Thursday, July 21, 2016

When God Smiles~

God must have been sitting on the edge of Heaven just waiting for this moment.

He who delights in our delight
and who promises to give us the desire of our heart,
must have been ready to burst!

As I was organizing the items I will be taking with me to a speaking engagement this weekend, I reached for the same bag I used the last time I spoke.

Not surprisingly, (especially if you know me) when I opened it up and peered inside, I discovered it was still home to old notes, pencils, pens, tissue, and several different note pads. As I reached in and started pulling the old out so I could make room for the new, I found the most amazing treasure.

A note.

Not just any note.

A note from my Handsome Honey.


Not just any note from my Handsome Honey,
but a note he had lovingly (and sneakily) tucked into this very bag
two years ago
when I was heading to the mountains to speak  -
for the very first time,
at the very first women's retreat I had ever had the privilege to attend,
much less the honor of speaking at!




Moments before making this God-orchestrated discovery,
I had been on my knees,
leaning into the recliner where my husband always sat,
my head resting where his lap was supposed to be,
longing to hear his voice,
wanting so much to hold his hand,
and wishing I could look into his face.

As tears ran down my cheeks,
I wished for what quite possibly could be the millionth time
that he was here,
that he could speak words of encouragement,
that he could pray with me, pray over me, and pray me through.

After a few moments,
when I had cried my tears dry,
I surrendered for what quite possibly could be the millionth time
this second-guessing God's plan,
this wanting so desperately for my man to be present here,
this desperate desire to undo what God himself had so mercifully done.

As God's Spirit tenderly, yet powerfully, infused my inner man with strength,
I  headed to the bedroom to pack.

That's when it had happened.

That's when I had made this discovery.

And, I can't help thinking,
that when I did,
God, himself,
smiled a smile so big
all of Heaven must have seen it.

It wasn't my man,
but it was his words,
and having this to hold in my hand
was the next best thing to him being here.

And, I thought about how
so many times,
even before losing my husband,
I have been homesick for Heaven,
Not so much the place,
but for The One who makes Heaven, well - Heaven.

How,
when my heart longs to be near Him,
to reach out and hold His nail-scarred hands,
and climb up into His lap of love,
I do
what I can only do
this side of Heaven.

I reach for my Bible.
I reach for His love letter to me.
I reach for His words,
and having this to hold in my hand
and tuck into my heart,
is the next best thing to being face to face with my Abba Daddy.

And, I can't help thinking,
that every time I do,
reach for by Bible, that is,
or spend time in prayer with the Lover of my soul,
God, himself,
smiles a smile so big
all of Heaven must surely see it.






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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Until You Have~

I stood in the back of the wooden chapel.

It was the last worship service
of a week long full
of worship services and mountaintop experiences
at a Christian camp for 4th-6th graders.

When this worship service was over,
so was camp.
When we bowed our heads and said our final "amen"
we would all be loading into vans
and heading back home -
to wherever and whatever home might be.

For the last six years,
when the last day of camp was over,
my heart would be a little hesitant to come down off the mountain
and step back into the normal routine of life again.
Always, though, the joy and excitement of returning home,
of seeing my Handsome Honey,
and sleeping in our bed,
and sharing once again in the living of our life
balanced out the longing of wanting to stay on the mountain.

Not this year.

This year when I arrived home there would be
no one to greet me.
No one to ask about my week.
No one to hug and hold.
No one to listen to me re-tell story after story of God's moving on the mountain.

Only an empty house
and the unwelcome reality
that this year was not the same as years past and never would be the same again
would be there to welcome me home.

And, the thought of not having home to return home to
swelled up inside me so fast and so furious
I had to step outside of the chapel into the expanse of mountain air
just to find my next breath.

And, then the tears came -
SO many tears.

Tears for me, yes.
But honestly, this time -
tears for them, too.

For the children who had to leave this taste of heaven on earth
and return to a world that was not so pleasant -
to a place where they experienced unrest, turmoil, bullying, or fear.

Each year before,
as we made our way out of the chapel and towards the van,
I had seen tears in the eyes of some of the children.

As we would drive the road that wound us through the mountains
and led us back to our hometown,
I would pray for God to give me the words to comfort these children,
to help ease them back into the world that was their every day.

But, you don't truly understand what another is
feeling,
experiencing,
dreading,
until you have.

Knowing this year would be no different than years past for some of the children,
I made my way down the hill from the chapel
straight to the office of a precious, precious friend.
As soon as I saw her face,
I broke apart and again,
the tears came -
SO many tears.

And, she held me.
And, she held me some more.
And I cried for all of us -
for me,
for them,
for our broken world.

After the tears subsided -
this beautiful woman of God prayed for all of us -
for me,
for them,
for our broken world.

No, you don't truly understand what another is
feeling,
experiencing,
dreading,
until you have.

But, once you have -
ah, once you have . . .

All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.  He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (Voice)

This time,
unlike any other time off the mountain before,
I was in their shoes.

This time,
unlike any other time off the mountain before,
I truly understood.

And this time,
unlike any other time off the mountain before,
I felt the God of all comfort,
surrounding me
as I in turn,
prayed and spoke words of His comfort to surround them.

And I discovered anew,
you can't tuly feel
the peace that passes understanding,
the comfort that comes from the Great Comforter,
the presence of God Himself,
until you have.

But, once you have,
you are able to give it to someone else.

And I realized once again,
that no matter how I may be feeling,
our God is bigger,
and our God is always with us.

The same God who was on the mountaintop
would come down from the mountain with us.
The same God who we felt among us
as we were among the tall pines,
would be among us below in the desert,
because our God
has chosen to make His home
inside us.

He would be with us.

His presence with us
didn't end once we climbed inside the church van
and buckled our seat belts.

No, His presence
would climb in with us
and follow us home.









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Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Strength from Within~

For as long as I can remember,
I've known that I am a spiritual being living in a physical body.
That I was created with Heaven in mind,
but I am a citizen of earth
until that glorious day when I can change my physical address here
for my spiritual address there.

And for some reason,
(I'm not really quite sure why),
I've never truly grasped how my physical being and my spiritual being
are being lived out in my every day,
day to day living of my life.

Until recently, that is.

Until losing my husband.

My physical being misses my husband.

It physically misses his physical presence -
his touch, his laugh, his voice, his companionship.

It physically hurts from losing him -
soreness in every muscle,
fatigue in every waking moment,
a heartache that radiates through every inch of me.

It is my physical being that longs for him to be here with me still.
It is my physical being that mourns his passing, that feels the emptiness, that fights to go on.

But then,
there is my spiritual being.

When we become born again by His Spirit,
God graciously and amazingly,
places His Spirit inside of us,
in our inner man.
May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality], so that Christ may dwell in your heart through your faith.  And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God's people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God's presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].
Now to him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask of think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen. ~Ephesians 3:16-21 (AMP) 
It is my inner man,
filled with His Spirit
that is the core of
who I am,
and what I do.

And, I am discovering it is this part of me,
my inner man,
that
keeps stirring up my faith,
keeps mustering up my courage,
keeps praising my God,
keeps seeing His faithfulness,
keeps trusting His plan,
keeps stepping out,
keeps believing,
and keeps moving on.

It is my inner man that is upholding and sustaining my physical being.

It is my inner man,
empowered by His precious Holy Spirit,
that makes the difference in whether I lie down and give up,
or keep on keeping on.

And, I am reminded of the story of Jacob.
How Jacob loved Rachel with a love that was willing to work 14 years to win her hand in marriage.
How together, they had Joseph, but sadly, years later,
Rachel died giving birth to their second son, Benjamin.
So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath, (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day. ~Genesis 35:20
Jacob was heartbroken to be sure.
And I can't help thinking his physical being felt this loss
the same way I am feeling the loss of my Handsome Honey,
the same way you may be feeling a loss in your own life.

He placed in the ground the love of his life.
Then, he placed a memorial at the sight,
so she wouldn't be forgotten,
so her memory would live on.

And, I'm sure he wept tears.
And, I'm sure Jacob wondered what he would do now,
and how he would do what he needed to do now.

But then,
there is the spiritual being,
there is the part of us that has been touched and transformed by God's touch.

Sometimes when this happens we are given a new name
(as was the case with Jacob when God changed his name to Israel),
but all times when this happens
we are given a new identity in God,
an inner strength birthed in our inner man,
an inward movement of His Spirit
that leads us in an outward and forward direction.

Just look at Jacob.

Just look at the very next verse.

Jacob buried the love of His life,

but then . . .
Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. ~Genesis 35:21










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Friday, July 8, 2016

When Peace Rained Down~

I sat in the floor of the hallway, my hand doing what the rest of me wanted to do - rubbing this space of carpet where you last were, hoping so desperately to be able to touch you instead of these woven fibers. In my mind's eye, I could see you there, and I longed to hug you, to reach my hand out to you and lift you back up to your feet.  To hold you and be held by you.  To bury my head in your neck and be engulfed by your scent and wrapped in your arms.
But instead, I found myself alone with carpet, an empty doorway leading to the bathroom, and a whole lot of questions and a heart spilling over with wishes.  And, I cried.  And, then I moaned.  And, then my sorrow turned to out loud wailing.  I couldn't stop it.  How do you suppress a force stronger than the ocean?  So, I let it all out.  For the umpteenth time since you've been gone, Handsome, I sat where you were last and I wept til I could hardly breathe.
Only today, Handsome, I didn't weep alone.  As I surrendered to the weight of my missing you and rolled off of my knees onto my back, looking up at the ceiling, I heard it.  Sprinkled in with my sobs, I could hear the pitter-patter of rain drops on the skylight in the bathroom.  And, I knew down in the deepest place of my heart, this wasn't a brief afternoon shower, this was the very God of Heaven weeping with me.
It brought me to my feet and straight out to the patio.  As the droplets fell from the sky, so did my tears.  For the first time since you've been gone, God and I cried together.  His sorrow not removed from my own, but right there in the hallway and right there on the patio with me.
And I remembered the story of Lazarus and the tears God wept then.  Not tears because He was supposedly too late and Lazarus was dead, but tears that flowed from a heart overcome with the sorrow spilling out of the hearts of Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha.  The very same God who knew in the next few moments Lazarus would walk in newness of life wept tears with those who wept.  He was touched by their sorrow.  And tonight - like I'm sure every moment since you've been gone, God was touched by my sorrow.  I know because my spirit  - which is home to His Spirit in me - testified to this very fact.
And the comfort that came as my tears intermingled with these droplets of Heaven can not be explained.  There is not a word in this world to capture the moment, to describe the communion, to adequately convey the immersion of my sorrow into His and His into mine.
The Most High God came to me in my most low moment and wept with me.  Not tears because He was supposedly too late and you are gone, but tears that flowed from a heart overcome with the sorrow spilling out of my heart.  The very same God who knows in the blink of an eye this life will be over and we will be together face to face for all eternity wept tears with me while I wept.
Our creator God, the very one who bent low and scooped dust in His hands to form the first man, remembered I am dust.  The Breath of Life, the very one who breathed into each of us the breath of life, knew how sorrow and death and separation from you makes taking my next breath feel impossible sometimes.  Our Abba Daddy, the very one who loves me with a love that knows no end, who understands my heart like no one else, and who understands the true extent and depth of my grief, felt my overwhelming sorrow.
He remembered.
He knew.
He felt.
And, He wept with me.
And then, the great I am, oh so gently, and yet, oh so very powerfully, reminded me of this truth:
Resurrection and Life 2-
And, as the raindrops and the tears flowed down my cheeks, my praise flowed upward and outward from a heart overflowing with hope and thanksgiving.  They met in the middle - sorrow and praise, grief and thanksgiving - and out of their union, peace rained down.
Beautiful peace.
Not the peace the world gives, but the peace that can only be found in the blessed hope we have in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
What a precious moment.  What a precious Savior.
If only you could have been here to feel it.  If only you could.
(Sharing from my other blog, "If Only I Could . . .")






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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Fighting Giants~

Lately, I've been feeling a little bit like David going out to fight Goliath.

I say a "little bit"
because unlike David,
I am finally learning,
I have been approaching the fight from all the wrong angles,
and in all the wrong ways.

Actually,
if truth be told,
the only semblance to David
that I can claim as my own
is the fact that I am face to face with a giant. (Grief)

Because you see,
unlike David,
when others come to me,
placing their suit of armor over my shoulders,
on top of my head,
and belted round my waist,
I let them.

Their intentions are good,
no doubt,
and they are only trying to protect me with what seemed to work for them,
but like David knew,
and I am learning, too,
their armor won't work for me.
It is cumbersome, ill-fitting, stifling,
and only serves to stand in my way
and hold me back.

Advice.
Comments.
Remarks.

Their armor only leaves me wondering what I am doing wrong,
why I can't seem to operate they way they supposedly did,
and why I am feeling so clumsy.

Trying to wear their armor into my battle
honestly,
makes me feel defeated before I even start.

I can't fight my battle hiding behind what worked for them.
I have to fight my battle with what works for me.

And because,
unlike David,
when the enemy flexes his muscles,
and struts his giantly stuff,
I tend to forget past battles,
and past victories,
and instead,
I see only him.

My concentrating on the enemy at hand seems smart,
no doubt,
but like David knew,
and I am learning, too,
it is when we remember how God led in battles of the past,
that we find the courage to step out into the battles of now.

I can't let what I am facing now blind me to what I have faced then.
I can't allow the fear of this new giant to defuse the faith that was stirred up when God slew giants in the past.

And because you see,
unlike David,
when the giant I am fighting
taunts me into coming closer,
drawing me ever nearer and nearer,
strategically placing me on his playing field,
within easy reach,
I listen to him.

My heading straight toward my giant seems valiant,
no doubt,
but like David knew,
and I am learning, too,
the enemy can't hurt me if he can't reach me.
If I only approach for a short distance,
draw a battle line,
and refuse to cross it,
I am the one with the advantage.

Goliath, who fought with a sword,
needed David to come close.
David, who fought with a slingshot,
only went as far as was needed to be within slingshot range.

I can't win my battle by marching straight up to my enemy,
and fighting him face to face.
I can only win if I keep my distance,
fight in the name of Jesus,
place The Rock of my Salvation in my slingshot and take aim.

Yes, I am feeling a little bit like David,
fighting this giant named Grief.
But if I take notes,
if I watch, observe, and learn
from this man after God's own heart,
I think I will one day win this battle.

Not by fighting the way someone else has or did,
not by forgetting the way God has fought for me in the past,
not by trying to face it head on and up close and personal,
but simply
(and victoriously!)
by keeping my distance,
drawing a battle line,
standing my ground,
and fighting in the name and the power of Almighty God.










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Thursday, June 30, 2016

When You're Tired of the Fence~

Have you ever tried it?

If you have, you know there is no easy or comfortable way to do it.
Perching yourself on a fence, that is.

And because perching is uneasy and far from comfortable,
once you have perched,
you don't stay perched for long.
You either hop off this side of the fence,
or that.
And you soon discover, middle ground isn't an option.

"You know how you can tell if you really love God?"

My husband and I talked about this a lot.
Loving God.
Being authentic in our faith.
Walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

"It all comes down to the fence,'' he would say. "If you truly love God, you just can't do it. There is no way you can love God and sit on the fence. You can try, but you'll end up miserable. With God, you either have to go all the way or not at all."

He knew what he was talking about.
He, like me, (and I'm assuming you, too, possibly)
had tried sitting on the fence more than once.

Trying to love God and love the world.
Trying to say "yes" to God and say "yes" to temptation.
Trying to please our Savior and please self.
Trying to be fit for God's kingdom and fit into our culture.
Trying to have one foot in each place at the exact same time.

Straddling the fence.

"Nope.  If you truly love God you can't do it.  You'll be miserable."

And the miserable we feel in this place of half way in and half way out, must be the same kind of miserable God feels as he watches us fence sitting, teetering this way only to totter that way.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 
~Revelation 3:16

And, I can't help but think of the passage of scripture that was so precious to my husband.
The chapter he would turn to each and every time he had tried to sit on the fence.
The words that became to him
a cry of surrender,
a cry of stepping back onto the God-side,
a cry from his heart that God heard each and every time
he cried out in his fence-bringing misery.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me -
now let me rejoice.
Don't keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.
~Psalm 51:7-11

David knew all about fences, too.
And, he knew all about the misery straddling them can bring.

Thankfully, though,
David,
and my handsome honey,
knew all about the God who is waiting by the fence.

The God, who,
when we realize the error of our leaning,
the sin of our straying,
the misery of our wandering,
is waiting to take our hand and help us off the fence.

The God, who,
when we cry out for help,
when we cry out for forgiveness,
when we cry out for nothing or no one to come between us and our Lord,
comes to our rescue and draws us unto Himself.

The God, who,
when we come to our senses and come to Him,
washes us clean,
restores our joy,
and promises to never leave us or forsake us.

Have you tried it?

If you have, you know there is only one way to do it.
Freeing yourself from fence sitting, that is.

Cry out to God -
the very same God who
chose to take his place high up on a wooden cross
so you and I
can find our way down off the fences in our lives.

His love for us sets us free.
Our love for Him will keep us free.

"Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and
with all your mind and
with all your strength."
~Mark 12:20

Love God
in all ways,
at all times,
always.









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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Seeing God Between the Words of a Conversation~

The conversation was short, not more than maybe a minute long.

I was at a reception following a funeral of a precious friend. As I made my way around the room, saying goodbye to the family of this beautiful lady, an old acquaintance touched my shoulder from behind.

"Hi, Stacy."

"Hello."

"I knew you fell out."

"I'm sorry? Fell out?"

"Fell out of church." And with that statement, he looked at me and shook his head as if to say, "shame on you."

"I may not attend church here anymore, but as far as falling, the only falling I have done, by the grace of God, is falling head over heals in love with Jesus."

Not knowing what to say next, the conversation turned to my husband.

"How's Steve?"

"He's fine. He's perfectly fine. He passed away a few short months ago."

And thankfully, before the conversation could go any further and take any more turns, another person approached me.

Later that night,
as I climbed in bed,
I thought back on this short snippet of time and the words spoken to me.

I thought about how,
if this conversation would have happened years or possibly even months before,
I would have been rattled by it.

How the thought that I "fell out" of church and somehow "out of God" would have had me feeling offended, lashing back, and trying to prove my "spirituality".

How someone asking about my husband would have brought tears and any other response except the one that flowed out of my heart and mind without me even thinking about it -
"He's fine. He's perfectly fine."

How falling head over heals in love with Jesus had changed everything.

When you have Jesus,
truly have Jesus -
not religion,
not church,
but the Lover of your soul,
you don't have to prove it.

When you have Jesus,
truly have Jesus -
not going through the motions,
not pretending or "playing church",
but a deep, intimate, heart to heart relationship with Jesus,
you can trust His heart
even when you can't understand His plan.

When you have Jesus,
truly have Jesus -
and He truly has you -
it changes everything
because it changes you.

Yes, the conversation was short, not more than maybe a minute long.
And yet, in this brief moment of dialogue, God spoke to my heart in the most beautiful way.

"You are mine, sweet daughter, and I love you.
I'm so glad you "fell out" of religion and fell in love with Me.
I've got you in the palm of my nail-scarred hands.
You can trust Me.
I'm your Abba Daddy and I am working all things for good."









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Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Relentless Longing~

So many times, we look in the wrong place to find the freedom we so desperately seek. 

The way a person struggling to lose weight heads to the refrigerator. 
The way a person struggling to pay off a credit card debt heads to the shopping mall. 
The way a person struggling to stay sober heads to the bar. 
The way a person struggling to be loved heads to the home of an abuser. 
The way a person struggling to be free from sin heads straight into temptation.

We long to break loose, 

long to break free, 
long to proclaim victory, 
and yet time and time again, 
we find ourself sinking in the quicksand of the very thing we are trying to escape. 

We long to turn away, 
turn over a new leaf, 
be done once and for all, 
and yet over and over 
we find ourself back in the grip of that which won't seem to let us loose.

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A desire to escape the sandy shore, 

a yearning to launch out into the deep, 
a hungering to finally be where only dreams have gone, 
a nonsatiable longing to experience the freedom of life on the sea - 
this is what is most needed in a ship builder. 

Not wisdom to design a ship. 
Not knowledge of which wood withstands water the best. 
Not craftiness with a hammer, a saw, and some nails. 
(Although, each of these would be helpful). 
A nonsatiable longing.

If you want to "build" a new you, 

don't look for a formula, 
don't search for a self-help book, 
don't devise a plan or plan a strategy, 
but rather long for the only One who can fill the immensity of the void in your heart. 

This is what is most needed for a change of heart. 

Not wisdom about a healthy diet. 
Not knowledge of how to balance your checkbook. 
Not an understanding of how old habits can lead to reaching for a bottle. 
Not a realization that hurting people hurt people. 
(Although, each of these would be helpful). 
And most certainly, not religion.

But rather,
a deep desire to go beyond that which holds you back
to the very One who longs to hold you. 


A relentless yearning to finally be free
of that which holds you in its grip,
to be captured by the very One who will never let you go
.

A hungering and thirsting for the only One
who can truly satisfy the desire of your heart.


A nonsatiable longing for a Savior, for a Redeemer, for a Healer.

Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through."
~ John 8:34-36 (MSG)

He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole
where I was stranded,
mired in the muck and clay.
With a gentle hand, He pulled me out.
~ Psalm 40:2a (The Voice)

He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
~ Psalm 40:2b (NLT)

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide THE WAY out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (AMP)

Jesus answered, ‘I am THE WAY and the truth and the life."
~John 14:6

Blessed are the ones hungering and thirsting as to righteousness,
because they will be filled-to-satisfaction.
~Matthew 5:6 (DLNT)

He has quenched their thirst,
and He has satisfied their hunger with what is good.
~ Psalm 107:9 (VOICE)

A relentless longing for the Lover of your soul . . .~♥












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