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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

(www.thecove.org)

 

Have you visited the Billy Graham Training Center outside Asheville, North Carolina? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for retreat, relaxation, and renewal.

Ruth and Billy chose the location well, tucked as it is onto a peaceful Appalachian mountainside.

My husband and I visited years ago and reveled in five days of morning-and-evening teaching sessions under Warren Wiersbe. The afternoons were unscheduled—for the relaxation part.

One day we decided to tackle a long trail-hike and walk off some of the scrumptious food (and nightly, all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream!) we’d been consuming.

A staff member promised the mountain view from the lookout point at the end would be well worth the effort.

But in no time the hike became rough going. The miles we were accustomed to walking back home in the flatland of Florida hadn’t prepared us for the unrelenting incline of this trail.

 

 

I started to grunt and groan. My leg muscles begged for mercy until we had to stop and rest—several times.

For the entire distance trees surrounded us—lovely to be sure, but not once did we catch even a glimpse of the vista to come.

Finally we approached the rail of the platform lookout, and my grunts and groans turned to oohing and wowing.

 

 

Row upon row of gentle peaks stood sentry before us, stretching immeasurable miles to the horizon. Cumulous clouds above produced large patches of shade below—a jigsaw of light and shadow.

The staffer had been right. To see such a grand panorama of God’s handiwork was indeed worth the struggle.

 

 

“God has made everything beautiful in his time,” King Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

“Everything beautiful” certainly includes the splendorous moments on that platform, especially in contrast to the arduous process to get there.

But equally wondrous, God knows how to create beauty out of difficult life-circumstances—circumstances like:

  • A disturbing diagnosis
  • Ongoing frustration at work
  • A hurtful relationship
  • Financial struggles

How can that be? Because those are the times that push us toward maturity (James 1:2-4)—and maturity is indeed a beautiful thing.

 

 

Our problem is, we crave a smooth pathway through life—level, broad, and full of pleasure. But God knows what spoiled, useless creatures we’d become on such a course.

So he allows uphill climbs as the training ground for developing patience, perseverance, persistence, and self-discipline—important facets of maturity.

All the while we can rest assured the day will come when we finally understand how our ugly struggles fit into God’s great and beautiful plan—“a plan so overwhelming, magnificent, and joyful, we will laugh with wonder and delight”—Arthur Christopher Bacon (1).

And how do we know that’s true?

Consider God’s attributes, including his

  • Love and faithfulness (Psalm 117:2)
  • Wisdom (Romans 11:33)
  • Rghteousness (Psalm 145:17)
  • Justice and fairness (Deuteronomy 32:4)

 

 

Such a God does not allow useless distress; there is always purpose.

And note the verse says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

 

Every detail of your life

is fitting together to create

a tapestry of praise.

–Jane L. Fryar (2)

 

Sometimes we do see the details of our lives fitting together in beautiful, praise-evoking ways.

Our stories of struggle-turned-into-beauty can:

  • Inspire someone to start their own journey with Jesus
  • Offer comfort to another who’s struggling on the same stretch of pathway
  • Provide guidance for a wanderer
  • Encourage a hiker-believer to keep climbing to the heights

 

 

But I have a feeling God is saving the best and most beautiful revelations until we’ve reached the lookout of heaven.

For now we can cling to this:

All things are from him—for a purpose (Romans 11:33-36), and we will behold the beauty—when the time is right.

 

Notes:

  1. From Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reimann, Zondervan, 1997, p. 72.
  2. Be Blessed, CTA, Inc., 2009, p. 60.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.thecove.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.bible.com; http://www.canva.com;  http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

 

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Joanne examined the young woman again, hopeful that after another hour of labor, she would show signs of progress toward birthing her child. But change was imperceptible.

The prolonged labor was sapping the young woman’s strength.  If intervention didn’t occur soon, Lorsan and the baby would die.

Even so, Joanne smiled reassuringly at the mother-to-be and announced, “We’re going to get some help for you, Lorsan.”*

 

 

Joanne had been midwife for many women of the Biliangao jungle-village in the northern Philippines.  But she didn’t have the training or equipment for a C-section.

As a Wycliffe Bible Translator, her expertise lay in linguistics. Granted, her preparation for remote mission service had included a modicum of medical training, but certainly not for surgery.

Praise God we can arrange for help, thought Joanne. She asked her colleague Anne to use their newly acquired radio (no generator needed for this one) and call for an airlift from JAARS–Jungle Aviation and Radio Service.

 

(Founded in 1948; still in operation today.)

 

Meanwhile, Joanne prayed for her patient, and the villagers who’d gathered listened with wary attention.

Their faith was in the spirits of the jungle and the frequent sacrifices offered to appease them (even though the practice gravely depleted their food supply). The villagers were convinced that all trouble was due to angry spirits, including Lorsan’s difficult delivery.

Of course the JAARS operator who answered Anne’s distress signal knew the missionaries well. They were two of the most courageous women she’d ever met, living as they did in a remote, mountainous region, with people who’d been headhunters in the not-so-distant past.

 

(Mangyan village, Philippines)

 

But Joanne and Anne had been confident this was the people-group God wanted them to reach, and had talked the reluctant Wycliffe director in letting them go–despite their youth and gender. That was in 1962.

Now it was 1967. For five years Joanne and Anne had been learning the language, determining a way to transcribe it, and then translating the New Testament into the Baliangao language.

All the while they built relationships, helped the people as they could, and told them about Jesus.

The villagers were anxious for their language to be available in written form. But a New Testament about a new God? They had serious doubts about his significance and power.

Only a few villagers had accepted Jesus; everyone else feared what the spirits might do in retaliation.

The JAARS radio operator soon dispatched a plane to transport Lorsan to a lowland clinic. Days later she and her healthy baby were returned to the village.

 

 

The people were amazed that mother and child had survived.  Perhaps some also wondered at the kindness of strangers to help a young mother.

They began to ask Joanne and Anne, “Who is this God, the one you’re always talking about?” Among them were several spiritists–witch doctors–desperate for release from their fear and the evil spirits who tormented them.

Joanne prayed as they acknowledged God, the powerful One over all spirits, accepted Jesus into their lives, and committed to end the useless practice of sacrificial appeasement.

Soon there were enough believers to start a church in Baliangao. Joanne’s village “father” and protector soaked up her Bible teaching and became a teacher himself.

By this time, Joanne’s coworker, Anne, had accepted a marriage proposal back in the States. The Wycliffe director recommended that Joanne leave also, but she refused, wanting to complete the New Testament translation for these people she’d grown to love.

While she worked, villagers traveled to near-by villages, telling them about the one true God and his Son Jesus. These neighbors were enemies who warred one another frequently. Many had died in the skirmishes.

But the message of a God who loved them (John 3:16) and offered peace of heart (Psalm 85:8), turned these enemies into brothers and sisters.

 

 

Bible classes grew into village-style conferences, and during the twenty-two years Joanne worked to translate the New Testament, she witnessed several thousand Baliangao people turn from fear of spirits to peace in Jesus.

As for the original village, they are now sending out a second generation of missionaries into other parts of Asia.

And as of February 2019, Joann was still serving God as a speaker with Scripture Engagement International, presenting workshops around the world.

The author of Hebrews wrote:

 

 

Joanne Shetler is certainly a heroine to consider and imitate–for her courage, perseverance, and faith.

 

*Real name unknown

 

Sources:

https://www.jaars.org/updates/my-story-jaars-was-there-for-me/

https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/june-2006/a-message-for-all-people/

https://bulletininserts.org/inspiration-from-a-bible-translator-whose-work-was-offensive/

http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/joanne-shetler 

https://www.westsidebiblechapel.ca/1_3_109_missions-history-joanne-shetler.html

http://magazine.biola.edu/article/16-summer/meet-the-2016-alumni-award-winners/

https://www.checkitout.org/check-it-out/speakers/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pikrepo.com.

 

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Pretend you’re a crew member on a cargo ship, and the captain has just announced rough seas ahead. That means just walking will be a challenge. Things on tabletops and floors will tumble and roll if not secured, and sleeping will require wedging yourself into position to keep from being tossed back and forth.

But the captain reminds you, there is good news. A full load of heavy freight in the hold will provide stability and safety against the waves. The rocking will be greatly curtailed.

All of us at some time or other face storms in life, and the same principle applies: certain kinds of cargo provide stability–not the lightweight freight of feel-good pep talks, relaxation techniques, or plain avoidance.

Cargo of substance is required, such as:

 

 

Joy

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Simply affirming all the ways God demonstrates his love to us will quickly fill a large compartment with delight.   Last week’s post, Be Glad, included many reasons to rejoice in God.

 

 

Quietness and Trust

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

If you haven’t already done so, make space in the hold of your heart for frequent quiet times with God, perhaps by going to bed earlier and rising earlier.

Very soon time spent in his presence and in his Word will become one of your favorite times of day.   You’ll find it transformative also, creating strong bonds of trust with your Heavenly Father. Just ask anyone who has established the habit.

 

 

Promises

“He has given us great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).

But they can offer no stability if we’ve not stored them in the hold our hearts.

“Grasp them by faith,” Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago.   “Plead them by prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

Not that a compartment full of promises will protect us from all harm. But our attitude toward the storms of life will be very different as fear is replaced by faith.

 

 

God’s Grace

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b).

And what is grace?  I like the old standby definition, an easy-to-remember acronym:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This compartment is worth checking often, to examine the wealth of substantial contents stored there.

Several years ago I surveyed scripture for that wealth and discovered forty-seven gifts tucked behind the door of grace.*

Thomas a Kempis was right:

 

 

So if you don’t feel quite strong enough to face the challenges of 2020, add more weight in the cargo hold of your heart:

  • More joy in who your God is and more delight in what he does
  • Frequent quiet times alone with God, for meditation on his Word, talking with him and listening to him
  • A collection of promises, especially those that apply to your situation
  • Attention to the many facets of God’s grace and how each one impacts your life

Of course, if these blessings could be placed in the cargo hold of a ship, a record would be kept of each compartment’s contents.

The same is true of the cargo holds of our hearts, though for different reason. We can enhance our joy, strengthen our faith, increase our wisdom, encourage our spirits, and augment our worship of God—all as we keep record in a journal or notebook.

 

 

“The deepest satisfaction of writing

is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us

of which we were not aware before we started to write.”

–Henri Nouwen

 

M-m-m. More space for more compartments to add more cargo.

 

What would you put into one of them?

 

*(You can compare your list of God’s graces to mine at Undeserved Goodness Part 1 and Part 2.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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While Steve and I savor the last few days of family gathered in one place, I hope you’ll find wisdom to savor, among these seven quotes:

 

The bad news is time flies.

The good news is God is the pilot.

–Unknown

 

I wish, my brothers and sisters, that during this year you may live nearer to Christ than you have ever done before. Depend upon it: it is when we think much of Christ that we think little of ourselves, little of our troubles, and little of the doubts and fears that surround us.–Charles Spurgeon

 

REFLECT. REVIEW. REPENT. RENEW.

–Unknown

 

Renewal is rooted in faith, not in resolutions! They are made for New Year’s and forgotten on an average of thirteen days later, say the surveys. Faith is the result of a decision about Christ. I cannot make a new me or a new you, but Christ can make you new and me new, as well, if we decide for Him.–Frank Harrington

 

If this is to be a Happy New Year,

a year of usefulness, a year in which we shall live to make this earth better,

it is because God will direct our pathway.

How important then, to feel our dependence upon Him!

— Matthew Simpson

 

Trust an unknown future to a known God.

–Corrie ten Boom

 

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all the specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing—don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution.

Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of humor.—Anonymous

 

___________________________________

 

Which quote was most meaningful to you?  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

 

May 2020 be a year of increasing spiritual strength and prosperity of soul for us all!

 

Photo credit:  http://www.pxfuel.com.

 

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With Advent near the surface of my thinking these days, I was primed to notice a new-to-me phenomenon in the word adventure.

It begins with Advent!

I don’t know how I’ve missed that similarity before. But once the word-within-a-word jumped out at me, I began to wonder: Are the two words related or is it just coincidence? Might there be significance to the similarity?

Research uncovered several interesting insights.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival of a notable person or thing.” It comes to us from Latin; ad- means “to” and venire means “come” (1).

 

 

Adventure refers to an undertaking that may involve danger and unknown risks, and/or an exciting or remarkable experience (2).

Etymologically the words are more like distant cousins than siblings. But they do come together at Christ’s advent into the world—and in our individual lives—because he does offer grand adventure—the adventure of faith.

Mary certainly chose such an adventure as Gabriel announced she would conceive the Son of God. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she affirmed. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Joseph also stepped into the adventure of the Messiah’s birth, risking the derision of his community (Matthew 1:18-25).  If his neighbors didn’t know it yet, they’d learn soon enough that his betrothed was pregnant.

 

 

Neither Joseph nor Mary knew the dangers they’d face (including King Herod’s paranoia) and the uncertainties of parenting the perfect Son of God who would be misunderstood, scorned, and even murdered.

For their adventure, the shepherds ignored the first rule of sheep-tending: never leave the flock to fend for themselves. Instead, these men  threw caution to the wind and participated in a remarkable experience. They were among the first to see the long-anticipated Christ Child (Luke 2:8-18).

The wise men most likely adventured for two years, traveling to Judea from Babylon or Persia in order to worship the newborn King (Matthew 2:1-12). Imagine the stories of danger, risk, and astonishment they had to tell.

 

 

And now it’s our turn to choose. Will we step into the adventure of faith as they did—not knowing exactly what will happen and not being in control?

Yes, we might encounter danger or risk, but we are also guaranteed remarkable experiences, including:

  • Being used by God for eternal good, as we offer ourselves as his servants, just like Mary did.
  • Becoming the best version of ourselves as God works within us, developing our character and maturity (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • Looking for the miracle-drenched moments—taking holy delight in the ordinary (Psalm 40:5).
  • Getting acquainted with the Bible, finding sincere pleasure in knowing God’s Word. The more we know him, the more we love him, and the more wonder we experience (Psalm 112:1).
  • Participating in God’s work through prayer (James 5:16b).

 

 

Two years ago our son and daughter-in-law gave us three wooden Christmas ornaments, created by a girl overseas. We’ll call her Kiana. Kiana works in a factory run by a missionary couple sent out from our church.

On the tag attached to the ornaments was Kiana’s name and picture. Her sparkling eyes and joyous smile grabbed my heart and seemed to indicate Kiana just might know Jesus.

I began to pray for this young woman on a regular basis, thanking God for his promised provision and protection over her. I asked God to honor Kiana, bringing her to Jesus if she did not know him yet, and using her to impact others if she was already a believer.

Not long ago, those missionaries came home on furlough. I had the chance to ask about Kiana and learned she is a sweet Christian and even leads a Bible study.

My eyes filled with tears as I realized the privilege God had given me, to participate with him in the work he’s doing half-way around the world—through the adventure of prayer.

 

(One of the ornaments created by Kiana)

 

‘You see how gracious God is? Advent is only the beginning. The joy of this season can become an extended adventure that unfolds day after day, year after year, as we make ourselves available to him.

And that’s not all. The remarkable experience of heaven is yet to come.

The question is: will we embrace the adventure that begins with Advent, or will we withdraw?

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.europelanguagejobs.com/blog/turning_advent_into_adventure.php
  2. Mirriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, 2001.

 

Photo and art credits:  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (painting by James Tissot); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg

 

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(from https://quotefancy.com)

 

Heaven to our souls.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? No stress, no pain, no enigmas.

But on any given day, doubt and worry crowd heaven out:

  • When will God answer our prayer? And what if it’s not the answer we’re hoping for?
  • Where is God? Why doesn’t he come to our rescue?
  • Did I miss his guidance?

Such questions have plagued us all at sometime or other. But watch the saints of great faith. You’ll see men and women who demonstrate considerable confidence and assurance with negligible doubt and worry.

 

 

Their great faith isn’t just happenstance. Observe closely and you’ll note various habits of those saints—habits we’d do well to adopt:

To begin, Ask God for more faith. Such an obvious step; so easy to overlook. Yet it’s a request God surely delights to fulfill (1).

Affirm the truths and promises of the Bible. Soak up its wisdom, examples, and encouragement (2)—daily.

Pray about everything to ward off the worry. Write down requests, leaving room to record answers. As visible evidence of God’s faithfulness increases, so will our faith in him.

Twenty years ago I switched from using a prayer list to writing requests on 3 x 5s. They offer more room to note progress and resolutions when they come. I’ve kept the cards as concrete proof of God’s faithfulness.

Here’s the 3″ stack of answered prayers so far.  (Some cards contain multiple concerns and answers.):

 

 

Granted, God has not fulfilled every request to my preference. Instead, he did what was right, according to his infallible wisdom and far-reaching purpose (3)—and for that I’m most grateful.

Thank God—in advance—for his responses to prayer. “There is nothing that so fully solidifies faith as being so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it” (Rev. Charles Henry Parkhurst, 1842-1933).

In addition, praise God for his power at work, even though there’s no evidence yet (4).

 

 

Envision the outcome, perhaps something like this:

 It breaks our hearts, Father, to see _______________ suffer because of health issues, a dysfunctional family, and financial pressures. We put our hope in you, our Great Physician, the Prince of Peace, and the Lord who Provides. We look forward to the day when physical limitations are removed, family members respond to your Spirit, and miraculous provision eases her financial burden. We praise you in advance, knowing you are already at work to bless ________________.  Amen! 

Surround yourself with other believers in pursuit of great faith. “Iron sharpens iron” (5); faith-seekers sharpen faith-seekers–with their support, challenge, and encouragement.

 

 

Adopt faith-building practices. For example, post encouraging scriptures around the house. One useful spot is the bathroom mirror. While face-washing and teeth-brushing, recite faith-enhancing words from the Bible.

 

 

Expect your faith to be tested. Just as our physical bodies require strenuous exercise for optimum health, so does our faith. It’s the difficulties of life that provide it.

“Faith untried is simply a promise and a possibility,” said Oswald Chambers. “Tried faith is pure gold.”

~  ~  ~ ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

These seven habits will produce great faith, which in turn bring heaven of the soul.

 And what might heaven of the soul include? Three elements make my short-list:

  • Peace

As we pour out our concerns in prayer, God pours in his peace—peace so profound it transcends all understanding (6).

 

 

  • Joy

Author and life coach Paul Sailhamer offers this definition of joy born out of great faith: “Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.” Such joy provides rock-solid strength, not shaken by circumstances.

  • Optimism

People of great faith focus on the positive, affirm God will bring good out of every situation, and look forward with eager anticipation to see what God will do (7).

Imagine the interior of your soul filled with the ambiance of peace, the beauty of joy, and the golden light of optimism. Sound heavenly?

 

 

Great faith makes it happen.

 

What habits of faith-filled people have you noticed?  Or, what habits do you personally practice that build confidence in God?  Please share your observation/experience in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew 21:22
  2. Romans 10:17
  3. Romans 11:33-36
  4. Hebrews 11:1
  5. Proverbs 27:17
  6. Philippians 4:6-7
  7. Philippians 4:8; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20

 

Photo credits:  http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.jble.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com.

 

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Interesting, isn’t it, how the slightest trigger can transport us back through time?

  • A song might remind us of that first date with our spouse
  • The fragrance of lilacs brings to mind a previous home
  • The first bite of a family recipe at Thanksgiving conjures up bittersweet memories of another table long ago

 

 

They say that the memory of everyone we’ve known, every place we’ve been, and everything that’s happened to us is submerged in our subconscious. And the slightest nudge—haphazard as it might be–can bring a memory bobbing to the surface with surprising force.

But there’s another kind of remembering—a deliberate quest to seek truth for our lives—to understand how the hurts, mistakes, and losses, the treasured times, precious people, and lessons learned, reveal God’s work within us and for us, bringing good from it all.

For example, looking back through our memories we see:

 

God has given us strength to persevere.

At times we thought we’d never make it. Friends proved unfriendly and while the sting smarted we struggled to understand why the relationship went wrong.

Circumstances turned our lives upside down and we couldn’t see how to make things right again.

Death claimed a loved one and the pain seemed unbearable, unending.

 

 

But here we are. We survived, because God brought us through each calamity.

 

God has taught us the value of his wisdom.

Most of us have made choices along the way that seemed right but proved wrong.

Perhaps it was a relationship with someone whose habits provided troubling warning signs, but we ignored them and later suffered heart-rending hurt.

Or, perhaps we pursued an appealing, self-serving dream, only to discover its fulfillment did not produce the satisfaction we expected.

Some of us had to learn the hard way: God’s wisdom in scripture is truth after all, including his warning against relationships with fools (Proverbs 13:20) and the emptiness of selfish gain (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

 

 

But he also promised blessing for those who follow his all-wise guidance:

 

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,

and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

–Proverbs 16:20

 

God has demonstrated his faithfulness in countless ways.

Consider the categories listed below and allow your memory to plumb the depths, bringing to the surface people, places, and events from the past that reflect God’s faithfulness:

 

 

  • Nurturing family members
  • Loyal, supportive friends
  • Secure places of contentment
  • Health issues resolved
  • Knots of circumstances untangled
  • Necessities miraculously provided
  • Blessings bestowed, not even asked for

 And what can we anticipate as the result of this kind of remembering?

Peace.

Because we realize for all our yesterdays, God has…

…enabled us to power through on his strength,

…provided his wisdom to guide us through murky circumstances,

…and been at work in our lives for our benefit—sometimes in the form of gifts, sometimes in the form of lessons.

 

 

Such reassurances can settle fear, doubt, and worry, allowing peace to flourish today and into all our tomorrows.

This kind of remembering intentionally entwines past and future so memories become woven into faith-filled expectation.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.needpix.com; dailyverses.net.)

 

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