Sunday, January 5, 2020

What Are Your Priorities For 2020? Christian Priorities: Putting God First. Update.

Happy New Year, 2020 Is Here

Christian Priorities: Putting God First

“Establishing the correct priorities in our lives is vital for our success as Christians.

Christian Priorities: Putting God First

German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe grasped the importance of priorities. He said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

Stephen R. Covey in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put it this way: “As a longtime student of this fascinating field [of life and time management], I am personally persuaded that the essence of the best thinking in the area of time management can be captured in a single phrase: Organize and execute around priorities.”

He also wrote: “One of my favorite essays is ‘The Common Denominator of Success’ written by E.M. Gray. He spent his life searching for the one denominator that all successful people share. He found it wasn’t hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, though those were all important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest … [was] putting first things first” (1990, pp. 148-149).

Setting the right priorities is vitally important for success.

And, it turns out, not just for material success.  The Bible sets priorities that lead to eternal life. 

The Word of God tells us that it is vital to put our priorities in the right order and then carefully cultivate each one with zeal and enthusiasm.

Consider three of the most important eternal priorities.

Christian priority No. 1: God must come first

When God gave the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai, He thundered these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3).

God does not want us to place anything before Him. His desire is that we worship Him and Him alone. He must come first in our lives.

The Bible tells the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were loyal friends of Jesus Christ. When Christ visited them, they wanted to serve Him in the way each considered was most important. Let’s pick up the story:

“A certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’

“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).

Serving others is highly commended in the Bible, and it is certainly not wrong to serve. But in this instance priorities were an issue. Listening to Christ’s teachings was even more important than food preparation.

How do we demonstrate that we truly love God and want to put His teachings first?

The apostle John provides the answer: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). The evidence that we love God is our striving to keep His commandments.

“He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him” (1 John 2:4-5, emphasis added).

We have to be honest with ourselves. Are we putting our personal relationship with God first, or are we allowing other aspects of our lives to come before the worship of the true God?

Priorities that are in error

The Bible records an incident in which Peter, James and John, who Christ was calling to become His disciples, had their priorities right: “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).

On the other hand, the Bible records examples of people who had distorted priorities, and who actually rejected Christ’s offer to become one of His disciples. Read Luke 9:57-62. Apparently, physical comfort and prosperity were of greater importance to some. For others, taking care of family matters was more crucial than supporting Christ in preaching the gospel.

None of their excuses were of themselves wrong. Is it wrong to stay with a father until he dies or to devote an extended period of time to saying farewell to family members? Certainly not! However, Christ was teaching an important lesson: God was not first in their priorities. 

Frequently it is difficult to choose between the affairs of this world and Christ’s teachings. Christ stated: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate [love less by comparison] his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

Christ did not mean we should stop caring for each member of our family. He was simply teaching that we are to put Him first in our lives. Leaving God out of our planning is unwise (James 4:13-16).

Remember Christ’s words: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Once we have set following Christ as our top priority, there is no going back (Hebrews 10:37-39).

Christian priority No. 2: Develop godly, righteous character

What is godly, righteous character?

A well-known educator in religious matters, Herbert W. Armstrong, wrote the following definition of perfect character: “It is the ability, in a separate entity with free moral agency, to come to the knowledge of the right from the wrong—the true from the false—and to choose the right, and possess the will to enforce self-discipline to do the right and resist the wrong”

In his book The Death of Character, James Davison Hunter wrote: “Does character really matter? The collective wisdom of the ages would say it matters a great deal. In both classical and biblical cultures—civilizations that have been so deeply formative to our own—people well understood there to be a direct association between the character of individuals and the well-being of the society as a whole. Individual character was essential to decency, order, and justice within public life. Without it, hardship was not far off. … Indeed, much of the history of the ancient Hebrews can be told as a story of blessing for faithfulness to God—abiding by God’s standard of holiness—and punishment for abandoning those standards” (p. 4).  Mr. Hunter cites Deuteronomy 30:15-19 as support for his statements. 

Our will or God’s will?

When it comes to important decisions, whose will usually takes priority in our lives? Is it our self-will or is it the will of God?

The apostle Paul admonished Christians to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

To be led by the will of God is to embody the character of God—to become like God.

Christ set the perfect example

Christ taught His followers to pray often that God’s Kingdom be established, and that “Your [the Father’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). He said He came to earth to accomplish and carry out His Father’s will (John 6:38).

Even when faced with a horrifying trial of physical pain and mental torment, Christ prayed, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Overcoming our selfish nature and replacing it with God’s character should be uppermost in our minds. As Christ taught: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Christian priority No. 3: Seek first the Kingdom of God

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught some of the most meaningful principles of Christian living in the entire Bible (Matthew 5-7). One of these is: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [mentioned in the previous verses] shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

This verse not only summarizes the first two priorities—focusing on God and His righteousness—but it brings to our attention the importance of the Kingdom of God.

What is the Kingdom of God?

It is the perfect and just government of God that will be established over the earth at the return of Christ, when “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).

Don’t forget these priorities

  1. God must come first.
  2. Develop godly, righteous character.
  3. Seek first the Kingdom of God.”




Well, the weather is so nice that my neighbors are outside BBQ-ing.  I was offered some, but it is sausage made from pork and I don’t eat that. (Lev.11)

There were the same great Bible studies as last week, Sunday afternoon and Friday morning, but now we are studying in the book of Daniel on Fridays to be ready for the Bible study at church the next day.   I made another Impossibly Easy Apple Pie for the church potluck and took that big pie dish home, licked clean.

Because I sold my burgundy loveseat, that made room in my storage unit, so Joe, my helper and I put together two of my shelf units which had been broken down for the move.  Now we were able to put things on the shelves so we can see what is there, and are gradually getting the unit organized.  So I took photos of more items to list on Craigslist.  Then I sold the burgundy runner rug, so things are getting gone.

Finally, my little British pension check showed up at the new bank, but still problems with Social Security, my check didn’t arrive there.  So that means another trip into Bryan.

The theme on this week’s church flyer is Happy New Year and 2 Cor. 5:17:  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new”.  The Message was also about the new year, “Sing A New Song” and centered around Psalm 96.

In Houston, an 89 year old lady came out of the eye clinic with her eyes still dilated, passed CVS, was doing a u-turn into the sun, and did not survive smashing into ongoing traffic.  I am hoping to be her 10 year old cat’s new “Mom”.  Be Alert!  See how accidents can happen, any time, any day.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Meaningful Family Experiences. Don't "Trouble Your House", Your Example Effects Those Around You. Update.

For “Scripture Sunday”:

How Can I Create Meaningful Family Experiences?

“One practical, useful tip for bringing those you love closer together.

A big family gathering at the beach at sundown.   Tyler Nix/Unsplash

How do we create meaningful experiences for our loved ones? Quite simply, the key to creating meaningful experiences with someone is to spend time with them.

Work, school, soccer practice, appointments, shopping, birthday parties—there always seems to be something out there that can take up your time. And while it can be fun and exciting to stay busy, have you ever wondered, ‘What does it all mean?’

As a parent, a spouse or quite simply as a human being, we must take the time to be intentional with our actions, so we can create meaningful experiences.

Things today are not like they were when you were a kid. Some of that is good. Have family that lives across the country? With the miracle of the Internet, you can stay in touch with them and even speak “face-to-face” any time you like. But of course, there is a downside: With that same technology, many people find themselves isolated from those around them.

Warning: Hard Work Ahead

Perhaps your background is similar to mine. Before cellphones and the Internet, we used to pick up a land line, call a friend and make plans to go spend time together. Or perhaps you didn’t do the planning, but your parents or grandparents did. Every summer, my grandparents took my brother and sister and I to numerous state and county fairs. While that might seem like an outdated way to entertain yourself, the more important thing to consider is this: Each of those trips took time and planning on someone’s part.

Among other things, smartphones have allowed us to be spontaneous. Want to see a movie? Look it up on your phone in 10 seconds or less. Want to go to a store? Speak the name of it to your GPS and you’re on your way! Please understand: smartphones, GPS and technology as a whole are not bad. But the laziness it creates in our lives can be.

When my grandparents took us to the fair, it involved weeks of planning. Reading a paper, looking up what shows might be going on that us kids would like. Coordinating with my parents to make sure we didn’t have plans already. All of this took time. Creating meaningful experiences requires time and intention on our part.

Now What?

So, how do we create meaningful experiences for our loved ones? Quite simply, the key to creating meaningful experiences with someone is to spend time with them.

It won’t happen overnight. It will take some time to understand what kinds of things are meaningful to those you want to create this experience with. That video game your children play that you hate? Watch them play it. Ask questions about what the objective of the game is and why they enjoy it so much. You might discover that what your child really likes is mystery and intrigue. From there, you might plan out how to spend time sharing a similar, non-digital, experience with them, such as a “who done it” dinner theater, or an escape room. Maybe your spouse enjoys a TV show set in a particular time period. Perhaps for your next anniversary, you can plan a nice getaway to a period themed bed and breakfast they would enjoy.

God designed us to have meaningful relationships with one another.Specifically, He wants us to have meaningful relationships with our children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 states: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” God wants us to teach our children about Him and His ways, and He tells us we do it by spending time with them. We can do that when we are on a walk, at the breakfast table, when we go to bed at night—any opportunity we have to spend time with them.

You can have meaningful family experiences. It requires planning, intent and most importantly, time. If we do these things, you can create the life and experience for your family that God intended!”  From:


Don't "Trouble Your House"

Have you thought about how your example effects those around you? 

Transcript of YouTube:

[Gary Petty] “When my two daughters were young, every time I would come home, I’d look forward to it, I’d come to the door, start to unlock it, and I can hear, “Daddy, Daddy.” They would be running across the floor. And they would run up and of course, I would be happy to see them. But sometimes it was like, “Oh, I had such a hard day and just give me some time.” And I would sort of put them off. And after a while, my wife said, “You know, I know what kind of evening we’re gonna have as a family based on your mood when you walk through that door.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” She said, “Well, if you come through that door happy, those two little girls are happy the whole rest of the evening. If you come through that door grumpy, they’re grumpy the rest of the evening. If you’re moody, they’re moody the rest of the evening. Whatever mood you come into this house with, they absorb and that’s the way our evening’s going to be.” So I started thinking about that, and I started noticing it, and I started trying to make sure that when I walked through that door, I had a positive attitude and played with them and interacted with them. And it made the evening totally different. We don’t realize sometimes the impact we can have on our own family.

You know, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon writes this, “He who troubles his own house, will inherit the wind.” We can trouble our own house, we can hurt the others, other people in our homes, and not even realize it. And of course, what happens when we trouble everybody else, whether it’s our children or our spouse, we end up inheriting nothing. We inherit the wind, as we drive everybody away from us. I want you to think about these questions I’m gonna ask here. Do you do this? Do I trouble my house by taking the frustrations of outside distractions on my spouse or children? How unfair is that? And yet it’s easy to do that. You know, if I came home after a bad day it was easy for me to somehow take that out on my children. And then they suffered because of it. What did I reap? Having a bad evening.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations of my spouse or children and doom the relationship to constant disappointment and resentment. Now sometimes we can have such high expectations of those around us, nobody can meet those expectations. We actually trouble our own house. We inherit the wind because we’re just not helping them to develop, we’re always putting them down. Do I often try to control the other members of my family to meet my expectations, or force my desires upon them, and end up creating anger and drive them away? This is something I’ve dealt with many times as a pastor, counseling, and families where the man or, you know, the dad or the mom are actually driving their children to anger by the way they treat them. Now, I understand as parents sometimes we have to do things that upset our children because we have to do them because they’re right. But the child has to understand our motivation, is because we’re looking to do what is right and because we have their welfare at heart. If they feel like we’re doing it, you know, being mean to them, putting them down just because it’s easier for us or for our own desires, they will become very angry.

And then do I trouble my own house through my selfishness and lack of understanding and caring? We just don’t understand. And we don’t care. Every one of our children especially need understanding that they can go to mom and dad and know that these people, even if they’re upset with them, even if they think they did something wrong, they will try to understand them and try to care for them. You know, it’d be a good thing for husbands and wives to sit down and answer these questions and then discuss it with each other. Each of you answer these questions concerning yourself and then see how your partner would answer those questions. Because we have to be careful we don’t fulfill what Solomon wrote. He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind.” From:



Things are just plodding along the same here, except we did have Christmas.  As you know I don’t ‘do’ Christmas because the 25th. Dec. isn’t Our Lord’s birthday, it is some pagan gods’ birthdays.  But my grandson was going to be off work and at my daughter’s that day, so I drove there.  He is all ‘growed’ up and a young man now, and it was so wonderful to see him and also what is left of the older generation, that I hadn’t seen for years.  It was a very quiet and lovely family meal and get-together.  The pictures of my grandson are still in my phone.

The Bible studies on Sunday afternoon and Friday morning were interesting, as usual.

This Sabbath, my neighbor Cherry and I were welcomed back to the local church, now that all their holiday programs were over.   For the potluck I made another of my Impossibly Easy Crustless Bisquick pies, but this time with peeled, cut-up apples.  There wasn’t a crumb left.  I was given a fruit basket with more apples, so I‘ll make another of those, maybe just for me!

The Sermon as “Shall We Love” based on Matt. 23:36-40.  36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” 

Yes, and the pastor said you have to love yourself, too, and then we all sang the hymn “Love Lifted Me”.  The potluck and fellowship were great.

There was also a pineapple in the basket, so I will enjoy cutting that into the fancy shapes that I saw on the internet, and eating and sharing that in the next few days.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas a Pagan Holiday? Update.

For “Scripture Sunday”:

Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

“Christmas is celebrated by Christians around the world. But did it come from the Bible or ancient paganism? If it is pagan, should you still celebrate it?

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? The ancient world was full of paganism. Pagan is a term describing belief and worship of multiple gods. Ancient pagans worshipped gods that were associated with nature, typically using statues and images.

Nearly every non-Israelite culture practiced a form of paganism. But the God of the Bible demanded something different. He claimed to be the one Almighty God and strictly commanded people not to worship Him with images or statues.

He claimed to be the Creator of everything—including nature and the physical order. Worshipping His creation was an abomination to Him.

Though paganism and polytheism aren’t as common today in the Western world, many of their elements still remain with us in various traditions, some of which are associated with Christianity.

One of those traditions is the Christmas holiday—which has deep roots in paganism. Let’s consider some of the pagan elements incorporated in this popular holiday.

The pagan history of Christmas

Timing: The biblical celebrations ordained by God are celebrated in three seasons of the year: spring, summer and fall in the northern hemisphere (Exodus 23:14-16; Leviticus 23). None of the commanded festivals of the Bible were celebrated in the winter. (The Feast of Dedication mentioned in John 10:22 was not a commanded festival, but was a national celebration of the Jewish people.)

The ancient people of Europe, especially in northern parts, hated winter not just because it was cold, but also because of the dark days with only a few hours of sunlight. Many pagan civilizations celebrated the winter solstice because it marked the time when the days would begin getting longer. They saw this as a day when the sun (worshipped as a god) began conquering the darkness of winter.

In A.D. 274 the Roman Emperor Aurelian elevated the sun god as the chief Roman god by dedicating a new temple to him on Dec. 25. Some of the pagan festivals surrounding the winter solstice were Yule (the Nordics), Koliada (eastern Europe) and Saturnalia (Rome).

In A.D. 274 the Roman Emperor Aurelian elevated the sun god as the chief Roman god by dedicating a new temple to him on Dec. 25. (Sol Invictus was the Roman version of the Persian sun god, Mithra.)

It is a widely known fact that in the fourth century the Catholic Church adopted the pagan celebration of the winter solstice and modified it. They decided to use it to worship the birth of the Son of God, instead of the sun god. “The winter solstice or Brumalia, by now the feast of Mithras and the Unconquered Sun, had been associated with the birth of Jesus in 354 by Bishop Liberius of Rome” (Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe, 1995, p. 76).

Reverence for nature: During the cold and dark winter months, the fir tree remains green. Pagans, in their worship of nature, revered evergreen trees as sacred because the cold and darkness could not prevail against them.

The pagans would cut the trees and bring them into their houses as a good omen and symbol of fertility. In addition, they would decorate their houses with greenery and flowering plants, such as holly, ivy and mistletoe. 

(Jer 10:2  Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
Jer 10:3  For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
Jer 10:4  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
Jer 10:5  They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
Jer 10:6
Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. )

These traditions continue today with the practice of decorating the iconic symbol of Christmas, the Christmas tree, and their homes with tinsel, garlands and wreaths. "The name of Saturnalia died out, but its celebrations, such as decking houses with evergreens, giving presents and feasting, were attached to Christmas” (ibid.).

Santa Claus: Santa Claus, too, has become an iconic symbol of Christmas. But the modern-day Santa is far tamer than his ancient counterpart.

Krampus, whose name means “claw,” was a half-goat/half-demon creature who was believed to visit children on Krampus Night and whip them into shape, taking away the very naughty ones to the underworld in his sack. Adults would dress up in hideous-looking costumes and frighten children. Some of these traditions are still practiced today in their raw form in Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

When these traditions were appropriated into Christmas, Krampus was associated with Saint Nicholas. For a while, the two worked together as “good cop, bad cop,” with Krampus punishing the naughty children and Santa rewarding the good. But eventually the two were combined and merged into the modern-day Santa Claus.

These are just three examples of pagan traditions that were blended into the Christmas holiday. It is not hard to Google this topic or explore it in an encyclopedia to learn more. Yet despite the pagan roots of Christmas being so obvious and easy to study, millions of people around the world still celebrate it as a “Christian” holiday.

Does the Bible support doing this?

Christmas is a lie

When Jesus and the Samaritan woman struck up a conversation at the well, she asked Him about the differences between her Samaritan beliefs and the Jews’ beliefs. The Samaritans worshipped God on Mount Gerizim (they still do), while the Jews believed that worship must be centered on Jerusalem (John 4:20).

Jesus then told her that what God is most concerned about is how He is worshipped. Jesus said God demands to be worshipped “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

Christians should base their worship of God and Jesus Christ on what the Bible reveals—not the pagan traditions of ancient cultures. This is the key. Worship is not considered legitimate to God just because it’s done with sincerity and passion—it also must be based on truth. Christians should base their worship of God and Jesus Christ on what the Bible reveals—not the pagan traditions of ancient cultures.

Jesus taught that God’s words are truth, and we should live by every word of God (John 17:17; Matthew 4:4). Years after Jesus’ resurrection, the apostle John wrote that no lies should be mixed with the truth that comes from God (1 John 2:21).

But Christmas is literally riddled with lies. Consider the following:

  • Nowhere in the Bible is the date of Jesus’ birth identified—though it does contain clues that His birth was almost certainly not in the wintertime.
  • Nativity scenes often depict three wise men bearing gifts, yet a close reading of the biblical description shows that no wise men were present on the night of Jesus’ birth.
  • Many Christians lie to their children about the existence of Santa, a direct violation of God’s commandment to not lie (Exodus 20:16).

To learn more about lies associated with Christmas, read our article “The Birth of Jesus: Myths and Misperceptions.”

The danger of religious syncretism

Christmas and its traditions are not the only example of paganism being mixed with worship of the true God. The Old Testament records that religious syncretism (the blending of different religious traditions together) was a constant problem ancient Israel had throughout its history.

God warned in His law that His people are not to worship Him using the practices of other pagan nations (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). Instead He tells us to carefully observe what He has commanded (verse 32).

The prophet Elijah had to confront Israel about integrating Baal worship (a Canaanite god) with the worship of the true God. Here is how Elijah addressed this: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

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In other words, don’t blend the worship of Baal with worship of the true God. Worship one or the other—but not both!

Yet the people didn’t know how to answer. Why? Because after years of false practices passed from generation to generation, the people themselves did not know what was true anymore.

Today it is no different. In order to learn what truth is and practice pure worship, we have to abandon Christmas and its lies.

God’s Word does give us instruction on how to worship Him. Though most Christians ignore them, He ordained seven festivals that help us understand what is true according to God. Thousands of Christians around the world don’t celebrate Christmas because they have learned that it is a pagan holiday. They take the Bible seriously and strive to worship God “in spirit and truth.”

You can’t do that with Christmas—because it is a pagan holiday and always will be.”  From:



I know, I know, I go on about the pagan roots of Christmas too much, but hopefully you are all aware just what you’re celebrating.  We who don’t celebrate it, don’t miss out on anything, we all have a great time for 8 day festival of The Feast of Tabernacles which is in the season when Jesus was born.

There was a potluck lunch given by the management of the apartments and I took another one of my crustless Impossible Bisquick pies, this time blueberries, and some mashed sweet potatoes.

For the first time in many months, and the first time since I moved to Navasota, I saw a medical person, a nurse practitioner.  I had had some trouble with my ear and so she saw me before my initial appointment with my new doctor.   All she said was we will see how it goes, and left it for the doctor to see at my main appointment in January.

Cherry, my friend from the apartments and church, and I went all the way to TGF in Walmart in Montgomery, (TX, that is) so that she could get a perm, everybody else was booked up. I had my hair cut, too, but I don’t like it, it turned out spikey, not wavy.   I suppose I will have to go back to the nice Filipina lady at TGF in Conroe next time I need it trimmed. 

On the Sabbath, Cherry, Travis (her dog) and I just watched sermons on my laptop.  We had no desire to drive anywhere that day.