Debbie's Perspective

Just my thoughts of the day.

Selective Listener?

Luke 6:27a ~ “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!

I was just walking toward the kitchen as my husband walked past me and quickly said, “Don’t worry, I have already asked her to clean it all up.”  Then he promptly left the house for work.

I hesitantly walked around the corner and came face to face with my teenage daughter using her feet on two dish towels swiping away at the floor.  When she saw the look on my face she said, “Mom, you should be glad that I already cleaned up a lot of it.  It was really messy earlier.  Great! I thought as I surveyed the flour and powdered sugar dusted counters, the sink and counter full of dishes, and the little drifts of powdered sugar clinging to two of the cabinet doors.

I was already frustrated irritated, okay let’s be really honest, I was angry with her over two other incidents in the last couple of days.  So last night when she just had to bake these cookies for the school project – at 10:30 p.m. – I went to bed.

After cleaning the kitchen (grudgingly because the bus doesn’t wait, and let’s face it, her cleaning methods were just making a bigger mess at the moment), but having her make her own lunch because I was taking care of her mess, I sat down to have a little quiet time with the Lord hoping for a new perspective on things.  He never disappoints.

I was reading the verse that practically screamed off the page at me, “But to you who are willing to listen…”  Well, of course, I listen.  Those who don’t would be the unbelievers or those who pick and choose what they want out of the Bible, right? I felt the Holy Spirit nudge at my heart and ask, “Are you sure it isn’t talking about you?”

Okay, Lord, show me what you want me to see.  He said, “Well, now that you are willing to LISTEN, I’d be happy to show you.  Just keep reading.”  As I read about how I am to love, be good to, bless, and pray for my enemies, I realized I wasn’t even doing that for my family so how could I possibly do it for my enemies.  Oh no! I was a selective listener.

Of course I love my family, I do good for them, I bless them, and I certainly pray for them.  I justified the situation; after all, I was just a little mad at the moment.  But wait, this passage doesn’t stop at those.  Oh goodness, there is more!  What about turning the other cheek, offering my shirt when my coat has been demanded of me, and giving freely without asking for anything in return?  Surely this isn’t talking about my situation because I’m dealing with my child, not enemies.

Hmmm, let’s see.  The end of verse 35 says that if I do all of these things I will truly be acting as a child of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  Then in verse 36 Jesus says, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

I know sometimes I have to chastise and discipline my children, and it is clear in God’s word that He does that to us, His children, because He loves us.  But, He is also compassionate toward us, and sometimes just makes sure we are listening and then teaches us the right things to do.

 

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The Path Ahead

The mountain path

The Path

The mountain waits for me to begin my climb. The road leads in, but I can’t see where it goes. Does it end somewhere in there among the trees and boulders that block my view? How treacherous is it?

The mountain is beautiful from here. Untouched by my presence. I can imagine all kinds of things from ground level.

Only taking a step onto that unknown ground will give me an accurate understanding of the road that lies before me.  I can’t see my next step until I take this one.

Here I go.

One hesitant step at a time.

Lord, you’ve promised to be a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.  Let me have eyes to see the light you are shining right at my toes.

Help me stop trying to stare into the distance, squinting through the darkness trying to discern the path ahead.  Is that a bear or just a rock in the shadows?  It’s hard to tell in the darkness of the trees that block my way.

Oh yes, the light, the light I’m supposed to be using is here, here at my feet illuminating the rocks and the dip in the road.  I could easily dismiss them as unimportant.  These aren’t so big. I could have traversed them all on my own.

But isn’t it the little things that trip us up; cause us to stumble and scrape our hands and knees? It’s the little dips in the road we don’t see that catch our toe and throw us down.

I can’t be looking ahead to the big things – they won’t be missed when I come upon them.  I must keep to the road at my feet, letting the light from the lamp of the Lord shine on those things I need to keep my eye on.

 

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An Eye and a Giant

1 Samuel 17:48 ~ As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

The armies faced off, each on their own hill. The battlefield yawned between them in the valley below. A giant of a man stepped into the valley and began his taunt, striking fear and dismay into the hearts of the men he was calling to battle.

As I face a “giant” of my own I cry out, how do I slay this thing?  What do I do?  How do I take it down?  The giant is so big and no others seem to know how to slay it either, so I go to the one place I know I can get my answers.  I search the story of a young teenage boy who ran quickly toward the battle line to meet and slay his giant.

In the midst of this ancient story I find some precious smooth stones I can use to slay my giant.  Keys to having different eyes for the battle that lies before me.  David saw things differently than his Israelite kin, and this view made the difference between standing scared on the hill and racing head on to engage the enemy; a foe that to the physical eye looked unbeatable, but to the spiritual eye was nothing more than bird food.

He saw the enemy for who he really was.

The Israelite army saw the giant, Goliath, as a man; bigger, stronger, and having mighty armor and weapons – unbeatable.

David saw him as an uncircumcised Philistine who dared to defy the armies of the Living God.

An uncircumcised Philistine meant that Goliath wasn’t under the protection and sovereignty of the Living God, and by coming against God’s people, he had made himself an enemy of their God.

Smooth Stone:  I see ~ I am a child of the Living God, and when the enemy engages me he engages Him.

He understood who was fighting the battle.

Goliath stood and shouted day after day asking them why they would come out and line up for battle because he was a Philistine and they were servants of Saul.  They were to choose a man from among them to be their champion to fight and kill him. The Israelites saw themselves as mere men in the face of this great and mighty enemy.  How could any of them be a champion against this giant?

David understood that God himself was their champion. This uncircumcised Philistine had no chance against their great and mighty deliverer.

Smooth Stone:  I understand ~ Jesus is my champion.  According to Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  There is nothing that can defeat Him.

He kept his eye for the battle.

David’s older brother tried to remind him that he was just a boy, an insignificant shepherd with a few sheep in the desert.  He accused him of having wrong motives and only wanting to watch others do battle.

Saul, the king of Israel, tried to remind him again that he was just a boy and the enemy was well versed and experienced in battle.

Although David’s brother and King Saul were older, had more experience, and were in a greater position than he was they didn’t know what he knew.  They didn’t see what he saw.

Smooth Stone:  I keep my eye ~ My position, age, knowledge, and experience don’t matter in the equation and neither does my naysayers’.

He remembered his victories.

David had fought and killed lions and bears.  He may not have been experienced with this particular foe, but he was not inexperienced.  He had faced battles before and won.

Smooth Stone:  I remember ~ I have been here before.  I have fought other battles with great odds and won, not by my might or power, but by the power of the Lord.  Even if I hadn’t, He has won the ultimate victory, so I’m covered.

He engaged because this fight was not just a battle, it was a cause.

In 1 Samuel 45 – 47, David’s statement to the Philistine shows exactly how he sees the battle:

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

David ran to the battle line because he saw through spiritual eyes the heart of God to fight for His people and proclaim His name in all the earth as well as to remind His people that the Lord saves, but not with the weapons of mere men.

Smooth Stone:  I engage ~ I can run to the battle line because this battle isn’t just my own. I fight for a greater cause than just taking down my giant. I come to the battle in the name of Jesus, my salvation and my deliverer, to proclaim His name in all the earth, and remind my fellow Saints that the Lord saves, but not with earthly weapons.

The battlefield stretches before me.  I pick up my five smooth stones; I see, I understand, I keep my eye, I remember, and I engage.  My pace quickens, my foot steps sure, and my eye is on Jesus.

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Not Just A Baby

I said goodbye to my daddy this past week.  As I sat by his bedside and his last hours grew near, my first thoughts were, “Lord, I had hoped we would get through Christmas.”  But as the hours ticked away, and my mother and sisters and I sang hymns to him, read scripture passages, and prayed, a different feeling filled my heart.

I know why I celebrate Christmas; the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but there is that part of me that thinks Christmas should be happy and cheerful, pretty and fun, and  family and friends getting together to celebrate.  It’s Jesus’ birthday!

Losing my daddy this time of year brought an unexpected understanding that deepens my joy of the true reason I celebrate Christmas.

Psalm 23 was one of my daddy’s favorites.  This past week as we read it over him many times, each time I read, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me,” I was aware that we all walk through that valley; we will all face death one day.  Our journey here on earth will be done, and then what?  Because of the baby Jesus lying in a manger, we can face that day with great joy and rejoicing if we’ve accepted and received His free gift of salvation by believing and placing our faith in Him.  If we’ve opened our eyes to see that He isn’t just a sweet story about a tiny baby and nothing more.

That baby was the physical manifestation of the promises throughout the Old Testament; the prophecies of a savior.  Salvation came to earth that day in the body of a baby boy, but that baby would grow to be a man, die on a cross, and rise from the dead so that we might have eternal life.  That day marked, in our physical realm, the beginning of God’s plan of redemption being fulfilled.

He is so much more! Simeon in Luke 2:28-32 saw that in the tiny baby he held – Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

My heart is saddened that I’ll no longer be able to see my daddy here on earth, but because of the baby Jesus the angels proclaimed, the shepherds came to see, the Wisemen traveled so far to worship; the Savior of the World, my heart rejoices because I know I will see him on the other side of the veil in the presence of our Savior.

Isaiah 9:1a – Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

Isaiah 9:2 – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:6-7 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Christmas has not been overshadowed by this loss because I understand that my daddy is finally truly home for Christmas. He is seeing with his eyes what we can only get a glimpse of in our hearts.

Thank you Lord Jesus, Light of the World.  May those walking in darkness turn and come into your glorious light, may they come to know the joy and peace you so freely give.

Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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A Life Interrupted

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Romans 5:2b – 4 ~ And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.

My heart is aching this morning.  In one moment my daughter’s dream of playing on her middle school volleyball team was dashed when she was cut after three hard days of tryouts.

My mother’s heart weeps for her, and as I groped through my mind for something comforting to say to her to make it all better, the scripture I had been studying all week continued to play through my mind. We are to rejoice in our sufferings, but today we are weeping. Is that wrong? How do we get to a place of rejoicing?

Does God weep for us when life’s sufferings tear at our hearts; when life doesn’t go the way we planned or thought it would?

John 11:33-35 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept.

Jesus knew that he was going to go to the tomb where Lazarus lay dead and raise him. He knew that the outcome was going to be good, and in a short time all those who were weeping would be rejoicing, but at that moment those he loved were broken hearted, and it broke his heart.

We know as believers that the story for us ends well.  We know that there will come a day with no tears and no sorrow, and we will be in the presence of our Lord and Savior for eternity.

But, in the moment when life interrupts us, our hearts are heavy and we still have to walk it out.  We still have to persevere through the pain.  As we persevere through that pain, life lessons are learned and we are never the same.

If we allow Jesus to lead and guide us through those places, and allow Him to do His work in us as He molds the twists and turns of our life into the direction He has for us, then character will be built, and hope will spring forth to a new season; a new calling.

How can we move through those places and continue to persevere when our heart is breaking?  How do we #stickwithit when we just want to give up?

Lysa TerKeurst says in her book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, “A real sign of spiritual maturity is looking to God not for comfort and convenience, but for purpose and perspective.  Comfort and convenience lead to complacency. On the other hand, purpose and perspective lead to the perseverance that is evident in those living a truly devoted life.”

God has a purpose for our life. He has a purpose for the interruption that has just moved us in a new direction.  He loves us more than we could possibly love our own children, and I can’t imagine more love than that; more desire for their welfare and good, but He does.

We can trust that He isn’t withholding or causing something in our life because He wants to see us suffer – no, He is hurting with us.  We trust that He has a perfect plan that He is working out in His timing, weaving it all together into a beautiful tapestry to bring Him glory, and to equip us to do what He is calling us to do.

That’s what it really is all about isn’t it? Bringing God glory by fulfilling the calling He has on our life.

We may think that the twists and turns of life are interruptions, but I think they are just the turns in the road God is leading us down as He is equipping us for every good work (2Timothy 3:17).

I don’t know why my daughter didn’t make the team, she’s a good player and has the skills, but I have to believe that God’s purpose and plan for her don’t include that dream.  This could be that turn in the road that leads her down a new path where He wants her focus to be.

So, I will hug my daughter and weep with her today, but we will also rejoice knowing that it will be okay because God’s plans for her are perfect, and we will watch expectantly to see what new adventures He is leading her to tomorrow.

 

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The Water and The Fire

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It was midnight, and once again I was awake; crushing fear causing me to gasp for breath.  Was he breathing?  I slowly turned and gently placed my hand on my husband’s back.  The slow rhythmic breathing calmed me just a little.  Now my thoughts raced toward my son in the next room.  I knew logically that he was just fine, but the terror inside me drove me out of my bed and to his room to check once more.

Just days before I had experienced my third miscarriage, and now a gripping fear of losing the two people I loved most in life was closing in on me.   While the other two miscarriages were devastating, this one seemed to knock the wind out of me.  How could this have happened again?

Could I trust God anymore?  That was really the question on my heart.  I had lost my first husband at 20 in a horrible accident, endured years of heart wrenching infertility, and now the loss of three babies.  What would stop life from ripping away everything else I held dear?

I grappled with this question over the next two days until, crumpled on the floor weeping, I realized that the only safe place to be was in the hand of God.  The loss of anyone or anything in this temporal world would forever be out of my control.  I could choose to walk away from God and try to control my life and everything in it to no avail or I could place my life in God’s hands and know that even if I lost everything I hold dear, He would still have me safely in His care.

A peace washed over me like I had never before experienced.  The fear that had held my heart so tightly the past few days lost its grip, and a new-found calm and confidence replaced its choking squeeze.  I wasn’t any safer physically from life’s tragedies than I had been before, but I was spiritually and emotionally safe for eternity.

Isaiah 43:1a-3b

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

God has been faithful to this promise towards me.  Since those many years ago when I placed my life into the loving hands of Jesus, I’ve walked through waters that did not wash over me and fires that did not burn me.  I’ve lost five more babies to miscarriage since that time; eight in all, said goodbye in this physical realm to my sweet daughter who lost her battle with a muscle disease, and faced some other big life challenges along the way.  Throughout them all I have felt His loving hand comforting me, guiding me, and upholding me.

God doesn’t promise us that He will keep us from the waters and the fire, but He does promise He will walk us through them and keep them from overtaking us and destroying us.  We have to trust that the One who created and formed us is the One who redeems us and calls us His own.  He’s invested in us.

I’ll be honest; it hasn’t been easy staying in His hands. For some reason I keep trying to jump out and keep things safe myself, only to realize that this is futile, and I quickly march myself back into the palm of His hand instead of dangling precariously on the fingertip. It has to be a conscious effort for me. I have to decide to do it daily and sometimes moment by moment, but it is the only safe place to stay when the waters rage and the flames lick at my life threatening to set me ablaze.

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What Are You Thinking?

Brain neuron

Raising kids in a multi-media smorgasbord society is hard.  Especially when they are 11 and 12 and much more tech savvy than I am.

Trying to police what they watch, listen to, and interact with can be daunting.  Gone are the days of Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies as the only thing to watch after school.

Why am I so careful about this? Because I know that what they constantly think about and fill their minds with will affect their actions.  It will affect the way they see the world around them, and will ultimately play the biggest role in the kind of people they turn out to be.

So, as I studied Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” It began to sink in that the same things I so carefully pay attention to with my children need to be at the forefront of my attention for me as well.

I’ve read this verse many times, and on the surface always thought it was saying to keep my thoughts positive and clean.  Of course, anytime we dig deeper into a verse we find that it means so much more than what we see on the surface, and sets a standard that is impossible to keep without God’s help.  That’s why I’m so relieved the prior verse promises us that God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ with His peace that surpasses all understanding.

But verse 8 is telling us what we should be setting our minds on.  It’s a choice of our will to do it. This is important because there are a million things, that don’t fit the bill, vying for our attention every day.

Whatever is true. This is a very important one.  This one statement sets up every other thought we have. As Christians we should know that the only standard for what is true is the Word of God.  What we think, our opinions, values, and philosophies on life must line up with the Word of God.

It’s so easy to hear something and say, “Yeah that seems right.” It sounds good to us. Maybe something seems unfair or unjust, so we jump on the band wagon of cultural opinion and take it in as our view of the matter.  The problem is if it opposes the Word of God, then it isn’t true.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” –Proverbs 14:12

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:9

God is clear; we don’t think like He does. The great thing is, He lets us in on how He thinks in His word.

I believe that Paul was exhorting us to make these things a part of who we are and not just a thought that flies through our minds here and there or a positive thinking mantra we have.  This way of thinking should impact us in such a way as to become a part of who we are.

When that happens then our thoughts will become our actions, and respect, integrity, kindness, excellence, and anything else that is worthy of honor and praise will seep into our character. That is when we can begin to make the impact on our world that Jesus is sending us out to do.

So…..

What are you thinking?

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Choices

ForkintheRoad

Our lives are filled with a multitude of choices every day. Do I hit the snooze one more time or get up now? What will I wear? What will I eat? What route do I take to work; the toll road or the main roads? If it is a Starbucks morning, then the decision is made; the main roads.

Choices move our life forward. We have to make them, but they can’t be all our life is about.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am called to a higher purpose than a life devoted to my physical well-being. A life filled with concern over what I may gain or lose and how future events are going to affect me.

In Matthew 6:32 Jesus tells us that unbelievers run after those things, and our heavenly Father knows that we need them.  Then in Matthew 6:33 He exhorts us – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Seek first – We are to pursue with diligence, attain awareness and understanding, perceive keenly above everything else we do.  It should be our highest priority.

What?

His kingdom – the sovereign rule and reign of God.  That means we set our highest priority to having God as our sovereign ruler and His word as our standard.  We can’t allow society’s ever changing standard and ideas to be our guide.

and

His righteousness – the English usage of righteousness means “uprightness” or “conformity to an established norm”, but true biblical righteousness is about covenants and relationships. “His righteousness” is about being in a covenant relationship with God. It’s about what God does in fulfilling His covenant through Jesus.  It isn’t about us behaving in a certain way, because man’s established norms change all the time throughout cultures and times. God requires righteousness to come into relationship with Him, and so He imparts His righteousness to us through our faith in Jesus Christ.

And all these things – The whole 6th chapter of Matthew talks about what “these things” are.  Every generation of man needs food, clothes, security, and reward or recognition for his hard work. God knows that we have these needs.  He isn’t saying that we shouldn’t have them or need them, but He is making it clear that we aren’t supposed to worry about them all the time. Jesus contrasts them by pointing out that we can seek all these things for our own selfish gain or use them to care for ourselves and bless others.

Will be given to you as well –If we allow Him to rule our lives and trust Him, then we won’t have to worry about whether our true needs will be met. God promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus – the covenant and relationship thing again. But, best of all, He provides a higher purpose – fellowship with Him and being part of His kingdom.

When I became a Christian, I made the choice to answer God’s call to follow Him and do His will.  I fulfill that choice or deny that choice every day through what I seek after. It’s always a choice.

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Cranky and Tired

crying toddlerIn repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. ~ Isaiah 30:15

Have you ever seen a cranky and tired toddler resisting every plea from Mom to come rest in her arms?  The longer she resists the more desperate and out of character her behavior spirals.

Am I like this little child? Throwing my tantrums, trying to have my own way; worn and weary from life.  The Master calls me to enter into His rest.  He beckons me to come into His arms and trust Him to return my strength.

“Come, my child, return to me and rest your sweet head.  Trust me; I know what is best for you.  Lay quiet in my arms and rest, and your strength will return; you will be restored.”

Why do I refuse when I need Him most?

Just like this toddler I don’t want to stop and get quiet.  The busyness and distractions around me are too enticing to let go of.  Sometimes I don’t think I can let go because I need to handle my responsibilities.

“I can do it myself,” I defiantly say.

Some days I give in and run into His arms and find refreshment and strength.  Then there are times I spin out of control until I fall in a heap on the floor; spent and exhausted from the cares of life.

It is time to put childish ways behind me and walk in maturity.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:11

Lord, I am so thankful you are patient with me.  You understand my weaknesses, and help me grow in wisdom and maturity.  Let me stay in your arms and find strength. Amen

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Broken Glasses

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“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“Mom, don’t worry. Your glasses broke, but I fixed ’em right up for you.”

Ugh, those words are not what a mom wants to hear.  I could deduce what happened. The lense in my glasses comes out easily. I’m sure he knocked them off the coffee table where I had left them the night before, and the lense fell out. He had done his best to fix the glasses ‘right up’ for me.

The problem was that the frame was now bent, and the lense was being held in place by tape wrapped round and round the lense and frame. Technically the lense was where it needed to be, but the glasses were not fixed. Now they were a lopsided mess with an obstructed view.

Fear and discouragement can keep us from going to God when our lense on life has slipped from its anchor or we’ve been bent and twisted by circumstances. We try our best to fix things on our own, but end up with a lopsided mess causing us more stress and anxiety.

God encourages us in the passage above that He is with us when we are afraid; He is our God when we are discouraged. He will strengthen and help us in our need. We will be upheld when we come to Him and allow Him to do His work in us. That is where our victory lies. Our view of His purposes and plans for our life will be clear, and He will make the crooked and twisted paths straight.

Lord, let me run to you when life has me twisted and bent, and when my view of life is a blur. Let me remember that you are ready and willing to ‘fix me right up’ when I place myself in your victorious right hand.

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