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Coaching through Covid-19…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Romans chapters 14 and 15: I really encourage reading both chapters in their entirety. I found clear discernment in them as I served and coached through the past six months. Here is the first part of chapter 15…

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.


Every moment of every day we all make a choice: Am I going to build people up or tear them down? Another way to think about this is to ask the question, “Do I exist simply to please myself or does God put breath in my lungs so that I can serve others as I share His love?

I’ve been a “part time” coach for the past 24 years. I was an athlete for more than a decade before that. Picture the high school kid who trained four hours a day and went to nationals instead of prom 🙂 That was me! Swimming and running were my refuge during my teenage years. Looking back, I can see how God placed the sports in my life to help me grow and refine the sense of integrity and discipline that He placed deep within my soul. Today, God continues to use athletics to shape my heart. I love the kids that He brings to me. I love them in a genuine way that teaches me about compassion, mercy, and sacrifice. My athletes are a critical part of my faith journey, and God just keeps bringing on the blessings with each season that passes.

In my mind, Jesus is the ultimate coach. He came to seek, to serve, and to save. No one was insignificant in his eyes. Everyone was worthy of love. During his time on earth, He never ran out of patience and always took the time to pour into the people in his life. His unselfish consideration of others provides a lofty goal that drives me to try to love better and ultimately to coach better. There is not a day that passes that I don’t ask myself, “am I being considerate in order to build others up?” In all honesty, the answer to that question sometimes slaps me in the face as I realize that I have stumbled. But, when I think about what has helped me the most as I coached through covid, it is being intentional about making the choice to build others up.

I remember our preacher saying years ago, “What comes out of you during stressful times shows what exists in your heart.”

I pray each day that what comes out of me is love.


Together we are stronger!

I have a list of ideas that God placed on my heart while coaching in 2020. Today, I share them in the hopes that they will inspire and help you as you serve.

  • Certainty is scarce, and fear is abundant. I must be steadfast and rooted in Jesus’ love so that my athletes can find strength and confidence in our relationship.
  • When hope and love come alive, fear falls apart. Community and team provide a support structure that breeds positive energy. As the athletes look around them in the huddle, they have hope and they sense love. They know that they matter and that they belong.
  • Living is important. That means showing up, giving your all, and leading with your heart. Every practice counts. Every race or game is a blessing. Choose to live, be a contributor!
  • Patience and perseverance go hand in hand. Am I tough enough to love first? Am I gentle enough to inspire consideration within the team? Am I humble and strong enough to sacrifice repeatedly for my brothers and sisters?
  • Knowledge makes us feel important, but it is love that builds strength (1Corinthians 8:1). In 2020, more than any time in my coaching career, love mattered. God brought me athletes in a myriad of different emotional states, but they all needed love. There was a deep need in the kids to realize that receiving and sharing love drives hope.
  • Courage is contagious. And, it starts with heart-felt leadership. Working hard together means more because it builds a culture of sacrifice and consideration of others.

When we choose to love, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to build each other up. This is the basis of TEAM (together everyone achieves more). My daily prayer is that our kids will continue to have the ability to engage in church, school, sports, and a variety of team activities that teach them the importance of Jesus’ call to love in community 🙂

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Today Matters…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Psalms 118:24 and 29

“This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

and

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”


Monday we celebrated my favorite farmer’s birthday. That, along with several other things that God has recently put on my heart, reminded me of the need to realize that today matters. I have a bad habit of trying to “be ahead of the game” – of thinking and doing all of the things today that do not need to be thought about or done until tomorrow. I have a related but additional tendency of wanting to “fix” things. I habitually struggle to trust and have patience. This combines with my farming philosophy of never wanting to let my animals or those whom I care about down to create a desire to get ahead of where I am meant to be. In short, I am so focused on tomorrow that I miss out on today.

This is something that I have been very intentional in thinking about over the past several months. I’ve begun noticing the repetition in God’s Word that asks me to trust and be patient. I have heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit reminding me that our God is a God of the present and that He loves me and is with me. Jesus reiterates over and over again to be patient, to not worry about tomorrow. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and He will give you everything that you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Jesus’ words written in Matthew 6: 33-34) Sometimes, I just need to sit and let those words sink into my heart.

Henri Nouwen in his book Following Jesus defines patience as “remaining close to the moment to fully taste where you are so that the seeds that are sown in the moment can grow and lead you to the future.” Have you ever considered ripping a growing seed out of the ground in order to make sure that its roots are okay? That seems like a silly question, but when I examine my heart I see times when I do that very thing. Impatience gets the best of me, and instead of nurturing the soil and allowing the plant to grow, my worry over the future causes me to inappropriately interfere. I forget to trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit. I forget “God’s part, my part, others part” and figure that it’s just better to do it all myself. Nouwen asks an important question,

“What if the future is hidden in the present as a seed in fertile ground?”


The book of Psalms reminds us, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” It also reminds us that our God is a faithful God whose love endures forever. There is freedom to be found in rejoicing for today, in living for today, and in knowing that you are right where your loving God means for you to be. I am coming to realize that one of the biggest differences between earthly life and spiritual life is that when I trust that I am where God means for me to be, I don’t have to be anywhere else. I can be still, I can pray, I can be aware (in the moment) of God’s call to love those that He places right in front of me. Most importantly, I can trust that the same thing will happen tomorrow – and the next day – and the next day, until the day that God calls me home to heaven. There’s a lot to be grateful for in the midst of that promise.

It allows me to truly understand that “today matters”. Then, my life becomes less of a list of worries and boxes to check off and more of an opportunity to be present and share love with the gentle strength and confidence that comes from walking with Jesus.

 

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accepting Comfort…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 11: 28-30

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'”


Not a day passes when I do not need comfort. Whether small hurts build up to weigh down my heart, or a single large burden dominates my mind, I rarely go through a day when finding and accepting comfort is not important. In those moments of pain, my brain tempts me to look for logical answers despite the fact that my heart is very clearly needing the comfort of peace. The outcome of my daily experiences tends to be tied to which of two possible questions I choose to ask God: Do I ask “why” something is happening and get stuck at the very beginning, or do I accept the challenge and instead choose to ask “how” we can get through it together?

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels, “Take up your daily cross and follow me.” Often I find myself puzzled by that message, and trying to meld it together with the above passage from Matthew. What cross is my cross? And, what does it truly mean to take it up and follow him? Is the cross the yoke Jesus reverences in the above scripture? I found clarity on this as I read Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, Following Jesus. Nouwen points out that Jesus says to “Take up your cross” – he doesn’t say, create a cross or to take up someone else’s. He suggests that our cross is our own pain, our own hurts, and that taking up our cross means that we have the courage to see that pain.

Perhaps as we answer Jesus’s call to pick up our pain, then we are able to yoke it to the healing presence of the cross. There we can accept the comfort and peace of a God that loves first and can sooth our hearts. 


As I think back on my life, I remember all of the times that I said – “I’m tough. I can do this. I don’t need any help. I can suffer through it.” Do you ever tell yourself that? I’m figuring out that when I do this, I hide my burden and honestly try to hide from it. That makes it become heavier and heavier because it surrounds me at the same time that I deny that it exists. Perhaps being tough isn’t the point…God doesn’t want us to just suffer through it. He wants us to pick up our cross so that He can compassionately comfort us as we travel the journey together. When I acknowledge my pain and share it, then I am able to shift my focus. The pain is still there, but it moves to the background because I am surrounded by comforting love that breaks through the fear.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” – my good days are the ones that I lean into that 🙂 Our God is a God of unconditional love, not of fear. At the cross, he accepts our fear and our hurts, and exchanges them for love. That’s where we find rest in Jesus’ yoke, and it is where we come to accept the comfort that lightens our burdens. The pain doesn’t go away, the challenge remains, but we ask “how” instead of asking “why”. As we lift our eyes and ask “how”, we accept our cross and lean into our humble and gentle God who leads us in love.

This week I am leaning in. I am in the process of moving my older two girls into college – one in Indiana and the other in North Carolina. I’m traveling cross-country and leaving pieces of my heart behind with each of the girls. It’s hard. It hurts. But, I know that they are where God called them to be and I am accepting comfort from the abundant love that awaits me as I pick up those hurts and bring them to the cross.

 

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A Change of Plans…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians 6: 9-10

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially those in the family of faith.”


Our family had a change of plans this week. Saturday morning, we set out for Colorado to visit family. We hadn’t gotten very far down the road when Megan got a text from one of her pole vault coaches letting her know that someone whom she pole vaulted with had tested positive for COVID-19. The privilege of vaulting during the month of July has truly blessed Meg. Due to the cancellation of the track season, it had been almost a year since she had the chance to vault. We live in “small town” America where sports generally still have seasons, and many athletes participate in 3-4 different sports per year. For Meg, spring was for track – and this year, track essentially didn’t happen. It’s a little bit unnerving to set off to compete in college in an event that you haven’t been able to practice for a year, so being able to vault this summer was a beautiful gift 🙂

A series of phone calls after Meg received the text led us to the decision to abort the family vacation and return home. We were gone a grand total of 4 and 1/2 hours, and waved at the Colorado border as we turned back around to come home to Cozad. By later in the afternoon, Megan had received a request by the local health department to quarantine in an attempt to limit possible spread in our county. While Meg did not show any signs of disease, she had come in contact with someone who expressed symptoms and tested positive.

Quarantining on the farm really isn’t much of a big deal. We’ve got lots of space and enough chores to keep a person busy. The big “gut check” came from the realization that Meg would still be in quarantine during her high school graduation set for August 1st. After multiple conversations with our local medical staff, we were told that testing a young, healthy, symptom-free 18 year old held little validity so she did not have the option of “testing out of quarantine”.

Graduation will go on without Meg on Saturday and her valedictorian speech delivered via video. It’s a goofy way to finish a goofy year, but we feel that this is the appropriate decision. Not just because it follows what the medical community is asking us to do, but because God has placed peace on our hearts that it is the right thing to do.


During swim team this summer, we talked quite a bit about God’s call to be “humble”. I believe that humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking MORE OF OTHERS. It is looking outside of yourself to notice and act on the needs of others. Quite simply, it is the act of serving – of having a more “Jesus perspective” – of working to create goodness by blessing others. Humility is a gift of the Spirit with which Megan is fully blessed. I believe that it is something that God specifically gave to her, and that He continues to shape within her. Megan naturally thinks of others and places their needs ahead of her own. As promised in the Bible, Jesus continues to place his peace and strength in her heart to fuel her on that journey.

I think that this is one of those times when God is using Megan to make a difference. We may never know what the difference is, and that is okay. It may be keeping someone else safe and healthy, it may be protecting Meg as she prepares to head off to college, or it may simply be that Jesus’ light will shine brighter as she gets to practice the art of being humble one last time as a Senior at Cozad High School. No matter what it is, I know that Megan is blessed. Our family is blessed. And, we are grateful to get to serve such an awesome God. Our hearts are filled with the hope that comes from the knowledge that we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up!

We would like to ask for your prayers over the next few weeks. Prayers for continued peace and good health as we travel this journey. Thank you all for loving us and being a part of our faith family 🙂

May God’s grace and peace fill your hearts!

 

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Stages…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂

Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 9: 10-17

Jesus Feeds 5,000


For a large chunk of my life, I read the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 as a representation of Jesus’ power manifested in the form of a miracle. Somehow, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish multiplied to satisfy an enormous crowd of people in need. A couple of years ago, the discipleship pastor at our church challenged me to read it from another angle. This weekend, he reminded me of it again…

What if the story is also a look into how “Coach Jesus” molds and shapes the disciples as he prepares them to be leaders?

The story begins with the disciples returning from one of their early mission trips without Jesus (Luke 9:1-6). They are feeling pretty successful and eager to share of their experiences healing others, so Jesus takes them off to a quiet area “to debrief”.  We aren’t told what Jesus imparts during that private time with them, but the coach in me suspects that it might include a gentle refocus and reminder of the long-term team goal. That private time of coaching runs short as crowds follow them and assemble to hear more teaching. As the afternoon wears on, the disciples become concerned that food is scarce and they are far from town. They ask Jesus to send the crowds away to find food and lodging for the night.

But instead of sending the crowds away, Coach Jesus issues a challenge by replying – “You feed them.”

I can imagine the looks of disbelief on the disciples faces. I think I’ve seen something similar from time to time when I’ve put together a really challenging workout for my swimmers. “Coach Anne, you must be crazy, how are we going to do that?!” My reply is consistent, “One lap at a time” 😉 In the story, we see Jesus break the task of feeding 5,000 down into “teaching pieces”, offering tools and support, but steadfastly expecting that the disciples will get it done. It was a coaching moment when Jesus asked his team to do something that seemed impossible to them. Jesus knew they could do it, and prepared to coach them through the experience.


Regardless of whether or not you have ever been a coach or a teacher, I bet that you can remember a time when you were pushed by someone past your comfort level. The ask was big and (in the moment) your doubts were bigger! Hopefully, you had a great support group that helped you move to that next level, that next stage – to go perhaps where you never thought you could go.

The road to excellence isn’t meant to be comfortable.

All throughout the Gospels, Jesus is clear about this. But, He also clearly shares the message that we are not meant to travel it alone. By trusting God, we get to be on “Team Jesus”. Then, if we are willing to put in work and effort, all things are possible. For many of us, settling is a huge and comfortable trap that grips at us. It talks us out of moving deeper and keeps us from finding the joy that exists in being all-in on our spiritual journey. Settling temps us into believing that easier is better.

I used to look at my swim coach the same way that my swimmers sometimes look at me – with disbelief and incredulity.  I know that I also look at Jesus that way when the Holy Spirit puts something difficult on my heart. Over time, I am learning that the next stage is always worth the initial discomfort. I always end up somewhere better that makes it well worth the effort 🙂

In our minds, there may only be 5 loaves of bread and two fish, but Coach Jesus sees a different picture. A picture where reaching our potential enables an unlimited number of people to be nourished with 12 baskets of leftovers remaining.

 

 

 

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Swimming Across Nebraska…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Galatians 5: 22-23

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”


The Cozad Swim team kicked off its 2020 season on Monday. It is truly a season like no others, as it appears that we will not hold any competitions during our time together due to Covid 19 restrictions. I know that some of our kids are very disappointed at the lack of meets, but I stand firm in my belief that we have many other things that we are called to accomplish together in our time as a team in 2020. As a coach, there are two focuses that God has put on my heart to share:

  1. During our daily fellowship time before we dive into the pool, we are learning to better “pack our faith”. We practice this by putting on our “backpacks of faith” each day as we begin our adventures. Throughout the 5 week season, we will study the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit and devise strategies to make sure that our backpacks are filled with them. I hope to help the kids connect the dots to understand that as Jesus lives in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is able to guide us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These “fruits of the Spirit” provide the recipe for a successful team 😊
  2. As we dive into the water together, we are learning to be contributors by working hard and giving our best to help our teammates each day. We have a team goal of pooling our laps – measuring in miles – and swimming across the state of Nebraska and beyond. After three days, we’ve swum 67.22 miles and have passed Lincoln headed west. I am excited to see how far we can go together and build on the theme #StrongerTogether!

We have 45 swimmers on the team this summer, and we’re getting creative to make the most of our shortened time together. After 3 and 1/2 months of no structured school or sports activities, the kids are out of practice and generally out of shape. But, we’re holding each other accountable and putting in the hard work that creates fitness and success! About halfway through the first day of practice, one of the 11 year old boys on the team looked at me with complete confusion as he asked – “Coach, why is this so hard?” This swimmer is a talented athlete who is used to things coming easily to him. He – along with his teammates – are learning this summer that fitness is hard to reattain after it is lost. More than 3 months sitting at home during quarantine took its toll — both physically and emotionally. But, we are coming together as a team to earn it back.


I think it is appropriate that our lesson this first week is of love. When I think about what best motivates me, it is love. Passion, perseverance, and camaraderie thrive when we let love fuel us. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. As fear falls apart, great things happen. Have you ever noticed how our attitudes change when we are focused on sharing Jesus’ love? As our eyes shift outward in a desire to contribute to something greater, our hearts find the joy of purpose. I remember an old cowboy telling me sometime “Anne, when you’re guiding your horse, always remember that wherever his nose goes – his body will go. Guide the nose and you’ll guide the horse.”

What if our hearts are just like a horse’s nose? When they are guided by Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit, then everything just falls into place for our journey. As my swimmers are finding out this week, sometimes this journey is hard. But, Jesus so loved the world that he sent each of us on a mission to love during our time on earth. When our backpacks are filled with love, we find that we are stronger and more joyful teammates who can rally with toughness to conquer hard things. We are able to swim across Nebraska and beyond. We are not just putting in the laps, but also making a difference in the lives of others as we travel the journey.

 

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Radical love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:16

“For God so loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”


In addition to being in the Bible, you can find the above verse on billboards across the country. Its words are both simple and powerful as they encompass the heart of the Good News. God loves. Jesus saves. I don’t know what eternal life fully looks like, but my heart tells me that it is peaceful, joyful, and filled with the agape love that we strive to wrap our minds and hearts around during our earthly lives. Despite the fact that its exact description eludes me, I know that it is where I want to go.

But, I believe that there is more to it than that because eternal life (in my mind) begins today, not the day that God calls me home to heaven. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes up the rest of the message. What is my role on earth? Then, last week my Pastor said the words that allowed it all to come together. He started with the verse from the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that He sent his son Jesus.” But then he went on, “Jesus so loved the world that He sent us.”  The dots connected and the line was bolded and strong. I cried as I sat there, my eyes with a new level of insight and my heart with a deeper understanding of how and why He calls us to love. Not just those who return our love, but also those who do not.

He asks us to be there with our hearts ready and our bodies prepared to act.


Ever since Joseph left twelve months ago, I’ve wondered time and time again why God sent him to be a part of our family. At the time that the Holy Spirit put the request to love him on my heart, I assumed God’s ask brought with it a promise. Why wouldn’t it? Surely an ask of that magnitude came with a multitude of blessings? Visions of happily ever after passed through my mind as I believed that what was once an awesome family of five would become a beautiful family of six. Joe spent more than a year with us. The day he walked out the door, he took a piece of both Matt’s and my heart with him. I’ve felt a range of emotions since then; defeat, sadness, anger, and bits of joy as I remember the memories that we built together. Most of the emotions I am okay with, but the one that has proved the heaviest to bear is rejection.

I think that I finally hung that one on the cross last week as our Pastor’s words sank into my heart.

Jesus so loved the world that He sent us 
     - to love anyone and everyone- 
with no expectations for anything in return. 

It changes your heart to learn to love among and through pain. Rejection is a powerful emotion, and it incites a myriad of reactions (most of which are not rooted in love). It hurts. But, attaining the ability to love through it creates a light in the dark, an unexpected goodness in a time of crisis. Love enables forgiveness. It brings salvation and eternal life, but it also allows grace to permeate our earthly lives. Jesus is the ultimate source of grace, but every one of us has the ability to share that gift as we walk through each day. The more we share, the more it spreads.

I may not ever truly understand why God asked me to love Joseph, but I can understand that it wasn’t about me. It was about sharing. It was about unselfishly loving someone in a time of need. If I’m truly blessed, I’ll get to do it again before my heavenly Father calls me home. If I’m a good student, next time I’ll do it better – more like Jesus. I’ll leave the strings and the expectations out, and just focus on sharing radical love with the courageous boldness of grace.

Joseph gave great hugs. In those moments, I felt the strength of Grace. I took that for granted, and perhaps that’s my greatest regret. As he left, I told him that our door was always open. I’m not sure that I truly meant it at the time, but that’s the beauty of the Holy Spirit. Today I do, as my heart has gained a better understanding of the radical love that we are called to share.

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Courage…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from 2 Timothy 1:7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”


What is courage? How does it tie in with fear? What role do trust and faith play?

I’ve spent significant time over the past couple of weeks thinking about the above questions. Given current circumstances, I doubt that I am alone in this type of mental exercise 🙂 I first starting thinking about it relative to the COVID19 challenge, but it spilled over to farm life as we recently took cattle to grass. Change can bring fear as “the unknown” often exists outside of our comfort zone. During those times, I am most successful when I lean into my faith and am reminded of who God calls me to be – a woman of power, love and self-discipline. This brings me courage.

Cattle are very different than humans (with significantly lessoned abilities for comprehension). However, helping them to overcome fear reinforces some key ideas that also aid me when I struggle.

  1. New circumstances can be fearful, but repeated positive experiences build the trust that enables courage.
  2. It doesn’t matter if you have all of the “answers”. What matters is having a heart that is inspired to care with empathy.
  3. Courage is not the absence of fear, rather it is the ability to move forward in the right way despite being afraid.

In the first few days when cattle are new to our farm, they lack confidence and curiosity. Instead of looking to me as a leader, they tend to shy away in fear. But, as I interact with them each day, trust grows and brings with it a beautiful sense of curiosity. After a few days, a handful of braver animals will approach and begin to look to us for direction. Not long after, curiosity tips the scale and their herd-mates follow suit. Soon, it becomes very easy to gather and check the animals despite the fact that they run on hundreds of acres of grass pasture.

What’s the secret to gaining their trust? Helping them to realize that their lives are better with us, than they are without us 🙂


I believe that the spirit that God gives us cannot fully emerge without the courage that comes from faith. I find that when my faith and trust are weak, then fear inspires timidity. Conversely, when my faith and trust are strong, then I find a source of power – fueled by love – that allows my natural sense of self-discipline to propel me forward. In those moments, I may still have some fear but it no longer has the power to drive my decisions because courage takes over.

We all have uncertainties in our lives. They do not define us, and they do not have to “own us”. God can do that if we let Him. Repeated positive faith building experiences, a heart full of love, and a desire to move forward to make a positive difference provides an equation for courage to thrive. Don’t be afraid to answer the call, life with God is far better than life without Him.

Are you in the front of the herd filled with courage and eager to answer God’s call?

Or, do you linger behind hindered by timidity?

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