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Posts Tagged ‘father’

blood

The final plague is coming.  Because it was so severe, the Lord gives very detailed instructions about how his people are to prepare.  While Pharaoh pridefully ignores warning after fearful warning; judgement after painful judgement, God’s people have a beautiful opportunity to watch as God hides them under his grace.  They are afforded the opportunity to obey their way right through the hell that was still to come.

God’s righteous wrath and judgement were coming soon with full-on force and finality for his enemies.  All the firstborn children were about to be put to death by the mighty hand of God.  But God makes careful, tedious, tender-hearted provision for his own.  If they will only listen to his prophets, Moses and Aaron, Israel will be saved.  Their babies spared from certain, imminent death.

I can hear the voice of a righteously indignant, ready to pour out his just wrath on the willful rebellion of those he has been so gracious to warn and warn and warn and warn turn from wrath right into whisper.  Daddy is here, kids.  Do not worry.  I am about to bring painful, difficult, just judgement to your enemies.  I am here for you, though.  I have not forsaken you.  Now listen very carefully.  I am going to spare you and all your children when the angel of death comes.  Here is what you must do…(See Exodus 12:1-20)

God gives Moses and his speaker, Aaron, extremely detailed instructions for what Jews – to this day –  celebrate as Passover.  On the 10th day of a whole new year that God was now establishing, they were to take a male, year old lamb without blemish and keep it until the 14th day.  Matthew Henry notes, “It is good to begin the day, and begin the year, and especially to begin our lives, with God.”  They were to kill the lamb at twilight, put the blood over their door post, roast and eat the meat with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and leave none leftover.  Even the way they had to eat it was strictly specified.  They must have their belt fastened, their sandals on, their staff in hand, and eat in haste.

All of these requirements of obedience pointed to the coming Messiah.  God wasn’t just giving his beloved busy work or exercising some kind of regulatory system wherein they were slaves to unimportant details.  No.  Every single detail was severely important.  God was instructing and commanding them in order to make their very lives and their children’s lives an extraordinary testimony to his great faithfulness.  He was proving the blessed assurance of reward in obedience and honoring him.  With these specifications and instructions, God Our Father was telling our ancestors this: If you do these things exactly as I command, I will save you and yours.  I will pass over you with my righteous judgement.  No plague will touch you when my wrath is poured out on sin and rebellion.  You are not sinless.  You deserve judgement just as much as the Egyptians.  But you are mine and I love you so do not worry.  Just obey.  Obey very carefully.  I will save you.  Let me.

Consider the context of these people.  They had been enslaved for several hundred years.  They were still getting up every day enslaved.  They were going to bed every night enslaved. But they have been watching God show up.  They have been hearing God’s prophets and seeing judgement fall all around them on their enemies time after time.  God is sparing them in all the fury he has rightly brought thus far.  Now, he is giving them all these detailed instructions.  He is speaking in detail about their future.  God is speaking in terms of forever – as in every generation to follow them from now until…forever.  He is talking about future feasts and remembering this passing over of great mercy and it has not even happened yet.  They were not even free yet!  God’s people were still in bondage.  They were not out of Egypt.  God is talking to them about what their obedience to his strict details means for them in terms of how every single instruction points to their freedom, their family, and their coming Messiah.  Even the future feast he tells them they and all their future generations will keep conveys unmistakable hope.  No more leaven in the bread.  All yeast will be removed from your households.  All the corruption will finally be put to death and removed from among you.

What grace!  What absolute incredible mercy!  When the Lord begins to school us in great detail, there is an overwhelming sense of real hope.

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24 You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever…Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. ~Exodus 12:20-24,28

After God has greatly instructed us, there is but one thing left to do.  For our good and for his glory, we must humble ourselves and carefully obey all that he has commanded in the ways in which he has instructed.

Finally, their enemies fall as they rise up and move to a place they have never known.  That place is true freedom.  Buckle your seat belts kids, this is going to be amazing!

Amazing it was. We will wait on those details a few more days.  For right now, let’s consider what we must do to walk in obedience to God.  Let’s consider the very specific, exact ways in which God has instructed us to carry out his commands as we are graciously spared his just judgement.  God has specific methods we must follow if we are going to win this battle we call life.  We cannot just do whatever we want however we want to – even if we truly believe we are doing right things.   We cannot forget that we do have a dad.  We are not fatherless.  Fathers expect to be respected and obeyed.  When we do that, we will be both graciously spared of punishment and wrath as well as set completely free forever of the bondage of our greatest, most powerful enemies.  Amen.

“If the blood of Christ be sprinkled upon our consciences, it will be our protection from the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and the damnation of hell.”  ~Matthew Henry

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star

Today, the third day since the healing began (just like the last time)  the pastor spoke about a prideful king whom God brought low, stripped of his securities and idols , and afflicted with a mental disorder.  I am that king.  I am the prideful one who worshiped self.  I am the violent one who sat on a throne of anger against God’s people.  I am the arrogant one who oppressed His anointed.  I am the lowliest one whom he has chosen to use and restore after a time of severe judgement.  I was prideful and angry at God and his people.  I was humbled and brought low by his judgement.  I have been miraculously restored by his amazing grace.  I know this is true.

When the sermon came to a close and pastor spoke the name “Jesus” many times in the conveying of the gospel, each time I felt the Holy Spirit physically act inside my body.  The power I felt as the name of Jesus was spoken at this time is inexplicable.

It is no coincidence that today, the daughter that was not to exist was dedicated to the Lord.  This one – who came years after a physical surgery preventing her.  This one – who came just one year after a marriage thought surely lost.  This one – a Son-ny whom God promised before she was even physically possible or logically believable.  This one – who moments after birth fell silent at her Daddy’s calm voice.

Neither is it a coincidence that afterward I saw my spiritual father at a picnic where I brought blackberry pie and picked wild ones.  Daddy was there.  Father God was there.  Redemption is here.  Restoration is complete.  I am free.  That, friends, is how God heals the broken.

As I write, my 11 year old daughter cries because she thinks her Daddy is sleeping.  She thinks he has forgotten about her and all their plans to finish building a chicken coupe.  She does not know I have already told him to attend to her.  She does not know he is awake.  She does not know he has not forgotten and cannot wait to go outside and work with her as long as it is Day .  “Why don’t you go wake him up?” I ask.  “He won’t.”  “How do you know?”  “Because I know him.”

No you don’t.  I did not know either of my fathers the way I wish I would have.  One slept for sickness and one I thought was sleeping for neglect.  I was wrong.  I have learned not to presume upon His grace or lack thereof any longer, though.  My Father is not, nor ever was he sleeping.  He wants me to come jump on the bed and tell him how much I cannot wait to do with him every single day.  I will be silent at his calm voice.  I am, after all, the daughter who was promised to a Son long before it was either logical or believable.

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star

The next day, I prayed again.  I went early to a triathlon race where I ran into a man who had acted as a father figure to me for several years in my mid twenties.  I had not seen this man in quite some time but ten years ago he taught me to swim and trained me for my first marathon.  He always encouraged me like a dad would.

As I got into the pool I realized my goggles were not adjusted right as my kids use them often.  I tried to fix them, but every time I swam a stroke, water entered into my eyes.  I made several attempts but I could not get them right.  I began to swim backstroke instead because I cannot stand water in my eyes.

As I swam, I thought about how I must live this way.  I must live looking up at all times or I am going to be completely blind.  God was teaching me.

When I began the bike portion of the race, I saw a church marquee that read, “Faith for your decisions, Part 2.” I literally laughed out loud because I knew what God was saying.  I have not made my decisions in faith in the past.  Part 1 was not faithful.  But he is opening a new chapter for me concerning how to follow him in true and saving faith.

I biked for several miles and just as I entered a hollow of shade trees, I thought of my dad.  Every time I go through a hollow on a country road, I think of him because when he got sick (when I was 11) we always took 857 to Morgantown to visit him.  I knew when we went though the hollow we were close to seeing daddy – whom I missed terribly.  I knew God would show up.  Just as I entered the hollow and thought of daddy, my friend who had taught me to swim and distance run appeared from around the bend coming the other way.  “Good job, Lori,” he said.  Those are words I never really got to hear from my dad.  What are the chances that he would enter that hollow coming from the other way at that very moment? It was not a coincidence. God, my Father whom I have missed so much was meeting me.

As I was running, I was coming onto the track toward the finish and a song I associate with the excommunication came on.  Next, a song I associate with a severed relationship from the dark period came on.  The two darkest realities I faced over two years ago were both associated with a song and both songs played at the finish of this race.  God was speaking.  He was in that and he is in this – healing.  He showed me that it is finished.

After I finished my father-like friend gave me a hug and said, “I’m proud of you.”  That’s what daddy would have said if he were there.

The doctor told me the reason God wants to heal me is for freedom.  So I will be free from anxiety and worry and discouragement and sin.  The race was put on by an organization known as “Faith in action” – a Christian hospice and home care agency.  Their sign at the end of the race had their motto which read, “A neighbor’s independence depends on you.”

Freedom .  Independence.  Mine and yours.  That is why I am sharing this awesome, bizarre, crazy story with you.  God wants to give us freedom from fear, discouragement, depression, and anxiety.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt he does.

As I drove home I noticed a cloud in the sky that was shaped like a heart and  – I kid you not – inside that cloud was a brighter white cloud in the form of a “u.”  Love u.  It was God.  No doubt.  Not a moment later a huge billboard read, “Who is Jesus” in all caps and another said, “A father is who picks you up after you fall.”  Then I entered back into Pennsylvania from West Virginia and the sign said, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, state of independence.”  Did you know that was our motto?? I didn’t.  I thought we were the keystone state or something.  God was lavishing his love upon me, assuring me as my father, giving me freedom, and bringing me back home.  That is what he is doing.  I have no doubt no matter how unreal this all sounds to other people.

I was so smitten and overwhelmed by God’s love by this point that I literally missed my exit and did not realize it for many miles.  When I finally realized that I was lost, I got on the toll road and came home a completely different, longer way.  As I came past a church the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me and said, “Go to that church and pray for the person who is there.”

I second guessed several times but knew the command was clear.  I am not one to do this kind of thing – ever.  I have, but it has probably been fifteen years since – back in those early days when I trusted God like a child.  So, I reluctantly turned around telling myself surely no one will be there at noon on a beautiful Saturday.  No one in sight, so I pulled behind the church to turn around and a man sat on a lawn mower right in front of me.

I stalled a few moments wondering if I should just leave or pretend I needed directions but God said, “Pray for that man!”  So I got out and told him I was reformed but God made me.  He was the pastor and said the man who cuts grass was ill that day.  God wanted to encourage that man through me.

Later that night we went out to dinner for a friend’s birthday and to hear a band.  About halfway through the night, back behind the band I noticed a picture hanging on the wall at a table set back by itself.  As I got closer I realized the picture was of a red bird in the woods.  When I run I always look for red birds because they remind me of my dad.  I used to specifically ask the Lord to show me a red bird when I was thinking of my dad and he often would.

I have no doubt that these seeming coincidences are really and truly God moving in my life to restore, heal, and use me for his glory.

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star

The night before I was called to repentance, my thoughts were on my earthly father.  I was playing softball as we always did when I was young and I had a moment where I felt as though he was actually there with me.  Thinking of him on my way home, I saw a street sign that read, “Lewis Dr.” Lewis was my maiden name.  At that point I felt that my father was with me, just like I did while I was at the ball field and I began to remember a particular memory where he and I laid in the grass outside and looked up at the stars together.  It is one of my favorite memories of my dad.

The following day the man who told me God wanted to heal me (the doctor) told me to repent of my excuses and take time to sit still and pray each day.  That night I took my shoes off, stood in the grass, and I prayed.  I sat down on the porch and watched the sky.  I realized, but not until this point exactly, that I was told by the doctor to do exactly what I had done with my dad so many years ago.  A few moments later, I saw a shooting star move swiftly across the sky.  My husband and I began to talk about the shooting star and I shared how the first time I had ever seen one was with my dad.  I remember it vividly.  My dad had been drinking.  He did not drink often, and even more rarely in front of me,  but on this particular occasion, he was drunk.We had been at a Halloween party and it just so happened to be my birthday.  My mom was driving which is significant because my mom never drove when my dad was in the car.  My dad always drove.  This time, my mom drove and me and daddy watched the sky.  A shooting star moved across the sky and we took note of the time.  It was 10:30 p.m. on 10/30 – October 30, my birthday.  The star fell at 10:30 on 10/30.  Maybe that is why I remember it.

After I talked with my husband for a few minutes and shared this story about how the first time I saw a shooting star was with my dad, and he was drunk, and all about the party and how I was dressed up as a clown and my brother a devil and how he drove us into the woods because he had had too much to drink, probably out of sheer curiosity, he picked up his phone to look at the time.  It was 10:36 p.m.  That star we saw the other night fell at 10:30 p.m.

At that very moment, I remembered how after I had left the doctor’s office that day – after being told to pray – I said a prayer in the truck before pulling out.  I asked God to speak to me and I turned on the radio.  I put on WORD FM to maybe hear a sermon but all I got was static so I changed it.  The song I heard first was , “Drunk on Your Love.”  The Holy Spirit came over me and I began to cry tears of joy.  I knew God was speaking to me about how much he loved me and I could physically feel his love and joy pouring into me in a way I have never experienced before.  This went on for more than 15 minutes or better and I understood it as God’s divine healing for me.  When I saw the shooting star later that night and was reminded of my father being drunk when we saw my first one, I felt my entire body freeze up in utter disbelief.  When I heard the song I did not know yet about the star I was about to see.  When I spoke of his drunkenness I did not think anything about the song until after Tim checked the time.  At that point I felt like I was in the movie interstellar where the father was talking to his daughter from light years away in space.  It was a surreal moment in which I almost felt afraid – not scared, rather, known and as one who had just seen something unmistakably supernatural.

I was listening to a song called “Invisible City” afterward and I decided to look up the meaning of what an invisible city was or if there was a legend about it.  The invisible city was a city who, when under attack did not move or prepare to fight, rather bowed and prayed, and sunk down under the water where their enemies would never find them again.

 Coincidence?  No. Confirmation.  God is calling me to be serious about prayer and he is showing himself time and again to strengthen my faith and so that I and those around me might believe.

 

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star

As I hid myself and my six month old in the church’s cry room to nurse and listened to the band rehearse over the speaker, I thought.  What a perfect place to worship.

How often do I come to church and speak to everyone but God?  How often do I come to His Word and write about him without talking to him first?  I mean, what if I came to your house twice a week but never spoke to you?  What kind of a friend does that?  Better yet, what kind of daughter does that?

A prideful one.  An arrogant one.  A full of herself fool does that.  A rebellious teenage-minded one.

For the past, well, I am not even sure how many years it has been now.  Let’s say four, maybe, although it may indeed be more like 6-10 if I get real honest.  For the past four years my relationship with my heavenly Father has been troubled.  Troubled because of trials. Troubled because of trust issues.  Troubled because of tiredness.  Troubled because of self-reliant trying.

I tend to go into self-protect mode and function as a selective mute when I am hurting; when I do not trust; when I cannot understand.  God is not a father who takes well to teenage talklessness, though.  God is a father who has a way of taking me to task when my pouting and pretense become terribly unpretty.

Familiarity breeds contempt.  God will not have me living under his roof without correction.

For two years I pouted and glared.  For two years I turned a cold shoulder heavenward.  For two years I attended church, Bible study, read and wrote on the Bible daily with nary much of a word or two sent up in faith.  I claimed I did not know how to pray.  I studied the psalms intensely.  I wrote on every single one searching for a supposed answer to my prayer problem.  A year went by and still no speaking.  Not to him.  Not about truth.  Maybe for you.  Maybe for food.  But not about the truth.  What I had was not a knowledge problem.  What I had was an obedience problem.

The truth was too terrible.  It was too terrifying.  I was too angry, too depressed, too discouraged, and too temperamental to talk to a God I no longer trusted about the truth in my heart.

Another year went by wherein I worked harder than I had ever done  to earn his favor – which I thought I had most certainly lost somewhere along the way.  I worked and worked and worked for the approval of his people who, in his divine judgement on me for my pride in self-sufficient works, trampled every last effort until they were all completely obliterated.

I was wrongfully, yet sovereignly, excommunicated.  I left the church.  I left my marriage.  I departed from the truth altogether for a desperately dark time.

Six months later I ran into an old friend who was now a pastor.   Since that time the Lord has been relentless on his mission to restore me.  He took me back under his roof.  He redeemed my marriage.  He restored my spiritual life.  And today, I fully believe he has finally closed the darkest chapter of my life.

A month ago I met a man who told me God wanted to heal me.  He told me to pray.  He told me unorthodox things like to stand in the grass with no shoes on and wait on and feel the presence of God.  He told me stop making excuses about stopping to spend silence with Jesus.  So I did.  Just two days ago, I did.  For the first time in a long time, I sat completely still.  I folded my hands.  I bowed my head and I prayed to God.  I listened and he spoke.  I spoke and he listened.

I put my feet in the grass, I looked up at the night sky, and I prayed.  He spoke to me as a father in ways whose explanation elude me almost completely.  With equal intensity, he placed a burning in my heart to tell someone – anyone who will listen.

I believe he may be calling me to write a book concerning the details of my journey of faith and faithlessness.  In the mean time, I am going to try to share some of the moments God has given me over the past week in the next few posts. He has been reminding me over and over and over and over again of my earthly father with many convincing proofs.  I believe he is reassuring me that HE is my Father who loves me, calling me to some kind of ministry, and giving me a gift.  I do not fully understand all of what God is doing in and through me at this time but I do know a few things for sure: it is real, it is God, and it is more amazing than anything I have ever experienced.  Praise Him!

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dennis

In Psalm 68 God is described as a father to the fatherless.  It says he sets the lonely in families.  Because my dad became ill when I was very young and my family was already quite broken even by that time, this has always been one of my favorite passages.  I’m writing tonight to tell you that God is faithful to his Word.  This passage is true and that, in addition to actually being Our Father who art in heaven, God does indeed provide both spiritual fathers and families to those in need of such things on earth.

What grace!

Some people think you have to be rich and famous to be great.  Some think you’ve got to have fame to be significant and fortune to make a real difference.  I know much better, though.  I know a man who has none of these things, yet has changed the world around him one person at a time through nothing more than a simple life coupled with great faithfulness.

Last Sunday we attended a reunion dinner for Covenant Baptist Church in Uniontown.  It marked 35 years for the lay pastor’s service.  For anyone who has not met Dennis Cox, I always describe him as the best man I’ve ever met.  Over the 8 years I’ve known him, he has been a spiritual father to both me and my husband.

When I first met Dennis, I had questions about life.  I had questions about the church.  I had questions about theology.  I had questions about the Bible.  I would call him every time I had a question.  He was never too busy to answer my questions with great patience and wisdom.  He began to meet with me and my husband every week in the morning while it was still dark outside to teach us one on one.  He shared his vast knowledge line by painstaking line this way with us for the better part of 6 years.  No praise.  No honor.  No glory.  Work and personal sacrifice was all there was in it for Dennis.  Still, he was always there, sitting with us; teaching us; loving us.  He and his wife invited us into their real lives despite our rough and ragged edges.  We had dinner together on numerous occasions.  He attended our children’s birthdays.  He let us drop in on him whenever we were in the neighborhood.  He counseled us on many occasions when we were lost, hurt, angry, or just plain wrong.  He prayed for us faithfully.  He corrected us in ways that never felt condescending.  He rescued our marriage more than once.  Even when we failed miserably and did all that he’d taught us not to do, he loved us like his very own.  Without even a hint of anger or disappointment to shame us, he gently and kindly led us back to the truth.

What grace!

This is a man who has done as much and more for countless others as well.  A man who has lived life well because he has lived life right by God.  Dennis is a great example to us all and there was a banquet room full of people to prove it.

As he was honored by that room full of grateful people, he spoke of nothing but his own undeservedness.  My husband mused that the amount of humility he displays is “almost unbelievable.”  That it is – especially for a man who has done so very much for so many.  This is a man who has truly changed the world for the good without fame or fortune.  This is a man who has truly changed the world for the good with his example of faithfulness and love.  It reminds me of another man I know – a man named Jesus.

We ran a race the day of the reunion and I realized something.  The moment I saw the first person ahead of me turn the corner toward the home stretch to the finish line, I felt a wave of relief; of encouragement; of inspiration.  Even though I was still quite a long way from the finish myself,  I began to run faster in anticipation and, as I did, I couldn’t help but think of Dennis.  He is so far ahead of us in wisdom, in experience, and in faith.  But we can see him turning the corner toward home and it inspires us to follow harder.  It encourages us to be better.  It relieves our fears.

Thank you for giving so many good things to us and so many others, Dennis.  You are the best man we know.

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father's daughter

Every year for the last five my New Year’s resolution has been the same.  The goal is to pray more.

Prayer, being the mysterious discipline that it is, has been quite a struggle for me throughout the latter part of my Christian life.

When I first became a Christian, prayer was easy.  That was more than 18 years ago, though.  I was graduating high school with the world spread out in front of me.  I was hopeful.  I talked to God about everything all the time —with no fear or inclination that things might not work out just the way they were supposed to.  It’s no surprise that at some point, somewhere along the way, I got discouraged.  Blame it on my faulty theology I suppose.  I stopped believing that my voice much mattered in the grand scheme of things.  Children are to be seen and not heard, right?

 Instead of praying, I buried myself in finding out just what God was saying; what he was like; what he wanted; who he was.  In other words, correcting my poor theology, especially on what prayer was and was not.  I read and studied the Bible far more than I prayed.  I believe it was because I desperately needed to know what to pray for, or, what prayer even was.  Communion as well as communication with God was realized almost solely through the study of him and his word.  Aside from sending up a few half-hearted thank yous and the needs of others, fervent prayer had largely taken a backseat in my spiritual life.

I often think about why prayer is so difficult for me.  I read several books on prayer.  I used to think it was because I wasn’t any good at prayer.  I studied and wrote on the Psalms extensively for over a year hoping it would help me understand.   (Go figure…more study, still no increase in prayer…)  I learned that it isn’t because I’m a below average pray-er as far as technique.  More likely, being the analytically wired idealist that I am, my need for understanding overrides my will to simply obey.  In short, flawed human logic overrides faith in the unfathomable.  I am a sinner even in seeking God…and I am often unbalanced.  I do what is easy for me, rather than doing what is best for me.  I am lazy.  I lack faith and discipline and I struggle with unbelief.  Those are some of the real reasons I don’t pray nearly enough.

Nevertheless, even if we are faithless, he remains faithful.  The Lord showed up in the labor room a couple weeks ago.  Our newest addition, Sonny Faye, was born on December 18, 2015.

Like all babies do, she was crying loudly upon entrance to this world.  As the nurses tidied her up, her father walked over to see her.  Then, something happened that made time stand still.  It was one of those moments that etches itself into your memory and you know you will not ever forget it.  As he began to speak to her, she became immediately silent.  Daddy’s calm, familiar voice broke through the barriers of an unfamiliar, cold, fearful place and she listened intently to that which she foreknew.  Daddy’s voice called her attention and in an instant, a squirming, flailing baby girl was comforted.  Without a doubt, she is her father’s daughter.

She is me.

In the fearful, the cold, the unfamiliar trenches of this world, I squirm and squeal.  I thrash and flail not knowing or trusting my harsh surroundings.  When I pray years upon end without seeing change and I have run out of words, out of faith, and out of pleas, I found a way to hear daddy.  My father speaks through his word.  Little wonder why an immature baby in the faith like me pines so intensely over his words.  My father’s words comfort; they calm; they make an infantile daughter cease from flailing in fear.

Perhaps I do not speak to God as oft as I should.  I do not.  I hope to do better this year than last.  What I do know is that when my father speaks to me, I hear him loud and clear.  I am my father’s daughter.

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