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Archive for the ‘God’s Goodness’ Category

 

“I AM WHO I AM.”

That’s how God identified himself to Moses, as he spoke from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

On the face of it, God’s statement seems rather strange.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but doesn’t it sound like a line Lewis Carroll would write for the Mad Hatter, or Dr. Seuss for the cat in the hat?

Moses had asked a legitimate question in response to God’s directive to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite slaves leave the country (v. 11).  On what authority could he tell Pharaoh what to do?

But of course “I AM WHO I AM” was the perfect response. It’s a name that encompasses all the glorious complexities of almighty God.

And true to his word and character, the I AM of omnipotence and wisdom did take care of everything to release his people from Pharaoh’s grip and take them back to the land of their forefathers.

 

 

And since God never changes (Malachi 3:6), the same I AM is everything and anything we will ever need (Philippians 4:19), including the following.

Let’s shout these affirmations from our spirits:

 

The I AM of absolute power and sublime perfection

is our stability and security (1).

 

The I AM of self-existence and self-sufficiency

is our foundation and competence (2).

 

The I AM of supreme sovereignty and divine holiness

is our confidence and sanctification (3).

 

 

The I AM of firm constancy and unrivaled transcendency

is our inspiration and strength (4).

 

The I AM of complete wisdom and absolute knowledge

is our counselor and guide (5).

 

The I AM of abiding faithfulness and assured reliability

is our help and support (6).

 

 

The I AM of unfailing love and generous benevolence

is our encourager and comforter (7).

 

The I AM of enduring patience and exceeding kindness

is our peace and joy (8).

 

The I AM of deep understanding and gentle compassion

is our defender and reconciliation (9).

 

 

The I AM of bountiful mercy and lavish grace

is our Redeemer and Savior (10).

 

The I AM of righteous integrity and overflowing goodness

is our Shepherd and provider (11).

 

The I AM of splendorous glory and royal majesty

is our Father and Friend (12).

 

 

Listen to his affirming whisper:

“I AM in you, with you, and for you. 

When doubt or fear seep into your thoughts, remember who I AM and send those negative thoughts scurrying.  

Rest in who I AM; enjoy who I AM— the One who delights to bring all My attributes and blessings to bear upon your life.

Take joy also in the principle of reflection. The more time you spend in My presence, even as you’re involved in other tasks, the more you will reflect Me and My character to others. 

As you look to Me, you will be radiant.

And those around you will see who I AM.

 

 

(1 Corinthians 3:16; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:31; Psalm 143:5;

Psalm 145; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 34:5; Matthew 5:16)

 

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew 19:26; Psalm 18:30; Psalm112:7; Proverbs 3:26
  1. Psalm 90:2; Acts 17:24-25 and Romans 11:36; Psalm 18:31; 2 Corinthians 3:4-5
  1. 1 Chronicles 29:9-11; Isaiah 6:3; Proverbs 3:26; 1 Corinthians 6:11
  1. James 1:17; Psalm 113:5-6; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 46:1
  1. Romans 11:33; Job 37:15-16; Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 58:11
  1. Psalm 33:4; Psalm 121:3; Psalm 33:20; Psalm 18:35
  1. 1 John 4:8; Psalm 31:19; Isaiah 41:10; 2 Corinthians 1:3
  1. 1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Psalm 4:7
  1. Psalm 103:14, 8; Psalm 138:7; Colossians 1:20-22
  1. Exodus 34:6-7; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 45:21-22
  1. Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 25:8; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 145:9
  1. Exodus 15:11; Psalm 93:1; 2 Corinthians 6:18; John 15:14

 

Photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.flickr.com.

 

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Ask a church gathering, “What’s your favorite psalm?” and many folks will name #91 for its reminders of God’s goodness and power.

They’d be in good company. The great theologian, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

 

“In the whole collection there is not a more cheering psalm,

its tone is elevated and sustained throughout,

faith is at its best, and speaks nobly…

He who can live in its spirit will be fearless” (1).

 

That fearlessness would certainly be encouraged by the eight promises of verses 14-16:

 

 

Note that God promises:

Rescue, protection, and deliverance (vs. 14-15)—not from trouble, but through it. He does not promise a life of ease and bliss. However, “the only things faithful people can lose in suffering are things that are finally expendable” (2).

Answers to every prayer (v. 15)—answers that always reflect God’s perfect knowledge of all things, his wisdom and grace, even when the answer is wait, or even no.

His steadfast presence (v. 15)—“Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly” (George MacDonald).

 

 

Salvation (v. 16)—“I have summoned you by name; you are mine,” God has said (Isaiah 43:1). We belong to him, purchased at an exorbitant price:  the precious blood of his own Son.

But upon first reading, one promise puzzled me, and another actually startled me.

First, the puzzle. In verse 16 God promises long life. And yet all of us have been devastated by lives cut short.  How are we supposed to interpret this promise?

With a long view into eternity.

Once we experience the glory of God and his heaven, we’ll no longer be concerned about the number of days any of us spent on earth. We’ll only delight in the fullness of God’s presence and all the eternal pleasures he’s prepared for us (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

And then there is the startling promise: that God will honor us (v. 15), as in confer special esteem, respect, and distinction with deferential regard (3).

But he’s the one who deserves honor. Our God is all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, omnipresent and eternal—to name a few of his attributes.  What could we possibly do to warrant his honor?

Not a thing. But scripture assures us: those who honor him he has chosen to honor in return (1 Samuel 2:30).

Imagine standing in the splendorous throne room of almighty God as he announces:

  • The removal of your filthy rages of sin, to be taken as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)
  • The magnificent robes of His Son’s righteousness placed around your shoulders (Isaiah 61:10)
  • Your official standing as his child (Romans 8:15-17)

 

 

  • The privilege of companionship with him any time of day or night (Revelation 3:20)
  • Tasks to provide purpose and satisfaction in life (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Countless blessings to bestow joy and pleasure (Psalm 40:5)
  • Eternal life granted through his Son Jesus (1 John 5:11-12)

 

These honors and more are the extravagant expressions of God’s infinite love for you.

 

 https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1404884

 

An expanded excerpt from Ms. Smith increases the wonder:

 

Put together all the tenderest love you know,

The deepest you have ever felt,

And the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you,

And heap upon it all the love

Of all the loving human hearts in the world,

And then multiply it by infinity,

And you will begin, perhaps,

To have some faint glimpse of the love God has for you.”

–Hannah Whitall Smith

 

There are two caveats, however, presented in verse 14. These promises, including the conferral of God’s honor, are reserved for those who love him and acknowledge his name (affirm the reality of his attributes in their lives).

The psalmist is not talking about a warm, congenial feeling for God; he’s talking about a love put into action with trust and obedience.

 

 

As humans, our default mode is often self-reliance and independence. But what could be more sensible than to trust and obey One who is all-seeing and all-wise, who loves perfectly and honors lavishly?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, how foolish I have been at times, willfully rebelling against your leadership.  May I choose daily the place of honor you’ve sacrificially prepared for me by loving you wholeheartedly, trusting you for guidance, provision, and protection, and following your wise ways.      

 

Notes:

  1. Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David
  2. Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking, 2015, p. 226 (emphasis added)
  3. Webster’s II New College Dictionary

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com (4); http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.pixhere.

 

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“Would you look at this?” my friend exclaimed. Her outstretched hand waved over a selection of magazines in our favorite place to meet, a local bookstore/cafe.

 

 

Do you see what caught Cindy’s* eye? That word “Mindfulness” or “Mindful” shouted from nine different periodicals.

After the initial surprise, we realized why mindfulness is such a hot topic.  These days many adults are under great pressure to push themselves hard, move faster and accomplish more each day. All the while electronic devices are demanding their attention.

Add to that the worries rasping in their minds: the mistakes and failures of yesterday, the tight schedule and uncertainties of tomorrow, and fears for the future.

The pace, stress, and anxiety take their toll in the form of health problems, sleep disorders, and relational strain.

 

 

As a result, many have embraced mindfulness—a pleasurable time-out to capture the joy of now–like pausing to savor the tart, crisp, juiciness of an apple, stopping to listen as small bare feet patter down the stairs, or taking a moment to study a chipmunk collecting acorns.

And according to the research, just a brief interlude of mindfulness can calm the nerves, reset one’s emotional equilibrium, and foster contentment—all to positive effect upon our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

But I wonder, how many people know God offers even more–if we augment mindfulness with gratitude and praise?

 

 

For example, while doing the dishes I can focus on the hot water warming my hands, the clean scent of soap, the rainbowed bubbles floating in a bowl, the burbling water cascading over glasses and cups–then add a short prayer:

Thank you, Father, for giving us five senses

with which to enjoy your world.

 

 

While traveling in the car I can take note of the late summer haze clinging to the hillsides, today’s cloud exhibition, and the leaves on the roadside performing pirouettes on the breeze–then honor the Lord of all things:

I praise you, Father, for your creative genius

on display everywhere I look.

 

 

While reading a book with my two-year old granddaughter, I can pay attention to the sensation of her little body snuggled into my side, the sweet sound of her toddler-voice “reading” some of the words, and the dimples on the back of her hand as she points to a picture–then express gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts:

Thank you, Father, for the delights to be found

beneath the surface of ordinary experience.

 

 

Each day I can pause to observe the rose-pink tint of dawn, the dappled treetops in the noonday sun, and the slow glide of shadows at sunset–then rejoice in God’s power and glory.

My mouth is filled with your praise, O God,

declaring your splendor all day long.”

–Psalm 71:8

 

 

Mindfulness may prod us to notice God’s gifts in the moment, and that’s good.

But mindfulness plus gratitude and praise prompt us to treasure him, and that’s transformational.

God’s presence becomes palpable (James 4:8), joy sings in our hearts (Psalm 92:4), contentment settles in our spirits (Isaiah 26:3).

And the Giver of all good things surely smiles with pleasure in response.

 

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; ww.canva.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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Remember the in-crowd at your high school–the cool kids who wore the latest fashions, knew the latest songs, and seemed more attractive, confident, and important than everyone else?

‘Truth is, research has established “those who cared most about their social standing [as teenagers] often grow up to have difficulties with their interpersonal relationships years later.” Their fixation on status stays with them, and they are the ones most likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and problems with substance abuse (1).

Now I’m thankful to never have been a part of that group.

But another in-crowd beckons–one that everyone is invited to join–that offers satisfaction in life and purpose.

It’s God’s in-group.

 

 

And just what does he have to offer?

God’s in-crowd is in their right minds (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

They strive to focus on the positive, and turn their attention toward God himself—His attributes and works. People in their right minds are Presence-focused, remembering the almighty, all-wise God is with them. They’re also promise-fortified, affirming that God WILL keep their minds calm because they trust in him.

Such trust requires effort, since we often lean toward the negative. But like a wrangler who captures and subdues a wild horse, the in-crowd takes their problematic thoughts captive, and tames them with the bridle of God’s truth (2).

They also pray—perhaps like Selwyn Hughes: Lord, “I give You my mind—so that You can give me Yours” (3).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in balance.

The Apostle John wrote to Gaius: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).

That’s quite a compliment. If John had written such a greeting to me, he may very well have reversed his statement, praying that my soul might prosper as well as my physical health.

Of course, both are necessary for overall well being. So just as proper diet, exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary for the body, the in-crowd keeps their souls healthy through a steady diet of God’s Word, the exercise of obedience, and rest in him.

 

 

God’s in-crowd is held in his hands.

King David wrote about the phenomenon in a prayer song to God: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15a). Those hands are powerful and mighty, open and generous, protective and secure—even when someone faces difficult challenges like the Apostle Paul.

While imprisoned in Rome and anticipating his execution, Paul affirmed the strength God provided him, the generosity of God to supply all needs, his contentment in spite of circumstances, and the security of knowing all would be well whether he lived or died (4).

The in-crowd faces their challenges with the same affirmations.

 

 

God’s in-crowd lives in God’s ways (Psalm 25:8-10).

Wisdom would have us know this: “Blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:32-33, 35).

Critics may say, “Oh, but the Bible is so out-of-date. Times change; morals shift. What was once considered wise has been replaced by post-modern sensibilities.”

They need to observe God’s in-crowd, who delight in his Word because they find instruction for a life of purpose and meaning, preservation of life in his encouragement, and peace of mind in his truth—things post-modern sensibilities do not offer (5).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in unity with one another, just as he desires (Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:13-14).

They remember: all God’s people belong to each other (Romans 12:5). So they focus on common ground and find ways to support one another rather than fuss over non-essential differences.

And as a unified group, God’s in-crowd is a force to be reckoned with.

Like snowflakes:

 

 

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things.

But just look at what they can do when they stick together.”

–Vesta M. Kelly

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Heavenly Father, that as we trust in your Son Jesus for eternal life, you also provide in-crowd status with all its privileges and spiritual blessings—to every believer. You are the God of surpassing goodness to your people!

(John 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-8; Psalm 84:11)

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cracking-the-popularity-code/
  2. Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 10:5.
  3. Every Day Light, Broadman and Holman, 1997, p. 121.
  4. Psalm 118:15-16; 145:13b-21; John 10:29; Philippians 4:13,19, 11-12, and 1:21-24.
  5. Psalm 119:24, Philippians 2:13; John 10:10; Psalm 119:50 MSG, 93, 165.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com (2), http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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The summers of my childhood included a blend of games and activities with neighborhood friends, afternoons at the community pool, bike rides to the library, and a few weeks spent with Grandma Clara and Grandpa Henry who lived four hours away in Iowa.

No doubt some would describe our summer experiences as mundane, not realizing the joy hidden among the ordinary:

  • The delight of lazy Monopoly marathons
  • The wonder of fireflies in a jar
  • The satisfaction of a big bowl of buttery popcorn–after biking to the park and spending several hours of nonstop cavorting in the pool, then biking home again
  • The pleasure of tucking ourselves under the willow tree to read
  • The fun of an evening bike ride with Dad

 

 

It’s the small, happy moments—not the grand events—that contribute to satisfying days and a joy-filled life.

 

The joy of small…makes life large.

–Ann Voskamp (1)

 

However, I have to admit: my childhood-self took those lovely moments for granted. I lived unaware of God’s glory pervading my everyday experiences: his creative genius on display—even in the backyard, his love, peace, and security within a family grounded on Christian values, and his goodness to provide joy-filled moments that shimmer in my memory with holy perfection.

Now, as the decades have passed, I’m learning to identify more of the transcendent moments God provides, including:

 

 

  • A cardinal filling the silence of the woods with his hope-inspiring “Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!”
  • A toddler wrapping her arms around my neck and crying, “I love you!”
  • A devotional that speaks exactly what I need to hear
  • An opportunity to encourage a waitress and see her concern turn to hope
  • A small gathering of family and friends quickly ballooning to twelve—with much laughter, camaraderie, and delightful conversation

 

 

God’s glory is on display right “in the middle of our minutes” (2).

 

So each night before falling asleep, let’s measure the moments of our days:

  • Taking note of God’s blessings and the delights of his creation; singing our praise for his breath-taking handiwork (Psalm 92:4; Job 5:9).
  • Thanking God for the camaraderie and conversation, hugs and support among family members and friends who keep us strong (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Counting the riches that result from abiding in God, beginning with peace (Isaiah 26:3), stability (Psalm 16:8), and contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).
  • Celebrating the honor of ministering to others in Jesus’ name (Matthew 25:40), giving us purpose and cultivating fulfillment in our spirits.
  • Delighting in the opportunities to smile, laugh, and find moments of joy—even in the midst of trouble or frustration (Proverbs 17:22).

 

“Laughter is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.

It won’t take the potholes out of the road,

but it sure makes the ride smoother.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

 

And just as inches are measured into feet, so we can measure meaningful moments into satisfying days and a joy-filled life–because God is in them.

 

What meaningful moments are at the top of your list for today?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 167.
  2. Sara Hagerty, Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 109.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.geauxguard.la.gov; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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(The view from my deck chair)

 

As spring approaches I look forward to spending my morning quiet time on our deck—taking in the new foliage-finery of the trees, the happy chatter of birds, the whispering breezes, and the sweet aroma of alyssum from the deck planter.

There’s something about sitting with God in his Living Room* that opens our eyes to his glory and draws our spirits closer to his heart.

Saturday was just such a day. And as I sat in His presence, God seemed to say:

I’m so glad you’re here, Nancy! I’ve planned several discoveries for you this morning.

 

From the Trees

 

 

First, lift your eyes to the trees. Rejoice in the reminders of:

  • My strength (Psalm 93:1)–in the stalwart trunks
  • My refuge (Psalm 25:4)–in their far-reaching limbs, offering shelter from the heat
  • My provision (Philippians 4:19)–as they produce oxygen, give shelter to birds and animals, even provide food

Note the evidence of competence in their design–for purpose, beauty, and sustainability.   I am your God of Competence as well, and have designed you to fulfill an individualized purpose, provide the beauty of Christlikeness to those around you, and spend eternity with Me. 

 

From the Birds

 

(white-breasted nuthatch)

 

You can also revel in the birds—symbols of reliance on Me, and again, My provision (Matthew 6:26). Note the variety of color, pattern, song, and habit. Let the joy you experience watching birds remind you how I value your uniqueness.

Choose to celebrate who you are: the colors of your personality, the pattern of your life, the song of gifts and talents I’ve given you to share with the world, the habits of goodness I continue to form in you so you can impact others.

 

From the Squirrels

 

 

Together we can enjoy the antics of the squirrels! They too provide reminders for the life of faith:

 

  • Even when they walk upside down on a branch, they do not fall. Similarly, I make firm your steps and keep you from falling (Psalm 37:24).

 

  • With great confidence squirrels jump from limb to limb. You can live in great confidence also, because I’ve equipped you for what I ask you to do. (Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

  • Every time they return to their nesting tree, they follow the same pathway through the branches. They remember well which branches offer the best proximity to the next tree.

I have provided a sure pathway for you to navigate through life. You can run in the path of my wise commands; my ways will bring you home safely (Psalm 119:32a; 139:24b).

 

  • Squirrels can sit quite contentedly, even take a nap, on the very end of a branch—never concerning themselves they might fall or the branch might give way. They provide an example of perfect trust (Isaiah 26:3).

I am your security (Psalm 112:8). Out of My love and faithfulness, I will always protect you (Psalm 40:11)—even as I bring you home to heaven one day.

So when you find yourself at the end of a branch, and fear starts to creep in, send it scurrying away with My Word—verses like Psalm 27:1:

 

(Another view from our deck)

 

The Lord is my Light—

[My Joy, Peace, and Guide]

The Lord is my Salvation—

[My Protection, Provision, and Security]

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is my Stronghold—

[The Treasury of all good things]

Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

*      *      *

 

*a creative expression originated by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg

 

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