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Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

“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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“Be still and know that I am God (1).

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

It starts with ‘be.’

Just be, dear one.”

–Shauna Neiquist (2)

 

Moments of quiet, contemplative silence are rare for many people. We’ve been swept up in the cultural norms of productivity: use time wisely and stay on task. Better yet, multi-task.

But there is tremendous power and blessing in stillness.

Quietness of spirit:

  • creates space for us to hear God’s voice
  • builds bonds of trust between us and God
  • accelerates our understanding of God
  • revitalizes our spirits
  • brings the peace of God to our hearts

Surely these are desirable outcomes that warrant a few minutes each day to just be—in the presence of God.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we achieve such a goal when other responsibilities clamor loudly for our attention?

Like any priority, we must make time.   Begin with five minutes; you’ll soon be craving more.

Choose a secluded place. For years I sat at our kitchen table early in the morning, before anyone else in the house got up. Now I enjoy the luxury of a private home office. But when the weather allows, I revel in sitting on the deck with God, surrounded by his creation.

Not everyone has such options. I know one young mother who has chosen the bathroom as her place of stillness!

Put your God-given imagination to work. We considered the gift of imagination a couple of weeks ago, in a post titled: Oh, What We’re MissingYou can borrow my visualization if you like–the one I use if quiet time must take place indoors:

 

 

Picture a peaceful lake shrouded in morning mist.  On a dock are two Adirondack chairs, one for you and one for Jesus. He’s already sitting in his, because he loves to spend quality time with his children.  As you settle in your chair, reach out your hand for his. Just sit in companionable silence for a moment.

Another option: picture a place where you’ve experienced Jesus’ peace before, and imagine yourself there with him again.

Be physically still.  Relax.  The original Hebrew word translated “be still” can also be translated “cease striving.” Take several slow, deep breaths, and prayerfully set aside the to-list and concerns.

Focus on Jesus and contemplate his attributes. When distracting thoughts pop up (and they will!), add them to the to-do list or the prayer list as needed (keep them handy!), then turn back to Jesus.

Remember:  He understands how hard it is for us to sit quietly with him; he does not expect perfection. What he does treasure is our persistence to seek him (3).

 

 

Listen. “Deep within the center of the soul is a chamber of peace where God lives and where, if we will enter it and quiet all the other sounds, we can hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)” (4).

You may wish to keep a journal and pen nearby as God reveals impressions in your heart.  Perhaps it will just be one word or a single thought at first. Write it down. From that starting point you just might grow a paragraph, or even a page of God-thoughts.

But don’t worry if you hear no whisper. “In God’s presence is peace (Isaiah 26:3), joy (Psalm 16:11), and strength (Proverbs 18:10)—whether words are exchanged or not.

In A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about her Uncle Vince, who had constructed a prayer room complete with fake paneling, some stained glass from an old church, and a couple of old, musty tapestries. The only furniture was a small prayer kneeler and a Bible stand.

 

 

Joni remembers thinking it was stuffy and tacky. Years later she realized how wise Uncle Vince was to have a special place where he met Jesus. That was undoubtedly the reason he prayed on the golf course and on his hikes with Joni and her family.

“Uncle Vince encountered God every place, because he had one place,” she wrote (5).

How we need such a place…

…to just be.

It starts with be.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 46:10
  2. Shauna Neiquist, Present over Perfect
  3. Sarah Young, Jesus Always
  4. L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert
  5. Joni Eareckson Tada, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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In the midst of my harried day

When I seem farthest from myself

A moment comes to me and beckons,

“Let us fly away.”

 

Shutting out the din

Of the never-ending to-do

I close my eyes and begin

To wander in thoughts sublime;

And gather flowers in my mind.

 

–Tara Afriat*

 

Such delightful imagery Tara creates with that last line. But I wonder, what sublime thoughts might be worthy of a bouquet in my mind?  So far, five varieties have occurred to me:

 

1. Humor offers blooms of joy.

 

 

Just recently my husband was hospitalized and underwent a number of tests. When an orderly came to accompany Steve to a procedure he announced, “One CT scan, coming up. Would you like fries with that?”

I’m thinking a new journal specifically for humor might be fun to keep (and savor later).

 

2. Quotes provide blooms of wisdom, encouragement, and beauty.

Isn’t it amazing how a few well-chosen words can suddenly enlighten our understanding or give us eyes to see what was invisible just moments before?

A recent addition in my quote journal offers wisdom, encouragement, and the potential for beauty:

 

 

“Make one person happy every day and in forty years

you’ll have made 14,600 human beings happy

for a little time at least.”

–Unknown

 

Such encouragement gives wise perspective to the impact of small kindnesses, doesn’t it?   And what fun to cause 14,600 beautiful smiles!

 

3. Observations become blooms of refreshment.

 

 

Another journal on my shelf is titled “A Celebration of Small Things.” Each day I record at least one observation worth noting, because:

 

“A grateful heart is one

that finds the countless blessings of God

in the seemingly mundane of

every day life.”

–Anonymous

 

Pages of entries over the last two years remind me of just how blessed I am. For example:

January 10, 2017: “The birds are singing a “Hallelujah Chorus” of their own this morning, in celebration of the sudden balmy temperatures—into the upper 50s!”

 

 

Review of such moments does refresh my attitude.

 

4. Kindness creates blooms of grace.

In 1987 I began a journal to document God’s grace. So far, the record of more than 1300 entries offers sublime flower-gathering in my mind. Again, one example:

1996/97 proved to be a particularly challenging year at the school where I taught. Frustration plagued many of us faculty members. In late September I confessed to my early morning prayer group my difficulty in letting go of annoyance, and Betty prayed for me.

Minutes later as I drove to school, my attention was drawn to bright sunbeams radiating from behind great billowing clouds. It seemed the windows of heaven had been opened, and the glory of God on his throne radiated from just beyond that cloud bank. I could almost hear him saying, “You’re going to be fine—I’m right here to help you!”

 

 

Betty’s kind prayer and that God-given sky-reminder provided perfect affirmation. And now, that entry and many like it remind me: My Heavenly Father has been ever-faithful in the past; I can trust him for the future.

 

5. Scripture provides blooms of truth.

Within the pages of the Bible we find a variety of flowers for the mind, including those mentioned here: wisdom, encouragement, beauty, refreshment, and grace. But the most important is truth. Absolute truth.

We live in a time when relative truth is embraced by many, but:

 

 

(“Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it,

ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

–Winston Churchill)

 

The wise person seeks after truth—truth that revives the soul, gives joy to the heart, and provides insight for a well-lived life. That’s exactly what the Bible provides (Psalm 19:7-8).**

One psalmist who reveled in scripture wrote: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).

And no wonder. The Bible is a continual source of flowers for the mind—of the very best, wisest, and most beautiful kind.

 

Where do you gather flowers of the mind? Share with us in the Comment section below!

__________________________________

 

*Quoted from Soul Retreats for Busy People, compiled by Lila Emspon

 

**If you’re not sure whether scripture is reliable truth or not, I recommend Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, or The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense by Mark Mittleberg. It is the honest person who invites God to reveal himself.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.nps.gov;  http://www.pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org; http://www.azquotes.com.

 

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Which would you say is the most common human weakness?

A. Living unaware?

B. Greed?

C. Pride?

D. Selfishness?

According to pastor and author, Lou Guntzelman, the answer is A.*

Even twenty years ago when Guntzelman wrote his book, he saw many people living superficially, busily, and distractedly –moving too fast and focusing too much on insignificant matters.

 

 

Maybe those descriptors don’t apply to you. But I have been guilty on all counts.

And those of us who tend to fly through our days are at great risk of missing life.

We don’t see the unique qualities of the people around us.

 

 

We don’t hear the laughter of our children.

 

 

We don’t even think to take in deep gulps of rain-scented air, just for the pleasure of breathing.

 

 

We don’t taste and see God’s goodness in the world.

 

(Blackwater Falls, WV)

 

We don’t sense His presence.

 

 

But!

 

When we learn to engage the mind and especially the spirit in the moment at hand, we discover the splendor of God’s glory tucked into surprising places–right in front of us.

 

 

“The moment one gives close attention to anything,

even a blade of grass,

it becomes a mysterious, awesome,

indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

–Henry Miller

 

The obvious question is: how do we reprogram ourselves to live more aware?

 

Perhaps the first step is to condition our minds through quiet reflection.

 

In a place of solitude, we avail ourselves of his presence and redirect our attention from the day’s cares to God’s truth.

 

 

Sometimes that might include:

  • Studying and contemplating scripture, open to a change of heart or a change of direction.
  • Naming God’s attributes and celebrating how he’s demonstrated those attributes in our lives.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal, to help us tune in to the positive.  (It’s a transformative habit!)
  • Reading books by thought-provoking Christian authors, then mentally processing their tenets, and seeking ways of application to life when appropriate.

 

 

The state of our minds affects our perception of everything.

 

Second, we condition our focus.

 

We determine to:

 

(Backyard beauties at our house,

on display the end of April)

 

  • Appreciate more fully the natural wonders around us—even in the backyard, on the way to work, while running errands.
  • Honor each person we meet with eye contact, smiles, and a kind word.
  • Sift out the immaterial and apply ourselves to the important.
  • Refuse pointless worry and find priceless treasure in scriptural reassurance and God’s inimitable peace.
  • Pursue wholeness—the state of being perfectly well in body, soul (mind, will, and emotions) and spirit.  That happens as we submit more and more to God’s perfect ways (Psalm 119:1-2).

 

 

And what will be the result?

Each day there will be the anticipation of discovery and delight, joyful praise and expectant hope. We’ll find ourselves speaking to God more and more often, and hearing his whispers in our hearts. We’ll experience greater satisfaction in life as we train our focus on him and savor his endless blessings.

 

 

Bottom line: We will live on the threshold of heaven.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

Oh, this is where I want to live, Father—on the precipice of your glory. Though responsibilities must be taken care of, I can still take note and inwardly digest all the beauty, blessings, discoveries, and lessons that you bring to my attention. Help me to live aware!

 

*Lou Guntzelman, So Heart and Mind Can Fill, St. Mary’s Press, 1998.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; wwwpxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pixnio.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.quotefancy.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com.

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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It’s been said, St. Francis of Assisi contemplated the love of Christ until he caught the glow of His Spirit, which he went about radiating (1).

The operative word for me is contemplated, which means to look at pensively, to ponder or consider thoughtfully, to meditate on.

In St. Francis’ case, he chose to thoughtfully consider a simple subject: the love of Christ.

And the result was quite astounding. Francis glowed with the Spirit—so profoundly that others took note of his radiance.

By contrast, it stands to reason that worry and unrest are the direct result of misdirected or insufficient contemplation. In addition, no one can glow with the Spirit if thoughts of discontentment predominate.

For some, the love of Christ might seem too simple a subject and difficult to contemplate for very long. But if we challenge ourselves to scan the New Testament, we’ll discover many worthy thoughts to ponder about Jesus’ love.  Thoughts such as these:

First, his love for humanity compelled him to leave the perfection of heaven for a life of poverty on earth. Ultimately, he laid down his life so that we might become children of God and heirs of his immeasurable, heavenly riches (2).

 

 

While here on earth, Jesus made it clear he loves everyone, including:

  • Those whom others ignore, like blind beggars and penniless widows (3)
  • Those considered unimportant, like children (4)
  • Those whose sin tends to be concealed beneath the surface, like the rich young ruler (5)
  • Those no one else will go near, like lepers with ulcerated and decaying flesh (6)
  • Those who make mistakes, misunderstand truth, and bicker among themselves—like Jesus’ disciples (7)
  • Those who commit crimes, like the thief crucified with Jesus (8)
  • Even those who would try to kill him (9)

 

 

His love compels him to:

  • Seek after those who stray, never giving up until each one is safely home  (10)
  • Knock gently but persistently at the doors of our hearts, because he dearly wants us to enjoy fellowship with him (11)
  • Offer God-enhanced, blessing-abundant living now, with eternity in heaven to come (12)

 

 

Because he love us, Jesus wants to:

  • Draw us into his protective care, like a hen gathers her chicks (13)
  • Enjoy our company forever (14)
  • Reveal himself to us (15)—not in physical form (just yet!), but in the evidence of his loving kindness, righteousness, power and glory.
  • Protect us from fear by teaching us how to let peace stand guard over our hearts (16)
  • Fill us with all the fullness of God–his perfect attributes, generous blessings, and hope-saturated promises (17)

 

 

Nothing we say, nothing we do, nothing that happens to us can separate us from the love of Christ (18).

And “we are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement of his unspeakable love” (19).

No wonder St. Francis glowed.

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *   *

We do stand in awe, Lord Jesus, of the sweeping landscape of your love as revealed in scripture. And just as St. Francis of Assisi practiced careful contemplation centuries ago, may we continually ponder the expanse of your love—its breadth, length, height and depth.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Ralph W. Sockman, The Higher Happiness
  2. 2 Corinthians 8:9; John 15:13; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 2:7
  3. Mark 10:46-52; Matthew 8:16
  4. Mark 10:13-16
  5. Mark 10:21
  6. Matthew 8:3
  7. Acts 1:6; Mark 8:14-21; Luke 9:46
  8. Luke 23:39-43
  9. Luke 23:34
  10. Matthew 18:11-13
  11. Revelation 3:20
  12. John 10:10; 3:16
  13. Matthew 23:37
  14. John 14:3
  15. John 14:21
  16. 1 John 4:18; Philippians 4:6-7
  17. Ephesians 3:19
  18. Romans 8:35-38
  19. John Owen (1616-1683), English theologian

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

What contemplation of Jesus’ love makes your heart glow?  Share your thoughts in the Comment section below!

 

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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