Practical Suggestions for Guarding Against Extremes – Today’s Insight – November 8, 2019

Today's Insight from Chuck SwindollThree suggestions come to mind as I think about living with the risks of grace and putting all this into balanced living.

First, guard against extremes if you want to enjoy the freedom grace provides. Try your best to keep balanced, then enjoy it. No reason to feel guilty. No reason to be afraid. Try this first: Simply give yourself permission to be free. Don’t go crazy . . . but neither should you spend time looking over your shoulder worrying about those who “spy out your liberty,” and wondering what they will think and say.

Second, treat grace as an undeserved privilege rather than an exclusive right. This will also help you keep a balance. Live gratefully, not arrogantly. Have fun, but don’t flaunt. It is all in one’s attitude, isn’t it? It has nothing to do with financial status or where you live or what clothes you prefer or which car you drive. It has everything to do with attitude.

Third, remember that while grace came to you freely, it cost the Savior His life. It may seem free, but it was terribly expensive when He purchased it for us. And who wouldn’t want to be free, since we have been purchased from the horrors of bondage?

Grace is God’s universal good news of salvation. The tragedy is that some continue to live lives in a deathlike bog because they have been so turned off by a message that is full of restrictions, demands, negativism, and legalism. You may have been one of those held in bondage, victimized by a system that has stolen your joy and snuffed out your hope. If so, I have some wonderful news. You’ve gotten very close to the border. There’s a flag flying. And on that flag is a cross. And if you come into this camp of grace beneath the cross, you’ll never have to be in that awful bog again.

You will be free . . . free at last.

Taken from The Grace Awakening by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1990, 1996, 2003 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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10 Botanic Gardens You Can’t Miss in the U.S.


Whether you’re trying to beat the summer heat beneath the leafy shade or escape the winter cold inside tropical greenhouses, botanical gardens are a popular year-round destination for locals and visitors alike. Here are our picks for 10 botanic gardens you can’t miss in the U.S.

United States Botanic Garden, Washington D.C.

Credit: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Congress established the oldest continually-operating garden in the United States on the National Mall in 1820. This botanic garden in the nation’s capital has been wowing visitors without a break since 1850. It moved to its present location in 1933 and today, one of the most popular attractions of the garden is the Conservatory. Don’t miss the stunning orchid collection here — you won’t find anything else like it in the country.

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

Credit: Chris Curtis/Shutterstock

The essence of the Sonoran Desert has been distilled and transplanted to Arizona’s largest city in the form of the Desert Botanical Garden. Towering cacti and delicate, drought-tolerant flowers are allowed to shine against the red earth of the Papago Buttes and it’s quite a splendor to see. Take a flashlight tour to witness the night-blooming plants in all their glory, or visit around Christmas when luminarias light the pathways.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou

Credit: MNStudio/Shutterstock

The “Garden in a Valley on the Ocean” as it calls itself can be found not far from Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island. The fertile volcanic soils on this 40-acre valley support over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. Wander the garden’s nature trails through a tropical rainforest and over trickling streams to enjoy magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.

New York Botanical Garden, New York

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This 250-acre botanical garden on what was once the Lorillard family estate is free to enter on Wednesdays like its neighbor, the Bronx Zoo. With around a million tropical, temperate, and desert plants, this botanical garden is every amateur gardener’s dream. You’ll find it’s worth paying the additional entrance fee to check out the collections housed in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a Victorian-style, wrought iron-framed greenhouse made of glass.

Portland Japanese Garden, Portland

Credit: Randall Runtsch/Shutterstock

The Portland Japanese Garden during autumn or koyo season dazzles as much as the fall colors of New England. Japanese maples flame in hues of orange, russet, and crimson. The structural elements of the garden — its bridges, tea house, and stone pathways — add authenticity and oriental serenity.


Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta

Credit: Nicholas Lamontanaro/Shutterstock

Comprised of a number of smaller themed gardens, the Atlanta Botanical Garden occupies 30 acres in the middle of the city. Highlights include the formal rose garden and the rainforest room of the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory. One of the Botanical Garden’s most innovative features is a 600-foot-long skywalk that extends into the Storza Woods 40 feet in the air — affording visitors a unique vantage point over the trees.

Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando

Credit: Jillian Cain Photography/Shutterstock

You probably associate central Florida with theme parks rather than horticulture, but Harry P. Leu Gardens is an oasis of tranquility in downtown Orlando. The garden was gifted to the city almost six decades ago and since then, this comprehensive collection of azaleas, bromeliads, roses, and camellias shaded by camphor, elm, and oak trees has attracted a loyal following amongst locals.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara

Credit: Janelle Lugge/Shutterstock

As part of the American Alliance of Museums, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is as much a living museum as it is a garden. The impressive 78-acre site is planted with over 1,000 rare and indigenous species from towering redwoods to colorful California poppies. Five miles of scenic trails provide access to the gardens and breathtaking views of the San Ynez Mountains and Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands beyond its boundaries.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Dallas

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Texas does things on its own scale and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is no exception. Sixty-six acres of land bordering the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake in Dallas are preserved for horticulture. Highlights include the infinity pool at A Woman’s Garden, the McCasland Sunken Garden, and the vivid colors of the Nancy Rutchik Red Maple Rill.

Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver

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Twenty-four gloriously gardened acres lie within Cheesman Park in the heart of the Mile High City. Gnarled bristlecone pines, native grasses, cottonwood borders, drought-tolerant perennials, and succulents showcase the variety of species found in the state. In addition, native flowers and shrubs from as far as South Africa and Japan complete the planting. The Denver Botanic Gardens is worth a look.

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves.



But now, this is what the LORD says…“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:1-2

Twenty-eight-year-old evangelist Wako Halekie works in the town of Tuka Argiso in the border area between Ethiopia and Kenya. This small town is mostly inhabited by Borena livestock herders and is effectively divided between Oromia and Somali regional states. As a result both states are claiming ownership over Tuka Argiso. The federal government tried to hold a referendum to resolve the dispute, but they were unsuccessful.

Three years ago, Wako Halekie was assigned by his church to work as a missionary among the livestock herders in Tuka-Argiso. Despite their nomadic existence, Wako was able to plant three churches with an average of fifty members in each congregation. He attributes the positive growth to God’s blessing on the ministry. But Islamic presence in Tuka-Argiso is growing progressively. Muslim missionaries from neighbouring villages are determined to Islamize all Borenas which rouses concern in the Christian community.

Wako says, “They regard my activities as an obstacle to their mission. I was alerted by some villagers about their antagonistic feelings towards me. Recently the Muslim missionaries criticised the Christian faith openly and tried to confuse our members.”

On March 30th, 2011, Wako left home for a routine visit to new Christian converts. In the early morning hours of March 31st, one of the three houses at his residence was set afire. The fire spread to the second and third house where his wife, newborn baby and their two older children were sleeping. Both the first and second house burnt to the ground. By the grace of God neighbours managed to rescue Wako’s family from the blaze just in time before the third house’s roof crashed in. None of their belongings were spared.

Mrs. Haleki said, “I heard a distant noise but thought I was dreaming. The next thing I knew, people broke through the door and dragged me and the children from the smoke. I was shocked and speechless.” She was still recovering from the birth of their third child a week before.

Wako says, “I know the purpose of this fire was to destroy me and my family. But God intervened and saved my wife and children. God is faithful to His words! As it was written in the book of Isaiah 43:1-3; we will not fear their threats. God is our Redeemer. They thought I would leave the village, but I will not wave from the calling God bestowed on me. I took my wife’s hands and together we stood in the midst of the ashes and gave thanks to the name of the Lord. By His grace I will continue serving Him right here in this village until the day He has helped me reach the entire village.”

RESPONSE: Today I will trust God to fulfill His promises even when going through fire and flood.

PRAYER: Pray for Evangelist Wako and his family working in difficult circumstances and pressures.


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Today’s Prayer

A Prayer for God’s Protection over Our Children
By: John North


“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” – Proverbs 22:6

God has taken a life that he loves, that he wants nurtured to love him and serve him, and entrusted it into your care—no greater privilege could he give you!

As you watch your children grow, (whether you are their natural or spiritual parent), you realize that their whole lives are being shaped by their experiences in their early years. As you train your children to love God above all else and to share Christ with others and to see every situation as a ministry opportunity, you are shooting them like arrows into the future.

Long after your own influence in this world has faded, your children and their children after them will be serving God and building his Kingdom in the lives and hearts of those around them. The time you spend giving your kids a godly heritage will bear far greater fruit in the long run than time spent in your own ministry to others.

If you are a parent, you do not have to choose between your own ministry and discipling your children, but the Lord is reminding you not to let the balance swing away from your children for too long. They are God’s gift to you. And your years of influence in their lives will not last forever!

Dear Lord, we ask that you place a hand of protection over our children. Teach them to be strong without being hard, and compassionate without being proud. We are their parents, but you are their Heavenly Father. Please be with our children as they grow in this strange world. Teach them to love others as you have loved them, and help us guide them in your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Editor’s Note: This article is an abridged version of John North’s Time with God devotional. To read the full article, follow this link.