Killing Them Softly: Bankrupting Your Constituents for Special Interests

Americans pay far too much for prescription drugs.  Health insurance does not cover enough to keep you out of bankruptcy if you become seriously ill.

A few years ago, one of the secretaries at the Oklahoma House got breast cancer. She went through the usual harrowing treatments, and by the grace of God and good medicine, she is still with us today. However, even though she had health insurance, she and her husband had to declare bankruptcy because of the medical bills. 

She was lucky in that she didn’t have to face bankruptcy under the revised bankruptcy laws that the Bush administration pushed through for the credit card companies. She didn’t have to worry about losing her house.

This is what government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests gives us. Americans pay too much for prescription drugs because of the hammerlock the drug companies have on both our elected officials and the FDA. Other governments protect their citizens from drug overcharges. The drug companies make up their profits by charging Americans 200% or 300% more for the same drug as they do people in other parts of the world. Our government protects them in doing this.

I once authored a bill to allow drug reimportation in Oklahoma. What this means is that Oklahoma citizens would have been able to buy drugs in Canada legally. The bill included a web site which would verify that the Canadian pharmacy was legitimate. The name “drug reimportation” refers to the fact that what the bill did was allow citizens to buy American drugs outside our country and “reimport” them back — but at a fraction of the cost they would pay if they had bought them in Oklahoma.

The drug companies, with their hammerlock on the leadership, smashed the bill flat. The House leadership did this in such a way that everyone got to vote for the bill before they killed it in back rooms. The bill was backed by Oklahoma’s governor who was a Democrat. It was the Republican House leadership that killed it.

The Affordable Health Care Act, with all its faults, is the direct result of the control of our government by special interests. Many legislators who voted  for it saw this legislation as a moral imperative. Special interests and their toady legislators created that situation.

Three prominent physicians, Dr Hagap Kantarjian, chair of the leukemia department of MD Anderson, Dr Leonard Zwelling, professor of medicine in MD Anderson’s department of experimental therapeutics, and Tito Fojo, head of the experimental therapeutics section of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post discussing these issues.

“Medical bills have become a major cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States,” they say, “which is not surprising, giving the amounts that even well-insured patients have to pay for drugs … can command a quarter to a third of some household’s annual income.”

Every solution these physicians call for is a common-sense remedy that has been voted down repeatedly by politicians who are in the back pocket of drug companies. 

The irony, which is certainly not lost on me, is that many of the politicians who use the power of the people against the people in this way campaign for office based on their Christian faith. They make strong statements about how pro life they are.

What they really mean is that they are anti-abortion — and once they get elected, not so much even that. You can not be pro life and deliberately do things that cause people to die from cancer. You are not much of a Christian if you sell the power of your elected office to special interests.

There are all sorts of things you can call people who do this, but “follower of Christ” is not one of them.

From the Prophets to Revelations, “unjust judges” or public officials who use “unjust scales” and deny the human rights of the poor are condemned. When Jesus described Judgement Day, He made it clear that we will be judged on how we treat others, specifically, “the least of these.”

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Some of the politicians who flaunt their Christianity to get elected and then work for special interests need to remember that.

The Washington Post op-ed article by Doctors Kantarjian, Zwelling and Fojo says in part:

… The average monthly price of cancer drugs has doubled over the past 10 years, from about $5,000 to more than $10,000. Of the 12 new cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, 11 were priced above $100,000 annually. Yet only three were found to improve patient survival rates and, of these, two increased survival by less than two months.

All this shows little or no correlation between drug efficacy and “just price.” Medical bills have become the major cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, which is not surprising, given the amounts that even well- insured patients have to pay for drugs. Those that cost more than $100,000 can command a quarter to a third of some households’ annual income.

… Is it fair that some U.S. drug prices are two to four times the price of the same product in other countries? U.S. drug manufacturers are also allowed to pay the makers of generic drugs to keep their cheaper versions off the market for some months. Known as “pay to delay,” this strategy greatly affects profits: Earlier introduction of generic drugs has reduced health-care spending by more than $1 trillion in the past 10 years, Ralph Neas, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, estimated last fall.

… And how do we reduce the price of cancer drugs? We can start by eliminating self-inflicted wounds: Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prices as the VA system does — and as Medicare was able to do before 2003 — and pay-for-delay strategies should be outlawed. Regulations on cancer research that add to costs without increasing patient safety should be curtailed. Regulators and investigators alike should demand that new drugs offer true clinical improvement over current drugs, measured by such standards as cost-efficacy ratios, prolonging of life in years or quality-adjusted life in years, not just efficacy, safety and other “me-too” criteria. (Read the rest here.) 

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Syrian Priest: Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the Disciples after He washed their feet on the night before His crucifixion. With this action and these words He initiated the servant priesthood.

Nowhere is servant priesthood more evident than in places like war-torn Syria. Two Syrian bishops were kidnapped earlier this week while they were on a mission to try to save others. Their fate is still unknown.

I cannot imagine the feelings of a parish priest in a country where the bishops are kidnapped and the flock is either running for its life or facing unimaginable realities. The word “shepherd” takes on a whole new dimension in circumstances like these. When priests stay and do not run in times of peril, when they continue to bring the sacraments and simultaneously work alongside aid workers to provide for the everyday needs of their people, they bring current reality to shine on what happened in that upper room 2,000 years ago.

Zenit recently published an interview with a priest from Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo is the near the place where the two bishops were kidnapped. I think it’s worth reading because it shows us what a true priest does in times of death and terror to both himself and the people God has entrusted to his care.

From Zenit:

On Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

Aleppo, (Zenit.orgRobert Cheaib 

A new escalation in the already untenable tension of the Syrian tragedy was reached Monday evening with the kidnapping of two bishops: Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of Aleppo of the Syro-Orthodox, and Mar Boulos el-Yazji, Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo.

A new burden of fear and of the unknown was laid on the already afflicted hearts of Syrian Christians.

What will happen after this new crossroads? ZENIT interviewed a priest who perseveres in his land and in his parish in Aleppo. To protect his safety and that of his relatives and of his community, the priest’s interview is published anonymously. He himself said to us: “My name is not important. What is important is that the voice and witness, the suffering and the hope of Christians is proclaimed.”

We wished to hear from him about the echoes of daily life in the shadow of the unknown, in the shadow of what he described as “organized” and systematic “disorder.” What surprised us was to learn that despite the dark and black cloud that hovers over the Syrian situation, there is, nevertheless, a glimmer of hope that does not stem from naïve optimism, but from a look of faith rooted in the words – which have now become experience – of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction, or anguish, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? In fact, as he wrote: Because of you we are put to death daily, we are treated as sheep for the slaughter. But in all these things we are more than victorious in virtue of Him who has loved us.”

This cry of hope is not aesthetic lyricism, but a daily reality that is translated into a conscious choice: to stay, not for the land but for the people of God who – as Saint Augustine says – are making their historic pilgrimage “amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”

ZENIT: The war has imposed an “emergency calendar.” As a priest, what is your daily program?

Father N: In the present situation, pastoral work as we always lived it is suspect. It has become an endeavor of humanitarian aid. The pastoral visits and the various activities have taken on a different style precisely to respond to the present emergency situation. For instance, with the collaboration of the Syrian Committee for Development, we have transformed two schools into a place of reception for Muslim refugees, precisely to show that the Church is at the service of man, of every man, regardless of his ethnic or religious membership.

As regards the works of charity and relief of suffering, we collaborate closely as a parish with the Red Cross and with Caritas.

In any case, we continue to celebrate Mass in areas that are still inhabited, and we notice an increase in the daily frequentation of the faithful. Christians have begun to seek hope more, which comes from Christ risen from the dead!

I must stress also that very many priests are committed in a stable way beside the laity in the service of material support in the parishes and dioceses. (Read the rest here.)

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Pope Francis Calls for Release of Kidnapped Orthodox Bishops

Pope Francis called for the release of two Syrian bishops who were kidnapped earlier this week.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim were on a humanitarian mission to negotiate the release of people who had been kidnapped earlier. They were attacked and kidnapped. Their driver was killed.

Reports circulated later that the bishops had been released, but they proved to be untrue. The fate of the archbishops appears to be unknown.

From Daily News:

Pope calls for release of Syria bishops

VATICAN CITY 

Bishop Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Church (L) and Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church were kidnapped in the northern province of Aleppo. AP photo

Pope Francis called yesterday for the release of two Syrian bishops kidnapped by gunmen near Aleppo after a Christian group appeared to retract its claim that the clerics had been freed.Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac OrthodoxBishop Yohanna Ibrahim were kidnapped on April 22 by armed men en route from the Turkish border. Speaking to an audience of around 100,000 at the Vatican, Francis said there were “contradictory reports” about the fate of the bishops and asked that “they be returned quickly to their communities.” On April 23, the “Oeuvre d’Orient” Christian association announced that the bishops had been released, but it backed away from the claim yesterday. “Yesterday evening we received information from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate questioning the release of the two bishops,” said Catherine Baumont, a spokeswoman for the group, which works to help Middle Eastern Christians. (Read more here.)

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Pope Francis: The Church is a Love Story

The Catholic Church is a human institution. Human frailty and sin affect the Church just as they do you and me. 

“Wars of religion” are an example Pope Francis gave of this human frailty in action, a “wrong path … that is not the story of love.”

Despite the human weaknesses of the people who make up the Church, he said the Church itself is “a love story that continues thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us together are a family in the Church, who is our Mother.”

From CNA:

.- The Church is not merely “a human enterprise,” but rather “a love story,” said Pope Francis, and the faithful must remember that it is only in the path of love that the Church can grow.

The Church began “in the heart of the Father,” said the Pope at an April 24 Mass for Vatican Bank employees in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

“So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended,” he explained. “We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

Pointing to the growth and persecution of the early Church, Pope Francis stressed that the faithful must not compromise to get “more partners in this enterprise,” Vatican Radio reported.

He cautioned that “the Church does not grow by human strength” but through the path of love. (Read more here.)

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Cardinal Dolan Receives William Wilberforce Award

My idea of ecumenicism isn’t that Christians should try to undo the Reformation. My idea is that we should all stand up for Jesus together. 

When someone cuts one of us because we are Christians, as in Syria, Nigeria and in many other places, we all should bleed. When the freedom to follow Christ of any Christian is attacked, we should all stand together with our beleaguered brother or sister. When Christian bashers bash Christ, they are defaming my Lord and Savior and yours. We need to stand against them together.

That’s why I find it is important that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend. 

The award, which is bestowed by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has a decidedly evangelical origin. This doesn’t stop the organization from recognizing that Cardinal Dolan’s work for religious liberty is a Christian, rather than a Catholic endeavor.

Dr Timothy George, chairman of the Center, said that Cardinal Dolan has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience and religious liberty in the face of the HHS mandate.

“We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including children waiting to be born, and religious freedom,” he added. “On these particular issues as well a concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

These are excellent words. Christians need to lay aside our petty differences and stand together for Jesus. If we do that, we will be unstoppable. 

From CNA:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend from a group of Christians for his leadership in standing up for religious freedom.

“I resonate with Cardinal Dolan as much as any public religious leader in our country today,” Dr. Timothy George, chairman of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview which is bestowing the award, told CNA April 16.

“Cardinal Dolan has just been tremendous, he’s one of the major leaders not just of the Catholic Church in the United States today, but of all Christians, and really all people of goodwill.”

George, who is also a Baptist minister and dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, noted that the prelate has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience protection and religious liberty in the face of the HHS contraception mandate.

“But that’s only one of a variety of concerns,” he added. “We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including those children waiting to be born, and religious freedom.”

“On these particular issues as well as concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

The William Wilberforce Award was established in 1988, and honors those who “have done something significant, noteworthy and consequential to show the importance of a positive witness related to the values and character of the Christian faith in our time today,” George said.

Cardinal Dolan is the third Catholic to be given the award, following Father John Neuhaus in 1998 and Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, in Sudan. (Read the rest here.) 

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Or … Maybe Kidnapped Bishops HAVEN’T Been Released


I am not sure what the situation is concerning the two Orthodox Archbishops who were kidnapped yesterday.
News reports from reputable sources said they had been released.

Now, a new report from Pravmir.com, Orthodox Chrisitianity and the World says they are still captive. Please pray for these brave men of God.

Here, without editing, is the Pravmir.com report:

Release Reports False

April 23, 2013

There have appeared many reports in both the Eastern and Western press that the two hierarchs who were abducted yesterday by terrorists in Syria, Metropolitan Boulos Yazge, Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, Syriac Archbishop of Aleppo, have been released. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip spoke by phone this morning to His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East (pictured), who said that these reports are false, and that the release of these two hierarchs has NOT taken place.

We ask you to continue to pray for their safety, and eventual release.

Confirmed updates will be published as soon as they are known.

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Kidnapped Bishops Have Been Released

 

Archbishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yagizi have been released and returned to the city of Aleppo, Syria.

They were kidnapped while traveling between the Turkish border and Aleppo yesterday. They were on a humanitarian mission to ask for the release of previous kidnap victims. Their driver was killed.

Archbishop Ibrahim is head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo. Archbishop Yaziji leads Aleppo’s Greek Orthodox Church.

From BBC News:

Two bishops who were abducted by gunmen in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have been released, a church official has said.

The pair have returned to the city of Aleppo, Greek Orthodox Bishop Tony Yazigi told Reuters.

The senior clerics, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, were seized on Monday as they were travelling from the Turkish border back to the city of Aleppo.

It was not immediately clear who had kidnapped them.

Bishop Ibrahim is the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, while Bishop Yaziji leads the city’s Greek Orthodox Church.

They are the most senior Christian clerics caught up directly in the war.

Abductions on the rise

Kidnappings have increased dramatically in Syria in the past year but the abduction of such high-ranking Christian figures is unusual, the BBC’s James Reynolds reports from the city of Istanbul, in neighbouring Turkey.

Christians made up about 10% of the mainly Sunni Muslim country’s population before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began just over two years ago. (Read more here.)

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Orthodox Bishops Kidnapped in Syria

Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yagizi of the Greek Orthodox Church were kidnapped April 22 near Aleppo, Syria. Their driver was killed.

The archbishops were on a humanitarian mission to try to secure the release of hostages who had been kidnapped previously.

A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is following this situation closely and with “intense prayer.” The Vatican Press Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, said:

The assault on the archbishops “and the killing of their driver, while carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation faced by the people of Syria and its Christian communities.”

Pope Francis, he said, is praying that, “with the commitment of all, the Syrian people will finally discover effective answers to the humanitarian tragedy and see on the horizon real hopes for peace and reconciliation.”

On April 17, Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham said that 2 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and over 1,000 Christians have been killed and 20 churches destroyed in Syria’s conflict. 

Christians make up between 5 and 10 percent of Syria’s population.

As often happens in these situations, there is confusion about who is responsible for the kidnapping. According to an article in the Gaurdian:

The Syrian opposition coalition has accused the Assad regime of being behind the abduction of Bishops Yazigi and Ibrahim.

In a statement it said all kidnappings, particularly those against the clergy, were a blow to its attempts to build a new Syrian society based on freedom from tyranny.

It said there were indications that government was to blame for abductions after Bishop Ibrahim’s interview with the BBC when he stated that the fate of Christians in Syria was not linked to the survival of the Assad regime.

“Initial investigations conducted by the Syrian Coalition regarding the kidnapping and killing of Father Ibrahim’s bodyguard implicate the Assad regime in this crime. The Assad regime was angered by Father Ibrahim’s latest statement, in which he stated that the survival of Christians in Syria is not linked to the survival of the regime. The Free Syrian Army categorically denies any responsibility for this kidnapping.”

The statement urged Syrians to work with the Free Syrian Army to try to secure their release.

Deacon Greg Kandra has more details here.

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Will Pope Francis Put More Women in Key Vatican Roles?

 

According to a NewsMax article, Pope Francis is being advised to move women into senior positions in the Vatican. This is part of his effort to reform the Roman Curia, and is seen by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi as “a natural step.”

Will Pope Francis follow through with these ideas and put more women in key Vatican roles?

I hope so.

I say that as both a woman and a Catholic. The Church is Universal, which means that it exists to bring Christ to all the world. Every human being, of every race or language, belongs in the Universal Church which is the Body of Christ in the world. That includes the female half of the human race.

More to the point, an institution which only uses the male viewpoint to inform its deliberations is an example of humanity, thinking with half its brain. The Church teaches that men and women have unique gifts. God did not make us duplicates. He made us complimentary. Men and women are incomplete without one another.

We need both men and women to participate in His Church because that is the only way to access the fullness of human wisdom. Men cannot replace either the viewpoint or the wisdom of women.

Neither sex is complete in itself. We were not created to be complete in ourselves like, say, a bacterium. Men and women, working together for the common good, is what creates civilization. Either one of them working alone creates chaos.

It is the same with Christian witness. Women, no less than men, are children of God. They are imbued by their Creator with unique talents and viewpoints. When I watched videos of the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston last week, I was struck, as I always am in these times, by the sheer physical courage of men. If you look at the earliest videos, you see mostly men lifting those barricades and barreling in to clear the way. In Aurora last summer, it was men who gave their lives by using their own bodies to shield their wives and girlfriends from the bullets.

On the other hand, I am constantly reminded on my job of the moral courage of women. It is so much easier to use social bullying and go-along-to-get-along arguments on men than it is women. Physical courage comes naturally to men. They don’t have to think about it; they just react. In the same way, moral courage comes naturally to women.

We need each other to survive. The Vatican, no less than the rest of the world, needs women and women’s unique gifts. 

I am not writing this to take anything away from men. We are both exactly who God made us to be. Men and women each make necessary contributions to the whole that is humankind.

But I am very glad to know that there is a possibility that devout Catholic women will have the chance to bring their feminine viewpoint to the higher levels in our Church. We are facing interesting times. We need to think with both halves of our brains.

From Newsmax:

Pope Francis is being advised to appoint more women to senior positions as part of his efforts to reform the Roman Curia — a move the Vatican describes as a “natural step.”

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who Pope Francis recently chose to coordinate a privy council of eight cardinals advising him on governance and reform, told Britain’s Sunday Times he was backing more posts for women.

Responding to the cardinal’s comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was “a natural step – there is a move towards putting more women in key roles where they are qualified.”

Benedict XVI had already begun efforts to appoint more women to senior positions at the Vatican, most notably at the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.  Women also hold some key roles at the Vatican, although the number is small and they are not the most senior positions. Sister Nicla Spezzati is undersecretary of the Congregation dealing with nuns and religious, and laywoman Flaminia Giovanelli, is undersecretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. St Peter’s basilica is administered by Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella.

Italian journalist and historian Lucetta Scaraffia is one of L’Osservatore Romano’s regular writers who also helped found the supplement. She suggested last year that if more women were in positions of authority in the Church, the cover-ups of the clerical pedophilia scandal would not have happened.

A proponent of more women leaders in the Vatican, she believes that one day a woman will head a Vatican department. Traditionally such roles have been held by bishops and cardinals, but as the work is administrative and not sacramental, there is nothing in canon law to prevent a woman from occupying such a position. (Read the rest here.) 

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/pope-vatican-women-greater/2013/04/22/id/500749#ixzz2RDUlfMqS
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What Is God’s Purpose for My Life?

I know people who search for “God’s plan” for their lives all the time. They spend days in prayer, “seeking the Lord” over what they should do next.

I am not criticizing that or even commenting on it except to say that I know there are people who approach things this way. My way of walking with God is much more passive. My experience has been that if God wants me to do something, He’ll tell me. In fact, if God wants me to do something, He’ll pursue me. I won’t be able to get out of it.

I’m not someone who has ever hungered to do great missions for the Lord. I am so grateful that He forgave me and lets me be part of Him. That is enough for me. All I want is just to live my life in His grace, and when I die to get my toe onto the lowest rung of Purgatory. I trust Him completely with my life. I’ve been in the palm of His hand since the moment I was conceived, and I will be in those same hands through the passage of death and onwards through eternity.

However, as I said, there are those who “seek the Lord” asking for a ministry or cause. This video is for them. It’s also for all of us in that it gives some good common sense Christian guidelines for discerning how to live, whatever you do.

For instance, if you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you in directions that oppose 2,000 years of Church teaching, then you need to do some more honest praying. It’s time for you to listen to God instead of telling Him.

The only vocation I ever prayed for was the vocation of motherhood. God gave that to me, but after a time of trial and sorrow. Then he has added other, complimentary vocations on top of it. He took me out of the world and let me spend wonderful years as a full-time wife and mother. Then, He put me back in the world where I “mothered” a broader swath of people … my constituents.

Now, he’s leading me beyond that.

God does not waste anything about us, including our deepest sins. He doesn’t obliterate our sinful acts or undo them. He transforms our weakness and our sinfulness into an instrument of His purpose.

But before He will do this, He first puts us through a deep-cleaning, a personal Gethsemane. I suffered deeply in this period when I faced the full horror of my sins. God gave me the gift of letting me see who I really was and what I had done. He removed the self-protective illusions of being a good person that I had sheltered behind and let me see the depth of my own depravity.

I think sometimes that the people who are praying for God to use them do not know that before He can use you, He has to first break you of your self-sufficiency. They think they’re good to go just as they are.

Active vocation is not a higher blessing that simply being still in the Lord. The most generous gift the Lord ever gave me was those years at home, removed from the spotlight, with my husband and babies.

Never forget that our first vocation is just to let Him love us.

Enjoy the video.

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