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answer
God is.
God shows up.
God is showing up.
God is showing up in unexpected ways.
God likes to show up and challenge everything we know.
God likes to show up and challenge everything we think we know.
God likes to show up and show us a few things we didn’t know at all.

God is mysterious.  So mysterious, in fact, that He makes me nervous – anxious even – but only when I’m not listening rightly.

God is altogether amazing.  And sometimes, He shows up in unexpected, mysterious, challenging ways that make me nervous.  Sometimes He does that by showing up in you.

Yes, you.

Inside every believer rests the Lion of Judah.  Sometimes he comes out to play and other times he comes out to pounce, pin me down, and place his paw directly over my mouth, look me directly in the eyes, and roar until I flipping listen already.

I prayed a prayer and God answered.

God answered by showing up.
God answered by showing up in you.
And you. And you.  And you.  A million yous – the yous of yesterday and the yous I failed to see all along the way.  The yous I forgot I saw each and every day.  The yous of life of whom I’ve had nothing yet to say.

So many signs were shown to me simply by seeing all of you all my life.  But sometime, somehow, I forgot.  And before I knew it, I found myself wondering where on His wide earth He even was at all.  I was writing prayers missing the most important information.  I was manufacturing my own misery.  I was lying face down with His paws picking me up like some kind of infant Simba, peering his piercing pupils right down into my sluggish, self-centered soul saying, WAKE UP, CHILD!  Wake up.  You are alive.  You are ok.  You are blessed and you are mine.

Sometimes all you really have to do is show up.  We make things so difficult when they are really just so stinking simple.

Do you want to know how to be an effective, powerful, Lion of Judah Christian witness in the world?  I’ve got the skinny: SHOW UP.  Show up.  Most people just want to know if you really care.  You don’t need to have all the answers or even many words at all as long as you have the One that most matters – Christ.  Just say Jesus.  He’s the answer for everything, always.  Just show up for others every opportunity you get.

God answered me by showing up in you.  He did it yesterday, and then, like a once-dead series of life events flashing through my tired mind, he brought to my willfully forgetful, thoroughly convicted recollection all the times He showed up the day before, and the day before, and the day before that – on and on my whole life.  And 99.9% of the time, he showed up in you.  And you.  And you.  And you.  All of you.

Ashamedly, I admit that I had no intention of writing an answer to the original prayer I’d posted on here.  I didn’t expect one.  I wanted one, but I didn’t really think God would show up at all.  But the truth is He’s been showing up all along and I forgot to open my eyes.

So, my humble advice for anyone struggling to see God today is to wake up.  Wake up, look around, and start seeing on purpose the ones in whom He lives.  Stop looking where He isn’t.  Because those people and places are small and almost non-existent.  God is everywhere.

And for those who want to be used of God, just show up.  Be a friend.  Send a message.  Share a prayer.  Eat a sandwich.  Do so with someone who needs to see God in the flesh.  He is in you.  He will use you.  You just have to show up.

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A Prayer

Lord,

Hey.  I’m sorry I haven’t said much to you lately.  You know how hard it is for me to talk sometimes.  I know I don’t have an excuse.  Writing is easier, though, so I’m gonna try this.

So many times I just don’t even know what to say to you.  I want to just listen and see what you have to say to me.  Sometimes you’re hard to hear.  Sometimes I’m hard of hearing.  And the only thing I know to do is study the Words you already said.  Sometimes I feel like that’s all I do.  But that’s just you talking.  That’s still me not talking.

So I talk to you about other people.  I talk to you about other people’s pain and other people’s needs and somehow that’s easier.  I know you love them.  I just wonder if you love me.

How could I not know, right?  How could I be so stupid?  How could I need you to say it again?  How could I doubt after all I’ve seen and known of you?  I don’t know.  I have no excuse.  But I need you to tell me again.  A thousand more times.  Because I’m hard of hearing and really forgetful.  And I feel so alone.

I feel guilty for asking.  But I know you can hear me.  So I need you to show up.  Would you please show up today?  Show up tomorrow?  Show up the next day and the next day and every day until I start hearing you better.  Until I stop forgetting what I heard yesterday?

Would you just help me?  Please.  I need you to help me be better.  Will you help me be a better mom?  A better wife?  A better daughter?  A better friend?  A better Christian?  Because there’s not one thing in this world that I feel like I’ve ever really done well.

And that’s why I don’t really like talking to you too much.  Who wants to sit around talking about being a failure all the time?

Your people have hated me.  They said I’m not fit to be one of yours.  They always avoid me.  So I assume you must feel the same way.  Some of them tolerate me.  You tolerate me.  But tolerance is not love.  Love is closer.  And I want to be closer.  But I don’t know how to get closer to you so you’re gonna have to get closer to me.

In the meantime, I’m trying real hard to love.  Because I believe it’s more helpful to everyone when I say, “How can I love you?” instead of, “Love me!”  Help me in that endeavor.  Show me how to love others the way they need loved.  And maybe at the end of the day, even if I don’t feel the right way, at least I’ll have lived the right way.

Thanks for listening, Dad.  Please show up today.  Amen.

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stayer
In the preceding chapter (16), the people had asked what they had done to deserve the judgement God was bringing.  In Jeremiah 17, God answers.

God tells his people that their sin was written on the tablet of their hearts.  He says even their children remember because all the places they went – the places their mothers and fathers took them frequently as they grew up – were all places of idolatry and gross immorality.  The memories of their own children indict them as guilty because they took them, and, in taking them taught them, to worship idols instead of taking them and teaching them to worship God.

It is for this reason that God is bringing judgment.  He says he will give everything they lust after and treasure over and above him so willingly away as spoil to their enemies.  He promises to take their only true treasure – their inheritance in the promise land – and give it away while they are led off to serve their enemies in a foreign place.

God then cites the root of their sin saying, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5)  The entire reason God’s people fell away from him and subsequently were punished was because they feared and trusted men over and above God.  He even tells them why they did it: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

God searches the heart.  He tests our minds.  He gives to each man according to the fruit his life produces.

Where does that leave poor Jeremiah, though?  He wasn’t producing much fruit himself.  He was obeying.  He was being persecuted.  He was suffering for the Lord – namely for saying the Lord’s true words.  But the fruit of his efforts wasn’t real evident just yet.  No one was repenting.  Everyone he knew and loved hated him.  No one was even listening.  And God wasn’t handing out any rewards just yet.  So what does Jeremiah say to God in response to this pronunciation of judgment?

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
    save me, and I shall be saved,
    for you are my praise.
15 Behold, they say to me,
    “Where is the word of the Lord?
    Let it come!”
16 I have not run away from being your shepherd,
    nor have I desired the day of sickness.
You know what came out of my lips;
    it was before your face.
17 Be not a terror to me;
    you are my refuge in the day of disaster.
18 Let those be put to shame who persecute me,
    but let me not be put to shame;
let them be dismayed,
    but let me not be dismayed;
bring upon them the day of disaster;
    destroy them with double destruction! ~Jeremiah 17:14-18

Jeremiah presses further into God’s mercy.  He asks for healing and salvation and reminds God that He alone is his praise.  He cites the ridicule and mocking of those who ignore his warnings and points at his own faithfulness.  Despite all his friends and neighbors have done to disappoint and discourage him in his good work, he reminds God that he has not and is not going to stop being a shepherd to them in whatever ways God commands.  Jeremiah isn’t running away from his tumultuous and trial-filled call.  He isn’t going anywhere.  Instead of running away from obedience, Jeremiah humbly asks God not to be a terror to him.  He renews his trust in the Lord saying, “you are my refuge in the day of disaster.”  He agrees with God about the coming judgement,  and asks to be spared.  Jeremiah knows there’s no changing God’s mind.  He is accepting the Lord’s will, pointing at his own obedience, and asking God for mercy.

Matthew Henry says, “Those that are employed for God, though their success answer not their expectations, must not therefore throw up their commission, but continue to follow God, though the storm be in their faces…if what we say and do be right before God, we may easily despise the reproaches and censures of men.”

The Lord answers Jeremiah by giving him yet another call to action.  Again, God tells Jeremiah to go stand in the gate, in full view of everyone, and command that the people observe the Sabbath.   He is called to remind them that their fathers did not listen, but if they would but listen God would give a blessing.  If they would not listen, God would bring a fire and devour everything sacred in the city.  The way he would bring that fire?  The army of the Chaldeans – their mortal enemies.

Let us not trust in men.  Let us not run away from difficult callings.  Let us trust in God alone, agree with God about his justice, rely on his healing, salvation, and mercy, and continue doing all that which he commands – even in the midst of strife and personal discouragement.  Amen.

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example

Jeremiah chapter 16 gives us a glimpse of God’s seriousness with his chosen vessel.  Not only had God called Jeremiah to continually speak hard words to his friends, family, and neighbors, but God now calls the prophet to abstain from several very basic human interactions.

In chapter 16, God forbids the prophet to marry, to mourn, or to celebrate with his people.  These conditions were to be a sign of the dismal future for God’s people.  God told Jeremiah that if he disobeyed, his future wife and children would surely die and be left in the street without burial.

How would you like it if your very life was to be the sign that the words God was telling you to preach were true?  Oh, wait.  It is.  Always.  Let that sink in a minute.

Ouch.  So, Jeremiah, since they don’t regard what you (or I) say, let’s see if they will heed the warnings evidenced in what you do.

Do not get married.  Do not have children.  Do not mourn for them when they mourn.  Do not comfort them.  Do not rejoice with them.  Do not celebrate with them.  And we know God already told him several times “Do not pray for them.”  Jeremiah was disallowed from consoling the very people he was sent to minister to in their grief.  He was disallowed from rejoicing with them in their prosperity.  Why?  Why would God keep the only true help His people had away from them?

Verse 5 tells the reason he was not permitted to console or comfort them: “…for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy…”

What?!  Is this the same God that sent his Son to die for sinners?  God departed from them because they had long ago departed from Him.

Verse 6 tells us he reason Jeremiah personally could not marry or have children was because heads were about to roll and God wanted to spare his prophet from that pain.  People were about to die in the streets and be left without burial.  God was bringing shame upon them all.

Verse 9 tells us why the prophet was not permitted to celebrate with them.  “…Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.” 

No one will lament.  No one will comfort.  No one will celebrate.  This was the judgment for their rebellion. God was stopping their mouths by harshly punishing their sin.  He tells Jeremiah that when they begin to ask, “What did we do?” he is to remind them that their fathers forsook God.  He is to rebuke them saying they had forsaken God even more than their fathers had.  He has to remind them how they refused to listen to God’s ways and instead did evil.  Those were the reasons God was throwing them out of their land and their homes into exile, death, and destruction.

But, thankfully, God doesn’t stop there.  God never stops there.  God, even in the midst of his righteous indignation and discipline, offers hope.  In verse 15 God promises to bring his people back to their land after the judgment.  In verses 16-18 God promises to send fishers and hunters to gather them up and bring them back.  First, though, God is going to pay them back double for their sin.  The end goal in all of this is, however, that they will rightly know His Name.

Three times in verse 21 we find God stating his ultimate purpose for the punishment and subsequent rescue.  Three times he says, “I will make them know (me).”  They will know Him.  God will make them know Him rightly.  They will know His power, His might, and His rightful Name.  Why is that the end game?  Why is that so incredibly important?

God’s people had forgotten Him.  They had forsaken Him.  They had lived as though He did not exist.  They had a facade of faith with a life full of sin lurking just underneath the surface.  God cannot have mercy until sinners have a reckoning; an awakening; a reality check.  Apart from conviction and true repentance, God has only judgement for those who live in rebellion to him.  All the destruction He is bringing upon His people here is a result of their sin, but, more importantly, a very necessary step on the road to His mercy for the remnant whom He will save.  Not only is God still promising deliverance and future hope despite his great, just anger and wrath, God is promising that His people will ultimately rightly know Him – and knowing God rightly is the very thing that saves and keeps any of us.

Matthew Henry says, “Their deliverance out of captivity shall be accompanied with a blessed reformation, and they shall return effectually cured of their inclination to idolatry, which will complete their deliverance and make it a mercy indeed.” Praise God!  In the end, God’s people will know Him rightly and be delivered.  Many will suffer and die as a result of their own sin, but God’s work will prevail.

God uses the prophets to lead by example.  He brings prosperity and creates disaster.  He judges justly and extends mercy.  He makes His people know Him rightly – as LORD.  And knowing God rightly is the only thing that saves and keeps any of us.  Amen.

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me
The Lord continues to dialogue with the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 15.  He has warned much already of the destruction he has already begun to carry out.  Now, he spends some time reinforcing, repeating, and restating his plans to bring judgment upon his people while his prophet begins to question his own situation.

Firstly, the Lord tells Jeremiah that even if Moses and Samuel were pleading with him to relent, he would not.  Up until this point, Jeremiah likely believed that his prayers and God’s mercy would change the course of this destructive plot eventually.  God assures him here that that was not so.  Moses and Samuel were the greatest of the prophets.  God wants Jeremiah to understand that no one can change his mind about what he is about to bring upon these people.  If Moses and Samuel can’t sway him, you can’t either, Jeremiah.  Judgement is coming indeed.  Brace yourself.

Death and destruction has already been appointed for those who continually forsook God.  Even the particular kinds of punishment had already been predetermined and decided.  Verse 2 tells us they will die by pestilence, sword, famine, and captivity.  God says he is tired of relenting.  He is weary of extending mercy because they still have not turned from sin.

Jeremiah grieves.  He is distressed over the pronounced judgment and he pleads with God about his own situation.  He, the most concerned and loving of all God’s people, had been thrown into a battle he could not win.  He, the chosen instrument to warn and rebuke, was hated, angry, and alone among those who should have loved and listened to him.  He says this:

“Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!  I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me.” ~Jeremiah 15:10

Jeremiah asks the Lord to remember him, visit him, take vengeance for him, and spare him.  He pleads his innocence.  He reminds God that it is for His namesake that he has bore the reproach of his own people, that he loves God’s words, that he is called, and that he did not participate or even so much as sit together with those who rebelled.  Jeremiah reminds God that he sat all alone because of his call.  He sat alone full of anger, full of pain, and now, full of doubt about what God was going to even do about it.

Are you feeling the prophet’s pain?  Here’s a guy who loves deeply.  He loves God and he loves his people, but, because of his faithfulness to God, his people hate him.  Because of his obedience and their sin, he sits alone grieving day after day.  He knows his call and now, he knows their end and he is just wrecked.  He is wondering how and if God himself can or will do justice to him in this incredibly sour situation.  How does God reply?

“Therefore, thus says the Lord: If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me.  If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.  They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.  And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.  I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.” ~Jeremiah 15:19-21

Did you hear that?  Jeremiah said, are you going to come through for me, God?  Are you going to remember me?  Are you going recognize my faithfulness to you?  Are you going to spare me?  Are you going to reward me?  Are you going to deliver me?  Are you going to restore me?  Are you going to save me?  And God said, “Yes.”

God said yes.  If you stay faithful, Jeremiah, I will restore you.  If you say my words, I will use you.  I will make you immovable and victorious.  I will save you.  I will deliver you.  I will redeem you.

God is faithful to his faithful.  We may suffer greatly in obedience to God, but God always sees, knows, and rewards the faithful in the end.  Our job is to trust him until that day.

 

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drought

Jeremiah chapter 14 gives us a picture of what it looks like when people are grieved over consequences of sin rather than sin itself.  Here, we have a drought affecting God’s rebellious people and their lying prophets.  The true prophet, Jeremiah, has been faithful and continues to try to plead with God for mercy on their behalf.

In verses 1-6, the drought is described and we find the people lamenting and crying out to God.  Jeremiah 14:4 reveals their hearts saying, “Because of the ground that is dismayed, since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed; they cover their heads.”  

Why were they ashamed?  Because there was no rain.  They were ashamed because God had given them an extremely unfavorable circumstance – a consequence – in exchange for their sin.  Notice that it does not say they were ashamed of their sin.  They were ashamed of their situation.  There is a vast difference between the two which can often be obviously identified in the words and the actions of those under judgement.  Even when a righteous man is innocent, he will examine himself when suffering.  But when discipline comes upon a dishonest man, he will often exonerate himself and blame-shift even when loaded with guilt.

In verses 7-9, the people call upon God’s mercy.  They ask Him not to leave them.  They even admit that they’ve sinned.  They beg for rescue.  Thirst has a way of twisting the arms of even the most degenerate.  But what is God’s response?

“Thus says the Lord concerning this people: ‘They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.’ “ ~Jeremiah 14:10

God tells his true prophet, Jeremiah, that he does not accept his own people because of their sin.  He repeats his instruction AGAIN telling Jeremiah NOT to pray for them.  He says He will not hear their cry no matter how many offerings they bring.  God’s mind is made up.  He promises only punishment.  He will not relent.

Jeremiah responds to God by making an excuse for the people’s rebellion.  He blames the false prophets who lied to them and continually promised peace and prosperity while they blatantly rebelled against God’s commands.  Even though he was the one who had all along been trying to correct, help, and move the people to repentance and to God while they hated and needlessly slandered him, Jeremiah cares deeply for those who cared nothing for him.  Jeremiah loves like God loves.  He cites God’s investment being His namesake and the Covenant He had made with His people through Abraham contending that saving them would be the best choice for His glory.

But God isn’t buying.  It’s too late.  They had been given many, many, MANY chances to repent and be redeemed.  They refused them all, continued in sin, and thumbed their nose at God and his true prophet.  Jeremiah continues to plead with God, and He continues to promise only judgement.  He tells them all to lament for what is coming rather than praying or interceding to try to avert it.  Matthew Henry says, “They looked for a healing time, but could not gain so much as a breathing time. 

‘Behold, trouble at the door, by which we hoped peace would enter.  And is it so then?  Hast thou indeed rejected Judah?  (Justly  thou mightest.)  Hath thy soul loathed Zion?  (We deserve it should. But wilt thou not at length in wrath remember mercy?’) ” ~Jeremiah 14:19

Just like a good prophet, we see Jeremiah sway back and forth between righteous indignation about the sin and personal slander of his own people against God and himself, and desperate pleading grief over what is coming upon them for judgment of their sin.  Here, we experience the heart of God.  Here, we feel what God feels.  Because when you love humans who sin so severely without remorse, it tends to inflame incredible anger.  Because when you love humans who sin so severely without remorse, it tends to incite incredible grief.  That’s God’s heart, every day, all day over us.

Therefore, today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.  Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  Today is the day of salvation.  Don’t waste it.

 

 

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A few days ago I lost the charm off of my necklace.  I’ve literally worn this necklace for 16 years.  I scarcely ever take it off, although this year my pageant sisters did convince me a few times.  Every one of my kids have broken it at least once pulling on it with their little hands.  I got it in Mexico in 2002 while meeting some orphans and learning about life and love from them.  Orphans always have a way of teaching us things that we couldn’t learn any other way.  But the necklace is kind of like a part of me now.  It’s a daily reminder of who I am and who I really want to be.

So I realized my cross was missing and I remembered that I’d heard something drop onto the floor earlier that morning in my bedroom.  I went back to see if it was there and, after crawling around on the floor for a few minutes, I found it.  As I attempted to reattach it to my necklace on my knees on the floor, it occurred to me that this was exactly where God wanted me to be.  He wanted my attention.  In days past I have been so unwilling to give it to him.  Right then and there, the Lord broke my spirit of resentment and anger.  He spoke to me.

God has given me some great days in 2018.  I’ve done things I never thought I’d get or even want to do.  He has also given me some terrible days.  I’ve experienced fears and feelings I never thought I’d have to.  But if there’s one thing I’m learning in my old age – finally! – it’s that it really is a choice which of those things we see most and allow to be our focus.  I realize that I have a choice every day to wallow in self-pity and sadness or to walk in the freedom and faith that God is ever-extending to me.  It has been a hard, difficult, painful lesson for me to learn.

Down on my knees, cross in hand, I realized how many times this year I have so desperately needed God and so absolutely refused to talk to Him.  Because I was mad.  And scared.  And bitter.  And hurt.

But down there on the floor, I saw him.  I saw him in a million ways like I had never seen him before.  He allowed me to see him in people – in you and in me.

About thirteen years ago I wrote an autobiography of sorts.  It was my first attempt at writing a book and I never even had it bound.  I wrote the whole thing in about two weeks.  It was called, “Seeing God in the People You Know.”  I was looking for ways God had shown up on other people in my life.  By the time it was complete, I was amazed at how much I had seen him in so many people, and, how easy it was to write about.

It’s kind of always been my dream to compile an unabridged version complete with pictures and bios of everyone I know.  Just so the rest of the world can see what I see in them; so they can see what I see.

Sometimes we have to look for Him, though.  So many times I’m so frustrated when he stays quiet.  Other times He just shows up and punches us square in the face with his power and glory.  Sometimes he uses prayer.  I could tell you so many amazing stories about how God has used prayer to show me his power and glory.  I’m talking about New Testament signs and wonders I didn’t know he still performed and certainly never expected.  And I’m not even a good pray-er at all!  So that’s all grace.  But sometimes God uses people to show his power and glory.  Prayer and people.  I don’t care what any religion or religious person may tell me.  Prayer and people – that’s what knowing God is really all about.  That is all knowing God has ever been about.

Lord knows I have spend my entire life desperate to either be or become one of those people – not ever realizing that I am already apart from any accomplishment or antecedent.  I am a person that God will use because I am a person who wants God to use her.  Yet, my most overused and grieving prayer is and has always been, “Lord, convict me; impart wisdom to me; USE ME.”  And I’ve sat around moping never believing he would or was really using me at all.

But I know He has.  I know He is.  I know He will.

Still, fear tells me that all my efforts, hopes, and dreams are for naught.  But faith says he has, is, and will use me mightily if I just trust and obey.

That said, I want to encourage you today, on this last day of 2018.  Do not let another year end without looking for the cross.  Do not let another year begin without getting down on your knees and praying to the only One who sees and knows you rightly.

You might not see what I see.  So I want you to hear me when I tell you who you are – what he told me to tell you no matter how I might personally feel about myself on any given day.  God wants us to encourage one another.  Down on my knees I thought of so many encouraging words that have been said to me personally over the past month;  words I really needed to hear from an actual person; words that truly scooped my heart up off the floor and healed it.  Listen to these words.  Drink them in.  They are about you – not your neighbor or your friend or your sister or your priest.  These words are about you and me and who we actually are in Christ.  Believe them.  Listen and live accordingly.

When I see you I see a human trying really hard to be different and to make a difference.  I see honor, grace, and love.  I see quite a few amazing, God-given gifts.  I see virtue, compassion, and genuine care and concern.  I see a person who is able to bring everything dead in me alive.  I see a friend and a confidant.  I see a star; a hero; a warrior.  Don’t you ever sell yourself short.  Don’t you ever settle for less than you dream. Give God the glory, but give yourself a real hand.  You made it.  You might not be where you want to be, but you have every single right, resource, and reason right inside yourself to get there.  You inspire me.  I love who you are and I love who you’re going to be.  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t worry.  God has built you into a person who possesses a great deal of power and strength.  I see you using it daily.  I am a better person because I know you.  Countless people are.  Keep being exactly who you are.  You are so much better than you think.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live in him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:11

My word for this year is encouragement. I have been given so much more encouragement than I deserve.  I have shamefully so often failed to offer it rightly to others.  This year I will give it back 100 fold.  God waited 37 years to make me a real cheerleader.  Two years later I think I’m finally ready for the game.

Prayer and people.  Let’s do that, 2019.

cross

 

 

 

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