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A much needed reminder from Melanie. We ought to keep this at the forefront of our minds.

However, with sincerest affection and respect, I must beg to differ on one point. I honestly can't say "I'm a kinder, gentler person" since Levi died two years and two months ago. Then, I was coping with Lyme disease. Now, I've been told I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I actually have a shorter fuse and am less tolerant and quicker to bristle.

Would it surprise you if I told you I believe that's actually part of the plan? We are all capable of patience, kindness and forbearance . . . TO A DEGREE. But EVERY human being has his or her limit. And, as far as I'm concerned, the sooner we hit that wall, the better.

The uncomfortable reality of "the exchanged life" is we must be brought to the point where we see an actual EXCHANGE is imperative. In other words, an improved version of Ernie just won't do. You need to see Jesus IN THE PLACE where Ernie used to be (II Corinthians 4:10-11).

We may readily acknowledge we are "fallen creatures," but we are reluctant to openly admit with Paul, "For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth NO GOOD THING" (Romans 7:18). For various reasons, we will fight to maintain our own goodness as long as we can. We hang on to the cherished notion that there are just some good people and some bad, and a few really stellar individuals. And we won’t relinquish hope that we can be that stellar person with more time and effort. But the Lord is Absolute Master at allowing the right circumstances and pressures chip away at our fine marble facade until we are exposed and can no longer deny the not so pretty flesh lying beneath the surface. Then, it is not a case of improving what God has already weighed and found wanting. It is a case of "NOT I, BUT CHRIST!""NOT I, BUT CHRIST!"

It is so often only when those circumstances and pressures have brought us to the point of "O, wretched man that I am!" that we finally, FINALLY give up on our own "goodness" once and for all, and are ready to exchange confidence in our flesh for confidence in Christ (who said, "Why callest thou me "good?" There is NONE good but One, that is, GOD.")

I have failed at Melanie's good admonition of "refuse to cause pain." In fact, if I have extended grace, or shown kindness or love, or patience, or wisdom, you really need to give credit where credit is due. That would be not I. BUT CHRIST.

"I can do better; just let me try harder" is the way of RELIGION. Christianity is "Christ in you; the hope of glory" = I can't; HE CAN.

If we're still holding out hope for the improvement of SELF, could it be, perhaps, that the circumstances and pressures in our case just have not been severe enough yet to utterly dash those hopes?

Miles J. Stanford used to say, "The way UP is DOWN."

"But we had this sentence of death in ourselves, THAT WE SHOULD NOT TRUST IN OURSELVES, but in God, who raiseth the dead" (II Corinthians 1:8-9)

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be OF GOD, AND NOT OF US (II Corinthians 4:7).

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