Bougainbiscus, Butterflies, Silly Songs and Jesus Loves Me

He shows up where and when I don’t expect Him!

It turned out to be just Sandy and me  yesterday, off to “hike” (definition: walking leisurely, talking about the Lord, and interacting with docents and people on the trails) at the botanical gardens and then the zoo, taking advantage of our respective memberships. We walked unintentional circles at the garden, enjoying some funny pumpkin “sculptures” like the poor guy painfully covered in cholla and a couple of gourd-os sitting at a logs only  campfire  toasting s’mores. One of the docents who struck up a conversation with us didn’t even know  the pumpkins were there, so we pointed her to, it turned out, the tail end of the pumpkin walk.

In our conversation there I shared a possibly too true insight a friend made in a Bible study group several years ago. He suspected one of the things that went unobserved and unwritten about all the times Jesus went off by himself to pray was (no disrespect intended) Jesus slapping himself on the forehead and crying out, “Oy vey,  these yutzes! Father, how am I supposed to work with these yutzes??!!” The fact that we’d steered the docent in the wrong direction only emphasized the likelihood of the Lord’s possible prayer …..

We  passed a beautiful red-flowered plant unknown to either Sandy or me. It looked like a cross between a Bougainvillea and a hibiscus, and though I don’t remember it’s scientific name, we decided it must be a bougainbiscus.  We listened to another docent manning a table of blooms, and he pointed us in the right direction to go see the butterfly pavilion, which was wonderful. Fluttering, flitting beautiful wings were all around us, and I state publicly that the fact it  takes four generations of monarch butterflies to make the round-trip migratory journey, and the great-grandparents of the returning lepidoptera aren’t around to tell their great-grandoptera where “home” is, clearly tells me there IS a Creator,Intelligent Designer, and Architect of all the wonders in the world. We wandered around trying to find our way out of the wildflower loop and drove down the road to the zoo.

More natural wonders awaited us on trails there: Komodo dragons, whose bite is venomous, so all they have to do is bite their prey  and wait for it to die; orangutans strong  enough to rip your arm off, but who spend their lives in the wild high up in trees and make “nests” in the  branches for sleeping; giraffes, and enough said about their incredible design. I truly enjoyed my two years of  working at the real zoo, after thirteen years of  substitute teaching in a very different ”zoo” setting. We encountered Hannah, one of Sandy’s friends from her church who works at the zoo while she’s attending seminary,  and since  she was being trained to drive  the  train (yes, pun intended) I told her about the songs I wrote for about ten animals the train passes. She said she’s be glad for me to send them to her.

We bought sandwiches for lunch, sat down on the benches around a shaded table, and continued sharing about some of the”God-incidences” in our lives., when an older woman pushing a young child in a stroller politely asked if she could shar our table, and we replied we were happy to share the shade.Since I know personally about the early childhood programs there, I asked if the boy was her grandson, and then told her about the wonderful breakfast programs that are an adult’s “ticket” to get up close to  some  of the animals in the zoo’s collection. I asked Paul, who’sfour, if I could sing a song for him, and commenced into, ”Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ in your muddy hole ’n’  keep your body rollin,’ warthog ….” to a tune only older adults always laughed at.

Being a bit humorous and silly seems to break the ice. Noting the cross necklace the grandma wore, I asked,”Are you a Believer?”

“Believer in what?” she replied.

I held up my own cross necklace and said,”In this.”

“I sure am!” she smiled, and a new door opened up for us to share about our  faith. Even though we are in different denominations, Jesus’ sarificial death on the cross – God Himself paying the horrendous penalty for humanity’s rebellion against God’s Holy authority and Righteousness AND love for us all – unites Christians of every “flavor.” So together we said the opening line, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible  tells me so!”

And here’s what it says:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

BUT “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And expanding on Romans:23 “Forallhave sinnedandfall short of the glory of God, AND  ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He (God) did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have  faith in Jesus.” Romans 3”23-26

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  Romans 5: 5-11 NIV

God is Just, AND God is Love. Neither cancels the other. Only one unites them both perfectly: Jesus,Y’shua, however you say his name in your language. Jesus said:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23 And after a long passage of “Woes,” Jesus cried out to Jerusalem with fierce love and longing to  bring everyone there into his loving, sheltering arms.

It’s BOTH Justice AND Mercy, in one perfect person to satisfy both. And how utterly amazing, relentless, selfless, pure and passionate is the heart of God who Himself teaches, leads, forgives, heals, bleeds, rises from death, justifies and redeems us!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace  with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need… because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God  through him, because he  always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 4:15-16, 7: 24-25 NIV

In Jesus we can drop the censure we hear and feel from ourselves and from others, and become, in praising and thanking God for his incredible gift of love, the incense in the censer held by our Great High Priest Jesus, rising up in a fragrant offering to the One who makes us pure, loved, and joyfully pleasing to God.

The pumpkins and butterflies and orangutans  and squirrel monkeys were fun, but sharing with “Mimi” and little Paul was pure joy!

My/your/our takeaway?  Jesus is wherever I/you/we go, and all I/you/we need to do is be open to him walking, sitting, driving, golfing, working, eating. being with us to share him with others.  That’s HIS joy! Behold what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God! And when Jesus drops into my life with connections like this, I feel the intense, outrageous love  that he IS! Love alive, love present, love embracing, love forgiving (oy vey!) and love overcoming.

a”…BUT…” to pray today: Father God, loving Lord jesus, sometimes I  don’t  sense your love for me. Sometimes I feel all too much my “yutz-ness” and all I sense is the censure of others, BUT you promise that your love never fails and you will never, ever leave me, ,so I’m asking you to show me your love, and you get to decide how, when and where. Feel welcomed into my life to surprise me,  Jesus! In your name I pray, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening, waiting AND watching __________________________________________________________

 

 

 

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Gott Sei Dank

One  thing almost intrinsic in me that Daniel and I do NOT share is a fondness for German music. I’m guessing I began appreciating it, and the country, the year my family spent in the small town of Enkenbach when I was ten, my father’s company sending us over there. In my fifth grade class in the Army school my brother and I attended, we had German language instruction. I don’t honestly remember if Frau Schultz came in daily or once a week to teach us, but, perhaps incredibly, I do clearly remember a song  and a poem I learned that year. (And why, I wonder, can’t I remember how to differentiate and integrate sines and cosines, something I learned much later?)

My memory  actually was useful two weeks ago, when I was getting up to move from the lateral machine to another in the recreation center. I started  toward the supply of disinfecting wipes, but the woman approaching the lateral machine told me not to bother, as she had her wipe handy. I detected an accent in her voice and asked where she was from. When she replied German, I said , “Vielen Danke. Voraus stammen Sie?” That began a conversation – auf Englisch –  and we quickly found in common that we’d both worked at a zoo, cared about the environment, and loved God! I gave her a copy of my book that I “coincidentally” (as if there are coincidences with God!) had in the bag I’d brought with me.

Earlier this week I saw Ilse at the rec center again, walked over, said hello, and again began a conversation. That silly song I’d learned in fifth  grade came into my head, and I began singing, “Fuchs du hast die Gans gestholen, gib Sie wieder her …” and Ilse joined in the song. The song about a fox  that stole a  goose isn’t important, except to lead into the truth today that all around you are absolute gems on two legs,  treasures in the people around you.

Ilse has been a gymnast, dancer, model, actress, music instructor, composer, and zookeeper! On Friday I called her and popped over to her house  for a short visit. That’s when I discovered so much inside this amazing woman.Most importantly,though, we shared our hearts and from  our  spirits, connecting at a personal level so quickly because we both knew God had been instrumental in our meeting.

Though the precious people of Zion were like fine gold, how they are valued like clay vessels, the handiwork of a potter!  Lamentations 4:2 NAS

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 2 Corinthians 4: 5-14 NIV

Money and power or influence seem to be the things we value and treasure in contemporary American culture. Too often we view other people for what they can do for us, how they can help us get ahead. If I see someone on the street who’s dressed poorly,  do I automatically assume that person has no worth? Conversely, if I see someone dressed in nice clothing, and for women, with dangling earrings and fingernails and toenails painted to match her outfit, do I attribute more worth and value  to her as a person? How clearly I see the rampant narcissism in our society, see how easily I myself am prone to make value judgments based on appearances! Lord God, deliver me from such materialism!

Two weeks ago Ilse was dressed in ordinary exercise clothes, just as I was, just as everyone else in the rec center. If I hadn’t thanked her and asked her a question, I would have “robbed”myself of a great blessing in getting to know her as a unique person created in God’s  image, created with gifting and talents and kindness and a longing, as we all have, to be known,valued, and to know and value others.

What value does God place upon us?

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29-31 NIV

You are treasured by God your Father in Heaven! And – perhaps amazingly to you – so is that person next to you on the bus or at school or at work or in the grocery store. Treasured not for their net worth, but treasured because they, and you, are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared to be part of your purpose before you were even a glimmer in your father’s eye, for good works, for  advancing God’s Kingdom, for sharing the Good News about  Jesus, for being a reflection of HIS love and mercy and caring and forgiveness, healing, deliverance,  and HIS grace and HIS Truth on Earth. Ephesians 2: 10 Rose’s Paraphrased Version

Sing, Daughter Zion;
    shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
    he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
    never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
    they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
    do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3: 14-17 NIV

Gott Sei Dank! Thank God that he opens our eyes to each other, and to the treasure He  has deposited in each one of us. YOU are a treasure, and if you take time to open a conversation, so, I’ll bet, is that person next to you! Use things, LOVE people!

A”…BUT…” to pray: God,yes, I admit  I’m shy, or afraid, or not caring enough to really notice the people around me and consider that You’ve deposited something priceless into them – not something for me to USE,  but some treasure within who they are for me to discover and value. Even the ones not dressed like me, not driving a car, not  in the same church I attend, from another country or neighborhood or ethnicity. Help me,LORD, to see others as YOU see them, and help me overcome my own _____________________________ to know that YOU value me just because I’m Yours! Holy Spirit, who do I need to notice in a new way today?” Lord, I’m listening _________________________________________

 

Just Giving God Glory!

I HAVE to share this. God IS Love, and powerful kindness. He did a wonderful, incredible thing for me yesterday to prove it again to me.

When I was in high school, my family bought an acre of land in the mountains, and my father built a cabin on the land. It took two years to build, driving up on weekends, and I have many happy memories of helping him. In 1984 my dad and mom had to sell the cabin, because the high altitude bothered my mother’s blood pressure. I was married, but we didn’t have the extra money to buy the cabin, so it went to another owner.

In 2005, before my older son and his family moved to Asia, we drove up to see the cabin. A new owner had purchased it, and it was his wedding day, but he let us walk around inside, renewing my son’s memories of good times there. I was amazed to see two of my Grandmother’s kitchen chairs in the kitchen. I told James, the owner, how I sat at her kitchen table when I was four and she taught me to play a card game called gin rummy. He said he really liked the chairs, too, so I thought I’d never see them again. Because he wanted to know about who built the house, I made him a photo book of pictures of my father and us building the cabin. Two months later a truck came to my house and brought me the two chairs!

Yesterday “we” looked online at some pictures of land up in the mountains to hopefully buy. About twenty minutes later I got an email from James, at my new email address. He said he needs to sell the cabin, and he had been searching for a month to find a way to contact me – I no longer have the same phone number, last name, or email address – to ask me if I would like to buy it back! He found my blog by searching for my name online and found my new email from that. How amazing is God’s love, to care so much! Even if it is too expensive for me to buy, I am filled with knowledge of God’s great and compassionate, affirming love for me.

James told me yesterday that he could feel love in the house when he bought it. God is gracious, powerful love!

Pardon the King James version here, but 1 John 4:8 – He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:16 – And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/20-inspirational-bible-verses-about-gods-love/#ixzz4nrKXqmTj

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, sometimes it seems, it feels like, You are far away and unconcerned about me, because ______________________________________________BUT YOU promise me YOU will never leave me and never forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8), and You put Your promise in writing in the Bible, so I’m going to dare to ask YOU to “Show me a sign of your goodness, that those who hate me may see it, and be put to shame, because you, Yahweh, have helped me, and comforted me.” (Psalm 86:17) And I will let YOU choose the way, God, You show me Your love, because You know my deepest heart, so I’m listening now for Your voice above every other noise and voice in my life, InJesus’ name, amen!   _____________________________________________________________

Cover it?No way!

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“ Step up to perfection.” Really? Perfection from a bottle that will enhance my brilliance? (or at least how people “see” me)

“Hate that grey/?Wash it away!” so went the commercial for hair coloring, though I think more accurately the jingle should have said, “Hate that grey? Cover it over.”  Covering, sadly, including blame shifting and excusing, seems to be the first response of Homo sapiens when we know we’ve done something wrong. Case in point: Adam and Eve:

The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12

That  comment came after Adam and Eve ran and hid from God in the Garden. Not unlike many two- and three-year-olds I’ve taught …..so it must be that, early on,we ARE  able to recognize our sin. Hmm….did God place a center for a sense  of justice/injustice in our brains? I know every one of us is born selfish and me-first, since “me” is all we come out of the womb knowing.  today again I’mSO grateful to have been born into a grace-based family. Oy, yes, I knew  early on what  the  paint  stirring stick  was for, but honestly I can’t remember the  rebellious deeds I did  that brought the paint stirrer out, so well did my Mom continue to show me love afterward. In our  grace-based family, when I  messed up, I learned that had a price, and I learned from my errors. I learned something priceless, too.

I’ve written this before, but one of the most powerful  memories I have of my mother came when I was around eight years old. I still can picture this in my mind. The cotton swabs disappeared from the bathroom, and my mother had accused me of using them without telling her. I  hadn’t, but she  didn’t believe me, and I got  paddled for lying. That night,  however, my mother came into my bedroom, knelt down beside my bed, and said, “Rosie, I was wrong. Your brother used them, and he did just tell me. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” Of course I did, but something powerful happened in that exchange..

My mother taught me a truth that’s become core to who I am: it’s always  right, always necessary,  to honestly admit your wrongs and ask forgiveness from the person you’ve wronged. It’s right, it’s necessary, AND it’s freeing. AND it frees two people: one from guilt and one  from bitterness. That’s a grace-based mindset. Not everyone grows up in a grace-based family, though. Many people grow up in shame-based families, and  that’s deadly to both relationships and to genuine relational faith.  Shame-based relationships cause people to cover their sins and wrongs, because shame attacks you at the level of your identity: I did something wrong, I must be a bad person, but I don’t want people to think I”m a bad person,so I need to find  someone else to blame or some way to cover/minimize/transfer what I did so I can still feel good about my self.

Hiding in the Garden. Blaming the other person. Denying it hurt anyone. Minimizing the pain I caused – all because I/you fear the consequences from a person in authority who will think poorly of me/you, stop loving me/you, see who I/you really am/are and  turn away in disgust.  That deep fear-based distrust and insecurity plants terrible consequences in other lives and in our relationship with God. Do we not know that, yes, God clearly sees our sin, BUT yes, God loves us  as we are and wants  good for us and wants to be in loving relationship with us anyway?

I’ve seen first-hand what a shame-based identity destroys. If I grew up shame-based and I offend you, now you come to represent shame in my life. Every time I look at you, I see, not forgiveness, but my shame, so I can’t be in a loving relationship with you, or I have to somehow shift the blame to you so I can still feel “good”about myself without truly admitting my wrong and “coming clean”  to you. This completely disables and short-circuits the freedom that the whole God-ordained for  wholeness process of confession, repentance, forgiveness and mercy can so powerfully bring!

I know that I know that I know that freedom,  wholeness, grace  and loving relationship are the reasons Jesus said: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5: 21-14

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.  Proverbs 28: 13-14 NIV

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long…. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Psalm 32:3, 5

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV

I know that I know that I know that harboring grudges is deadly, both to the offense holder and to the offended person. Again, Jesus says,“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43-48

No, you aren’t God, but copy  your Father in Heaven. Do what he does, give like  he gives to you, model your life, Rose, after your mother who showed you God’s grace both in her courage to admit her wrong and her humility and integrity to ask forgiveness from an eight-year-old when she could have ignored the truth to “maintain her  authority.” Oh,Mom, you gave me a priceless gift in teaching me  to forgive and to confess my sins and ask forgiveness!

I saw the other side of this truth when, also  at age eight, I accidentally found a Mickey Mouse wallet that I knew Mom had hidden in the yarn container, to surprise me at Christmas. Horrified that I’d spoiled a surprise, convicted that I’d done wrong, I decided to “run away,” but I’d only gotten a few hundred yards down the alley when I realized what a dumb idea that was, went back home, where I knew love and grace lived, and fessed up to my mother. Rather  than chastise me  for spoiling the surprise, my mother calmly,and even sympathetically said, “That’s okay. I know you didn’t do it on purpose,” and she gave me the wallet.

That’s what God does for us when we come to him confessing that we aren’t perfect, that we’ve sinned, that we can’t possibly in and of ourselves ”perfect”or ”lovable” (if your family of origin idea of love  is based on performance, not true love) and we receive God’s gift of atonement, his complete “not guilty”, and salvation  when we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the complete and total payment for our  sins.  That step is both liberating and humbling, because yes,  you do need to admit that you aren’t “good enough”in and of yourself to “merit” God’s love, but hey, isn’t that the whole point of true love anyway? “I love you just as you are, even though out of love I can’t enable you to continue doing wrong.Now let’s wipe the slate clean and start fresh.”Out of that kind of love, I WANT to do what’s right!

Back to thedifference between blame-shifting Adam versus my-sin-taking-upon-himself-innocent God in the flesh Jesus:

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17

“O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” Psalm 69:5 NLT

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1: 5-9 NIV

In replying to a person who wrote he’d committed too many sins for God to forgive and so he didn’t even care anymore, Billy Graham wrote: “No, it doesn’t shock me, but more importantly, it doesn’t shock God! God knows all about you and your rebellion; in fact, He knows you better than you know yourself. The Bible says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

But here’s the amazing thing: Although God knows all about you and what you’ve done, He still loves you! If He didn’t love you, He never would have sent His Son into the world to give His life for you. But He did, and He yearns for you to turn to Him for the forgiveness you need so you can go to be with Him in heaven forever. The Bible’s words are true: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

You say you’re not sure you even care, but you do care or you wouldn’t have written me. That’s not the real issue, however. The real issue is that God cares deeply about you and doesn’t want you to continue wasting your life. Nor does He want you to enter eternity without hope.

Why spend another day apart from God? Instead, confess your sins and your need for God’s presence in your life today. Then trust His promise of both forgiveness and new life. You need both—and Christ stands ready to give them to you.”

Back to 1  John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin  for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIVWe love because he first loved us.

Who wouldn’t WANT that kind of unlimited, unending, passionately giving love and the identity as a loved – in spite of my weaknesses and wrongs – cherished child of God?

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“There is no light in the planet but that which proceeds from the sun; and there is no true love for Jesus in the heart but that which comes from the Lord Jesus Himself. From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring.

This truth is foundational, that we love Him for no other reason than because He first loved us. Our love for Him is the result of His love for us. When studying the works of God, anyone may respond with cold admiration, but the warmth of love can only be kindled in the heart by God’s Spirit.

What a wonder that any of us, knowing what we’re like, should ever have been brought to love Jesus at all! How marvelous that when we had rebelled against Him, He should, by a display of such amazing love, seek to draw us back. We would never have had a grain of love toward God unless it had been sown in us by the sweet seed of His love for us.”

I remember singing the song,”Because he first loved me, that’s why I love him. Because he first loved me, I care for you.”

Sin hidden in fear and shame is sin that poisons us with more fear and makes us hide from God. BUT God’s forgiveness in Jesus’ Blood covers, truly washes away, all of our sin. Hate that “grey’ area of your life? Show it to your Heavenly Father, admit it, ask forgiveness, and  it WILL be washed away  in the grace  that flows from the cross of Christ.

He gave that  priceless  treasure to me, the shed Blood of Jesus – and I’m to offer it, out of unmerited love that I can trust always, to others. That, in a nutshell, is Christian faith and discipleship.

A”…BUT…”to pray: God, loving Heavenly Father, in some ways I’ve really had the wrong idea about who YOU are, and so I’ve had the wrong idea about who I am to you and about the relationship You want to have with me, BUT I see that in truth You _____________________________________________________________________ and to You I am _____________________________________________________,so I have the courage to confess to You that I _______________________________________________ and I confidently receive your kind, gracious, everlasting love.help meto give  it away and keep it flowing so I always have plenty to live in and to give. In Jesus’ name, amen!

SaveSave

The Great ( C)Omission

Here I go out on a limb again. Dating myself, I remember first hearing about The Great Commission in college, probably at the Lay Witness Mission at our Methodist Church where I first went forward publicly to affirm my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, or maybe at the college Sunday School class or Campus Crusade meetings I attended after that. Right here it is, in verse 19 of Matthew 28, among the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples after his Resurrection:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I’ve met many Christians in the last few years who say to me something like this: “My faith is very personal to me, a private matter between Jesus and me.” That’s great; I applaud a deeply intimate personal relationship with Jesus, because that’s what Christianity truly is. What usually follows that comment, though, is an unspoken “…and that’s why I don’t say anything about Jesus in public.” Hmmm…..

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one,”so goes the argument for keeping quiet about your faith.  Imagine for a minute what the world would look like if those eleven men on the mountain with Jesus had felt the same way….  BUT the truth is, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” ” Romans 10: 13-16 NIV

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” John 20: 19-22 NIV

“I like to keep my faith personal and private- evangelism is for people like Billy Graham ” is the attitude I’m here calling The Great Omission. Granted, up front, not every Christian is called to be or gifted to be an evangelist, What exactly, is an evangelist, though?

Strong’s Concordance 2097: euaggelizó: to announce good news

Original Word: εὐαγγελίζω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: euaggelizó
Phonetic Spelling: (yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo)
Short Definition: I bring good news, preach good tidings
Definition: I bring good news, preach good tidings, with or without an object, expressing either the persons who receive the good news or the good news itself (the good news being sometimes expressed as a person).

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

So an evangelist is basically anyone who expresses/communicates the good news of Jesus – who himself is the Good News – and his gift of forgiveness and salvation. If I may use an analogy, it’s a person who plays on and FOR the team, not a bench-sitter.

Truly, does anyone who plays on an athletic team of any kind join the team just to sit on the bench all season and cheer the other players on, but never actually play in the game? I may be wrong, but don’t the fans in the bleachers do that? Yes, fans may wear team jerseys, but they aren’t ON the team and IN the game. If the first disciples had simply been fans of Jesus, the cheering would have stopped when Jesus “left the field” and you and I wouldn’t be able to know, love, or live for Jesus today. Nobody else would have! But those first eleven, and the others who joined them, at the cost of their own lives took the word, yes the spoken out loud to other people word, of Jesus to every corner of the world where they were able to travel. They lived the Great Commission, as have millions of others since their time, and that’s the reason you know Jesus as Savior and Lord today: somebody SAID something about Jesus to you.

No, I’m not advocating that you get a soapbox and stand on a street corner. What I am advocating is that, even if your spiritual gift is administration, or giving, or accounting, or service, or helping others, or greeting at the door onSundaymorning, or teaching preschoolers, please don’t “hide your light under a bushel” and let people think you do those things well and happily simply because you’re a good person. “Oh, but if they see me doing good, they’ll ‘see’ Jesus in me know it’s because of Jesus.” No, they won’t. They’ll see a “good person” doing good unless you SAY something about your motivation to do that good coming from your relationship with Jesus. You don’t have to give a sermon. All you need to do is say something like, ”Well, God loves me, so I love others,” or “Jesus loves me, and I want to share his love, so I _________.”

The apostle Peter wrote, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ….” 1Peter 3:15 NIV

And Jesus himself said to the thousands gathered on a hillside, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 14-16 NIV

Of course we aren’t supposed to call attention to ourselves. But how will those others know that you have a Father in heaven to give glory to if you don’t let them somehow know your have a Father in heaven and HE’s the reason for the good you do?

I suspect the reason we don’t make our faith known is that, deep down, we fear rejection or censure of some kind or ridicule. Isn’t it insecurity about what other people might think? I admit it wasn’t until four years ago that I started asking waitresses and waiters in restaurants if there was a way I could pray for them. Guess what? So far, no one has told me to take a hike. In fact, I’ve met some very receptive and grateful people! They don’t know my name, but they know Jesus knows THEM enough to nudge one of his teammates to express care about them. When Christ returns, or when I go home to heaven to meet him, I don’t want him to find me simply warming the bench.

Jesus paid the ultimate price for me, his own life, endured unimaginable pain and taunts and suffering for me to not just cover over, but take away my sins. and give me a loving, intimate, implausible relationship with the Creator of the Universe! Isn’t that worth sharing with someone who may never have heard the good news, and who may never hear it if you OMIT rather than COMMIT and don’t say something?

I quote Joseph Prince:

“God, who is the only one who can fully appreciate the full value of His Son’s blood and who is completely satisfied by His Son’s sacrifice, is at rest in His heart today concerning your sins! That is why He is not against you even when you fail. Neither is He out to punish you when you sin. No, He still loves you, is for you and wants to help you overcome that sin.

In the Old Testament, the blood of bulls and goats could only “cover” sins and not take them away. (Hebrews 10:4) But the blood of Jesus is not like the blood of animals! For by one sacrifice, the eternal blood of the Son of God has forever removed your sins (Psalm 103:12) and cleansed you of all unrighteousness! (1 John 1:9) In fact, God is so satisfied with His Son’s perfect work that He says to you today, “Your sins and lawless deeds I will by no means remember!” (Hebrews 10:17) And if God does not remember them, why would He punish you for them?

Beloved, you have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. Because Jesus’ work is complete, all your sins have been completely forgiven.”

If you’d shout at a baseball or football game when the team scores, why won’t you even quietly share one sentence with your next-door neighbor about the greatest goal, the greatest score, the greatest victory and the most amazing Victor ever? Will you ask God to give you courage from him to overcome your fear, and will you believe, if He was wiling to give His son to die for you, He more than wants to?

“Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play today!”

 

A”…BUT…” to pray: Lord God, you know I dont feel qualified or ready, but you equip the sent, so I’m asking You to help me ________________________________________________.In Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I will listen _________________________________________. Send me with what YOU say!

 

 

 

 

WHOSE Blood Bought Me?

 

Four years ago I first posted this, and on this Palm Sunday I feel the need to repost what I wrote then. This first came to me in the teachers’ workroom at school, then exploded in me again the following Sunday, when the enormity of what God did for us in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus rose like a  fountain of passionate love in my heart. It’s still true, and though my heart fell to fear of man and grief of loss a month after I first embraced this enormous truth, the GOD of grace, mercy, compassion, and love has walked with me steadfastly even as I slipped along the journey that led me here and, in some ways continues through a dark valley toward God’s goodness. I know a fraction of the price GOD paid for me, and in truth he never needed to send me any greater other proof of his love, for  nothing more could possibly measure up to this undying incomprehensible gift. Yet out of love, he shows me his love so tenderly and powerfully. I pray it speaks to your heart today.

How I treasure those brief flashes of deep, gut insight that hit me much less frequently than I long forDo you know what I mean: times when you feel for a Nano-second that you’ve touched a deep truth about God, and you wish with everything in you that it would engulf you so you could immerse yourself in its power? Frustratingly, those moments never linger long enough.

The latest one that grazed my consciousness on Palm Sunday, March 24th, 2013, entered the orbit of my subconscious during the week before as I searched YouTube for some exciting video and information about relative sizes of objects in space for the third grade class I assist in. Some facts about VY Canis Majoris absolutely astounded me: a red hypergiant, it’s one of the largest stars we know of, with a diameter of 1,227,000,000 miles (that’s billion, if you don’t want to count the place value yourself), or 1,975,000,000 kilometers. Take a look and be astounded:

 

To give you a better sense of that immensity, if VY Canis Majoris was at the center of our solar system, its surface would extend at least beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and perhaps as far as the orbit of Saturn. What grabbed my attention in the video was the comment that if you could fly in a jet at 900 miles per hour, it would take you over 1,000 years to fly around the star! It’s so distant that the light of VY Canis Majoris takes 3,9000 years to reach us.

I sat in bed at 5 a.m. that Sunday and tried to cold-start praise to the King of Kings as Holy Week began.  A realization rose slightly above the horizon of my consciousness: WHOSE blood bought me? WHOSE blood?  Yes, Jesus’ blood – that rolls of my tongue almost tritely sometimes – but WHAT blood is his? WHOSE BLOOD?

“And God said, ’Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night,’ . . . And it was so. God made two great lights . . . .  He also made the stars. . . . “  Genesis 1:14-16

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”  Job 38:4, 7

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . .. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John1: 1, 3

“I, Jesus, . . . am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

The “gestalt” of the immensity of VY Canis Major created by Jesus himself fused with these Bible verses and blazed into a whole much bigger than the sum of its parts. The Blood that bled for every speck of sin in my life coursed through the veins of the ONE whose voice spoke the inferno of VY Canis Majoris  and every blazing star, asteroid, comet, planet, and moon into existence. THAT blood! The most precious fluid and outrageous gift in the universe because it was the Blood of the ONE who imagined life, then spoke blood itself into being, and who bound the vastness of HIMSELF within the confines of a completely human body to spill HIS BLOOD instead of requiring mine. Let that sink into your heart for a minute …

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!….For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.         Hebrews 9: 13-15, 24-28 NIV

princeofpeace13JesusChrist with crown of thorns

And HE, THE GOD OF CREATION, PURE RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURE HOLINESS, PURE MAJESTY, PURE LOVE willingly gave it for me. I – like every oneof us – was  bound for Hell until I saw and reached out for God’s merciful gift of love, Jesus.

Oh, I wanted to grasp the enormity of that love in every cell of my body and neuron of my understanding!  Like a meteorite, infinite love tore through the atmosphere of my finite comprehension. Why in the world do I think I’m not loved? Why do we think we have to, or ever could, earn that love? And engulfed by that love, why in the universe am I ever afraid?

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns . . . and his name is the Word of God…. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!” Revelation 19:12,13,16

Even now I feel like I’m writing an ionic plasma breath of truth with hands and understanding of concrete, but O God, let me burn with that reality one day! Brand my heart with it now: I AM YOURS! YOU SOUGHT AND BOUGHT ME  WITH THE COSTLIEST TREASURE IN ALL TIME AND UNIVERSE, YOUR OWN SON JESUS!

I  worship you, LORD Jesus! You alone are worthy of true worship, and in this I lift up my love and thanks and wonder:

Therefore, so, because of this incredible gift God gave us through Jesus:

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord:I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10: 12-18

A “…BUT…” to pray: LORD GOD, ABBA, Father, I may think I understand what you did in sending Jesus to pay for my sins and bring  into loving righteous relationship with you, BUT LORD, my heart longs to feel this powerful, transforming reality.  I AM a sinner, saved by your grace and unmerited mercy alone, and I do feel sorrow that my sins put Jesus on the Cross, evenas I feel joy that his Blood erased them all forever, completely. Holy Spirit, pour this truth of the priceless gift poured out for me into my spirit and into every fiber of my heart and being today, by your grace __________________________________ (And God smiles and replies, “I was hoping and waiting for you to ask me for this… it’s yours!) Holy Spirit, LORD Jesus, here I am thirsting to receive your priceless reality into all of me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!  Holy Spirit, speak:  I’m eagerly listening ________________________________________________________

It’s Not About Me!

img_1083

Interesting – today I’m wearing the  same outfit that I didn’t remember I was wearing in this photo  last year!

Short and sweet, I hope, today. If I remember correctly, the opening sentence of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life was “It’s  not about you.” That thought must have sent shuders through some folks who desperately needed affirmation that their life mattered, but the  deeper truth of this sentence is actually very affirming. I’ll be the first to say unequivocally that anything, and I mean anything and everything,  I’ve ever “done for Christ” came straight out of the power of the Holy Spirit and not out of me. BUT God did move  through me, and if that isn’t affirming, I don’t know what  could be!

I remember praying for my neighbor Lisa one morning when she came to my front door, and as I prayed, her eyes widened and she said,”I felt something just lift off me!” I  didn’t feel a thing, but what I felt didn’t matter a whit; what mattered was that God’s Spirit WAS ministering in power in Lisa’s heart, mind, and spirit. Where I came into the plan of God’s purpose was in being a willing, available empty vessel – and yes, that matters. God says so in his Word.

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength'” (Revelation 3:7–8).

“…not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.'” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

“I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I’ve heard so many friends protest  that  they can’t “do anything for Jesus” because they don’t have the talent, the gifting, the courage, the boldness, the time, the Bible verses quickly in their memory, the resources.  Well, that’s the whole point of simply being available and willing: God DOES!

Yesterday my friend Debbie asked if we could go down to the park I’ve been visiting  for the last year, to give out some small Bible’s  she had and a page of wonderful scripture verses, along with some granola bars. We met Shawna, Patrick, and Clare, prayed with each of them, gave out theBibles and scripture sheets, granolabars,soap,handlotion,and prayerfulloy the love of God, talked, shared, and were so blessed ourselves! I was so  glad, so moved, that Debbie wanted to go! Truth in advertising here, it’s only been in the last year that I’ve found  the joy of meeting with, getting to know, and sharing some practical things like food and soap  with the homeless. It’s only in the last two years  that I screwed up my confidence in Jesus IN me enough to start  asking people I meet  on the street if there is anything I can pray for them. I had no problem for decades praying for my nice “church lady” friends, but  with strangers? It only took me 45 years to come into the realization that people are people, people have  needs and hurts, and many people DO want to know there’s a God who actually cares about THEM.

What has it cost me? Getting over myself mostly, getting over  the ”what if’s” like what if they reject me, what if they look at me like  I’m loony, what if they think I’m some kind of religious fanatic weirdo. I  can imagine – because the Bible tells me so – that  some people thought  Jesus was an irreligious fanatic weirdo  when he  said things  and did  things that ran counter to the purely legalistic thinking that ran through much of Israel. Touch a  leper? Talk with a “woman of the streets”? Publicly forgive an adulteress? Say a foreign occupier Roman centurion had great faith? Eat with a tax collector?

Jesus lived our example:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2: 5-11 NIV

Even for Jesus, it was about revealing the Father in him. When you receive Christ as your Savior and God’s Holy Spirit comes into you to take up residence and  begin creating a new person in you,  you can count on it that God wants to move in your life and through your life, to do the same thing: reveal the Everlasting Father God.

No one can argue that the apostle Paul,  arguably the most powerful missionary in the early church,  was filled with God’s Spirit after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul himself considered all his  education and wisdom and position as worth nothing when it came to  truly being effective for God.

I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan,to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12: 5-9 NIV

What mattered was that he was available and willing to let God’s Spirit move through him.

And it’s never, ever been about me. THAT is what’s so COOL and absolutely amazing when God does move  through simply just ordinary me, and it humbles me even while it affirms to me that God’s love is there for me. AllI’m saying  today instep  worrying that you don’t have what it takes to share Jesus’ love  with  your neighbors, your colleagues, strangers in the grocery store. If you have  Jesus, you have everything you need and more to share his love, compassion,  grace, forgiveness, strength and power. I double dog  dare you to give it one try, ask God to show you someone  you can carry some of his love to, and  just do it,  even do it scared, and be ready to be amazed at  what happens!

A  “…BUT…” to pray: Okay, God, I am scared to step out and tell someone about Jesus, I am nervous about meeting someone outside of my own”group”, I do think I dont’ have enough ____________________BUT if you nudge me, I  will trust YOU in me enough to get over  _________________________________________________________ and try _________________________________________________. Please feel free to show up and show me who YOU are IN me! In Jesus’ name, amen!