Blankets

Psalm 86:15-17 

15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

photo of gray blanket on sofa

Photo by Du01b0u01a1ng Nhu00e2n on Pexels.com

There are just some moments that need a blanket. You know the kind of moment I’m talking about? Maybe the weather is gray and drizzly. There is a chill in the air. Or perhaps there is a sorrow that just relentlessly weighs down the spirit.

All you want is a blanket. Something soft and gentle that embraces the rough edges of life and smooths them for a moment. You just need warmth and comfort. It’s a need for a soothing presence.

I’ve had some of these days lately. All I want is to burrow, like a rabbit into its nest. I want to swaddle myself in mounds of blankets, propped against all the fluffy pillows, and hugging a heavy mug of anything that will radiate gentle coziness. Life has just been heavy, laden with emotions, burdened by worries, and bogged down by a to do list that won’t quit.

But life won’t quit either. And you can’t walk around in a blanket all the time. Well, I guess you could but it would get awkward – not that I would know that from experience or anything… but I digress.

When life won’t afford you the ability to burrow in your blankets, where do you turn? For me it’s often to music. I can pop in the ear buds and get carried away by hymns, worship songs, a soundtrack, instrumentals, or the moody teen’s playlist. Other times, it’s scriptures – usually the Psalms – that fully express all the emotions of the day. Is there a more diverse collection of feelings than the Psalms? In one breath the psalmist is buoyed by praise, wonder, and awe for all that God is and has created. The next, he is praying for Heaven to restore his crushed spirit or redeem his very being from Sheol.

I guess I take comfort in the Psalms on blanket days because I know it’s ok. Embracing all those emotions and being stymied by everyday life is ok. It’s perfectly acceptable because we serve the God who created all those emotions and will love us in spite of how we manage and respond to them.

We have the best “Blanket” available.

Other readings:
Psalm 9:9-10
Psalm 71
Psalm 119:50
Bonus (and my personal favorite) 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

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Anchor

School is back in session. Four children, three schools, before school activities, after school activities, football games, concerts, plays, play dates. Just the preparations have been more exhausting than a full summer as a camp counselor – mentally anyway.

One recent afternoon as I was getting myself together for a very late trip to the grocery store, the children kept popping up with questions, reminders, and comments that just reiterated the idea that I am the anchor. I’m the one who everyone comes to in the house to keep it together and running. Hubs relies on me for encouragement and support. The kids rely on me for schedules, travel arrangements and help with homework. Everyone looks for meals and clean laundry. The dog even hopes he can get a walk around the neighborhood now and then.

Some days – ok, most days – it becomes overwhelming and I realize why anchors sink. They are so heavy. That’s when my brain did what it does. (Enjoy the ride…)

You know what else sinks? Rocks.
You know who was a rock? Peter.
Yeah, but he sank too.
Only because he forgot Who he was dealing with.

Oh.

Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

I know it’s a strange turn of thought but try this on with me. My life right now – and probably many of yours – is swirling, windy, tumultuous and turbulent. There are circumstances, people, and responsibilities battering you and I from all sides. People are relying on us and we can only feel ourselves sinking like an anchor with the weight of life.

I have always related to Peter a little more than some of the other disciples. His heart was always eager but he was just a mess in his execution. This is no exception. Peter was brave enough to climb out of the boat in the middle of a storm and head for Jesus. I can very quickly claim to be reliant on God in the course of my mess and trials.

Peter got out into the middle of the sea and he realized what he was doing. “Wait a minute! It’s hard and rough and stormy out here! What was I thinking?!” but by then he was too far from the boat to go back and he started to sink.

“God I trust you completely with my kids but please make sure they don’t hang out with that kid. Please do this for them or that for them. I believe in your provision but your timing could be better.” I believe but I get into the middle of my mess and I start to doubt. And sink.

I love the end of this quick tale. Jesus took Peter’s hand and scolded him a little. But finish the story.

32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

When they got in the boat. Not when Jesus took Peter’s hand. Not one moment before they were back in the boat. That means Jesus walked through the storm with Peter back to the boat. The storm raged until they were back on board. Jesus could have stopped it at any moment. But He proved to Peter – and the other disciples – that He would always stay through the storm.

So right now, if you are feeling overwhelmed with being the anchor in your life…
If storms are raging and you feel like the boat is out of reach…
If doubt is pulling you under…

Remember who the real Anchor is. The same God who walked Peter through the storm back to the boat is the God from Psalm 18:2.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

He’s your Anchor. IMAG2391

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A day for Women

It’s Mother’s Day Eve and yes, I know that’s not really a day. Humor me. Sunflower

Since losing my own mom a little over a year and a half ago, Mother’s Day has become a real struggle for me. I don’t want to celebrate but as my husband so succinctly put it, “But your children do. They want to tell you they love you. Get over it.” But in reflecting on Mother’s Day and all of it’s prickly parts, I started to think about women who aren’t mothers in a biological sense. Below is my take on Mother’s Day which will now be – for me anyway – day for all women who pour into the lives of the people around them.

All my love Lady Warriors! You are phenomenal!
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A Mom’s take on Mother’s Day

You think it falls on one happy Sunday in May don’t you?

Let’s get real. It really starts the Thursday before when Dad says, “So what do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” And Mom starts making the plan for the family. What will we do for lunch? Do we have those groceries or do I need to pick them up at the store this weekend? A reservation for brunch at this point is out of the question because, well…we have 3 days and it’s been booked since March when the Moms who were on top of it planned for their own mothers.

And let’s talk about Sunday morning, shall we?

Dad thinks it’s a great idea to make breakfast in bed for Mom. With the kids. In the kitchen. With eggs. And bacon. And fresh orange juice.

We hear you. We try not to. We try to pretend we’re still asleep but we hear the mixer spewing flour and batter all over every surface. We hear the three bowls and two pans clattering. We can’t hear them but we know there are at minimum seventeen partially used, slightly crumpled paper towels scattered over every surface and some even make it to the floor. Oh, the floor. Flour, egg drippings, orange juice pulp. Yeah…the floor.

But if we can block the vision of the disaster dancing in our heads, we delight in our breakfast with our babies as they all pile into bed with us, slopping orange juice onto the comforter but giggling at syrup sticky mouths and four dusted noses.

Until we look at the clock. 7:45?!

Go! Go! Go! With the precision of Patton, we bound from our beds and shoo bodies to their rooms. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. No BEFORE you get dressed because we don’t want to get toothpaste on your pretty dress. Zip up your sister. What do you mean you can’t find your dress socks? You just had them last week and I know I folded them and sent them back with your laundry. Please go look again.

Dear? Were you going to shower? You know church starts at 9:00 right? And parking will be crowded so we need to leave a little early.

No, you can’t wear your long sleeve brocade Christmas dress for Mother’s day. Because it’s too hot. Please just put on the dress I laid out. Baby girl that’s the second pair of tights you have torn this morning! Son, this is not the time for video games. You don’t have any shoes on. Yes both of them. Of course you lost your second shoe. You BOTH lost a shoe? Ok, retrace your steps and look under your bed.

My hose have a run! And so does the second pair…Well it’s lotion, sandals, a speed paint on the toes. I’m just praying that everyone else is as winter pale as I am.

Hairbrush – who had the hairbrush last? No darling husband, at this point I really don’t care if you wear a tie or not. Yes, those shoes look lovely with those pants.

Let’s go people! We need to be out the door in five! I’m sorry…Has anyone seen the teenager since breakfast? What do you mean she’s in the shower?! We’ve gotta GO!!!

And then we get to church. We pause beside the car. Please tuck in your shirt – again. Where is your shoe? You had it when you got IN the car, right? Ok, everyone smile. All I really want for Mother’s Day is one picture where you are all looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. Boy, if you photobomb one more picture with your tongue hanging out, I will be one child less of a mother.

Well good morning Pastor Steve!!

Oh, Mother’s Day. The day when the matriarch is celebrated- much to her dismay. The day to honor the miracle of birth and the bodies that pulled it off. The day when we step back and look at the women who may not have blood descendants of their own but who love just as fiercely and have an even greater influence as a result of the fact that they choose to exert that influence.

It’s a day to pay homage to the women who fully grasp what it means to pray without ceasing. Who wear grooves in the floor walking a baby to sleep when they are an infant, soothing a fever when they are young, and pacing the floor listening for the car to return well after curfew.

Mother’s Day affords us the opportunity to honor every woman who walked beside another and said, “It’s just a phase. You can do this and you will both survive.” To recognize and celebrate the women who stepped into the lives of the motherless and adopted them as their own pouring out the same passionate devotion they would for one of their own.

So Moms and Women of Profound Influence, when you walk into the Kitchen of Despair today and as you referee another sibling spat; while you drag everyone through the evening routine and get ready to send them back to school and work tomorrow; as you carry your beloved ones before the Throne of Grace in thanksgiving and petition, remember this.

It doesn’t happen without you. And when you are gone from this earth, your shadow, your fingerprints, your voice will do so much more than remain – it will endure and persist and ring through every life you have crossed.

Here’s to you blessed among women.

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Lovable

I have a friend who has recently taught me a serious lesson that I think maybe we all could use – either as a refresher course or to finally let in to our hearts and souls and minds. See, this friend has taken to reminding me that she loves me – not in those words. In her own way she has let me know that she admires me (I think), respects me, and loves me as I am.

I will shamefully admit that I didn’t receive that well  at first. It felt awkward and uncomfortable because this particular friend has seen lots of my lumps. She has witnessed my less than stellar parenting (read – impatience), my less than positive attitude under stress (translation – critical and whiny face), and my not so pleasant demeanor towards the end of a long and busy week (aka tired and grumpy). I’m not sure but I think she intentionally reminds me in those moments that she still loves me.

heart-clip-art-60

Pardon the expression but…What the heck?!

 

When all I can see is how I am failing to live up to the holiness expectation I have in my head, this crazy woman reminds me that I am loved. When I know I am getting it ALL wrong, she reminds me that it doesn’t matter.

I am still loved. And – the part that is a REAL kicker – I am still lovable.

At the risk of being redundant…What the heck?!

John 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Love one another even as I have loved you. And how did Christ love us?

 

Romans 5:6-8
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

He loved us enough to die. He loved us when we were lumpy all over and completely as far from holy as we could get. And His love was so big that He was willing to die to show that love.

 

So here it is – a lesson in lovable.
#1. You are.
You are lovable. I am lovable. Even when we are getting it all wrong. Even when our best efforts fall short and our patience runs out and our lives are a train wreck of epic dimensions by our estimation. We are lovable.

So the next time someone says “I love you!” or tries to show you admiration or kindness or respect, it’s ok to accept it. Not in a vain, “Don’t I know it!” kind of way of course. No need to go purchase your light up “I’m lovable” pin. But know that it’s ok to be loved.

#2. Others are lovable. And you should tell them that.
It’s your job. More people will recognize that you are a disciple of Christ by your love than by your preaching. More people will know Jesus by the way you walk beside them and offer them a hand up than by how much you point out what they haven’t accomplished yet.

Yes, you could do that from a distance and by telepathy but some people could really use the words. Yes, it will be awkward.

But I think…just maybe…so was the cross.

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Rip Currents

*I’m not a scientist (as we have previously established) but I tried to pay attention in school. That said, take all scientific information noted here with the lens of grace and do additional research if the science is important to you.*

Recently there was a story in the news about two children who got caught in a rip current. A pretty common event around the beach but it made the news when the people who tried to rescue them got caught up too. All the affected swimmers were eventually saved when a group of 80 complete strangers linked arms and created a human chain from the shore to the swimmers and helped them to safety. The story took over news cycles for several days because of the bravery and kindness of strangers to rescue the boys and family in danger.

There are so many lessons in the story. Be aware of those in need. Don’t limit who you help. Sometimes it takes a village to save a few. But what about the lesson for the boys who initially got caught? I’m sure their family made it a point to educate the boys about how to handle a rip current if they were to ever get back in the water.

By my understanding, a rip current is created when water at the shore finds a channel to flow back out to sea. When the waves are washing in rapidly or are high, the amount of water flowing out creates a significant pull – current – that can “rip” loose floating debris or people out to the ocean. Human instinct says, “That current is too strong and it’s taking me where I don’t want to go, so I need to swim as hard as I can to get to safety.” Unfortunately, the current is stronger than the swimmer and they become exhausted  and may drown before they are rescued.

It’s not the current that takes them under. It’s their exhaustion from fighting something bigger than them.

Luke 23:44-47
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. 

Good grief! Why would I pick the saddest piece of the Easter story right now?! Are we not all overwhelmed enough by the fear of rip currents?! That’s my point.

At the darkest hour. When things were as bad as they could get. With oppression, fear, anger, confusion, despair and exhaustion at their peak, Jesus let go. He released himself into God’s will.

You see, that’s how you deal with a rip current. When the current gets past the breakers and waves that are pushing to shore, it loses it’s power and releases into the open ocean. To save yourself from the rip, you have to let it take you out past the trouble and into the open calmer water. The funny thing is, if you swim down shore from the current and start in toward safety, the waves will carry you back in. The same waves that 10 yards earlier were creating the rush of water that threatened your life, now have the power to save you.

For two years, the breakers of life have been crashing and I kept feeling myself being pulled harder and harder away from shore. From who I knew myself to be in Christ and what I was called to do for the Kingdom. I was fighting with all I was to stay the person others expected me to be and handle my issues bravely the way I wanted to. In my power.
ocean

But suddenly I found myself broken, exhausted and drowning. No fight left and no sight line of the shore. At my darkest hour. When things were as bad as they could get. With oppression, fear, anger, confusion, despair and exhaustion at their peak, I was reminded that to be saved, I had to let go. I had to hand it over to God – all of it.

 

And now God is taking me out to sea. I don’t know how far the current will carry me but I know at the end, there is a peaceful place. And when it’s time, the waves will come again and push me back to shore. The same troubles that create the problem can, after God heals, bring us back to a new place in faith.

That’s another thing about rip currents. When you release and let yourself be drawn out to sea and washed back to shore, you don’t come back to where you washed out in the first place. You come back to a whole new place. Sometimes as a whole new person. Or like a person resurrected in Christ.

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(Re)Wired

“They’re just wired that way.”

That probably has to be my single least favorite phrase in the world. The way I understand that phrase is that people are programmed with a certain set of attitudes, behaviors, and habits that are just stuck there. No matter what they do, they will always speak, behave and see the world through that “wiring.” And not matter what, it can’t change.

“They’re just wired that way.”

It’s used as a reasoning – maybe even an excuse – for behavior that is less than kind, reasonable, flexible, or (heaven forbid!) that the person in question just doesn’t want to change. The modification would be too challenging or would require them to recognize an issue in their life. If they can claim it’s their default setting hardwired into their persona, they don’t have to change because it’s not possible.

“They’re just wired that way.”

Our house is over 30 years old. A few years ago we had a flood in our basement and had to tear out some walls. In the process, we came across a can of mushrooms that had been built into the wall during construction. 30 year old mushrooms. The clean up guy asked me if I wanted him to leave it so it could be built back in when we restored things.

Just because something is built into my house, doesn’t mean it needs to stay there.

electrical-outlets-factors-to-consider-when-selecting-electrical-outlets-HT-BG-EL-rotating-outlet

Our ceiling fan light went dead in our bedroom. We replaced the ceiling fan. When we recognize something broken, we repair or replace it.

An outlet caught fire. I didn’t just shut down that room and stop using the power there because the original socket went bad. I cut the bad wiring out and replaced the outlet.

Just because something is wired that way, doesn’t mean it can’t change.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And finally,
Romans 6:2-7
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

As Christians, we HAVE to be rewired! What is the point if we do not even try to allow God to rewire us from our previous self?

I am wired for anxiety. I worry about everything and try to plan for every possible outcome of every scenario. I keep too much food in my pantry. I have storm candles and lighters in every room all the time. I seldom let my car get below a quarter of a tank of gas and I consult and cross reference a different calendar for every corner of my life. I am a cat in a room full of rocking chairs 98% of the time. It’s how I’m wired. It makes me testy; keeps me from eating well; and drives my husband nuts.

Philippians 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Recently I had a chat with God about the anxiety in my life. Obviously, my anxiety is in direct opposition of His plan for me. But it’s how I’m wired, right? Oh, well. That’s unfortunate for you God. It’s how I’m made so it can’t change. Or can it?

The Romans 6 verses popped up during our chat and God reminded me that I’m dead to that particular sin. Now I have to start living like it. Every day I have to surrender that anxiety to God and find my thanksgiving. God and I have to rewire my mind and heart to release anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t belong so it has to be removed and discarded like 30 year old mushrooms.

When I’m tired or stressed my temper becomes very short.

Ephesians 4:31-32
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Aww, man! Another broken part that needs to be replaced! Now I have to let God rewire the anger to be forgiveness and tenderness. Like a broken ceiling fan.

Rewiring isn’t easy. When I was replacing the outlet, I came across a particular wire that I just couldn’t get stripped properly. The first time, I cut right through the wire because I clamped the pliers down too tightly and cut through the whole thing instead of just the covering. The second time, I didn’t cut through the insulation at all and just kept spinning my wheels. The third time I got the insulation off the wire but I took so much of it off, that I had too much bare wire to safely repair the outlet.

That’s why I’m not a professional electrician. But I know a Guy. And all I need to do is call on Him and He can rewire the problem areas in my life. If I decided to offer my two cents, it’s going to take more than one try. If I surrender, He can get it right.

Someday, I’ll be able to say, “That’s just the way I’m RE-wired.”

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Moving Advent

My friend Christian and his family are lighting the next Advent candle this week at church and as a result he went on a quest of sorts to uncover what Advent is and means. We have these discussions from time to time over coffee and projects and while we didn’t really sit down and talk this one out, he made me think. After almost a week, I think I’ve finally landed. Advent = Adventure. But not a machete wielding, wildlife surviving, pith helmet required adventure. This is a much quieter, spiraling, seeking adventure.

A few years ago I saw an Advent spiral in Ann Voskamp’s shop that has seared itself in my mind and heart. The circular draw of the spiral speaks movement to me. Many refer to the season of Advent as a season of waiting but I think for me, it means moving. God moved closer to us by coming to earth in the infant Jesus. Just the same we can move closer to Him with our heart approach and adoption of what the four candles represent.

The first candle is Hope. I think we can all agree that this is a good place to start. Christian or not, we all hope for something better, more meaningful, different, more fun or (insert your own thought here) for our lives. We want a better job; a more peaceful family; a crisis averted; a loss recovered. We want those things and we hope they will happen for us. We believe they can happen for us. And we wait for that hope to be realized. And that’s when we move forward.

Love comes next and let’s face it, that is one of the things we hope for, right? We hope our love is the real deal when we are in a relationship. We know our love is the real deal when we are parents. We pray that our children will find true love when they are adults.  But love when we find it, becomes all our hopes realized and in living color. When we find that better job that we were hoping for, we quickly “love” what we do. It’s so much easier to love our families when they are peaceful and we appreciate those we love when the crisis is passed and the lost is found. And then we move forward.

It’s not hard to see how Hope realized by Love gives way to Joy. I mean, we got what we wanted right? We have what our hearts were longing for so of course we are going to be full of Joy! It never fails to amuse me that the joy candle is usually pink while all the others are purple or blue. Seeking, finding and then celebrating. And that is as it should be so we move forward.

And we find ourselves at Peace. We have hoped for something. It has been given to us and we celebrated. Now we rest and we are at peace with our lives and sit in the calm and stillness of the moment not craving any longer and not chasing after anything. We are still and quiet. Funny that this is the candle that is closest to the end. In our culture this candle is usually lit when families are at their most frenzied pace and moms are the most stressed and kids are wired because school is about to be out and all the magic of Christmas is about to explode. But we light the peace candle and are supposed to be in our quietest and most still moment.

Why? Because we have one candle left. The Christ candle. If I had my way the Christ candle would not be just one candle and it wouldn’t be in the center of the wreath. It would be four candles and they would alternate with the other four in one continuous circle.

We Hope for a more meaningful existence because we know that what is here on earth is just not enough. Something in our core craves a connection, a belonging, an unconditional acceptance that has no strings or expectations or requirements. It is to be able to be as we are and still a treasure to Someone. So God sends Jesus.

And in His arrival we realized that He is destined to be our ultimate penance, sacrifice, debt payment and that He is doing it willingly out of pure, true and unconditional Love.

We look at Jesus and we see the gift of our Easter redemption and the gate of forgiveness swings wide open. We have access to be as we are and know that we are a treasure to Someone. And our hearts and minds and bodies flush with Joy.

So we bow down – no, fall down – face first at the feet of Jesus in overwhelming gratitude but our words cannot even begin to explain our hearts. The groanings of our spirit try to express to God how profoundly we love the gift He has given but we are rendered speechless and still. So we lay in complete Peace.Image result for advent wreath

In the straw. In a cave. While shepherds heed angels and kings cross mountains.

Then we rise and we move forward. We find another Hopeful soul seeking Love. And we share in their Joy and smile at their Peace.

Because there, in the center of it all, is Jesus.

Hope promised: Isaiah 9:6
Love presented: Luke 2:12
Joy proclaimed: Luke 2: 17, 18 & 20
Peace possessed: Luke 2:19

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