Receiving God’s Love

God, I don’t really know how to approach You, but a person told me You loved me. Really loved me so much that You gave up your Son on my behalf. Now that’s really hard to believe! I mean, I’m not a good person, so why would You love me or do anything for me?

I’ve been in a deep, deep pit for most of my life. Wanting out but not even knowing how to try to get out. It seemed the harder I tried, the deeper I went. I can’t imagine anyone doing me any favors. No one ever has, so why should You?

But this person told me Jesus loves me and actually suffered all your hatred of my wrong ways, and now I’m free to have a good life, if I only believe that Jesus did this for me. Not only that, but I can become your child. Seems strange for an adult to become someone’s child, even God’s. I didn’t even know my own parents, and my childhood certainly wasn’t something I’d want anyone else to experience.

God, I don’t quite understand all this, but I’m trying. I do believe what I was told that Jesus suffered all your fury for all the horrible things I’ve done. I want to become a different person, a person who can do good for others. I don’t know how I could do anything good for someone; but the person who told me about you, said that I’d find things I could do that would help others. I’d like to be that way – helping people instead of all the evil I’ve done in the past. God, forgive me for all that stuff!

I’ve been rotten and don’t see how anybody could want me, much less You, God. But that’s what I was told, and something happened in my heart at those words. Somehow, I believed them, and they made me smile. I haven’t smiled in a long, long time. I can’t explain it, but something happened, and all the heaviness, anger and bitterness just melted away. Why, I feel like a new person; almost like a little baby just finding out what’s happening in the world and how to adjust to it. Just learning how to be loved, not by a person, but by You, God. Amazing!

Thank you, God, for doing whatever You did to make me feel this way, to give me this joy and this newfound hope. Thank You that Jesus suffered all your wrath over my evil deeds, so I can become a person who’s able to talk with You, to have a relationship with You. God, You are awesome! I just realized that if I’m your child, then You are my Father. What an amazing idea! I’ve never had a father, and now the God of all the universe is my Father. I’m so thankful for this person who told me about You because You have changed my life. You made me a new person, and I love You. I just discovered that: I love You because of what You have done for me. Thank You, Father! Thank You, Jesus!

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Prayer for Those with Debilitating Diseases

(This prayer is for three people close to my heart, but I extend it to others in this situation.)

Father, my heart hurts for people close to me who are enduring debilitating diseases that Satan has inflicted upon them. I know many others face the same or different issues, all of which prove difficult to cure. Only you can touch these loved ones and heal them, Father. Whether you use doctors and medicine or whether You divinely heal them, I pray you touch their lives.

In the meanwhile, give them peace in the journey; comfort them in pain; let them know you stand beside them and your Spirit within them each moment of the day and night.

Father, you know each of their life situations, and I lift those up to you, for you alone know what each one needs at this very moment and in the coming days as they walk through these life-changing challenges. Give them courage, strength, energy, hope and peace. Let them know your very real presence upon them.

Father, if I could, I’d instantly remove each of these illnesses from them; but I can’t. I know you can. That is not a difficult thing for you, Daddy-God! However, sometimes you allow us to walk through these challenges, teaching us more about you along the way. I pray each one learns the lessons you have for them during this time, drawing them ever closer to you, Holy God.

I pray your glory comes out of these situations in whatever way you choose. May you be honored and exalted; and may all these close to me – and others also – have a greater testimony of your mercy and grace in the future than they do presently.

Father, I love and exalt you, for you alone are holy, high and worthy of worship.  You sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins and our healing, as the Bible says in 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB) “He Himself [Jesus] bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed.” In Jesus’ precious and holy name, I ask for your mercy, Holy God. Amen.

Abba, I Belong to You

As my church sang the song Abba[1], I thought in a way I hadn’t previously – yes, I do belong to my Father. That thought struck deep in my heart. I “BELONG” to my Daddy-God. He sacrificed so very much by sending Jesus to die so I could become His child. They both paid with all they had for my eternal life with them and so that here on earth I can have an intimate relationship with my Father God, Jesus Christ my Savior and the Holy Spirit. I am a daughter loving my Father because He first loved me.

First John 4:18-19 (The Message Bible) reminds us: There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life — fear of death, fear of judgment — is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love — love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I like to call my heavenly Father Daddy-God. The word Abba means an intimate relationship, as a child might say Daddy today or as an adult might say Father. My earthly dad and I had a very good relationship, so I don’t have the major roadblocks some people do who didn’t know their earthly fathers or had abusive ones. I appreciate the freedom this gives me to relate more easily to God than some can.

Someone might ask who a small child belongs to, meaning their parents. That parent has responsibility to take care of and protect that child; he educates and trains the child, as well as providing food, shelter and clothes for her. In the same way, our heavenly Father takes care me, His child, so I do belong to Him, not including the tremendous price He paid for me.

As I thought more about belonging to my Father, I realized that makes it easier for me to resist any temptation that comes my way. I don’t belong to the devil, so I can stand against him and not give in to whatever he puts in front of me. I count on the blessings of my inheritance as a child of God and don’t need anything that will lead me away from those blessings.

Satan may approach me with wrong thoughts or actions, trying to lure me that way. Some of these God emphasized No to – There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Other times my enemy surprises me with those little nagging inclinations that aren’t wrong in themselves but are still activities where I know I need to limit the time I spend with them.

I thought of this verse, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a NASU.)

I walk along the beach, paying attention to the gulls and other shorebirds. Further down children build sand castles and grab my attention. Suddenly I realize I’ve stepped into a cast net left carelessly behind and my sandals become tangled in it. I almost fall because I wasn’t paying attention.

That’s what the Hebrews verse warns me of – not paying attention when a temptation comes, or I’ll stumble into it without realizing it’s even there. One of those little things that isn’t bad itself but that I have to control is watching too much TV at night instead of studying my Bible or reading godly books. Nothing is wrong with the shows themselves, I just must not let them dominate all my time when I have instructive books to read or a Bible study I didn’t have time for during the day. I like to start my day with Bible reading and prayer, but often don’t have time before breakfast for real study.

Because I belong to Father God, I put on the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18[2]). This armor covers me from head to toe in front, but safety only comes when I’m fighting. God gives me no protection if I’m running away. Watchful prayer guards me from Satan’s snares so I don’t step into that cast net. I pray with and for others to give and receive mutual support as the body of Christ on earth.

Fortunately, when I do get caught up in temptation, there’s a way back to the loving relationship with my Daddy-God. First John 1:9 (Message) encourages us:  If we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. My Father doesn’t hold a grudge! He wants our rapport flowing full of love more than I do, so as soon as I honestly turn away from the wrong I’ve done, He’s quick to forgive me and take up where we left off in our relationship.

Abba, I belong to You – now and forever!

____________________
[1] Abba (Arms of a Father)
>Jonathan David & Melissa Helser

You’re more real than the ground I’m standing on
You’re more real than the wind in my lungs
Your thoughts define me
You’re inside me
You’re my reality

Abba, I belong to You 

You’re closer than the skin on my bones
You’re closer than the song on my tongue
You came running down my prodigal road
You came running with a ring and a robe
Grace is the collision on the way back home
With the arms of a Father who won’t let go

Songwriters: Ed Cash / Jonathan David Helser
Abba (Arms of a Father) lyrics © Bethel Music Publishing

 

 

[2] Ephesians 6:10-18: And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

 

God’s Word in My Heart

Father, I pray that you open my eyes to see your Word in new and fresh ways; help me understand exactly what You’d have me apply to my life today. Give me wisdom as I read this precious gift carefully and thoughtfully. I know I have much to learn from You, but I don’t always take the time to dwell on what I read and fully apply it to my life. Sometimes I read and appreciate what the Bible says; but then my busy day starts, and I never get back to thinking more about it. My mind always finds other things, even TV or other trivial matters to consider, forgetting what You said to me that morning.

Lord, I know that Psalm 19:11 (NASB*) says, “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Therefore, I must consider the Bible as precious and not read it quickly, just to get the job done. That’s no way to consider what You say to me; no, I must treat it as a very special message.

Other versions say, “I have hidden your word” or “I have stored up your word.” I learned the KJV* of “Thy word have I hid in my heart,” and through the years I have hidden much of it there. But the NASB* says, “I have treasured your word,” which makes me more fully realize the importance of not only reading, or even understanding, God’s Word but seeking it as a rich treasure and then putting it in a vault in my heart so no one can steal it. I also like the “stored up” version. That makes me think of what I meditate on one day I add to what I’ve processed in the past. I don’t simply read the Bible one day and forget it before the next reading; I add to my knowledge and love of God’s Word each time I hear or read it.

That’s the importance I need to give your Word as I read it daily. Father, how wonderful, to be able to access this great gift wherever I am, even on my phone or computer! Different translations help me better understand what the original languages meant to people long ago, so I can apply them today. Although customs are far different, love is still love, and our greatest two commandments still say to love God and love others. Cruel treatment of another remains wrong, even though the types of cruelty differ. Putting someone or something above You qualifies as idolatry, even though we don’t make gold or silver images.

Teach me, Lord God, to treasure to a new depth your holy Word. Though it, You instruct me to apply your principles today so I live a more fulfilled life, no matter what age I am. Thank you, heavenly Father, for the precious gift of the Bible.
_______

* KJV: King James Version; NASB: New American Standard Bible.

Psalm 139

Psalm 139
(The Passion Translation)

As I read this Psalm this morning, I was again touched with the love of our heavenly Father for each one of us. How intimately He knows us, far better than we know ourselves. Read Psalm 139 for yourself and rejoice in your Daddy-God’s immense love. Read it slowly and thoughtfully; let it sink into your spirit and chew on it awhile.

In the description of a baby’s formation, allow the words to help you grasp how precious your whole life remains in God’s thoughts. His perfect plan for your life continues, even though you’ve made mistakes in the past. That’s what I find amazing: In spite of the long detours I’ve taken, my Daddy-God still guides my path to bring me into his will for me. I realize that’s where I’ll be most fulfilled. As the Psalm closes, let the Holy Spirit examine your heart and see if there’s anything that doesn’t fit with God’s perfect plan for your life. Let Him enable you to turn from that and seek Him with your whole heart, soul, mind and body. Then you’ll know God’s full love and joy for you. You’ll find fulfillment and joy in being the whole person your Father created you to be.

I pray God’s rich blessings of realizing how vital to your heavenly Father you are and of finding His love and joy in your life. Amen.

Title: “You Know All about Me”
For the Pure and Shining One
King David’s poetic song

1 Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.

2 You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.

3-4 You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book, and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence! You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.

5 You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me.

6 This is just too wonderful, deep and incomprehensible! Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.

7 Where could I go from your Spirit? Where could I run and hide from your face?

8 If I go up to heaven, you’re there! If I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too!

9 If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there! If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting!

10 Wherever I go, your hand will guide me; your strength will empower me.

11 It’s impossible to disappear from you or to ask the darkness to hide me, for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.

12 There is no such thing as darkness with you. The night, to you, is as bright as the day; there no difference between the two.

13 You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.

14 I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord!

15 You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.

16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book.

17-18 Every single moment you are thinking of me! How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought! O God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore! When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

23 God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.

24 See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways – the path that brings me back to you.

Who Is Jesus to Me?

Recently in church we sang songs talking about who Jesus is: our way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper. You wipe away our tears, mend broken hearts, touch every life, heal our diseases, meet every need. Jesus is the Light in the darkness; his blood transforms my life, brings the dead to life, is sufficient for me. He is the highest power so that I am no longer bound to sin and am free!

The Bible assures us Jesus and now the Holy Spirit working in us, fulfills all these vital roles. But do we really trust Him to do these things? To meet our needs, to heal our diseases, to mend our broken hearts?

In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus tells Simon (later called Peter) to put his fishing net on the other side of the boat. Even though these professional fishermen had fished all night and caught nothing, Simon said he would, and he caught so many fish that his nets almost broke, so he called his partners to help catch all the fish. Am I  as willing to do what Jesus tells me to do, even if it doesn’t make sense to me?

Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18-19 (NASB): The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

Are we not financially poor but spiritually poverty-stricken because we haven’t heard of the rescue from eternal death that Jesus came to give us, as well as abundancy in this life? Are we bound in captivity to style, pride or insecurity? Do we have physical infirmities? Are we oppressed by addiction, co-dependency or other issues? This is the year of redemption from all that! Jesus wants to set us free from the dominion these conditions have in our lives so that we have heart-peace and joy in our spirits.

We sing songs with joy about Jesus providing all we need and read the Bible with all His miracles, claiming we believe it. But when the test comes, do I really? Do I depend on my Father God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit to keep promises to me? Have I checked first to see if conditions exist to gain those promises? Do I really understand who Jesus wants to be for me? Am I willing to let Him change my life dramatically, so He can be?

We must question ourselves and ask repeatedly, “Who is Jesus to me?” Am I letting Him be all He wants to be? What is holding me back? Investigate this!

My Thanksgiving

Father, I thank You that You have already won all my battles. I praise You for the victories over disease, lost jobs, lack of finances. I thank you for salvations and renewals of love for You. I thank you for new heavenly births.

I thank You for so many blessings You’ve given me. And for the faith to believe You and the rewarding of my tiny faith, growing it into mountain-shaking faith. Father, I thank You that nothing is impossible with You.

I thank You for your amazing love. That love carries me through hardships and good times alike. That love flowing out of me returns double-fold to You, for it teaches me to love You more. That love fills me until it overflows to those around me.

Lord, open their eyes to see Jesus in me, not for my honor but for your glory, Father, so that what they see in me, they will hunger for themselves.

Father, they don’t know your love. They are lonely, fearful, hurting and lost. They need You, holy God. Here I am, Lord, use me to show them your Son. Open their eyes, holy God. Open their eyes, I pray.

My Prayer

Father, I love You, but it’s such a small insignificant amount compared to how You love me. Teach me how to love You more. Give me a fiery, burning love for You that will never lessen or be quenched.

You are so almighty, all-powerful, mountainous, marvelous, without any kind of defect or lessening. You are all-in-all! Nothing and no one compares to You. You were before all and will endure for everlasting. All-powerful Creator of all that exists. You always were; You always will be.

In spite of all your marvelous might, You love me. You cherish me. You forgive me! Even when I miss opportunities to worship You or to magnify your name, your love never fails. You are merciful to me and compassionate. You see my broken heart and bring me peace and joy. You give me strength when I am weak. You direct my steps with your eye. You protect me from the evil one and show me how to stand strong against him. You teach my hands to war against him. You surround me with your love and sing over me.

And Father, what You do for me, You will surely do for another. You have no favorites. You gave your Son to die for each person in the world, so surely You would love them as well. You teach me how to love others as You have loved me. Indeed, without knowing your love for me, it’s difficult to fully love others unselfishly, without an agenda, even when we don’t recognize it.

Father, You amaze me and I thank You. I’m eternally grateful to You. I bow down and worship You and sing your praises. You are my God. Teach me to love You more. Amen.

Our Daddy-God Is Faithful!

 Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

 Old Faithful Geyser continually erupts every day and night, all year round, never missing a time. Eruptions occur about every 70-90 minutes with park rangers giving an estimate, but only that. A tall gusher reaches close to 200 feet but often follows a shorter one.

My husband and I have watched this fascinating sight many times with a couple of thousand people in late June or have seen it a few times by ourselves in December, always special to behold. The first winter I saw it, while mentally knowing Old Faithful blew all year, surprised me when I realized this great display happened with no one watching. Of course, I knew the Park didn’t turn it on for visitors, but a sudden realization hit me that it doesn’t depend on what people do.

In the same way, I think we often think God’s faithfulness depends on how “good” we are. We’ve read the Bible that says He remains with us at all seasons. During crisis times, however, we might feel like the harsh reality of winter hit and wonder if our loving Father knows our situation, just as I realized afresh that Old Faithful operates with no spectators as well as thousands. These times call for us to draw closer to our Daddy-God so we do realize He’s present. Often we tend to pull away in unbelief, but that hinders our remaining steady during the crisis.

Reviewing God’s Word helps me hold onto my faith in difficult circumstances, and these verses promise our Father’s faithfulness to us forever. All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

Deuteronomy 32:3-4: For I proclaim the name of the Lord; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Psalm 36:5: Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

John 14:16-18: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

Hebrews 13:5-6: He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” [Their emphasis.]

You might wonder why I call the Father of Christ-followers “Daddy-God.” In the New Testament, Jesus used this very term of intimacy when He prayed before the crucifixion. Since we are God’s children, He desires us to have this same intimacy with Him. “Abba” translates to our word “Daddy.”

Mark 14:36: And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Romans 8:15-16: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

Galatians 4:6-7: Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

Yes, circumstances may go from bad to worse, but consider what our loving Father did: He gave his own beloved Son to die for us so we could be his children. Certainly then, He remains faithful to us throughout our lives. Situations make no difference. Our Daddy-God loves us!

 

Independence Day 2018

Picnics, fireworks, family gatherings, friends meeting each other – all these form a part of our usual July 4th activities; yet, they’re only one side. We must always remember the blood of countless men and women from the revolutionary war all through the years. Those lives cost far too great a price to only consider the fun side of this great day. I still believe we live in the greatest country on earth, originally founded primarily on Judeo-Christian principles. The obvious general moral decline of our precious country concerns many of us, but the US still brings many blessings to her people. Therefore, we celebrate and enjoy this wonderful day.

Living in a democracy where we’re free to live as we please makes life abundant. We can live where we want, go where we want, do what we want within reason, and eat what we want. We dress as we please to suit the weather and what we are doing. I see some women covered head to foot, even on scorching hot days.  I realize that is their religion and their right, but I’m thankful for short sleeves in the heat and humidity of my area.

Yes, living independently in our great country provides many huge blessings. But in another way, being dependent brings even greater provisions – if we’re dependent on God as our Father. Learning that takes time but returns wonderful rewards. When we’re dependent on His Holy Spirit guiding us, assurance gives us security in our decisions. He speaks to us throughout the day if we merely stay tuned in. Yes, not in an audible voice but in one we soon learn to recognize as the voice of Truth.

Long ago I discovered this principle when I bought groceries. Since my friend’s husband was out of work at the time, I planned to buy some extra things to give her. Although I hadn’t planned to buy her any coffee, that idea popped into my mind strongly, so I got some. A couple of hours later when I delivered the groceries, the coffee delighted her above all. She usually enjoyed it all day long; and they’d been without coffee for a couple of days because she didn’t have the money to buy anything that wasn’t a necessity.

Another experience in that same era came as I thought a couple of times a day about someone who wasn’t that often in my thoughts, though we did know each other. I’d usually pray for her and her family but not contact her. After this happened several times with the same person, I called her a couple of times when she came to mind so much. Each time she needed prayer. I learned that whenever I’m thinking of someone who usually isn’t on my daily radar to stop and pray for them. That’s the Holy Spirit putting me on alert. At other times, I’ve had someone tell me they prayed for me during a certain period, and I’d needed the prayers then.

I learned that when we depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us, life works better. We don’t have the confusion that can occur otherwise; we become intercessors for others and can offer an encouraging word when someone desperately needs it. Of course, our Father God speaks to us in different ways: the Holy Spirit brings thoughts to our minds that don’t originate with us; the Bible quickens our hearts as we read certain verses or chapters; songs bring messages, as well as our spiritual leaders. We do well to heed these and other ways our Lord guides us.

The first part of Psalm 46:10 says in several translations, “Be still and know that I am God.” We need often stillness to hear God speak to us, though He can speak at other times. We do, however, need to that stillness to know God in the fullness it’s possible for us to know Him. When clutter fills our minds with all the need-to-do things on a particular day, difficulty arises in hearing through all the cacophony of confusion. I like the New American Standard Bible in that case, for it tells us to “Cease striving and know I am God.”

Sometimes we think God may say something to us and we don’t want to hear it. That verse rings true here too. Perhaps our loving Father isn’t saying what we think, but we won’t know until we’re quiet enough to hear that gentle voice whisper in our heart. If He does speak a word that turns against our natural inclination, then He will give us grace to follow whatever His direction is, if we quit fighting.

Even as we celebrate our independence as a country, let’s learn dependence on our loving Father God.

Praises to My God

(A word of explanation: The last couple of weeks at the night services, my church has been giving us time to sit still before God and simply listen to what He says to us.This is what He spoke to me.)

 The Opening

 The mighty rushing wind of your Holy Spirit comes in and sweeps away all fears, all doubts, all hesitancy, all reluctance. That wind sweeps away all but your sweet, gentle voice, and I hear You say, “Come to me, my child. Sit beside me and learn who I am. For I am gentle and loving. I bring you comfort and security. My love for you is boundless.

Praises to My Lord God Almighty

I sing to You because You are beautiful
I sing to You because You are holy
High and lifted up:

Above all that ever was
Above all that is now
Above all that ever will be
Above all the skies
Deeper than the deepest ocean.

That’s less than You are – far less –
But it gives me an idea of just how immensely large You are.
But just an idea.
Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent.
The words ring true for You
But I’m too small to understand them.

Lord, I’m amazed in your presence.
I can’t grasp just who You are
But speak to my spirit
Reveal more of yourself to me.

Open my eyes to better see glimpses of Holy You
Impress on my heart just who You are
Teach me a righteous fear of You.
Teach me of your holiness and glory
Let me see You through the clouds and midst
Give me clear vision.

Holy Lord God Almighty,
Continue to open my eyes more each day
Until I see You completely
In all your glory and holiness.

I sing to You because You are beautiful
I sing to You because You are holy
High and lifted up; glorious beyond compare
I sing to You until I shall see You face to face
And then I’ll bow and worship You as never before!

   
Second Praise 

Oh holy, holy God
I worship and adore You
For You first loved me
You taught me what love is.

You’ve carried me in the night seasons
And rejoiced with me in the joyous times.
Whatever my circumstances
Wherever I’ve been –
You have been there too.

You’ve guided me with your eye
And when I wasn’t paying attention
You guided me with your hand.

Holy, Precious Father!
There is no one like You
I love and adore You
For there’s no one like You.

Father, your love amazes me
It lifts my heart high
Even when I’m down
Your love draws me high.

Your love is secure
You will not fail
Even when I neglect You
Your love continues true.

But Lord, my heart’s desire is to ever draw closer
Closer to your love
Closer to your holiness
Closer to your glory.

Father, I long to reflect my Jesus
Just as the moon reflects the sun
I long to look more like Jesus
And reflect Him to the world.

Amen.

Stir up Your Spiritual Gift!

God gives all His children spiritual gifts, and if we don’t know what they are, we need to ask Him. Someone who knows us well can help also because often they see the gifts before we’re aware of them. Father gives these gifts to bless others so that all the body of Christ grows and matures, but in using them, we’re blessed as well.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly noticed that for a while I didn’t post very often. While doing lots of other things, I had some ideas but simply didn’t spend the time before Father to receive what He wanted me to write. While I didn’t deny time with Him, at that point I needed more and didn’t give it. I didn’t stir up my gifting.

A couple of weeks ago my pastor preached on 2 Timothy 1:6. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, his disciple who was serving the Lord but perhaps not with his whole heart. Paul recalls how Timothy’s mother and grandmother had great faith and now Timothy lives that same faith, but Paul sees a problem. The New Living Translation writes it this way: This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

God gives spiritual gifts and often does that when someone prays for us. He doesn’t require it, however. Our Father doesn’t have specific rules and regulations about how he does things so that we won’t say “this must happen for that to occur.” He works as He pleases, but we all do receive gifts.

Sometimes we allow our circumstances to interfere with using our gifts, and that’s what I let happen for a little while. I’d read a couple of meditations about using our gifts, and when my pastor spoke about this topic, I knew God meant me! Perhaps more people needed to hear that sermon, but I knew it hit it’s mark in me.

Notice that Paul tells Timothy to fan into flames the gift. I’d let my gift sit and smolder for a time, just like a fire has coals but needs to be stirred to really do its job. In the same way, Timothy and I had to stop being lazy about what Father gave us and get to work using it.

I don’t call myself a writer, as a precious internet friend told me. She sees herself as a scribe, one who writes what they are given. I’m that same way. I don’t sit at the computer and think about what to write. The Holy Spirit puts an idea in my heart, and I sit and the words flow. Sometimes I think I’m led to write about a subject, and I get part of it done but can’t finish it. I save the draft in case I come back to it in the future; often I don’t. But when I’m writing what the Spirit guides me to write, words flow to the computer. I do edit it, sometimes several times to get it correct, but know this will bless someone the day they read it. That’s using my spiritual gift as Father intends. That what He wants us all to do.

Understanding the Spiritual Armor

When I first put on the spiritual armor, I had trouble remembering the order, so I learned the pieces from head down and used that way for a while. Then one day I wondered why it was listed in such a seemingly disconnected way. That’s when my Father whispered in my mind that He has a reason for that process. As I thought about this, I began to understand that reasoning and have put it on correctly ever since.

God led Paul to write about the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:10-18 after telling these believers in Jesus Christ how to live a life pleasing to Him. Paul, being a prisoner in Rome, knew he’d never see them again and so wanted to help them as much as possible. Most likely, Paul intended this letter to circulate to all the churches in the area. This and Philippians are my favorite letters of all those Paul wrote. Ephesians tells us in chapter one where our spiritual standing lives and how blessed we are. Stuffed full of golden nuggets, we do well to study this book repeatedly. Chapter six gives us final instructions for living a genuine Christian life and at the end tells us how to fight all Satan throws against us.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (New Living Translation* – NLT)  Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.  11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 Here Paul tells us that our troubles aren’t caused by people but by the spirits and powers ruling those people. When one becomes a Christ-follower, Satan realizes that person is a threat to him and his kingdom, so he starts to attack that one in various ways. That doesn’t mean non-believers don’t have problems also because Satan’s whole aim is to “steal, kill and destroy.” Jesus calls our enemy the thief in John 10:10 and uses these words to describe him. But Jesus goes on to say that He came to give us a satisfying and rich life [not necessarily rich in money or material possessions, though some Christ-followers are] (NLT). That’s what makes following Jesus such a wonderful blessing. Next Paul describes the spiritual armor that protects us from the assaults of Satan. Then, we’re to stand strong even through the assaults. Christians become stronger through the warfare we endure, but our aim centers on standing for Jesus, no matter what. Without this armor, we cannot stand.

 Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT):   Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (The Message Bible** – MSG):   Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. 14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. I really like this version because it’s so succinct, telling us exactly what’s what.

How do we wear the spiritual armor?

We’re to wrap ourselves in the truth of God’s word, which is the first piece of armor we must wear. Why? Because if we don’t know the truth, the other pieces can’t help us. When the Holy Spirit breaks through to our spirit that Jesus really is the Son of God and that His blood shed so long ago will forgive our sins, then we confess them and turn away from them and start on the path as a child of God. (Please note, salvation only begins with this first step; our full salvation continues as we grow closer to the Lord in this life and finds fulfillment when we arrive in heaven.)

The breastplate of righteousness comes in and gives us that right standing before God, so we can enter His presence and talk with Him. This piece goes over our heart and gives us encouragement to live a godly life daily.

We need these and the other pieces of spiritual armor all the way through our lives because the devil will always try to turn us from the truth of God’s Word. That’s not meant at all to be discouraging but simply states the fact that we do have an enemy who doesn’t want us to follow our Lord.

Next we put on the shoes of the peace that comes from knowing and acting on the Word of God. When we become a believer in Jesus Christ, we receive peace from God because all our sins are forgiven. Afterwards, we’ll find that peace disappears if we stray from God’s way, so we must go back and confess that wrong against God and others; then we’ll regain that peace. This peace also helps us be at peace with other people because once we learn of our Father’s great forgiveness towards us, then we’re enabled to forgive others. For more on God’s peace, please read Philippians 4:6-8 below. I think describing this peace with shoes is important because it indicates that this special inward peace goes with us, no matter what circumstances we face. Paul was in prison when he wrote about this wonderful peace and contentment from God that remains always with us (see also Philippians 4:11, 13 and 19.)

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT):  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Graham Cooke, a godly author and speaker, calls negative thinking “the worship language of the devil” because that’s what he wants us to do. Negative thinking gets us depressed and almost giving up on God. That’s why Paul tells us to keep on thinking about all the goodness of our heavenly Father. Not that we deny earthly problems, but  we realize our circumstances are governed by a God who loves us so much that He gave His own Son to die for us. Unless they were fighting in a war for our country, I seriously doubt I’d ever let one of my sons sacrifice his life for someone who didn’t even like us; yet, that’s exactly what God did! Romans 5:8 (NLT):  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

We take up the shield of faith, which grows larger the more we involve ourselves in Bible study and prayer. Our faith is only enough to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior when we first become a Christian but as we follow our Lord, it grows. We’ll never not need that faith because Satan will always try to discourage it, as the Word says, by throwing those flaming darts of doubt, confusion and lies. That shield is stronger than he is, though, so we can stand faithful as long as we remember that fact. 1 John 4:4 reminds us that the Holy Spirit who lives within us is greater than the devil who rules the world. The Bible goes on to tell us that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith starts at the beginning of our Christian life and goes through till the end. In Luke 18:8 Jesus asks when He returns, will He find faith on the earth?

The helmet of salvation operates best with all the rest of the armor. We cover our heads (indicating our minds, wills and emotions) guarding them against all doubts and lies Satan and the world in general try to throw at us, but we must know the truth to effectively protect ourselves or others when we’re talking with them. When we’re believers in Jesus Christ, we experience a relationship with Him. Being a good person, joining a church or following a certain religious doctrine doesn’t make us a believer. Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship with our Lord.

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. This sword only works if we have an experiential knowledge of the Bible. That means we’ve walked with God and can put His Word into practice. We don’t simply read the Bible as we would another book. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit to defeat Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-11) and we’re to do the same thing.

Why is the last piece of the spiritual armor the Word of God? Because everything we think, say or do must be checked by the Bible. It’s the controller of what is and isn’t good for us under God’s leadership. Yes, there are gray areas that aren’t mentioned, things that weren’t even possible during Bible times. For example, television and the internet supplies both spiritual food and spiritual death. Some things remain neutral. When we wear the rest of the armor, we can easily tell which is which. Does what we see build us up spiritually or tear us down? Does it meet the test of Philippians 4:8? If we want to discern the difference, we can. Jesus defeated Satan by using the Word of God and so can we.

James 4:7-10 (MSG):  So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. 8 Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. 9 Hit bottom and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. 10 Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

The Final Act

 Ephesians 6:18-20 (NLT)  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Why do we put on and keep on this armor? To protect us from all that the enemy of our souls throws at us. And even more than that, it prepares us to pray as the Holy Spirit leads us to pray not only for ourselves but for other believers – those we know and those around the world. We also pray for those who do not yet know our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

We must support ourselves and keep our hopes high in the Lord. Likewise, we must support each other because all of us experience days that discourage us and need a special word of encouragement at that time. Long ago, I learned that when someone’s name came to mind, to pray for that person. This happened several times with the same lady, so I started calling her then to see how things were going. Each time, she needed prayer about something. I learned then to always pray, no matter where I was, when I suddenly thought of someone, especially if they weren’t usually on my mind’s radar.

If we keep up with Christian news, we know many believers in numerous countries are persecuted, jailed or killed for being Christians and spreading the gospel.  It’s our responsibility as free people to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who miss this freedom. We pray for their safety but also their courage and strength to stand strong during persecution. We also pray for the persecutors because they don’t know Jesus as their Savior. We can pray that either by their captive’s witness, through dreams or other ways that they too will accept Christ. Jesus always cared for those who don’t know Him and still does.

Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT   He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Thus, it’s our job as believers to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks and to pray for other believers, whether we know them or not. As well, our duty and privilege call us to pray for those who don’t know Him that they will accept Christ as their Savior. One way Paul mentions he needs prayer is that he will be bold to say exactly what needs to be said. He doesn’t suggest they pray for his quick release, as I probably would, but I’m not sure I’d pray for boldness to witness when it would likely cost me more persecution. Responsibilities come with being a Christian – to others and especially to our Father who loves and gives us so very much. Will we continually wear our spiritual armor and pray for ourselves, for others and for those who don’t yet know our Savior and Lord?

____________

*   Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

**  THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. l rights reserved.

***  I use these modern Bible translations because they are easier to understand for people whose first language may not be English because this goes on my blog, with many readers whom I don’t know.

Come, My Child

Imagine you’re the parent of a child you’ve always been close to; you could talk about anything and did. Slowly that child drifted away from that intimacy, talking only about school as a whole and not staying as close by as previously. He put you on the back burner. How would you feel? What would you do to regain that previous relationship? This child still wasn’t doing anything particularly wrong; he was keeping curfew, his grades were still high, but you missed the way he’d share what his day had been like, what his friends were doing. Something changed and you didn’t like it.

Now suppose you were standing before God and you’re the child who’s not as intimate as you used to be. Yes, you pray and read the Bible but you don’t have that time of just being with your Father. You’re not a nominal Christian but you notice the difference in the way things are. You may even wonder what’s happened. At church you think it would be great to be as close to God as some others seem to be; but when you leave, nothing changes. One day you’re praying and hear your Father quietly whisper this to your heart:

“Come to Me, my child. Come and feast at my table, for you are lacking in nourishment. You are anemic because you’re not partaking enough of my blood. It is life-sustaining, but you are totally weak and feeble. You need Me, much more of Me than you’ve been getting.

“Come now and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow; though they are red like crimson they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land.” (Isaiah 1:18-19 New American Standard Bible.)

“Come and buy food without price. Money can’t buy my food, only love and devotion can (see Isaiah 55:1-4).  How can you buy without money or price? You can buy with love, devotion and time – a time of withdrawal from the world. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near’” (verse 6).

Jesus’ blood paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins – all of them. Not just the biggies, but the simple things like saying something unpleasant to your family or friend, having a wrong attitude, neglect of Bible study, little time in prayer. Jesus’ blood covers all these and all the other wrongs we do. His blood protects us from the enemy of our souls. It does so much more than we give it credit for, but that’s not our focus now.

Are you willing to set aside more time to spend with your heavenly Father? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to have His way? How much time out of the day do you actually spend thinking about God? Is it enough for the relationship with Him that you desire? I’ve been in this place and asked myself these same questions and find I need more time with my Daddy-God to be satisfied, for He can fill voids nothing else can. We were created in His image and when we let go of that deeper relationship, our hearts yearn for it; we notice the void. Let’s listen to those words again, and go feast at the Father’s table and find the life-sustaining nourishment we need.

“Come to Me, my child. Come and feast at my table, for you are lacking in nourishment. You are anemic because you’re not partaking enough of my blood. It is life-sustaining, but you are totally weak and feeble. You need Me, much more of Me than you’ve been getting.”

What will I do? What will you do? Our soul’s prosperity hinges on the answer.

 

Passover and Easter – What They Mean to Me

 

While I don’t have any Jewish ancestors that I know of, I grew up learning the intense story of the Jewish Passover and how the blood of a blemish-free lamp put on the doorpost of their home saved the first-born from certain death, even among the animals. Then the whole family with their flocks escaped from slavery in Egypt to journey into God’s land long ago promised to Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people. I know that story like it was a part of my personal history.

As I reflect on it this morning, which is the first day of Passover, I see how similar it is to my story. In what way, you might ask. Jesus, the Son of God, lived as a perfect man on earth and then died on the cross so that He might be that blemish-free Lamb for me. This enables me to escape from slavery to sin (Romans 6:16-18, 7:14) to become a willing servant (and friend, see John 15:15) of God. It means I now have power not the do the wrong things I really don’t want to do. It means I don’t have to be addicted to anything, no matter what it is because Jesus died to set me free from all bondages.

What does that mean practically? It means I know that I’m a beloved daughter of God Almighty, a joint-heir with Jesus Christ with all the treasures of heaven. Even if no one else in the whole world loved me, I am deeply and passionately loved by my heavenly Father. That love gives me security in a sometimes-hostile world. That great love says resources beyond the normal human means become available when I need them. My husband and I live not far from Houston, Texas and sometimes go there. A couple of times over the years cars pulled in front of us from another lane, seemingly only avoiding the front of our car by a couple of inches. I thanked my Father of Love each time that we weren’t in an accident. While that’s not saying that disastrous things don’t happen because I’m a Christian (because they do), it is saying I feel an extra measure of protection because angels watch over me (Hebrews 1:14).

Besides that, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death and His ascension into heaven means that He sits beside Father God (Romans 8:26-27, 34; Hebrews 7:25) praying for me and for you! That brings me great assurance, plus the Holy Spirit lives in me so that silently when I have no words for what I want to pray, He knows what I need and speaks the words needed sometimes silently and sometimes in a language I can’t understand.

The full meaning of Easter means that my heart remains peaceful even when my circumstances become troublesome or dire (John 14:27). Does this automatically happen? No, I must put those circumstances into my Father’s hands and allow Him to work them out. I don’t worry and fret but keep my eyes focused on Him. I discipline my mind so that my focus remains on all the many reasons I have for thanksgiving and not on my situation. While I don’t ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist, it’s not the whole point of my life during that time. Certainly, I ask my Father for wisdom in dealing with that condition and take wise steps to help it become as good as possible.

Easter brings joy. Joy overshadows happiness because it lasts when the reason for the happiness passes. Joy gives life zest and encourages us to look forward to what comes next. Joy makes life worthwhile, even in the hard times. Joy sets me free from the drudgery of daily life. Joy keeps me focused on Jesus, who is Joy.

Look up because your redemption draws near – Jesus is with you and lives in you (Galatians 2:20). He continually prays for you (Hebrews 7:25) and He will never leave you or forsake you (Psalm 27:9, Hebrews 13:5). Rejoice, for He is risen! That means you and I have new life!

The Batter

Imagine that you are the last batter in the last inning of a baseball game. Already.  your team has two outs and the bases are loaded. If you can make a home run and bring in those four points, your team wins. Otherwise, it loses. What a responsibility!

In the reality of eternal life, each Christ-follower stands at that place. While we will not lose our destiny in heaven, all those on the bases who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will spend eternity in hell. What an overwhelming responsibility! Yet, if we are willing, the Holy Spirit will use each of us to help show the joy of Jesus to those who do not know Him. Our only responsibility is to obey what our Father asks us to do. We speak when we’re led to speak, we live a life that witnesses to what we say, and we pray for those who do not know our Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Continue reading

Almost Unbelievable Blessings – But Believe Them!

Let me introduce you to two amazing verses that probably most believers read over without paying proper attention to the real meaning of them; I know I did. These are Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6. Only more recently have I given them real thought, though I’ve read the Bible most of my life, and even wrote a simple study of this book long ago. This meditation covers the first verse and soon a second will cover Ephesians 2:6 because they contain too much material to discuss at one time. Continue reading

Admiration of My Father God

Father, thank you that I can call Almighty God, Creator of everything, my Father! That’s amazing to me – that you would allow your holy Son to come to earth, live a perfect life, die an agonizing death, then go back home to heaven, now sitting beside you and praying for me. That’s unimaginable! No other god ever mentioned on earth would think to do such things; they condemn me and require much of me if I believe in them. But you love me unconditionally. I fathom this only a little but it gives me great joy.

Yes, such joy to know that One who lives eternally understands and loves me with all my shortcomings and inadequacies. You accept me just as I am. I don’t have to try to make myself better. You don’t require that of me; instead, you ask me to simply trust you to make all the inner changes required, and I do. You enable me to change for better. I know that deeply-rooted issues I simply can’t change; the pain from them is too great. But Father, you know how to solve those issues and erase that hurt. You take my sorrow and give me joy. You are amazing!

Father, I can’t begin to grasp how fantastic you are – forever present, holy, just, forgiving but punishing when I won’t give up evil ways, loving even those who turn against you. But you are merciful, gracious, kind, self-controlling to the extent of relenting your anger when I repent and follow you. You look at me with longing for my love and a deep relationship with me, communicating all through the day. Even when I go through trials, you comfort me, giving me your Holy Spirit to guide and direct me.

Awesome, wonderful, majestic, totally true, totally just, totally love – no words can describe you – so far are you above anything I can imagine. But the bottom line is that you love me and are my heavenly Father. Though I can’t totally comprehend all this means, I rejoice in it!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [in hell*] but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him [in God’s Son, Jesus Christ*] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18 New American Standard Bible.)

* My insertion.

Merry Christmas as We Celebrate Our King

Merry Christmas! What a wonderful day to celebrate Jesus’ birth as a human baby so He could grow and be tempted just like you and I are[1]. Then one day He died on the cross to pay for our sins[2] and all the many ways we’ve turned from God – total good and truth. Not only did Jesus die, but He rose from that grave and 40 days later went back to heaven[3], where He now sits at God’s right hand praying for you and me[4]. What a marvelous thought! Continue reading