How to face false reality

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What do we do when Satan projects false, fearful future scenes that we can’t eliminate from our racing minds?  The only antidote is right thinking about who God is and His promised supplies for whatever confronts us.  Here are two of my recent ‘daily devotional bites’ as I call them.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV

J.I. Packer in A Quest for Godliness writes how God protects us, “often allowing one evil to touch our lives in order thereby to shield us from greater evils.”

So, what do we do when we FEAR ‘lesser evils’ with their potential pain?

Two of my friends struggle with fear of something bad happening to family members. Familiar with that favorite weapon of Satan, I turned to Paul’s example for help.  Transparently, he models how to face potential dangers and evils.

He learned to think correctly about God. Hardships taught him that God’s ‘dynamis’ (power, abundance, influence, resources) and His grace are always more than ENOUGH to enable one to bear pain, not asking for its removal.  He describes how this divine power and grace take possession of and live within believers.  For God has given a perpetual supply of supernatural help to all His children.

Let’s turn our backs on fear.

**

for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 2 Cor 12:10 Berean Study Bible

Yesterday, I talked about how to handle fears of potential evil and suffering.  That each time Satan predicts false future realities, we need to remind ourselves that God’s power and grace are enough.

For decades Paul practiced this kind of thinking until he had ‘LEARNED to be content’, to delight in hardships (Philippians 4:11)

Content or to delight in are the same Greek verb, ‘eudokeo’. Other meanings are: to be ready, favorably inclined, of good courage, and willing. When God announces that He is ‘well-pleased’ with His Son, Jesus, He uses the same verb.

For Paul, what was the happy outcome?  What did he learn? He grew skilled in transforming a dread or fear picture (nurtured by Satan) into a cause for rejoicing. He knew that strength was coupled with any future hardship.  Thus, he rested easy in his mind.

Brothers and sisters, let’s practice this way of thinking as well!

Grappling with my identity and some bothersome feelings

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Grappling with my identity and some bothersome feelings

How freeing it is to know that Jesus’ door is always open. He has unlimited time to listen to me.  Theologian A.W. Tozer once wrote something to the effect that: ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us’.

So, if we wrongly believe that we have to edit our communication with Jesus or even keep back sharing of shameful feelings, we damage His reputation and deprive ourselves of much needed correction and comfort.

Here are two meditations from this week’s writing and thinking project.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. Matthew 2:6 NIV

‘But I’m only a _____!’  Have you ever said that to yourself?

Consider those shepherds described by Luke, busy doing their shepherd-thing the night Mary was birthing our ‘Shepherd-Ruler’.

This morning in my reading, I noticed that Jesus’ rule is likened foremost to a protector and caretaker of sheep. In Jesus’ day, people despised and minimized this lowly profession. But God, the ‘re-orderer’ of status, calls shepherds fundamental.

Maybe angels first appeared to these rough-hewn men to correct THEIR identity. I can imagine God’s message: You shepherds serve in the same profession as the Messiah, the Divine Shepherd, who will govern my people. Don’t listen to what the world says about you.  Continue to be good shepherds, for this is a noble calling, worthy of honor.

Whose voice are you listening to when you repeat: ‘I’m just a ____’?

**

Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lamentations 2:19 NIV

Buying Christmas gifts for adult kids is challenging.  I thought I had found something creative and different when I read about a local Alabama man who crafts custom bowties.  Neither of my sons has a bowtie. Why not choose a fun accessory, to be worn on a special occasion?  I picked a themed pattern, and through in some novel socks.

Elder son didn’t mention our gift.  When I asked him, he said: “Not something I will ever use; I haven’t even worn a regular tie in nine years, but thanks anyway.” I felt hurt.

Michael comfortingly empathized with me.  Resolving just to let the hurt go, I mentioned to Jesus what I felt and invited His input.  Unsurprisingly, He agreed I should forgive. What He then brought up gave me pause.  ‘What about all the times you have ignored my gifts, failing to thank Me? How do you think I have felt?’

It helps to release and receive from Jesus!

A fresh year to adventure with Jesus

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Welcome 2021! Another clean and fresh chapter, adventuring with Jesus.

Ever since I heard Christian peace advocate Jamie Winship talk about his years working among warring radical tribal Muslims, my time reading the Bible and praying to Jesus have changed significantly. 

Thanks to a new way of listening to Jesus, I received a nudge, encouraging me to start writing daily.  The game of this new habit, 6 weeks in, is to put into 175 words or fewer an insight God reveals from that day’s readings and meditations. I love this ‘pleasant boundary line’.  Each week, therefore, I select two of my dailies and offer them here, to you.

My goal is to encourage you, too, to read, digest, talk truthfully to Jesus and listen for what He thinks about any problem or situation or worry and then do what He says.  An adventure is bound to follow, making life 1.0 (until His return) exciting and energizing.

Blessed adventuring to you, dear reader, this 2021.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, Revelation 4:11 NIV

For years, I announced: “I’m not creative!” I believed I couldn’t generate novel ways of teaching. Pressure to use my imagination stressed me.

But toward the end of my classroom teaching years, I began to come up with new ways of presenting learning experiences to my French students. Innovation turned into a friend. Different ideas energized me, stimulating me to take risks. ‘Same ole, same ole’ bores us all.

What happened is that I relaxed into my calling, how God wired me (and you).  We know that God is Creator. If we bear His image, it follows that we create, naturally.

Now look at the text – being creative is worthy of honor.

When we originate something, try a new approach or employ different materials, we have embraced our calling, reflecting God.

Who do you suppose works to keep us tired and blasé? Who stands to gain if we believe life and God are boring?

**

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. Revelation 17:14

My Bible notes remarked that angels are NEVER referred to as ‘called, chosen, faithful followers’.  Only believers!!!

This news stuns me. Implied is this, that if we die before ‘The Last Battle’, we will fight alongside Jesus in his final military defeat of Satan and his vile, wicked guerrillas.

No wonder this life is challenging, hard, often painful for believers, aka warriors in training. Life on earth is Divine Bootcamp! Field exercises and live fire familiarization prep us for real skirmishes with the enemy and the occasional drawn-out battle.

But remember, we have only one enemy – Satan.  People are not our enemy.

My take-away from today’s Bible reading? Suffering is both real and necessary.  God has carefully planned every detail of our training with this future Day in mind. Those who die in the Lord will experience the most exciting, epic Victory in all creation. R&R awaits all soldiers on the other side, our Rest and Re-creation.

The Spirit’s recent drumbeat – Truth & Trust

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Mike and I have almost reached the end of this year’s journey through the Bible.  Recently it feels as though the Spirit has been exhorting me to embrace ‘Trust and Truth’ toward the close of this year, 2020. Here are two of my daily ‘devotional bites’ that I’ve recently written.

I’m having fun with this self-assigned challenge to put clearly into creative, yet succinct words what Lord is teaching me through His word and daily experiences. We CAN hear from the Living Son, Jesus, through His spirit.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

…. he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion … Phil 1:6 ESV

Speaking Spanish the other day felt like ‘pulling teeth’.  Tere listened distractedly. Was my straining for words wearing on her? It can be painful when someone is communicating haltingly in another language.

Listening that night, Mike strongly countered my conclusion. Surprised, but grateful, I realized I hadn’t shared this discouragement with Jesus.

The next morning unloading ALL my feelings on paper, I asked Him: ‘What do you think about this? What should I do?’

Silence.

So, I moved on to the day’s Bible reading, knowing He would respond in some way. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit brought the Psalmist’s above exhortation to mind, reminding me that all good desires are God-given. I didn’t seek out Spanish.  God planted that seed in me and birthed a new passion.

And Phil 1:6 seems a logical and reassuring conclusion, don’t you think?

***

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. Psalm 16:5 ESV

If you study people, you can spot what they treasure. Our unrehearsed, spontaneous words provide evidence. How we spend time and money also signal the truth.

The Bible teaches that God has deliberately picked out each of our permanent riches, that is our inheritances. Down to the last detail, such as its purse or container (cup), our Father keeps all safe until the right time.

Observing me, what would you conclude is MY treasure, what I value most? I spend a lot of time taking care of my temporary body: food prep, exercise, medical care, sleep, hair and nail appointments, clothing.  Not to mention time spent on maintaining our interim house!

My prayers tend more to the temporary as well. I am learning, though, to plead more spiritual transformation that short-term needs indicate.

But hearts don’t lie.

Jesus, help me to remember and apply your teaching:  Your heart will always be where your treasure is. Matthew 6:21 CEV

You want me to do what??

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Today’s adventure with Jesus takes place over two days. More and more I’m putting into practice what Jamie Winship teaches, this honest revealing of my thoughts and actions to Jesus, followed by listening for His ‘take’ on my situation and what He wants me to do. The other night in one of his videos I heard Jamie say that in the Bible people’s reactions to hearing from God is one of surprise and resistance: “You want what????”  Think Joshua or Gideon or Peter about letting down the nets on the ‘wrong ‘side or mingling with Gentiles. Then there is Simon who greeted the newly blinded Saul, notorious Pharisee hunting down Christians.

I had one of those, ‘You can’t mean You want me to….” reactions.  Yep, that was JUST what Jesus had in mind.  Hard to resist God, isn’t it?

Part 1

…not pursuing dishonest gain; Titus 1:7 NIV

I’m a thief who plans her robberies.

Stopping at Target, I purchased 5 items, paying for them in the self-checkout area. “Oh, I’ll be able to ‘stock up on’ (ahem…steal!) extra Target bags for the cat litter.”

Other stores’ plastic bags are not sturdy. So, I look forward to getting Target bags. Last time, I took an extra 5, on purpose.  This time I grabbed about 15.  But then, God!

Focused on pilfering these ‘poop bags’, I walked out, ‘extra’ bags in hand, minus the purchases.  Suddenly, my empty hand startled me – “Where are my 3 cans of tomatoes?” Running back, I found the self-checkout employee who handed me my bag.

Then the Holy Spirit convicted me! It took that episode to show me just how I was dishonoring God. “Is this how King Jesus treats His adopted little sister, reducing her to poverty so she robs Target?”

Today’s appointed reading and Jesus’ gentle message pressed: ‘Go confess this to the manager!’

My response?  “Yes, Lord Jesus.”

Part 2

if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship 1 John 1:7

Yesterday I agreed with Jesus and told Him I would go to Target and confess my theft, but after Christmas.

But then I couldn’t sleep and resolved to go this morning, but after church.

But then, I couldn’t wait. I showered, quickly dressed, grabbed my stash of Target bags and drove off.  Entering the store, I bee-lined to Customer Service. The gal eyed me approaching, waiting to help.  I quickly admitted my theft, handed over the bags, and told her I was sorry.  Listening, she smiled, then said “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not!  It was wrong and a sin” and something about Jesus and getting this off my chest. I thanked her for listening, eyes moist with tears, and left Target a free woman.  Freed of sin. Free to fellowship again with Jesus and light of heart.

Help me remember, Lord Jesus, that you call us to stay in your light, enjoying your affectionate peace.

No more stuffing feelings; adventures await!

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Hi Friends

It’s freeing to be able to share with Jesus each messy feeling and perplexing situation that come to me. With no reserve, not filtering out any detail.  And it’s Biblical.

Here are 2 entries from this past week.  What pleasure God gives me, to write daily, but no more than 175 words.  I love the limit!

**

December 10

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you, Psalm 55:22 NIV

…..casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you 1 Peter 5:7

Mike grabbed his lunch, headed to the garage. He admitted, “I’m fighting anxiety about this morning’s meeting we prayed about last night.”

Spotting Satan’s tactic I encouraged: “Mike, don’t fight the anxiety!  Cast it on Jesus!  Spit it out; tell Him all the details. Then listen for His words!”

Don’t we all tend to tamp down those thoughts of fear, worry envy, shame, anger….?  We have heard Satan’s lie enough times to believe it: If you were really a good Christian, you wouldn’t be feeling X, Y, Z!

That’s not true!  Remember the father’s confession to Jesus about his son’s healing?  ‘I DO believe, help my unbelief!

What relief when we confess all to our good Father.  Jesus knows Satan’s tactics, the slight twisting of the Word.  He understands the temptation to accept the lies.

His response?  Life-giving words of Love, not of fear and condemnation. Let’s train ourselves to recognize His voice and trust Him.

**

December 12

You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35 NLT

Spanish renders blessed as: ‘bienaventurado’.

I LOVE this word!  Separating bien from aventurado, you get well, good followed by adventurous, exciting! (Maria’s unconventional musing.)

So, when you GIVE, a great adventure with Jesus follows.  It’s way more fun than receiving a gift.

But, how much do we give? To whom? When do we give? So many questions left unanswered. Especially to one like me who finds it harder to give of my time than money.  Is Jesus calling us to do as He advised the rich young ruler? Sell all our stuff and give the proceeds to the poor? Or, in my case, dedicate all my time to the service of others?

We don’t have to guess, for Paul helps us in Acts 22:10 when he modeled the way: What should I do, Lord?

Jesus invites us to check in with Him, always. What a relief!

And what other great adventures with Jesus await? We can always check back to the Sermon on the Mount where He describes other circumstances, sure to be thrilling.

**

What about you?  What do you hear Him say when you’re honest?

Each day I look forward to talking with Jesus!

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I’m practicing being honest with God.  This week, He seems to be encouraging me NOT to filter my feelings. He’s been encouraging me to ‘spit them out’.  I realize how often I stop myself from acknowledging any thought that feels like sin.  Like pride. Or judgmentalism.  But you know what I also realized?  That if I don’t tell Jesus what I’m thinking and feeling, then I don’t allow Him to speak.  I cut myself off from what He thinks about all this and what He wants me to do.

Here are two entries from my journal this week.  

December 5

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3 ESV

What are little kids like? I think of Elizabeth, my very verbal granddaughter, who is 6.  Every time we are together, she asks a million questions. She wants to know everything.

Just how does that make me feel? Happy that she is interested in what I think! She also wants to show me her latest drawings and what she can do, from cartwheel to piano melody.

Am I annoyed?  No! I enjoy her company. 

I wrote yesterday that God has called us into koinonia: intimate, conversational fellowship with Jesus.  He wants us to talk and listen to Him non-stop.  Without an ‘adult’ stuffy filter.

Someone said the other day: ‘Oh, I don’t want to bother God about the little things in my life.  He’s way to busy!”

One of Satan’s favorite lies! And definitely not what the Bible teaches.  But do we actually believe what Jesus said?

Chatter on, dear friends!

December 6

We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5 Berean

In my study this morning, I saw Paul’s statement differently.  So, I rewrote it in my journal like this:

We capture every thought, bringing it out of Satan’s governing purview, and present each thought and the feeling it produces to Christ who is Lord over our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.

I’ve written about Jamie Winship and how greatly his training in both knowing God and recognizing false identities is changing me. The first step is to bring our thoughts out into the light and ‘confess’ them to Jesus. 

Next, we think through what that thought or feeling implies about ‘who we are’, (who we THINK we are).  All this, without any filter.  Then we ask Him: What do YOU say about this, Jesus?  What do you want me to do?

Then we listen.

I like how Paul says the same thing.

**

You know, this freedom to bare all to the One who already KNOWS it all is a relief. I find that I can’t wait to tell him what’s on my mind and in my heart. And I’m curious to hear from Him, too.

Each day, I look forward to hearing from God!

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I’m practicing being honest with God.  This week, He seems to be encouraging me NOT to filter my feelings. He’s been encouraging me to ‘spit them out’.  I realize how often I stop myself from acknowledging any thought that feels like sin.  Like pride. Or judgmentalism.  But you know what I also realized?  That if I don’t tell Jesus what I’m thinking and feeling, then I don’t allow Him to speak.  I cut myself off from what He thinks about all this and what He wants me to do.

Here are two entries from my journal this week.  

December 5

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3 ESV

What are little kids like? I think of Elizabeth, my very verbal granddaughter, who is 6.  Every time we are together, she asks a million questions. She wants to know everything.

Just how does that make me feel? Happy that she is interested in what I think! She also wants to show me her latest drawings and what she can do, from cartwheel to piano melody.

Am I annoyed?  No! I enjoy her company. 

I wrote yesterday that God has called us into koinonia: intimate, conversational fellowship with Jesus.  He wants us to talk and listen to Him non-stop.  Without an ‘adult’ stuffy filter.

Someone said the other day: ‘Oh, I don’t want to bother God about the little things in my life.  He’s way to busy!”

One of Satan’s favorite lies! And definitely not what the Bible teaches.  But do we actually believe what Jesus said?

Chatter on, dear friends!

December 6

We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5 Berean

In my study this morning, I saw Paul’s statement differently.  So, I rewrote it in my journal like this:

We capture every thought, bringing it out of Satan’s governing purview, and present each thought and the feeling it produces to Christ who is Lord over our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.

I’ve written about Jamie Winship and how greatly his training in both knowing God and recognizing false identities is changing me. The first step is to bring our thoughts out into the light and ‘confess’ them to Jesus. 

Next, we think through what that thought or feeling implies about ‘who we are’, (who we THINK we are).  All this, without any filter.  Then we ask Him: What do YOU say about this, Jesus?  What do you want me to do?

Then we listen.

I like how Paul says the same thing.

**

You know, this freedom to bare all to the One who already KNOWS it all is a relief. I find that I can’t wait to tell him what’s on my mind and in my heart. And I’m curious to hear from Him, too.

Hearing God

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The amazing discovery. I can actually have a conversation with the Living God and HEAR what He says. Not audibly, mind you, but He provides the sense or thoughts. Here are two recent journal entries.

November 29

Since you are precious to me, you are honored and I love you…… Isaiah 43:4 God’s Word Translation

I was lying. To myself. About who I am.

Identity is foundational. Watching a Jamie Winship teaching on identity, I pressed myself to be honest.

Since I was 8 years old I have believed that I am one who is NOT enough. And in order to be liked, appreciated, needed, valuable, popular, chosen….wanted, I have to DO a lot for people.

What does someone like me who doesn’t feel wanted for herself, apart from what she does LOOK like?  Competent and driven.

In the training, Jamie had us close our eyes and offer that false identity up to Jesus and then ‘watch’ what He would do. ‘Okay….I don’t think anything is going to happen,’ I thought. But I complied.

Immediately, a picture came to mind:   Jesus gently sweeping that identity of ‘Unwanted’ out of my offering hands, breaking it up into many sparkly, glittering particles that floated off into nothingness.

I realized: This is fact!  I am not ‘Unwanted’. Nor have I ever been. That is a lie absorbed, encouraged by Satan and believed –  all from my child’s sense of events.

Who does Jesus, the only True and Living God, say I am?

“Precious, full of honor and loved”. That’s the Truth.

30 November

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace (Shalowm) to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Psalm 85:8 ESV

The text message arrived late. I didn’t want another obligation! Knowing I was to meet with Jesus in the morning, I nevertheless fell asleep quickly, having reminded myself that Jesus calls me ‘precious, full of honor and loved’.

This morning, coffee at hand, I read yesterday’s words in my journal (Psalm 85:8) – an invitation to confess my feeling of ‘resentment’ due to that possible obligation. Freely writing down how I felt, I next formed an ‘identity statement’:

  • I am someone who doesn’t trust You to supply enough time to satisfy me.

Then I asked Jesus: What do YOU say about this?

Closing my eyes, I raised empty hands to receive.

I penned what came to mind. The ‘bottom line’ was this:

  • ‘Connected to me, Eternity, I’ll always supply you with enough time.’

His words of peace satisfied – ‘Shalowm’.

Where’s my belt (of Truth)?

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Gizmo lost his collar in the house.

Our granddaughter Elizabeth with Gizmo

He also lost his identity when his collar went missing – that little tag that says WHO he is and WHOSE he is.

I keep losing my ‘collar’, too. That belt or yoke which joins me to Jesus and keeps me KNOWING my identity and who my God is. When I forget and think incorrectly about who I am and who Jesus is, I temporarily lose all my peace and contentment.  I start to feel either anxious or angry.

I’m sure you know that believers don’t lose that ACTUAL state of peace with the Father, once they have been transferred INTO the Kingdom through Jesus’ blood. But we can lose our awareness of peace, of connection with Jesus.

Do you listen to podcasts? I love them. News & cultural reports, interviews, stories, reflections are part of my daily routine.  But never have I taken notes from a podcast, nor listened to one twice!

However, when our son Graham described a couple of concepts he had learned on a recent podcast interview, I knew I wanted to take my time listening.to this one.  Not multitasking as usual, but actually sitting down and taking notes.

Jamie Winship, the interviewee, is a believer whose gift is storytelling. During the two-hour conversation he related a few experiences from the time he and his family had lived in the Middle East and he taught in a Muslim university. Listening to these accounts opened up and changed my understanding of hearing from God.

He also shattered some of my fixed ways of thinking about Jesus.

Let’s circle back to peace and what happens when I LOSE my feeling of peace and joy and fall into fear, worry or anger.

Since the podcast, I have been practicing what I learned.  That is, when I’m stewing in fear, anxiety or frustration, I am learning to STOP and articulate my emotional state.  Jamie calls this ‘confessing’.

Here’s what I noticed and worked through on Wednesday, writing it all down in my journal:

  • Jesus, I’m feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the number of people in my life who need my encouragement and prayers.

Next, I confessed the ‘identity’ these feelings revealed.  Jamie describes this step as formulating an ‘I am’ statement.

It took me several attempts to articulate this functional identity, to get to what I thought was true about me, what fed my feelings of unrest and churn.

(warning, what you read is very ‘stupid’ and not at all true, but it’s what brought on ‘burdened and overwhelmed’ Maria)

  • I am one whose prayers tip the balance in whether people receive God’s blessings.

There, it was out, on paper in front of me.  Even as I penned the words, I knew ‘this identity’ was silly and not at all true. But ‘confession’ is an important step to being cleansed, to being restored.

The next step was to ask God: ‘What do YOU have to say about that?’

I didn’t ‘hear’ God…but He was revealing in my thoughts, what actually IS true:

  • Maria, you’re not me – God!  It’s not up to you how I act in the lives of your friends and family.  I have invited you to participate in their well-being.  Do you really think I won’t do what is best for them? Do I stop being all-powerful, all-good, all-wise, just because you don’t pray?

What was my reaction?  A ‘sheep’-ish realization of how I had been misrepresenting God!  And relief! No, it is NOT up to me!  Yes, I’m one of Jesus’ little lambs, part of His flock and I get to help out.  But I’m not the only one who has received the privilege of praying for certain people in my life.  Besides, if all of us little ones fail to pray, there is still the Holy Spirit who, together with the Son of God at the Father’s right hand intercedes ALL the time.

What happened next?  Amazingly, and immediately the burdens evaporated. Peace and calm came over me. I was back to knowing my true identity and thanking God for who He is.   That is what Jamie calls repentance – a returning to my identity and my God.

Just as Scripture teaches, fear and anger are where Satan abides.  Peace and joy are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The simplicity of this ‘tool’, this listening prayer dialogue stuns and excites me.

I’ve been taking advantage of the rhythm of noticing what I’m feeling, confessing it through words in my journal and then asking God for His input and waiting and listening for His answer.  He has not failed to respond to me, sometimes just in thoughts that occur, often through Scripture that just ‘happens’ to pop into my mind.

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