds to!

IMG_4372 2Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale is noted for it’s natural beauty!  It is unparalleled in the state of Illinois!

IMG_4350 2Students from Chicago and northern Illinois, luxuriate in the unique natural splendor of the southern part of the state.

IMG_4346 2Former University President, Delyte Morris, had trees brought from all over the world and planted on our campus.

IMG_4361 2Often, students who come to study at SIUC…never leave!  The same can be said for former chancellors and presidents and professors…who understand that Southern Illinois is, simply, one of the most lovely places to live in the United States!

IMG_4375 2The Grounds Department, on our campus, is simply outstanding!  SIUC wins awards for it’s natural surroundings and it’s trees on a regular basis.

IMG_4392 2While the majority of Illinois is flat land…Southern Illinois is hilly due to the glaciers stopping in our section of the state.  Also, the look of our region is much different than the rest of the state.

IMG_4381 2I was commiserating with an old friend earlier today, and she mentioned how much she loved the blooming of the red bud trees and the dog woods.  I must agree that the  beauty of these trees is breathtaking!

IMG_4385 2There is a placid and peaceful atmosphere at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale that is compelling and seductive!  It has a siren call that resonates with all who come in contact with her.

IMG_4396 2IMG_4358 4The regeneration of spring give us hope for our future and our place in it.  I wonder how we would we feel if we only had a few years left of the mystery of spring?

Global warming will change our lives in irrevocable ways that we can not imagine!

One of the first miracles to go…will be the majesty of God’s time clock of natural order!


Take a Deep Breath and Enjoy Your Life’s Walk

We all are in a hurry!

We have so many obligations and responsibilities and people who are counting on us.  Our finances, although we work 40 or 50 hours per week…do not stretch as far as our needs, and wants, require.

I have volunteered, somewhere, for the majority of my life.  I believe that it is important to not do everything for money.  Yet, to work, often two jobs, and then to volunteer and meet all family commitments…is exhausting!

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The American people are sick, and it is from our high tech…never out of touch…commitment to our profession and to being a success…as outlined in media and popular culture.

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If I am not careful I find myself still on the treadmill of hurry up and produce a tangible and time filling product to illustrate my, continued, worth as a human being!


Being wound up like an eight day clock is not a habit that you can set aside easily.

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Walks are good for mental and emotional health.


I was watching a television special with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of CNN, regarding the health benefits of yoga and meditation.

‘Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India.  Yoga in one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions.  There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.’    Google

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I think that we are, often, in search of time filling activity that will bring us the, allusive, search for happiness?

Travel is wonderful…but if you travel, non-stop, what is the value of home?

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When I was a manager of a large housekeeping organization, I noticed that when I was inspecting the cleanliness of a university building…I often saw things that the technician that cleaned the area…did not see.

If you sit outside and observe your yard and the natural surroundings that it entails…you will see, wonders, that you did not realize are there.

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Reading for pleasure has become, somewhat out of vogue in the past generation, or two, due to the convenience of television and the, ‘do it all for you,’ facility that it has.

Have you ever been asked what a TV show, that you had recently watched, was about…and your response was that it was good and…little more?


Reading causes us to slow down and concentrate and be transported into the story.

It is Holy Week.

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Recently I had a chat with one of my fellow parishioners.  She was so kind to me and I have wanted to tell her for some time how I admire her leadership on our board of elders.  She told me that my words meant a lot to her…and I wished that I had said them sooner.


This Easter Sunday…look at your fellow parishioners with the eyes of, really wanting to know them better…and understand their walk with you…back to Jerusalem.


Paris Wept For Her Lady

I sit in disbelief as I watch the live stream of the Notre Dame Cathedral burning, in Paris!


We visited Paris in 2012, with our dear friends Margo and Jeff, and stood for some time admiring the majestic Cathedral!

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Notre Dame dominates Paris.  It is in the heart of the city, and it’s medieval architecture is inspiring beyond belief!

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As we walked along the Seine, Mary Jane purchased a painting, from a street vendor, of Montmartre.  As we were standing on the left bank of the Seine I admired the, iconic, beauty of Norte Dame!

‘Paris is Notre Dame,’ said a Parisian being interviewed on MSNBC television.

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In real time…I have just heard that, the French government, have a news release that   fire fighters may not be able to save the Cathedral!


Notre Dame got into my heart…when we visited Paris!  You can see it from all parts of the city…as well as the Eiffel Tower!


‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is a French Romantic/Gothic novel by Victor Hugo, published in 1831.’    Google

I first became familiar with the Notre Dame Cathedral from the, 1939, movie with Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


Mary Jane and I visited Montreal, Canada in 1998 and she toured, their Notre Dame Cathedral, which is very similar to the one in Paris.  While she toured the edifice…I chose to smoke a Cuban Cohiba cigar and set by one gargoyles that guarded the entrance.

We are planning on returning to Paris for a longer visit.  The city is magical!

Every time I see a photo of the Notre Dame Cathedral…I reminisce that I was there…and that I want to go back….

This is Holy Week…and the significance of the Cathedral to Parisians…and to the world….can not be measured….


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Today is Jonathon’s birthday!

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He is 35 years old and has an untold number of friends!

Everywhere I go with Jonathon…there are countless greetings from people that know him and smile and are glad to see him!

People matter to Jonathon Brooks.  He never sees a stranger and has a kind word for all he encounters!

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When he worked at SIUC’s Food Service, the students formed a Fan Page for him…and it is still going…several years after he transferred to Key Control.

Jonathon is a writer and he reads his works at the Longbranch Cafe in Carbondale, Illinois on, most, Friday evenings.

He is an, avid, reader.  Not like the Seinfeld episode titled, ‘Bizzaro World,’ where Elaine was commenting on; Jerry, George, and Kramer’s, bizarre opposites, stating that, ‘They read, Jerry,’  whereupon Jerry retorts, ‘I read,’ and Elaine replies, ‘Books…Jerry…books!’

Aaron, Jonathon, and I are vintage vinyl records aficionados.  Early, tomorrow morning we are going to our local record store, Plaza Records, to celebrate, Record Store Day!

I look back on the years and I realize that they have flown by much to quickly.  I am, extremely, happy that Mary Jane and I are able to be with our sons on a regular basis and that they still enjoy our company.

So, if you want to know a great guy…and have a lifelong friend…and, ladies,…a good catch…need I say more?

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‘That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.’

‘A fact or belief that is accepted as true.’

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‘Truth is most often uses to mean in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.  Though it is also sometimes defined in modern contexts as an idea of ‘truth to self’, or authenticity.’    Wikipedia

For much of my life it seemed to me that truth, was not open to debate.  Facts, being rather stubborn entities, were accepted as certainties; much as, rocks are hard and water is wet!

Everyone that I was acquainted with could agree that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west…and that it is obvious when it is shinning!

When a person wanted to tell a, ‘story’, as my son’s grandmother said of one of their cousins, Jonathon reminded her that the cousin in question…lies!

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Many liars that I have met, were, creative, prevaricators.  They took, some considerable pride, in being able to utter a, convincing, untruth.  An accomplished liar, usually endeavors to keep track of their verbal version of reality!

It is a bit disillusioning to have our public officials and leaders lie to us…and their pants not be on fire!

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It is insulting to have a leader or a manager or a boss…tell you a lie and they do not have the respect to acknowledge your intelligence and ability to comprehend a deliberate and blatant…falsehood!

Our world has so many problems, most of which have the, core issue of lack of communication, that we will never solve them without agreeing to agree on irrefutable facts.

It is neither, cool, nor a sign of, faith in God, to deny science!

The aquiesence of ourselves and researching and reading…is going to be the downfall of us…if we do not change.

If 95% of scientist agree that we are, now, in a critical state of global warming, and 5% do not agree…perhaps we should listen to what the 95% are saying?

If a politician or a preacher or a manager, lies to you, do not be fooled twice…as the poem extols!

Recently the President remarked while visiting the home of our first President, George Washington, ‘if he was smart he would have put his name on it,’ Trump said about Mr. Vernon.  ‘You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one will remember you.’    CNN

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‘Tone comes from the top and so President Trump’s dismissal of history send a message that resonates through his administration and the country.  As one person close to the White House told Politico, ‘His supporters don’t care, and if anything they enjoy the fact that the liberal snobs are upset’ that he doesn’t know much about history.’    CNN

Now, I understand how it feels to have the occasional, learned snob, look down their nose…only to find me at the end of it with my blue collar roots and red neck friends.  But, I have never let that stop me from wanting to learn more….truth!

I observed, many slick talking and gregarious individuals, bluster their way to high office at the university.  The ability to sell yourself…can not be discounted.

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Let us ensure that a persons rhetoric matches their actions!




‘Amazing Grace’

Mary Jane and I were walking into a doctor’s appointment this morning, and I noticed the, special smell of the air as it cascaded on the soft, spring, breeze!

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The experience transported me back to my childhood…when everything was a mystery and an adventure!

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I experienced my first meeting of our church’s board of elders, called the Session, in the First Presbyterian Church, and I felt that, wondrous feeling again, as I witnessed the, wide eyed wonder of my fellow Session colleagues as they discussed the possibilities that God has in store for our church!

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I have noticed, throughout my life, that there has been an abundance of God’s grace and blessings, for me, that I was neither worthy of or deserved.

During my first years at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I was told, by a colleague, that he had observed that everyone liked me and that included both management and staff.


I wondered how that happened…as I have always considered myself extremely ordinary and, certainly, not extraordinary!

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‘Amazing Grace’


‘Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

T’was blind but now I see’

‘T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear

And Grace, my fears relieved

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed’

‘Through many dangers, toils and snares

We have already come.

T’was grace that brought us safe thus far

And grace will lead us home’

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‘The story behind the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’

‘Written almost two and a half centuries ago in 1772, the words of Amazing Grace were born from the heart mind and experiences of Englishman John Newton.  Knowing the story of John Newton and the journey that he went through before writing the hymn help to understand the depth of his words and the gratefulness for God’s truly amazing grace.’

‘Having live through a rather unfortunate and troubled childhood (his mother passed away when he was just six years old), Newton spent years fighting against authority, going so far as trying to desert the Royal Navy in his twenties.  Later, abandoned by his crew in West Africa, he was forced to be a servant to a slave trader  but was eventually rescued.  On the return voyage to England, a sever storm hit and almost sank the ship, prompting Newton to begin his spiritual conversion as he cried out to God to save them form the storm.’

‘Upon his return, however, Newton became a slave ship master, a profession in which he served for several years.  Bringing slave from Africa to England over multiple trips, he admitted to sometimes treating the slave abhorrently.  In 1754, after becoming violently ill on a sea voyage, Newton abandoned the slave trade and seafaring, altogether, wholeheartedly devoting his life to God’s service.’

‘He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764 and became quite popular as a preacher and hymn writer penning some 280 hymns, among them the great ‘ Amazing Grace.’ which first appeared in the Olney Hymns, printed by Newton and poet/fellow water Willam Cowper.  It was late set to the popular tune New Britain in 1835 by Willam Walker.’

‘In later years, Newton fought alongside William Wilberforce leader of the parliamentary campaign to abolish the African slave trade.  He described the horrors of the slave trade in a tract he wrote supporting the campaign and lived to see  the British passage of the slave trade Act 1807.’      ‘Amazing Grace” – The Story behind one of the best-loved songs of all time.

And so we look for opportunities that our study and ability and cunning…will deliver to our hands!  When in reality…God has a, splendid plan, for our lives…if we will humble ourselves and allow him to help us!

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Loyal Friends!

Although I was born in Chicago, Illinois, I grew up in Southern Illinois.

Now, I love my Southern Illinois friends, some of whom I have been friends with for almost a half of a century, but…some of the greatest friends that I ever met…were from disenfranchised groups.

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Please, do not misunderstand me, as I was raised by a single mother and did not have the money to purchase a 20 cent lunch at school…when I began first grade.

I was not aware of any African Americans in either my grade school or high school.

I was thrilled when I discovered, on my first day at Southern Illinois University, that my foreman was an African American!  Jim treated me like a father would his son…and even remarked that, ‘I was his son…but I just would not call him, Daddy!’

I was honored to have many African American friends, through my years at SIUC.

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I had Gay and Lesbian friends in high school.  I had a cousin who was Gay.

When I began working for the university…some of my most loyal friends…were Gay and Lesbian!

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I understand what is like to be, shut out, of groups and clubs and cliques!

I have felt the door…slammed in my face!

It is not a good feeling!

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‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’    Matthew 11:28-29   KJV

Jesus experienced the hatred of the, rabid, mob!

‘The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’    John 12:12-13

Shortly thereafter, the, religious, crowd turned on Jesus,  ‘And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him.  And when they had mocked him, and put his own clothes on him and led him out to crucify him.’    Mark 15:18-20

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As the famous author, Kurt Vonnegut said, ‘and so it goes.’

The son of God was not only disenfranchised, by the, recognized, religious people of his day…but he was also crucified in their religious, faux-holy, zeal!

Does the God that we trust and worship, love his creation…or does he love…only those who are fashioned in our own, mercurial, image?

The sooner that we accept that we are all, simply, people…human beings…created by God…the more, at peace, we shall become.

‘When we choose to live authentically we chip away at other prisons of pretend and create an opportunity for them to walk out of darkness into freedom.’    Anthony Vern-Brown, A life of unlearning – a journey to find the truth

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‘My choices, it seemed, were to be branded a sinner and live my life alone: to abandon my faith, the one thing I held most dear in the entire world; or to lie to everyone, pretend I was straight and forget about it all.’    Justin Lee

‘My faith is a choice.  My morality is a choice.  My sexual orientation however isn’t.    Anthony Venn-Brown, A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith.








We had a lovely sermon, this morning, delivered by Deborah L. Burris, entitled ‘Straight From the Donkey’s Mouth.’

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The story was a, fable, discussing the, donkey’s thoughts regarding, the carrying of Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem, on what we call, Palm Sunday.


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The donkey was thrilled to have been cheered as he carried Jesus, and thus decided that he would repeat the Jerusalem march the next day, alone.  He was saddened to discover that, without Jesus, he was neither cheered or applauded.  When he returned home to ask his mother why the different reception, when Jesus was not with him?  The donkey’s mother replied that we are nothing without Jesus!


I have witnessed this phenomena throughout my christian experience.  When Christ touches a human…they can do extraordinary works.  When a human attempts to replicate good works, through their own understanding and efforts…the effort rings hollow!


I sat in a new elder and deacon class this morning.  As I listened to, many of the current elders and deacons, I was struck with their, ‘servant’s heart!’

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Study is vital, along with procedures and order and systems to operate in.  Just looking at nature you can see that the creator is a very systematic, and a planning, deity!

However, the Lord, the the christian faith seeks to serve…came to us as a servant.


‘The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had already put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.’

‘He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord are you going to wash my feet?’

‘Jesus replied, ‘you do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’

‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’

‘Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’

‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.’       John 13: 2-9   NIV

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Now the church is for all people.  Perhaps the reason that so many denominations are diminishing…is because they have forgotten that God loves all of his creation?

If we say that we desire, “More Light,’ we must lay aside our biases and our, learned, prejudices…and let Jesus…wash our feet!