Encourage!

“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The main goal of a cheerleading organization is to raise the spirits of the fans and team members of the sport they are supporting.  As I look at this life, I realize there are others around you and me every day that could use some encouragement.  People who need their spirits raised.  Some whose lives need to be touched with a little something that will help see them through this day.

The old saying is true that you cannot judge a book by its cover.  People are like that also.  Day by day we walk through our normal routines.  Sometimes we come across different people.  Sometimes we see the same people each and every time.  In meeting people there’s one thing I have come to realize, you don’t have a clue of what one may be facing on the other side of that facade.

The face that is smiling at you may be at the point of giving up.  The one who is engaging you in polite conversation may have just suffered a hard blow financially.  Or, any others we may see or come across on a daily basis.  All we can do is look at what they show us.  Sometimes, what they don’t show is there are deeper issues they are dealing with.  While in the middle of those deep issues, what if they receive a word that renews, that makes them feel that everything is going to be okay in spite of what they are facing?  What if one act of kindness done for them helps to ensure them they are important too, no matter what the situation is telling them, and raises their spirits?

How would we order our day, our regular routines, if we treated everyone as if they were a mission field to receive kindness?  You could be the one that will help somebody else to make the decision that they will not throw in the towel.  They will not give up.  You and I can be that deciding factor!  You can be that spiritual cheerleader that brightens the heart and lift the spirits of those who may be having a hard time in life right now.

Oh, what joy!  We don’t have to know the total story of another.  All we have to do is try to treat everyone who crosses our path with respect and a willingness to radiate the goodness of God onto them.  Perhaps all we have to have is a kind word ready on the tongue to bless the life of another.  After all, the Bible does tell us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . .” (Pro. 18:21).  There is power in the words we speak to others and in any encouragement we can give.

1 Thessalonians commands us to “edify one another.”  That word “edify” means to build up.  Or, as I like to say, to cheer on!  The things we do and say in life should make people feel encouraged.  It should inspire them to go on and not give up.  It should show them to Whom we belong.  “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another,” (Rom. 14:19).  It’s looking for ways to touch the life of another through encouragement.

Lift someone else today.  Send out a ray of sunshine from you to them.  Let them feel the warmth of the love of God in you.  Let them know that there is something special in them.  And, yes, make them feel that they matter.  Be an encourager today!  Be a spirit lifter!

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“God Made Your Life Beautiful!”

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No matter what you have going on in your life today.
No matter how you feel.
No matter the lies that try to convince you otherwise.
No matter the tauntings to get you to give up.
No matter the adversity that speaks against your dreams.
No matter what this says . . .
And, no matter about that . . .
No matter what! God made your life BEAUTIFUL!

” . . . For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” – Psalm 139:14

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” – 1 Peter 2:9

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What Am I Giving?

Certain stories in the Bible humble me.  The story of the widow and her two mites being deposited in the offering is one of them.  While the affluent and the better-off gave a portion of what they had, this widow, she gave all.

Examining our lives, can we truly say that we have given God our all?  And I am not necessarily talking about money.  Our life, in general, is this huge opportunity to do something wonderful with our time on this earth.  Every day we have the chance to make something beautiful out of our days – to impact this generation and those around us with the love of God.  If we were to take an inventory of her mites and our portions, what would be the sum of what we have offered to our God?  As I read the words “she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had” (Luke 21:4), I couldn’t help but to stop and take a closer look at my life.

While the reference is clearly related to money, I still asked myself, what of my living?  What am I giving to God?

Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  As recipients of God’s grace, in our “reasonable service”, what are we happily rendering back to God?  What is our daily offering we bring to Him?

No, we are not saved by our works, but “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  No, we are not trying to work our way up the ladder of success of heaven, but we are in good company when our focus is on wanting to express our appreciation for all that God has done for us.  Even the psalmist once asked, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12).

Like the woman pouring out at the feet of Jesus, when we have received so much, it seems our natural inclination is to want to show much love and appreciation for all the Lord has done for us (Luke 7:47).

So, the psalmist continues: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.” (Psalm 116:13-14).

No, and with that, no, I mean, NEVER, can we repay God for this great work of salvation He has done in our lives.  But like the widow and the giving of all her two mites, I can show my love and joy to my heavenly Father in the daily offering of my life by how I choose to live and what I choose to give.

So, I ponder, what am I giving?

“I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O Lord; for it is good.” Psalm 54:6

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Your Amazing IF

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IF has been around since the beginning of humanity.  IF usually comes with choice, consequence, and question.  But, what if the word IF can be a statement of faith?  What if the word IF can be a declaration of what you believe God can do in your life.

One of my favorite IF questions in the Bible led to a miracle occurring and the constraints of what is normally not possible being removed.  IF unlocks something amazing in one man’s life, never to be repeated by another human being except for Jesus Christ.  Tossed about in the waves of contrary winds, Jesus’ disciples are struggling in a boat in the middle of the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water (see Matthew 14:22-33).  After Jesus greeted the men in the boat and calmed them, Peter asked, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” (Matthew 14:28; italics added mine).

I believe Peter knew wholeheartedly it was Jesus since some Bible studies use the word IF as SINCE.  Thus, I believe Peter’s IF is a statement of faith, even if it appeared to be an immature faith at the onset.  He believed in Jesus.  He believed if Jesus allowed him to, he would be able to do what is naturally impossible.  He, under the direction of the Lord, could do the amazing, and walk on water.

Now, many of us are very familiar with how Peter’s story here ends.  Seeing the waves his faith falters and Jesus is there to pull him up from his sinking condition and bring him back to the boat.  Yet, that isn’t the part I want to focus on here.  I want to focus on the power of the IF that drew him out of the boat in the first place.  Where other men stayed hidden, he literally threw it all to the wind, and with the chance of a lifetime, stepped out to experience the amazing.

We can laugh at Peter and put him down, but how many of us can honestly answer that we would have gotten out of the boat also?  You see, IF can be a hindrance that causes over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful.  But, IF can also be the catalyst to open a door of opportunity if it is approached with the idea that something amazing can come out of taking a chance with Jesus; to move on to the waters of the unknown with my eyes on Him.

The phrase “What if?” has birthed a lot of good quotes and with good reason.  In that two-worded question, we are daring to ask ourselves the question: “Do I stay in the boat or do I choose to walk on water?”  We are daring to see potential in ourselves to do more than the ordinary, to do something amazing with my IF.

Where is your “IF” calling you today or even this week?  What extraordinary thing may unlock for you if you take a chance with your amazing IF?  I believe God gives us dreams to pursue, but it’s our faith in active pursuit of that IF that will allow the amazing to happen for us, just like it did for Peter.  Jesus most certainly could have gotten to the boat without walking on water, but then Peter or any one of the other disciples would have never had the opportunity to ask and pursue something more.

Is Jesus calling you to walk on water?  Is He calling you to take steps of faith in pursuit of a particular IF?  If He is, keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to lead you to your amazing IF.

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Returning to the Familiar

Returning to the familiar can be like a warm hug.  Its embrace is comfortable and welcoming and can give you a sense of belonging.

But what if you don’t belong in the familiar?  What if the place you are trying to return to is not the best for you?  What if you are trading the comfort of familiarity for the hard choice to move on to something new?

This time of year, many people seek to add new routines to their lives, new regimens to their health, and pursue fresh ideas about what they want out of life.  At the same time, many resolutions fall through because going after the new is not always the easiest thing to do.  The steps forward can be uncomfortable rather than exciting, and truthfully, it can be downright overwhelming.

In the Bible, God knew what was best for His people, but how often did we see that the children of Israel wanted to go back what was not best, back to the familiar (Numbers 14:4)?  In Egypt, although it was hard, they knew what to expect.  Their routines were predictable, and they knew which course of action would produce which results.

God wanted better for them.  He desired to take them on a life-changing expedition.

But when God wanted them to journey through the wilderness toward their Promised Land, many became apprehensive and disillusioned with the many challenges they faced in order to reach that goal.  And even though Egypt wasn’t good for them and caused them great pain, when times got hard in going toward their place of promise, they wanted to return to the familiar.

With rose-colored glasses on, they talked themselves into believing that the old place where they had come from was not that bad (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:5).  They convinced themselves that things were okay with the way they were and to be content with a life that was less than ideal because the prospect of the new brought too many challenges.

In pursuing change, we too must be careful not to romanticize where we have come from or where we are going.  We must remind ourselves there was a reason for wanting change in the first place.  To continually look back and want to throw oneself into that familiar embrace can sabotage where you are trying to go and what you are trying to do (Proverbs 4:25-27; Luke 9:62). 

At the same time, to look ahead as if everything is going to be peaches and cream, as if moving forward is going to produce automatic results without hurdles to overcome, is setting oneself up for a fairy-tale ending without experiencing the tragedy of the plot in the middle.  It just does not happen that way.

Although this is just the beginning of the year, as it progresses, there will be a few times, if not many, when the pull to the familiar will seek to lure you back (Isaiah 43:18-19).

The familiar, when used correctly, can be an incredibly beautiful thing.  But, if you are after real change this year, and the familiar place is not what was producing it, challenge yourself to stay the course, to keep looking ahead (Philippians 3:12-14).

Prayerfully, seek God’s wisdom and guidance, and as with the children of Israel, He will gladly show you the way (Exodus 13:21; Psalm 25:4-5).    

Yes, this year, the new may have its challenging moments, but when you reach your place of promise, think of the beauty there to behold.

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Beginning Anew in 2022

Friends, countless of us use the passing of the old year into the new as a marker for beginning again in many areas of our lives. 

And, I believe that’s okay.

As time goes by, we can sometimes get into a rut or feel stale in our routines, life, etc.  Using this time as a point of evaluation can wake up our perspective and challenge our resolve to do better, to do more.  This time of year is also used by some to reinvent oneself or to redirect one’s path, relationships, work, ministry, health, life, and so on.

So, what do we look for in the new?

Truthfully, that is a question only you can answer for yourself.  I can only speak of what I am looking for.  When pursuing the new for myself, I look for increased awareness of distractions to my goals which can help me navigate each as they come in a befitting manner.

Knowing that distractions will come since we live this thing called life, I am also trying to be more aware of my priorities.  In order to get the most out of the gifts and life that God has given me, how do I best use my time each day?   Am I spending my time developing those things that I say are “priorities,”  or am I just talking about them?

There is a measure of accountability with oneself that comes with those questions.  Am I happy with what I see?  If not, what can I do to improve those areas?  Where and how can I inspire and challenge change?

Beginning anew is not supposed to put a sour taste in your mouth as you grit out words of resolve through your teeth.  To me, it is a breath of fresh air, bringing with it new inspiration to work or improve in areas of my own life where I desire to see positive adjustments made.

There are countless stories in the Bible where people had the chance to start over, to begin again, but two of my favorites are Ruth and Abraham.  I find their experiences encouraging for all who are pressing for the new. 

Ruth, especially, in the natural, lost everything.  And when she was willing to walk away from everything familiar, comfortable, and reliable – she found what she was walking toward to be so much more fulfilling (more on returning to the familiar in an upcoming article).

Her story, like Abraham’s, stretched them to go forward into an unknown future, and holding on to faith in God, they went. Neither one of them knew exactly where each step would lead, but they walked forward and were greatly rewarded for their press, for their diligence, for their continued faith in God.

As I said before, beginning anew can look like so many things to so many people.  The example of Ruth and Abraham can teach us all a little something about letting go of an unprofitable past and moving forward in faith (take time to read their stories in the Bible).

These last two years have been something special, to say the least.  I can’t predict what’s in store for us this year.  As with Ruth and Abraham, we may not have all the answers about the future we are currently going into, but through it all, may we be found moving in the forward press of our faith in God.  As we are beginning anew in 2022, be confident that He has us, and may we continue holding on to Him as we trust in God’s guiding hand, for He is the “same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

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Goodbye

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Years and
times of past
I’ve spent
living frivolously,
when the altar call
of my life was made
through Calvary,
I was made free.

Free to begin again,
free to start anew
– my life before
was just a preview,
of the greatness He
wanted to do inside,
to bid the old man
adieu, goodbye.

Saying goodbye isn’t always a bad thing.  It is a time when we are able to clean out certain things in our lives that were hindrances and unprofitable.  Even in our own character, there can be things we would like to rid ourselves of and start anew.  When that newness starts with Christ, you can never go wrong.  When the new I am seeking is found in Him, I may not be guaranteed a life of ease and success, but I am guaranteed a new life with a glorious future to behold.

Letting go.  Saying goodbye is sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves.  Especially if it is keeping us from something far greater.

I can’t guarantee you a lot in life, but I can guarantee that anything you let go of will pale in comparison to what you find in our Savior.

Goodbye, old man.  It’s time for the new.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;” Ephesians 4:22-23

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” Colossians 3:10

“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

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“Unwrapping Your Gifts!”

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Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year.  There’s a special peace and happiness in the air as we come together with friends, family, and loved ones to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior.  We get together to laugh, eat and enjoy one another’s company.  Then, we have the privilege to exchange gifts that show the love we carry for each other all throughout the year.

Gifts, by definition, are something given voluntarily.  I love you, and because I love you, you don’t have to twist my arm to make me show adoration towards you.  I do it of my own will, without prompting, because you mean that much to me.

That’s what makes this time of year so special.  (After all, it was God’s biggest gift to humanity that gives us cause for celebrating in the first place.)  It’s not the big dinners, twinkling lights, or the carols (though we enjoy it all).  It’s the love and adoration shown when gifts are given and opened with a rejoicing heart.

We go through much trouble to find and carefully select that perfect gift for that special someone.  I mean, you just know in your heart that they are going to love it and you can’t wait for them to rip off that wrapping paper, rejoice with gladness over the special way you thought about them, and immediately start using that gift you gave.

Now, consider this.  What if, when you gave your gift of love, they toss it to the side in disregard saying, “I’ll get to it when I get to it?”  You would be so crushed, hurt, and disappointed over their uncaring way of receiving your gift.

What if God feels the same way?  Not only did He give us THE BEST GIFT that we could never live without (His Son, JESUS), but in our relationship with Him, we have been freely given many other gifts.  Not only is a gift something given voluntarily, but it is also a special ability or capacity; a special talent to be used for the edifying of Himself through you.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus told the parable of the talents.  One man was given five, one was called to receive two and another received one.  What is ironic is that the two to whom the most talents were given increased and prospered one hundred percent.  Now, we would think their master was unfair in expecting so much from them.  After all, he did give them more responsibilities than the other.

Through perseverance and diligent work, not only did they gain a little but they doubled what they started with.  Sadly, the one who was only given one responsibility, only one job, one talent let fear stop him from increasing and prosperity.  He said, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine,” (Matthew 25:25).  Instead of being made a ruler, he was made a disgrace.  Instead of living with abundance, he was deemed unprofitable and cast into outer darkness (vs. 30).

Living a life of unprofitableness is living a life of darkness.  There’s no joy or peace, only weeping.  This is not the life that God intended for us to live.  The special stuff that God put on the inside of you and me was never meant to be buried and hidden from the world.  We are meant to shine as a beacon of light into this dim, dark world and show them who God is and what He wants to do for all mankind through the abilities, gifts, and talents He has put in us.

What you have in you is too good to hide.  Don’t keep it to yourself.  “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” (vs. 29).  To some, this may seem like an unfair statement, thinking, Why do they get more when they already have some?  And, why are they going to take his little bit of stuff away?

Instead of questioning and overanalyzing the story, perhaps our time would be better spent if we were to pull out our own shovels and start digging.  Dig for your talent.  Unearth it from deep within and don’t give up until you have pulled out every treasure that God has put in you.  If when you pull your treasure up, it turns out to be only one thing, then, you work that one thing with hard-pressing diligence until it has increased and doubled to two.  Then, you work some more until that two doubles to four and so on.

‘Tis the season for opening gifts.  God has already given them to you.  Don’t let fear stop you from unwrapping them.  God took great care in picking out the perfect gift for you and He can’t wait for you to rip off the wrapping paper and begin to use it.  God gave it to you because you mean a lot to Him and He knows that you would be great in using it.

Don’t toss it aside.  Whether your gift is humble or outrageous, open it and bring it to the Savior!  You may be surprised at what you find.

We have just a little ways to go before we celebrate the best gift ever: JESUS!  Soon after that, we will be bringing in a New Year.  What better time to unwrap all that good stuff God has placed in you?

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, always thanking God in advance for the greatest gift of His Son, our Savior, JESUS CHRIST!

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Navigating the Days

Friends, this day is a day that we have never seen before.  As each day progresses into the new, we all walk on unfamiliar ground.  As we walk the paths that lead into each day, we never fully know entering in what its end will be.  We never fully understand what will happen on the road ahead as we put our feet to walking forward.

But we are here, dear friend.  We are at the beginning of a new day and already there is not lacking things that demand our attention, or things that stir up friction, trying to disturb the walk for the day before the day itself has fully begun.

How can we make the best out of these days if we have never navigated them before?

As God was preparing the Israelites for the conquest of the Promised Land, He gave Joshua, their new leader, incredibly detailed instructions on their going into this new territory.  He said,

“When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore,” (Joshua 3:3-4). 

Their story is such a great symbol of our daily living.  Each day we enter is new to us: “You have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4, NKJV).

The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence among His people.  The instructions were for them to leave enough space between it and them so that they could properly see it, follow it, and know which way to go.

God stood as their ultimate guide for going into the new, and He stands as our guide, too.

How many attempts are made daily of entering this fresh territory called today without proper guidance?  Without connecting our eyes and hearts with the One who knows our days before we do?

Every day, as we are entering in, we need to look to God.  We need to get connected to where He is leading, and then we need to follow His lead.

As the clock ticks on, and the hours go by, the days and years come and go – every single day that we open our eyes in the land of the living is new to us.  To make the most out of each day, to successfully navigate this day, we need to focus on Him who has gone before us.

Take comfort, dear friend, that you are not navigating the days alone.  As He once told the Children of Israel: “… he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8), I believe if we look to God, and follow His lead, we can be encouraged by the same promise.  Instead of being dismayed by what is ahead, we can find joy because our God has gone before us, and daily His presence is with us (Hebrews 13:5).

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“Be Fulfilled”

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” Matthew 5:6

 As a mom, I look back and I can remember distinctly the graduations of my children.  They were very proud moments for parents and students alike.  As each graduate would come out during the processional, moving closer to the stage, soon to walk across it to receive their diplomas, you could see the look of accomplishment etched proudly on their faces.  A sort of contentment had washed over each of them declaring, “I made it!”  And with that, the feeling of fulfillment begins to set it.

Those joyous times that we get to celebrate achievements are wonderful.  No one can take away the feelings of awe and satisfaction that come with that sense of accomplishment.  Unfortunately, as Christians, I think we place too much value on the accomplishments to satisfy us and not enough value in the Christ that is already filling us.

Don’t get me wrong.  In no way am I stating that celebrating reaching goals such as these is wrong.  As a matter of fact, I believe it’s a very healthy thing to set goals and be proud of the achievement that follows.

But, what of the times in-between?  Most of our every day is what one would define as, “Humdrum.”  There are times when we are not in the process of celebrating those wonderful graduating victories.  We are not riding high on accomplishments and the like.  What of that time?

This is where most will begin to feel a sense of loss, a sense of not quite being worthy enough, carrying a feeling of not measuring up to one’s self or another’s standard.  These in-between times are when people start to lose their spiritual footing.  Some may even begin to venture backward with the feeling of, “Why should I even bother?”

That is not what God wants for us.  He does not want you to base your self-worth off of the things that you have done, but rather on who you are in Him. You are His child.  You are the one that He allowed His Son to be sacrificed for.  You are the one He chose to redeem.  And, if God saw that much value in you to do all of that, how dare we look to accomplishments for satisfaction.

The Bible declares in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being…”   We don’t find who we are or content ourselves with anything outside of Him!  When I wake up in the morning it’s not because of anything that I have done.  The reason is that “in Him” I live, move, and have my very being.  I was not designed, as a child of God, to feel the need to be fulfilled anywhere other than in Him!

We don’t need to hunger after the things of this world.  We don’t need to feel like we can only be complete during those graduation victories.  Jesus said, “They which do hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.”  In other words, all we have to do is to have that sincere yearning within us to do that which is right for Him and live it.  He will fill us!  We shall be satisfied because we have found out where our real value lies.  In Him!

Graduation victories and celebrations of all kinds are wonderful, but we can’t live there all the time.  Day by day, I have to know that because I am His child, and because I am hungering and thirsting after righteousness, I can be filled.  Whether it is a rainy Monday, a get-over-the-hump Wednesday, or a celebrating Sunday; because I am in Him and He is in me, I can always feel fulfillment in my life.

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