What Doesn’t Make Sense About The Christmas Story . . .

I love Christmas time – but in all honesty, I have some serious questions about the whole narrative. Seeing the manger scene brings me hope, joy, happy memories, and peace. However, when I ponder deeply on the people and events surrounding the manger scene – I have some serious whys??? Please allow me to ramble for a few paragraphs – maybe you have struggled with some of these?

1) Why were Mary and the baby Jesus treated so poorly?

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. . . Joseph traveled to Bethlehem from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.  (Luke 2: 1 – 7)

Here we go, unplugged – Why didn’t God move Augustus to give the census later so they could stay in their home for the baby’s birth? Why did Mary have to uncomfortably ride an animal towards the end of her pregnancy over 70 miles in distance? C’mon, not one room for The Son of God? A manger (a feeding trough)? The baby was born in the unsanitary conditions of a stable or cave-like structure with the stench of animals, straw, and dung? I just don’t understand.

2) Why were the shepherds the only ones allowed to see the host of angels?

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them . . . They were terrified, but the angel reassured them . . . I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today . . . Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven – praising God . . . (Luke 2: 8-20 for the full story)

Why didn’t the angelic army appear to Mary and Joseph to give them encouragement? Better yet, why not appear before King Herod and his henchmen to keep them away from the baby Jesus? Why the shepherds – why not another group that was slightly higher on the social ladder that could have more influence in spreading the word about the newborn Savior? Why did they have to go look in the dark to find the baby? I still don’t understand.

3) Later on in the story, why didn’t God intervene when King Herod was trying to kill Jesus?

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother, the angel said, “Stay there until I tell you to return because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. (Matthew 2:13)

Again, the angels appear to shepherds – but won’t use their power to protect Mary, Joseph, and Jesus? Why not at least let them get a good night’s sleep? Why Egypt? A place with no family ties, hot, sandy, pagan culture, no job. The distance was about 491 miles – are you kidding me, why not somewhere closer? Why didn’t God use his power to simply give Herod a heart attack? I really don’t understand.

Moving past the Christmas story, the “whys” keep coming through the journey of life:

Why can’t I have children?

Why is my child rebelling?

Why can’t I get out of debt and why do things keep breaking down?

Why can’t I find the right person?

Why did I get cancer (or insert other diseases) in the prime of my life?

Why can’t I get an entry-level job or a promotion?

Why did the person I trusted cheat on me?

Why did those innocent people die?

And on and on the “whys?” go . . .

Guess what? It is okay for us to ask God “why?” Those are valid questions. Every one of us takes on difficult events, circumstances, and challenges. All throughout the Bible, God was questioned – by Moses, Gideon, Job, David, Mary, Joseph, and yes . . . even Jesus:

“My God, my God – why have you abandoned me???” (Matthew 27:46)

The dilemma is what do we do after the questioning? If we try to use logic, analysis, and reasoning to figure things out – we might get a little bit of insight. I have read several pieces of research that explain a lot of my Christmas story questions. That helps my brain, but logic doesn’t’ reach my heart. There is still an emptiness inside when we experience loss, unexpected trauma, or hurt.

Conclusion

The key is going back to God after our questions. Trusting in Him even though we don’t see answers. Relying on who He is instead of what we’re experiencing. Drawing a line in the sand with our prayers until we see Him move in His way. And he doesn’t need my approval or understanding in His master plan for the universe. Coming to the realization that God’s ways are unpredictable, uncontrollable, mind-boggling, loving, supernatural, wild, mysterious, unexplainable, redemptive, confusing, slow-moving, and disruptive. All which describe the Christmas story 🙂

Blessings,

Dave 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

 

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Brownie and Me (Part 2)

If you go to the archives on the right-side column, you can read Brownie and Me (Part 1) which was published on January 20, 2014.

I despise going to the vet. Let me rephrase that – my dogs and I despise it. What new ailment are they going to discover? How much will this visit cost? Why do they always want to schedule a follow-up appointment?

Okay, attitude check. Let me rephrase my rant. I GET to go to the vet. I am fortunate that they have meds to help heal my dogs. I am blessed that they provide quality care. We are lucky to have loving animals.

But that doesn’t make any of it easier when you’re going there to put your dog to sleep. Brownie has had the signs for months if not years: trouble breathing, trouble walking, trouble sleeping, and trouble holding her waste. Having this dog for 14 years, we clung to who she was in the past instead of who she had become.

As a family, we’ve already had to sit in “the room” twice before with Buster and Sadie. Being transparent – I had been praying for years not to have to do this. I had prayed that God would one day peacefully take her in her sleep. To please let us avoid having to schedule this dreadful appointment. I voiced my frustration to my daughter, and I believe she had a timely response. “Dad, Brownie loved us so much she fought to hold on to her life for us.” Very true. Brownie had been a fighter her entire life – rescued from a puppy mill with fleas and mange. A lifetime of emergency room visits, multiple back surgeries, and once was literally hours away from permanent paralysis. She always fought back. Why stop now near the end of her life?

Afterward, we cried, shared memories, swapped pictures, and clung tightly to our golden retriever Macy.

I don’t know about you, but I live with the hope we’ll be reunited with our pets in Heaven. Here are the two reasons why:

  1. The Bible talks about that there will be animals in Heaven.
  2. The Bible talks about everything will be made new in Heaven.

1) Animals in Heaven – The book of Revelation describes Jesus and the armies of Heaven returning to Earth on white stallions (Revelation 19:11-16). The prophet Isaiah gave a future vision of animals dwelling peacefully with each other and people (Isaiah 11: 6-8). The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra (v. 8). Just these few verses feature wolves, lambs, leopards, goats, calves, yearling, lions, cows, and snakes. I hate snakes – but these verses make it sound like they are going to be actually decent creatures. My personal belief is that this is not an exhaustive list of the animal kingdom in Heaven. So why not whales, kangaroos, hamsters, cats, and dogs???

2) Things Made New in Heaven – People will be radically changed and restored in Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50-53). The Apostle Peter talked about a future time called “the restoration of all things.” Back to the book of Revelation, Jesus proclaimed, “Behold, I am making all things new (Revelation 21:5). The wording here is key, notice he didn’t say, “Behold, I am making all new things.” Since God is love (1 John 4:8), I have a hard time comprehending Him saying something like, “You enjoyed this on earth, but it will be taken away in Heaven – now get back to choir practice!!!”

Conclusion – You know what, I could be way off with my beliefs and opinions. That’s okay. There’s probably a scholarly theologian somewhere out there that can prove me wrong. That doesn’t bother me – I’ll keep clinging to the hope someday once again it will be Brownie and Me 🙂

 

Blessings,

Dave

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

 

 

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Are You a No-Name??? Perfect!!!

This is a huge world we live in. The population statistics are mind-boggling. It is easy to wander down the thought path of: “Does anyone really see me?” “Has God forgotten about my life?” “Did I miss Plan A – so, for now, I’ll be quiet and content with Plan D?”

Author and pastor Max Lucado summarize this thought pattern up brilliantly in the cover sleeve of his book Out Live Your Life:

We are common folk. We sit in the bleachers, eat at diners, change diapers, and wear our favorite team’s ball cap. Fans don’t wave when we pass. Servants don’t scurry when we come home. Chauffeurs don’t drive our cars; butlers don’t open our doors or draw our baths. Doormen don’t greet us, and security doesn’t protect us. We are regular folk.

And we wonder: Does God use people like us? He did (and does – my two- word addition).

In the next few posts, I want to go with this theme. Several weeks ago, I was reading through the book of Exodus and came across a person named Bezalel. Never heard of him. He definitely hasn’t been mentioned in any sermon, lesson, or podcast I’ve listened to. And yet, he had one of the most crucial roles in the Old Testament. When God was commissioning Moses to create some special objects of worship for The Tabernacle (kind of a small, portable church in the wilderness where the presence of God would appear) – he had a unique person in mind to create the six pieces of furniture that would be in it (including the Ark of the Covenant of Indiana Jones fame).

Take a look at what God had to say about this individual:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft! (Exodus 31: 1-5)

We can gain three points of insight from this small passage:

  1. God sees us when other people don’t. Look at how many descriptors God uses to describe Bezalel: “chosen, filled with the Spirit of God, wisdom, ability, expertise, master craftsman, and skilled.” God is able to look past our mistakes, faults, bad decisions, and low perspectives of ourselves. He is able to see beyond the muck and broadcast our unique gifts, strengths, talents, and specialized purposes that only we can fulfill! No matter how insignificant the task at hand seems to us – it is all a part of His divinely woven together plan. We haven’t missed it.
  2. Bezalel worked on his gifts and skills during his “downtime.” Traveling by foot through rugged terrain, camping at sites for days, and being disciplined by God for 40 years in the desert provided a lot of extra time for the Israelites. I’m making an assumption here based on the Exodus passage, but I think Bezalel used this time to develop into a master craftsman. When else did he work with gold, silver, bronze, engraving, gemstones, and wood? What a great example for us. What is that “something” deep in our hearts we want to try, but we “don’t have the time for it?” Taking a class, pursuing a relationship, learning a new language, writing a book, training for a marathon, volunteering for a cause, starting a side business, coaching a team, cultivating a garden, etc. We need to stop waiting for the perfect time or more time or tomorrow – it isn’t going to happen!!! Procrastination and perfectionism will win the battle every time. Today is all we are guaranteed. The past says, “I should have _______.” The future says, “I might ________.” Stop it! What can we do TODAY??? Sign up for that class. Write for 10 minutes a day. Fill out that application. Go on that trip. Make the necessary phone call. Send the email. Take a 15-minute walk. Read a book or research 20 minutes before we go to sleep. Reward ourselves with television, don’t let it replace what you have in your heart to accomplish. There are multiple moments of downtime – we just need to seize them.
  3. Bezalel was ready when God had a big opportunity for him. Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk found himself on the bench as a back up his freshman year of college at San Diego State. However, he trained, studied, and pushed himself as though he were the starter – believing wholeheartedly that someday it would occur. Sure enough, during the first quarter of a game against the Pacific Tigers – San Diego State’s starting running back suffered an injury. Marshall was put into the game. He went on to rush for 386 yards and score 7 touchdowns!!! He later went on to have an incredible career in the NFL – including helping to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory. What if he had sulked, smack talked, and been lazy instead? I wonder how many moments we miss that God wants us to walk into? Maybe it seems too small, not important enough, our few dollars contributed won’t make a difference, this would take me out of my comfort zone, we’re too busy, or we’re caught up in distractable, time-wasting, unproductive activities?

Conclusion – We are seen, we are known, and we have a path that God reveals one step at a time. The question becomes, what is my responsibility? What is the area of my life where I could become a “master craftsman”? What is a seemingly small task now – that could have an unimaginable ripple effect?

Next post, I want to share an account of an amazing woman from the Bible that you’ve probably never heard of . . .

Blessings,

Dave

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

 

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FEAR – What It Really Stands For

I originally published this about a year ago. With unstable current events, clouds of uncertainty all over the globe, and tightening stressors in our personal lives – I’m hoping this can bring some encouragement:

Fear, anxiety, and stress can be an unholy trinity. One or more of the three are probably present somewhere in our lives right now. Watching the news or browsing the internet usually adds fuel to the fire – rarely do we walk away feeling better, encouraged, or inspired. Out of the three – Fear is the king. When we’re afraid – that smoothly leads down the path to anxiety and stress.

Fear of the future. Fears from the past. Fears about running out of money. Fear of not being able to pay off an insurmountable pile of debt. Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of a health diagnosis. Fear of terrorists. Fear of war. Fear of death. Fear of letting our kids go outside alone. Fear if our kids are going to turn out okay. Fear that someone is upset with us. Fear that a relationship is not going to work out. Fear of public speaking.

The word “fear” is really an acronym. Two of the acronyms are negative, one is positive. It all depends on our perspective we choose to take. I’ve heard these acronyms in speeches, sermons, and they are all over the internet – so I have no idea who to give credit to for creating them.

  1. FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real. The stories we tell ourselves. A thought enters our minds and a downward spiral begins. I’ve read studies showing that 85% to as high as 95% of what we fear is going to happen never does. Or, our image of what could happen compared to what really happens is drastically different.
  2. FEAR = Forget Everything And Run. Of course, there are those obvious things to run from – a snake in your path (actually, slowly walk backward with snakes), a natural disaster coming your way, or a bad decision that you need to walk away from, or someone trying to take advantage of you. I’m talking more about: The uncomfortable conversation we need to have and avoid – or better yet, go gripe to someone else about it. The position we want to try out for – but are afraid we won’t get it and talk ourselves out of even attempting it. Frustration with our finances – but unwilling to do anything to change our lifestyles. Feelings of hopelessness when you consider pursuing a dream. If any of these resonate with you – I’m right there too.

However, there is another way to confront our fears:

3. FEAR = Face Everything And Rise. Reflect on the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Really think deeply about that statement. Author John Eldredge puts it this way, “Walk right into those situations you normally run from. Speak right to the issues you normally remain silent over . . . this is where you will discover your strength, in the daily details of your life. Begin to taste your true strength and you’ll want more.” (Wild at Heart) Sara Bareilles sings, ” . . . I want to see you be brave!!!”

Don’t get me wrong. If our children end up in the hospital – the common, normal response is fear. It’s how we are wired and is our first reaction. However, after that – we can choose to control our second reaction. Possibly filling our minds with positive thoughts, pray, talk to somebody, read Scripture,  and keep clinging to hope.

Bonus acronym from the internet!

Face It
Explore It
Accept It
Rise Above

Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear.  (1 John 4:18 NLT)

Blessings,

Dave

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

P.S. I have a free devotional eBook called “Overcoming Fears” to help guide you on your journey. Just email me at:

david.rische@gmail.com

And put “fear ebook” in the subject line and I will send it to you 🙂

 

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“You are Enough!”

When was the last time you heard the phrase in the subject line? Perhaps a few times during your life, maybe never?

You are enough, right now, exactly who you are, exactly what you are doing.

You see, we are continually bombarded with the message that we’re not enough!
We’re not fit enough. We’re not good looking enough. We’re not wealthy enough. We’re not enough in our careers – we should be so much further along. We’re not as good of parents as the people on Facebook are. We’re not enough as a partner or spouse as the people on Instagram are. We’re not as educated as the people on Twitter are. We don’t volunteer or give enough. We’re not enough staying at home, we should be out there working and contributing. We don’t travel or do fun things enough. And on and on it goes.

It has been often said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

What would happen if we started to truly believe from the depths of our soul that we are enough, today, right where we are? Yes – we can be a better version tomorrow and be committed to growth and personal development. But let’s just focus on today – because it is our only guarantee.

You are enough physically:  “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . .” (Psalm 139:14)

You are enough in your career – or if you stay at home or are in school or are retired: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope . . .” (Jeremiah 29:11)

You are enough financially: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

You are enough as a parent, spouse, partner, or friend: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

You are enough in your relationship with God: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Here’s the big one for me: “If God is for us – who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

So start telling yourself, “I am enough” when you feel you aren’t. Like all habits, this will take time to sink into your mind. When comparison, inadequacies, and envy rear their ugly heads, simply reply with, “I am enough!” “I will improve – but for today I am enough!”

I give credit to Ed Mylett, Brene Brown, and Rachel Hollis for the inspiration behind this message. If it speaks to one person then it is worth it. I believe there is someone that needed to hear this.

Blessings,

Dave 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

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Summer = Renewal, Relaxing, and Reading!

In spite of the wretched heat in Texas, summer is still one of my favorite times of the year. How do you feel about the summer months? To me, it is a perfect time to evaluate and possibly renew our commitment to a goal made on January 1st and broken on January 5th. Relaxing is a huge part of summer, and an exotic location isn’t needed. My wife and I will sit in our garage and watch the rain storms in lawn chairs (until the tornado sirens go off). It seems a popular commitment is getting caught up on books during the summer. A few thoughts about reading. I recently listened to a podcast by entrepreneur and speaker Ed Mylett (a great one to follow on social media if you need a kick of inspiration and motivation). Ed mentions that he intentionally wrote his best selling book less than 100 pages because of the short attention spans of readers – if they are going to even read at all. He also commented on how the majority of everyone is busy and multitasking – thus the rise in podcasts, audiobooks, and even the comeback of radio. A few years ago it was all about having videos to promote whatever we were trying to get out “there”. Now the shift is audio because people can access it in their cars,  while working out, on a flight, cleaning the house, or waiting forever in the doctor’s office. Ed also mentioned that another change is people wanting information, knowledge, and self-improvement instead of listening to music. Anyway, back to reading. Here is the reprint of an article I wrote for a blog called “The Nerdy Book Club.” Please let me know your thoughts on it or anything else mentioned above in the comments section 🙂

REMOTE CONTROL READING BY DAVID RISCHE
POSTED BY CBETHM ON FEBRUARY 25, 2019

Maybe you have the same problem I do. I love to read. Not only to be reading one book but multiple books at the same time. Currently on my nightstand, there are books about archeology, comedy, magic, Greek mythology, crockpot cooking, and my faith. I don’t know how or when I developed this habit, it was never encouraged by any of my teachers.  Maybe it is that love of mysteries and me wanting to know the end (even if the book is non-fiction). Perhaps I don’t have the patience to read one book at a time. All the while wondering what is going on in those other books? I can’t help that I have a multitude of curiosities about life and the world we live in.

I call it Remote Control Reading. Just like many of us “surf” from channel to channel endlessly on the television – the same thing can happen by changing from one book to another. Not even finishing a chapter in the book on the top of your pile before switching to a book at the bottom. Does this sound familiar? Included with this practice is the nagging voice in the back of our minds questioning, “Am I ever going to finish any of these books???”

I’m here to proclaim freedom to you – It is 100% okay to read multiple books at one time! I already mentioned how many of us flip from channel to channel without thinking about it. Reflecting on the foods we enjoy – that’s what a buffet is all about. How about the vast amount of restaurant choices that swarm our minds every time we contemplate going out to eat? The movies would be boring if there weren’t so many different genres of films available. How about the different styles of music we constantly switch to for one day?

Not only is it okay to participate in Remote Control Reading – here are three other areas about reading that you’ve maybe felt guilty or even shamed about – and each one of them is completely all right!!!

It’s okay to not finish a book. This one took me a long time to get over, especially if I paid money for it. I was an adult when I finally would accept this. What makes this situation even worse is when you receive a book as a gift from someone like Aunt Gertrude and she says, “This is perfect for you – let me know what you think about it when you’re finished.” It is a subject she is passionate about and you have no interest in it. Plus, the book is 400 pages long. Yikes!
It’s okay to fall asleep while reading. We might think, “Ugh – I’m never going to finish this book – I keep falling asleep!” No problem. What a great way to calm your body, mind, and brain – and perhaps you’re adding some creative material to your subconscious for dreams that night! Think about how much screen time you’ve had during the day. Will being on our electronic devices lead us into a deeper sleep – or move us toward unintentionally wiring ourselves up?
It’s okay to not like electronic books. Some folks love having a portable library on their electronic devices. They can bring their entire collection with them to the beach, on an airplane, or while sitting in a waiting room. I tried it – and personally can’t stand it. Part of my love for books comes from displaying them, accumulating collections, marking them up with pens and highlighters, physically sharing them with others, and smelling them (just kidding, sort of). Plus, electronic screens are not the best way to calm your mind and brain down before going to bed (see #2 for a great suggestion how)!
So next time you catch yourself reading multiple books at one time – enjoy and embrace it – and do not feel one ounce of guilt! You are part of a select group – The Remote Control Readers!

Blessings,

Dave 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

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This Summer – Cash or Charge???

vacation quoteSeveral years ago in one of my graduate classes, the professor had us fill out a “getting to know you” sheet.  One of the prompts read:  “Fondest memories as a child _______.”  After a short while, the class shared their results.  Approximately 99% of the class shared their fondest memory was taking trips in the car as a family.  Of course, we all complained about the lack of quality (or no) AC, annoying siblings, endless hours in the vehicle staring at desolate landscapes, and various unpleasant odors that accompanied the trips.  However, despite having no smartphones or tablets, videos, or MP3 players (I’m really dating myself) – we all agreed those were the most cherished parts of growing up.  The destinations, of course – but also the journey there:  Stopping at hole-in-the-wall cafes/dives, using our creativity to invent games, spotting license plates from other states (still can’t believe we saw Hawaii one time), and praying feverishly that the hotel had anything that resembled a swimming pool.

Fast-forward to the present day.  As we occasionally reflect and discuss our favorite memories as a family – the majority of conversations hover around vacations, the experiences we’ve encountered, the “unique” individuals that crossed our paths (usually resulting in deep belly laughter), and the eager anticipation for our next trip.

However, most of these memories come at a price beyond the trip.  Confession time (gulp). Like the typical American consumer featured in some statistical chart somewhere – many of our trips have been funded by credit cards.  I would love to live on cash only as many books, seminars, and financial experts proclaim.  Excuse time:  Our vehicles break down, teenagers eat a lot,  medical expenses, holidays and birthdays, outdated appliances stop working, one of us always needs some type of new clothing, home repairs, two kids in college, did I mention teenagers eat a lot? 🙂   I know, it’s called Life.

Like the majority of families, we try to save.  But something seems to always come up that drains the “emergency” fund.  I’m reminded of this obscure verse in the book of Haggai:  “. . . and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” (Haggai 1: 6b)

So . . . thinking about the quote in the picture and your own experiences – what is your opinion?  Is there a way to save for a vacation beyond hopefully receiving a tax refund check?  Only go if you have the cash?  Charge it now, pay later?  What about the opening scenes from the movie Up where Mr. & Mrs Fredricksen never got to take the trip of their dreams because things were always breaking down?  Are you willing to work a year or two extra to pay off credit cards?  Please compare and contrast the two verses below:

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”  James 4: 14

Final thought:  It seems like yesterday we were signing paperwork for daycare.  Now, we are signing paperwork for colleges.  It goes so fast with the kids – I personally want to experience as much as possible now, even if it means I have to pay for it later 🙂

What say you?  Please comment below . . .

Blessings,

Dave 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/author/davidrische

P.S. If you haven’t received a copy of my free ebook “31 Quotes to Destress Your Life” – you’re missing out! It was designed visually and linguistically (such big words!) to help you calm down, reorient, refocus, and fight against anxiety. Just send me an email at david.rische@gmail.com and put “destress” in the subject line. I’ll then send you a copy when I have a free moment and I’m not stressed out 🙂

 

 

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