Restoration: Monday Monologues (podcast), December 20, 2021

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 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Restoration. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Restoration: Monday Monologues (podcast), December 20, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Restoration Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Blessed Lord Jesus,

We praise you for embodying the restoration of God the Father’s divine image in human form, for your humility, self-sacrifice, and death on our behalf.

We confess that we are unwilling and unfaithful stewards of the blessings that you have bestowed on us in thoughts, words, and deeds. We have broken every commandment and, but the intervention of your Holy Spirit, would be unable to recognize our own sin. Forgive us.

We thank you for the many blessings of this life: our health, our families, and our resources. Teach us to be better stewards and give us hearts to extend your love.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, make us whole again. Worthy participants in extending your divine image to those around us.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Restoration Prayer

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Restoration

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The LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, 

cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; 

on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring 

and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 

(Gen 3:14-15)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Restoring the image in which God created us requires that the original sin that tarnished the divine image in us must be accounted for and overcome. The cycle of sin and death must be overcome because human progress is fleeting. It is not enough to condemn the sin or to console the brokenhearted because our heart need to be transformed. Divine intervention is required because we cannot do it on our own. This is why Christ needed to pay the penalty for sin on the cross and we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives..

Restoration of the Image

If sin were an isolated event, then it might be possible to apologize, make restitution, and learn from the event, never to repeat it. Restoration might be considered feasible. Too often, however, sin is seldom not an isolated event in our heavily populated world. Too often wars break out, entire cities are incinerated and people groups are subjected to ethnic cleansing. Even the body counts in these wars are often wild guesses. If you are alive, it is because someone in your family tree participated in such wars.

The curse of Satan in Genesis 3:15 cited above includes the prophesy of a deliverer, the offspring of a woman, who will successfully contend with and overcome Satan. The Prophet Job speaks of a redeemer:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall asee God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

Job’s vision is significant because he not only sees the need for a deliverer, but also anticipates resurrection and bodily re-creation. This is in spite of his own vindication by God himself (Job 42:10). When Jesus submits to God’s will and to his own crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane, it seems no accident that he finds himself in a garden, like the Garden of Eden. 

Heaven itself is pictured in Revelation as a garden. The idea of gaining a heavenly body is consistent with the total re-creation of divine image, both as a physical and spiritual restoration.

Deuteronomic Cycle not Progress

The idea that forming a community will somehow result in progress towards righteousness among fallen human beings is unfounded. The biblical expectation cited earlier is the cycle of sin and death prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy 30: doing evil, angering YHWH enough to produce historical subjugation, crying to the Lord in need, and raising up a deliverer (Brueggemann 2016, 59). This is not an endorsement of cultural progress, but rather of the need for divine intervention because of human proclivity to sin.

Outside of faith, even the church is a fallen institution, as we read in the first three chapters of Revelation. The warning in Revelation of special concern to the postmodern church is the letter to the church at Laodicea. John writes:

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev 3:15-17)

This is not the usual idyllic image we have of the first century church. We could imagine the postmodern church sharing in tribulations similar to those articulated in Deuteronomy that applied earlier to the Nation of Israel. More generally, Revelation talks about a great tribulation (Rev 7:14) that will occur before the second coming of Christ. This tribulation has all the markings of a reversal of cultural progress and should serve as a reminder that our only hope is in Christ.

Evangelism not Condemnation

Restoration is not a private affair. There is no holy huddle. 

Like Abraham, we are blessed to be a blessing (Gen 12:1-3). God’s first characteristic is mercy (Exod 34:6). We called by scripture to pray for sinners, like Abraham standing before Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:32), not like Jonah standing before Nineveh (Jonah 4). We reflect the divine image when we evangelize sinners, not condemn them, especially as we approach the end times.

Transformation not just Consolation

Jesus clearly offers consolation, but he does not stop there. His goal is transformation, preparation for the coming kingdom. The Apostle Paul most clearly wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), the father does not attempt to persuade the younger son from wasting his inheritance, nor is he rewarded once he does. The son must suffer in order to realize the error of his ways. The cycle of sin and death is only broken because he grows to love his father. Restoration is restoration of the relationship with his father, not restoration of his inheritance.

Image of Christ

The New Testament includes many images of Christ. In life, the dominant image of Christ is that of the suffering servant, who lives a humble life of obedience, even unto death. This emphasis on humility is underscored in that the first three beatitudes in Matthew 5—poor in spirit, mourning, and meekness—are attributes of humility that point to Isaiah 61, one of the suffering servant passages. When Jesus washes the disciples feet at the Last Supper, his humility is highlighted again (John 13).

In suffering and death, Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection dominate the image of Christ seen in the confessions and creeds. Every word written in the New Testament is post resurrection, which colors our understanding of what is written. Without the resurrection, we probably would not have a New Testament or even know who Jesus is. The Apostle Paul eloquently describes in the influence of the resurrection:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55-57)

Would the disciples have been martyred had there been no resurrection? Probably not.

More generally, the image of Christ takes on the image of God, as reflected in the Old Testament understanding of God and discussed earlier. The two images are inseparable because the New Testament repeatedly confesses Jesus to be divine (e.g. John 1:1-3) and the capstone of God’s restoration project (e.g. John 3:16).

Restoration

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Ritchie Peers into the Heart of Darkness

Ritchie_06282014Mark Andrew Richie [1]. 2000. Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomanö Shaman’s Story. Chicago: Island Lake Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was elementary school, the curriculum emphasized repetition. If one paid attention and got it the first time, then boredom was the big challenge. At first, I spent the extra time acting out in class, but I later learned to keep a pile of library books in my desk and simply read during repetitious lessons. To keep the pilot light running in seminary, I read books from the recommended reading lists or recommended by trusted friends in Christ.  Mark Richie’s Spirit of the Rainforest was one such book.

Literary Views of Prehistory

Understanding why this book is interesting requires a bit of background.  In the early modern era, humanists questioned the divinity of Christ and especially the doctrine of the atonement.  The atonement suggested that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) and it implied that humans were inherently sinful (Genesis 3:6).  By contrast, the humanists believed that humanity was basically good (and was not in need of Christ’s atonement or absolute moral standards) and they sought to build a utopia without God. In this context, the idea of a noble savage arose—primitive human beings untainted by civilization who were inherently good, not evil [2].

Yanomanö Shaman

Enter Jungleman, a Shaman [3] living among the Yanomanö people of the Amazon rainforests of Columbia who was untouched by the corrupted influence of civilization.  Spirit of the Rainforest is the narrative of his life told from his perspective (8).  Richie writes in his introduction:

The Yanomamö are one of the world’s most mysterious peoples.  Small, rarely over five feet tall, they have the speed, strength, and agility of a jungle cat.  Their woman can tote their own weight up and down a jungle trail that would challenge me even if I were empty handed.  Their men can call, track, and shoot anything that breathes in a jungle that is hostile enough to kill anyone but a trained survivalist (7).

The Spirit World

As a young warrior, Jungleman invited demons from the spirit world into his heart and mind.  These demons offer him knowledge of far off events and strength in defeating his enemies. Jungleman knows these demons by animal names, such as Jaguar Spirit, Monkey Spirit, and so on.  For example, Ritchie writes about Jaguar Spirit, the dominant, warrior or hunting spirit:

“Don’t go in here.” [Referring to a Christian village] Jaguar Spirit told me.  “There’s too much danger here. We are afraid.” It was the first time I had ever heard fear coming from Jaguar Spirit, and it made me feel poor inside. My hands began to flutter and I held my bow tight to make them stop. (97)

But these spirits cannot be trusted and will abandon and turn on a Shaman when he shows weakness (like not following their advice to kill someone—especially children in a competing village) or for growing old.

Violence and Women

Much of the violence among Yanomanö people historically arose in fights over women.  The Yanomanö traditionally practiced polygamy and raided other villages to procure young women.  Such raids were not easily forgotten because people would be killed and families broken up.  Consequently, longstanding blood vendettas existed among neighboring villages.

Jungleman eventually comes to know Christ.  His spirits abandoned him.  In turn, he abandoned his warrior ways and becomes an advocate for the right of Yanomanö women to marry men of their own choosing.

Noble Savage?

Those who want to believe the noble savage myth (or to disbelieve the existence of the spiritual world) will be disappointed with Ritchie’s Spirit of the Rainforest.  Critics question Ritchie’s claim that he simply wrote down what he was told (8).  I was not disappointed and found his accounts credible, in part, because his accounts of Yanomanö life are consistent with accounts of other native cultures.  For example, the purpose of head-hunting in pre-modern Taiwan was:

To gain a head, as noted earlier, was to qualify a young man to gain the young woman he wished to marry.  Revenge for the death of a loved one was also the occasion to take an enemy head [4].

There is also striking consistency in the influence of a Monkey Spirit (a spirit of lust acted out indiscriminately) in jungle culture and our own.

Assessment

Ritchie’s Spirit of the Rainforest is a page turner and a great book to take along to the beach—reality is so much more interesting than fantasy.  As a narrative, this book lends itself to becoming a good screen play [5].

Footnotes

[1] http://markritchie.me/spirit-of-the-rainforest.

[2] The film, The Wild Child (1970) by Francois Truffaut chronicles the story of an abandoned child in 1798 who lived in the woods alone.  When he was discovered, he could not speak and was suspicious of other people.  A French scientist takes him in attempting to educate him and to learn from him as a potential validation of the noble savage hypothesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Child).

[3] A shaman is a term that replaced the politically incorrect term, witch doctor.

[4] Ralph Covell. 1998.  Pentecost of the Hills in Taiwan. Pasadena:  Hope Publishing House. Page 26.

[5] Another film about Amazon tribal life is:  End of a Spear (2006; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeEF_3J0ZY0).  This film re-enacts the story of Mincayani, Waodani warrior, who leads the raid that kills Steve Saint’s father and four other missionaries in 1956.

Ritchie Peers into the Heart of Darkness

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Example: Monday Monologues (podcast), December 13, 2021

Stephen_HIemstra_20210809

 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Examples. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Example: Monday Monologues (podcast), December 13, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Prayer by Example

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Most Magnificent God,

All praise and honor are yours, creator of the universe, for you fashioned us out of the earth and when our time is complete, you return us to it.

Forgive us when we focus on things other than you; save us from our folly. Bring us back to you.

We give thanks for the example of your son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, suffering on the cross, and died for our sins.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, draw our attention to Christ that we might be made whole and become the people of God.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer by Example

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Problems of evil, perversity, and insanity

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Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 

heir idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 

They have mouths, but do not speak …

Those who make them become like them; 

so do all who trust in them.”

(Ps 115:3-8)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

We naturally want to grow more like the God that we serve. The divine image serves as a template. When we obey the First Commandment and make Christ our denominator, we actively grow more like Christ as time passes. This spiritual principle works in our lives whether or not we acknowledge it, a kind of spiritual least-squares computation.

Spiritual Least Squares

Statisticians use the sum of least-squares principle to estimate the coefficients of an equation describing a set of data. That is, they try to minimize the deviations of the data from a line drawn through the data at discrete intervals along the line. This computation can be calculated in multiple dimensions and the line can be generalized as a curve. In a spiritual sense, Christians talk about using their prayer life to establish Christ as lord of increasing aspects of their life, this is the spiritual least-squares principle at work.

Idolatry as False Priorities

If Christ is the first priority in your life, then everything in life is measured relative to Christ like a denominator. If not, then something other than Christ becomes your denominator. Whatever this thing is other than Christ becomes your idol.

Being created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) may sound quaint to postmodern ears, but it becomes terribly important in understanding the implications of idolatry, the worship of images other than God. Think of idolatry as a hierarchy of priorities. The First Commandment makes this point: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3)

The Second Commandment reinforces the point of the first one:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exod 20:4-6)

Psalm 115, cited above, focuses on idolatry as carved images in pagan temple worship. Idolatry today is a bit more sophisticated.

Idolatry and Priorities

The key verse here is the last one: “Those who make them become like them.” Image theology implies that we grow to become like the god that we worship, even if we worship idols. Our number-one priority, which is a question of identity and attitude, is effectively our god (Hoekema 1994, 84). Giglio (2003, 13) writes:

“So how do you know where and what you worship? It’s easy. You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your loyalty. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne; and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship.”

Idol worship threatens all that we are because over time we become like the god that we worship.

Idolatry Hampers Spiritual Formation

Focusing only on time, how much time do you spend each week in activities contributing to your spiritual formation as compared with other activities?  Many men spend much of their free time in shoot-them-up video games, often developed by the armed forces for training soldiers. Is it any wonder that, in spite of the fact that automatic weapons have been available since the 1920s, it is only in the last decade that we have seen a rise in mass shootings in public places in the United States unrelated to any political or economic agenda? Intensive activities form us and become part of our identity—spiritual formation is not the only formation that takes place.

Poor formation leads us to worship idols that let us down. When our idols crash, we experience an existential crisis because we must completely reorganize our priorities, which is never easy (Hos 8:4).

The Problem of Suicide

Consider what happens if your number-one priority is work and you lose your job? In spite of record low unemployment, anxiety, depression, drug addiction, and suicide are at record levels in the United States, and have contributed to a decline in life expectancy (Bernstein 2018).

Amidst the high level of suicide (Tavernise 2016), two age groups stand out: young people under the age of thirty and older white men, a group not historically prone to suicide. Among young people, the typically reason for attempting suicide is a broken relationship (idolizing a person); among older men, the typical reason is a lost job (workaholism). Both problems suggest a tie to idolatry.

Death by suicide is just the tip of the iceberg according to Mason (2014, 28): “Based on large national surveys, for every fourteen suicides per hundred thousand people each year, approximately five hundred people attempt suicide and three thousand think about it.” If psychiatric problems, such as addictions, anxiety, and depression, have a spiritual root, then talk therapy and medication can only ease the pain; they cannot solve the problem. A solution requires dealing with the root cause. May (1988, 14-16) defines addiction as: “A state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire” and specifically relates it to idolatry.

Other Deviations

Deviations from the divine image lead us where we do not want to go: doing evil, practicing perversity, or becoming insane. As a practical matter, the spiritual least-squares principle demonstrates how to be a whole person because we are created in the image of God. There are an infinite number of ways to be broken—the biblical metric called sin, but only one way to be made whole. Recognizing God as our template puts us on the path to restoration of our true identity.

As Christians, we do not focus on the evil, perversity, and insanity of life, but on their antidote; we focus on Christ. As the Apostle John wrote: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

God’s Love

Because we are created in the image of God and are commanded to love him and only him, God’s jealousy is part of his care for us. The Jewish daily prayer, known in Hebrew as the Shema (the name), goes like this: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut 6:4-5) Loving God above all else serves to vaccinate us from some serious problems.

References

Bernstein, Lenny. 2018. “U.S. life expectancy declines again, a dismal trend not seen since World War I.” Washington Post. November 29.

Giglio, Louis. 2003. The Air I Breathe. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Publishers.

Hoekema, Anthony A. 1994. Created in God’s Image. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

May, Gerald G. 1988. Addiction & Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions. New York:  HarperOne.

Mason, Karen. 2014. Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains, and Pastoral Counselors. Downers Grove: IVP Books.

Tavernise, Sabrina. 2016. “U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High.” New York Times. April 22. Online: https://nyti.ms/2k9vzFZ, Accessed: 13 March 2017.

Problems of evil, perversity, and insanity

Also see:

The Who Question

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


 

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Lefebvre Explains Kobo

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Mark Leslie Lefebvre. 2018. Killing It on Kobo: Leverage Insights to Optimize Publishing and Marketing Strategies, Grow Global Sales, and Increase Revenue on Kobo. Waterloo, Ontario: Stark Publishing Solutions.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I recently learned that Kobo is a Canadian company owned by a Japanese firm, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about it. Kobo’s active support for Indie authors just added to my curiosity.

Introduction

In his book, Killing It on Kobo, Mark Leslie Lefebvre writes

“My aim is to leverage my expertise [as Direct of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo] to help benefit authors and publishers looking to optimize their own engagement with this global retailer.” (13)

Because Kobo internationally to compete with Amazon in markets outside the United States, authors and publishers looking to expand their international sales will naturally want to know more about it.

 Background and Organization

Lefebvre lives in Waterloo, Ontario and is a college graduate and author who first published in 1992. He has extensive experience in the Canadian book world, as evidenced by his having been President of the Canadian Booksellers Association. He has worked for Kobo and organized their online service, Kobo Writing Life—among other things.[1] For those new to international book sales, it is significant that Canadians read more and buy more books per capita than U.S. residents. This makes Lefebrvre’s background and experience interesting.

Lefebvre writes in fifteen chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. My Path to Kobo
  3. Kobo 101
  4. Navigating the Basics of Kobo Writing Life
  5. Optimizing Pre-Order Sales
  6. The Humans Behind Kobo and Kobo Writing Life
  7. Kobo’s Global Sales and Bestelling Categories
  8. Price Optimization
  9. Taking Full Advantage of the ‘No CAP” on 70% Royalties
  10. The Power of Free
  11. Catching a Kobo Merchandiser’s Eye
  12. The Kobo Writing Life Promotional Tool
  13. Additional Revenue Opportunities via Kobo
  14. Other Details and Hacks
  15. Conclusions

Prior to the chapters is a disclaimer; after are resource and readings for more details.

Discussion

Book marketing guides often make interesting reading for their little details and special insights because Indie publishers often need to make business decisions without a lot of guidance.  Advice is often hard to come by in a straightforward way because of the fast pace of changes in online book publishing, marketing, and distribution. Consequently, it is helpful to read case studies of how informed market players approach decisions.

For example, Lefebvre talks about setting ebook prices. He suggests considering three elements: 1. An average among competing titles, 2. Consider the price of your paperback or competing paperbacks, and 3. Consider issues relating to your author brand (120-125). Given these three considerations, a price can be chosen.

My ebooks are all $4.95, a kind of Goldilocks price having heard guidance from Amazon. While Lefebvre suggests that my price is in the right ballpark for the U.S. market, Canadian and Australians might find my prices cheap because paperback books are mostly imported and cost a lot more in those markets. Rounding to the nearest 99 in local currencies makes sense in most markets, but in Europe the nearest 49 or 99 EUR are equally accepted (132-34).

Assessment

Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s Killing It on Kobo is a helpful and readable guide to working with Kobo. It is interesting primarily to authors and publishers wanting to publish in the world market outside of Amazon.

Footnotes

[1] http://markleslie.ca/about/

Lefebvre Explains Kobo

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Fall from Grace: Monday Monologues (podcast), December 6, 2021

Stephen_HIemstra_20210809

 By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Fall from Grace. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Fall from Grace: Monday Monologues (podcast), December 6, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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