Upon Examination

jun26“I won’t take any advise from someone unless I know their spiritual life.” Her voice was stern, determined, with an unswayable undertone that made my fingertips grip my mouse tighter. There were a couple of empty tables between the couple and myself, yet even with the coffee grinder whirling and the chatter of baristas, I could hear her words clearly.

“I won’t take any advise from someone unless I know their spiritual life.”

I don’t mean to be eavesdropping. There really is no excuse. As a writer who has taken several writing courses that encourages to observe the people, the stories happening in our ordinary spaces, I tend to ‘tune’ into conversations without a lot of effort. Mostly I pay attention to ‘sound bites’, clips of words that my imagination can expand on as well as voice inflections and speech patterns.

Sometimes though a conversation heightens all my senses.

I know I don’t ever get the full-story.

But the words, the clips can cause me to pause enough to grab my pen or open Scrivener on my lap top.

“She’s teaching about mindset and how most of our problems have to do with mindset…I won’t take advise from anyone unless I know their Christian….”

“Even if a doctor says it’s depression and gives advise how to deal with it but I won’t take advise from her unless I know her spiritual direction…”

Later asking the Mexican barista…”I’m going to Mexico and want to teach these people about God….”

Leaving the cafe, commenting to her companion…”well I don’t care….”

I don’t hear the words clearly, and could be mistaken, but the tone is dismissive.

And a story idea begins to form.

Christian fiction writer, Ted Dekker, teaches that our character’s journey in the stories we write can explore our own faith questions.

So I found myself typing out the questions…

What would happen if a Christian never took advise from someone they did not see as ‘spiritual enough?’ Is that obeying or disobeying God? Would our lives be richer or smaller?

Currently I do take advise from others that are not of my faith, my trust often secured by their expertise from academia, experience and/or referral. My physician, nutritional counsellors, professional fitness trainers to name a few.

However, it can be tough to know what information is really true, to take in and apply when it flies at us from so many directions like a snow squall.

Life can be complicated that way, can’t it?

Recently my bible study led me to Paul’s journey to Berea.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

And I pondered about the teachings of Jesus– would I have listened and accepted this new view being presented? Or been angry? Even dismissive?

Or eager like the Berean Jews?

Although they did not just take in Paul’s word and believe.

These listeners also examined the Scriptures evaluating Paul’s sermons for themselves so they could trust or dismiss his teachings.

And, I imagine, the many that became believers must have been quite delighted to come to the conclusion that is was all true!

As a result, many of them believed, as did a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. Acts 17:12

To even listen in the first place to Paul and Silas, they would have had an open-mind to these two teachers that wandered into town and into their place of worship.

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They listened with eagerness AND discerning hearts, putting into practice Paul’s teachings that we read in Colossians.

So see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

Carefully they examined Paul’s words against the scriptures they’d been studying and knew to be true.  I imagine, too, being already very familiar with scripture, they would have had the word hidden in their hearts as taught by Psalms.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

We are taught well how to evaluate spiritual teachings .

We are to be open-minded and eager to listen. However, we are to verify and evaluate comparing what we hear with with what we know is true–God’s word in scriptures.

And the more we know the trust worthy source of The Word the more we are safeguarded against false-teachings.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

As for never taking advise from others, even doctors, that do not share our spiritual believes like the cafe lady I eavesdropped on…? Hmm… I may just follow Ted Dekker’s advise and explore the concept through fiction! Do you think it would make a compelling story?

Lynn J Simpson, Author/Coach/Photographer at Inspiring Hope in You

Linking up this week with #TellHisStory

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Let’s talk about romance

 

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Love is not always agreement with someone, but it is always sacrifice for someone. Ann Voskamp, The Way of Abundance

Slipping on my headphones I stepped out into the sunshine of the spring day, leaving the paperwork behind for about an hour or so I presumed. I pressed the shuffle command, which I’d done many times before when taking these neighbourhood walks. But this was the first time (honestly don’t remember this song ever being part of my playlist) that Joshua Kadison’s voice graced my ears.

“You’re beautiful in my eyes…”

Memories, pictures of another time flowed through my mind. A time of a romance decades ago now, that was full of all those romantic things–flowers, poetry, songs, and stolen moments with Kadison’s voice in the background, amplifying the feelings.

The relationship wasn’t right for many reasons. Ended with a sadness. A sadness though, that was wrapped in peace. A peaceful knowing it was the right thing to do.

As I walk in singleness, these moments of jolted memories can tug my heart and I’ll wonder if my heart can even produce a sliver of romance anymore, it’s been so long.  In The Way of Abundance-A 60 Day Journey Into A Deeply Meaningful Life, Ann Voskamp questions what her husband is doing up on that ladder fixing the eaves and he responds “Loving you.”

Loving in an everyday romantic way.

I’ll see this in my friend’s relationships. This loving in the everyday romantic way. It’s shown in buying the right type of coffee, or carrying the passports while traveling, or typing the address into the GPS before their wives head out the door, alone. It’s in early morning devotions together (even though he’s not a morning person), in putting her dishes away in the dishwasher without grumbling, or placing her keys on the new key rack he just mounted (as he is hoping to eliminate helping her find her misplaced keys).

And I’m sure you can think of many more everyday romantic ways that say “Loving you.”

I do rejoice in seeing and hearing about these ‘Loving you,” gestures among my married and dating friends. Yet, sometimes there can be a tug of green envy at my heart, maybe even a little hardening too, to deflect the possible arrow of those unworthiness lies.

But I don’t want to grow a hard heart.

For from a hard heart, not only can one not receive, one cannot give either.

A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:12 

A friend reminded me the other day of the heart of Jesus. This man who was never married.

This man who’s every moment in his ministry said, “Loving you.”

“He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm resided and all was calm.” Loving you. (Luke 8:24)

“Daughter your faith has healed you.” Loving you. Luke 8:48

“Women you are set free from your infirmity.” Loving you. Luke 13:12

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Loving you. John 4:13

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  Loving you.  John 8:10-11

And the ultimate sacrifice. A life given. Loving you.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Loving you. 1 John 3:167 

Everyday, know my friend, no matter your marital status, no matter the disappointments and struggles in your relationships, there is His Love Song that amplifies the message of Loving You more than any other can.

And you’re always beautiful through His eyes.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Linking up with #TellHisStory Visit other inspiring writers!

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Fly–Five Minute Friday Prompt

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Visit for other inspiring authors at FMF Link-Up at Kate Motaung

This post is part of #FMF link up–Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a freewrite, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write. 

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He sits perched on the floating branch fallen from one of the maple trees that line the river bank. I watch from my own perch, where I’ve come to pray in an attempt to slow, to ponder, to be still in His presence.

Decisions, possibilities swirl through my mind, and it is only when I gaze at the sparrow’s presence, the bird’s still wings while it sits upon its perch that my mind finally stills.

I watch and wait, light sounds of the river’s water, and the rustling of tree branches above me, from winds unseen, yet heard, grace my senses.

My eyes follow the sparrow as it takes it flight, flies from it’s unsteady perch in moving waters and rises up and up, finally resting in a Manitoba Maple tree’s branch that points west attached to a trunk that is sturdy and steady.

I rise from my own perch, steadying myself on uneven turf with the help of reaching a hand against the sturdy tree that resides beside me.

I steady with the knowing there’s Another that I can lean on that resides beside me, within me.

Always.

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The Helper of Truth

TEXT: Is passion a direct result of contentment & or happiness?

My response: I wonder if passion can be derived from discontentment (what breaks your heart) and then contentment is a result from working out to help make a difference to what breaks your heart?

TEXT: Haha. You looked at passion totally different than I did. 

(Blush)–on the other side of the screen so unseen thankfully!

An incorrect interpretation. I hadn’t heard the word ‘passion’ in it’s romantic context as intended by the questioner. At least I think that is the intent behind my friend’s words via the text on my phone. We actually haven’t connected through ‘real’ voice to clarify, yet.

I’m sure by now you’ve read and/or experienced the dangers of misinterpreted text messages. Without the fillers of expanded conversation, voice inflection, and physical gestures, intentions of the words can be flipped to taste as different as lemon and sugar–bitter instead of sweet.

They can also stir up unintended reactions.

For example, my instant reaction to a text message ending in ‘take care’ is a stomach lurch of good-bye. Having given and received those words at endings of past relationships, my instant thought process is to interpret the words as ‘good-bye’ which is especially disconcerting when from a friend I’ve grown fond of! It takes me a moment, an intake of a breath, to allow my thoughts to re-evaluate the words in the present and see the truth of the moment.

It only takes a glance of headlines in world news to see how God’s words can also be misinterpreted. Or evaluated and construed to push an agenda of personal interest. Unlike our human encounters, we don’t have physical fillers to decipher the intention of the message of the bible. But we do have the truth that the bible is the Word of God–as claimed not by us, but by the bible itself.

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God” Joshua 3:91

(K)nowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. Thessalonians1:4-5

And we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach us and bring us understanding of His word.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

But it is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding. Job 32:81

So, take a breath my friend and be so thankful that we have the Helper to teach and bring understanding to His words as written in the bible! We can breathe in the understanding of God’s word when we direct our attention to the spirit within us. We can lessen and eliminate misinterpreting and evaluating for our own personal agenda’s when we welcome in the Holy Spirit to examine our heart.

 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24

And know His promises that He loves and cares for you and me are never ones that will stop in a ‘take care’ message of good-bye.

How about you? How do you allow the spirit within you guide you to interpreting His written word?

 Linking up Wednesday at

Soaring with Him Ministries
 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final security

Each post this month of April will be a Devotional on the security we have in God. My hope is that God will use these words to encourage you on your daily paths.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

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It’s your turn and all eyes are on you. You fold your hands over your knees, hesitating, wondering, if this small circle of kind people will really accept you. What if they knew? A day has passed since taking that chance, typing that message to someone you respect, that someone you hoped to develop a deeper relationship with, but it is still unanswered. Hurt, you ponder. Maybe he/she no longer likes me? Your hands hesitate over the keyboard, words of encouragement ready to flow, yet question if you qualify to be the messenger. Would they read these words if they knew my past ways? 

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When Jesus died on the cross He saved us. His presence with God in heaven assures us that he continues to be forgiving of our past, present, and future sins when we come to Him. We can be secure in knowing we are fully accepted by Him, not needing the acceptance of others to be forgiven. We can be assured that even though we feel disappointed, He is always looking out for our best interests. When we live in the grace of Christ we experience the freedom from guilt and failure to do His work. Let’s spread this good news by living out the security we have through Him and build His Kingdom as He is calling us to!

I’ll be on a blogging break from this place for a month as I dedicate writing time to another project that I think God has placed within me. I’ll take this step in faith and know whatever direction it takes me, I will be learning and growing! I will be dropping into your places from time to time, and hope you’ll connect with me on Instagram ! 

 

Never Crushed

Each post this month of April will be a Devotional on the security we have in God. My hope is that God will use these words to encourage you on your daily paths.

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“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthian 4:8-9

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The delicate orchid flowers have adapted to grow in the cool tundra of the sub-arctic to the heat of the deserts in Arabia and Australia. Most bloom in harsh rainforest environments where the orchids large roots can quickly absorb nutrients and water, as well as store water to be resilient during potentially harmful dry periods. Orchids are also known to have symbiotic relationships with fungi to provide nourishment, protecting them from perishing.

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God has designed the orchid to adapt to environments that appear too difficult to survive. Yet He has given them all they need to thrive where they are planted. We too, can be secure that God has given us all we need to not be crushed, struck down, or destroyed. We are nourished with the living water of His words. He protects us from our enemies. He relieves us of our pressures when we cast our anxieties on Him. And we are never alone, secure in His love for us, and His promise of life eternal.

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I’m having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth!

Coffee For Your Heart Link Up

Securing our steps

Each post this month of April will be a Devotional on the security we have in God. My hope is that God will use these words to encourage you on your daily paths.

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Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park/photography by Lynn J Simpson

My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

The enclosing canyon walls rise high, grey and daunting under a wintery day’s overcast sky. From an observer above it may seem like an impassable fortress, it’s iced floors too slick to journey. Then a group of hikers are spotted, roaming the narrow gorge, ice cleated boots securing each sturdy step they take.

 

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Ice Climber at Maligne Canyon, Jasper, Alberta/ Photographer Lynn J Simpson

When you’re in a place and see only an intimidating landscape with a path that seems insurmountable, you must not stay discouraged. God has promised He will give you what you need to secure each step you take and be your hope and strength as you navigate difficult terrain. When you wait on God, He will direct your way through the ravines as you pass over the landscape. When you hold onto God, He will steady you so you will not be shaken, will not fall on the uneven patches along the way.  No matter the challenge, do not fear. He is your rock and salvation, your encourager and protector, always with you every step of the way.

I’m linked up today with the Fierce-Hearted Women at Holly Gerth and at also Recharge Wednesday with Patricia Holbrook

A death and an invitation

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. Matthew 27:51

Have you ever stood, feet bare or protected, in a river’s rushing water? The river’s rocks slippery under your soles, the water colliding with your body somewhere between  ankle and knee? The river’s water pressure as it rushes by you feels strong enough to sweep you away too, taking you unwillingly along it’s travels downstream.

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Yet you stay placed, as the water sweeps by. Your body stronger against the current, your confidence deepening in your stance as moments pass along with the hastening river.

As the calm confidence settles your mind, the once roar of the rushing waves becomes a symphony to you, and the greasy rocks now glisten with polished colours like sun illuminated stain glass.

And you breathe, breathe freely and openly in this place now that the fear is edged out, replaced with the assurance that your posture will hold you from being swept away.

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My friend, I believe, know that is what God wants for you too. He wants you to breathe even when those thundering waves of difficulty threaten to sweep over you, to take you places along the currents you swore you would never go.

Sometimes these threats are pressures from relationships, where convictions and obedience are strongly opposed. That friendship, that mentor, that boss, that potential romantic partner you seemed to have waited for forever, is now asking you to join in to activities that once was the old way of living you turned from when cleansed that day in baptism, in acceptance of His way.

Sometimes threats can be from circumstances we never imagined we’d be in: a divorce, an estranged child, disease, a crime against us, and injustices.

We may even create our own threatening waves from our brokenness leading us to seek solace in things of this world that harm rather than bring life.

Yet Life is where we can turn to–no threat can defeat it.

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We celebrate this weekend the Hope that was given to us, the new way of freely living that opened to us with the tearing away of the veil.

Paul reminds us in Hebrews:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23

This gift of freedom, this forever grace from our transgressions is due to the shed of blood on that cross of an innocent Man by ones who were slaves to their pride and self-righteousness–ones who felt threatened by the freedom that was being offered to them.

But you, my friend, can accept this freedom gifted through His offering to have your heart cleansed with the sprinkling of His grace, and your body washed to purity.

There is no barrier between You and the One who will not let the threatening rivers sweep over you. Will you accept His invitation to draw near to Him, the forever faithful One who will be your help, your protector, and your strength giving you His peace no matter how thunderous the rivers waters rush around you?

Will you, my friend, accept the invitation of an unconditional Love that surpasses all our understanding?

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins, my self-centeredness, and every part of my life that does not please you. I choose you. I give myself to you. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. Retrieved from Ransom Heart

 

And It’s All So Beautiful

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luke 12:27

There’s a greenhouse just a five minute drive from my home. Not a greenhouse in a traditional sense as it is open year around with a restaurant serving organic greens and gluten-free treats, and gifts galleries that change with the calendar celebrations.

Christmas time fills the floor with decorative trees and already overflowing shelves with ornaments, wreaths, and garland.

Approaching Valentine’s Day more red and white candles, silk and real roses rest on bursting shelves of trinkets, jewels, and framed mottos.

Now, drawing near Easter, pops of pastel colours adorn the interior design with baby blue vases, soft pink stuffed bunnies, and sun set orange ribboned baskets.

I walk past all this splendour into another room unseen from the entry. All my senses refeshen in the humidity that seems to steam from the hundreds of cacti plants that rest on shelves against the walls, stand in tall pots in the corners, and more aesthetically arranged on round tables creating a centre aisle.

And I breathe.

I breathe in this place where not a ribbon or jewel or ornament occupies.

I step slowly scanning the various cactus plants, some barely two inches in length, some warped in their roundness, others gangly in their tallness. Some bodies plentiful with spines, others edged with scattered thorns.

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And it’s all so beautiful, in it’s rawness, it’s unadorned form.

What is it that draws me to this place where beauty and refreshment comes from the misshapen, the undressed? Where symmetry isn’t and where thorns are exposed?

Maybe it is stirring in me that restlessness for that perfect place of ancestry, in a Garden where all was perfect, nothing hidden until tampered by temptation.

Maybe it is stirring in me to remember, to be, to come exposed, scars, wounds, prickles, and thorns, no adornments that mask.

Because we are all so most beautiful, my darling, in our raw, unadorned form.

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You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Come surrender your hidden scars
Leave your weapons where they are
You’ve been hiding, but I know your wounded heart
And you don’t know how beautiful you are

I’m tired of hiding who I really am
Underneath these alibis
I want to know who you really are
I want to meet you here tonight
We’re not born with these defenses
We’re not destined for this pain
We hide ourselves and put the fig leaves on
But a mask can never cover up this shame

                                                                                                             Jon Foreman

 

Army of Trust

“I feel bad for it. It’s got enemies in there and I’m sending in the best army I have!”

My friend giggled. “I’ve never heard someone describe their body parts in third person context before.”

I’ve been a bit under the weather lately, so to speak.

I’ve had to send in armies for these uncomplicated conditions. Armies of antibiotics, vitamins, herbs, and ‘google’ remedies to fight the battles against these viral and bacterial critters. It’s taken a few tries though, to find out which armies are going to win that battle, and bring peace once again!

I used these medicine armies to battle something I could only feel in the flesh, but I could not see. The pain I experienced a warning to something that needed attending to, needed help in the fight to become healthy again.

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Our pain experiences in life are so often derived from our challenges, felt not in the flesh, but emotionally in our mind and in our heart too. We might find ourselves wrestling with forces that ask us to compromise our integrity, our values, our morals for the sake of a corporation’s definition of success, or for the sake of wanting to belong, or for the sake to avoid conflict with that relationship we feel we could not live without.

God’s word says:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

We may fear feeling the pain of being alone, rejected, judged, so carefully navigate away from possible battles by hiding in timidity, or not using our gifts for God’s glory.

Thankfully, in God’s goodness He gives us the medicine we need, fights for us to become restored through Him, provides the remedies to withstand the attacks that can snare us.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the Lord will be kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Instead of fearing man, relying on man to build-us up, we can be free by trusting in God promises to renew us, strengthen us, and carry us, always.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

We can rely on His promises that He will fight for us.

“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15

 Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

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And God, in His goodness, has provided His power within us!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

“For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Colossians 2: 12 

Whatever battle you may find yourself in today, my friend, may you place your hope in the One who can fill you with the joy and peace His goodness wants for you.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13