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Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

The time:  1892

The place:  Spindletop, Texas.

A group of five investors formed the Gladys City Oil Company.  Sulphur springs in the area gave them great hope that black gold lay beneath the surface, especially since gas seepages in the area would ignite if lit.

Soon the area was dotted with holes–holes that produced nothing.  Two investors pulled out.

A geologist was brought in.  More investors were convinced to take the risk.

Nine long, unproductive years went by, and  still no oil. That’s 3,285 days of discouragement, disappointment, and exhausting labor.  Yet those men would not give up.

Finally, on January 10, 1901, their long-held dreams were realized.  At the depth of 1,139 feet, the company struck oil.  And it wasn’t just a gurgling flow.  The discovery at Spindletop gave new meaning to the term, “gusher.”  The oil shot over one hundred feet into the air, spewing enough to fill 100,000 barrels a day.  It took nine days to get the well under control.  No oil field in the world, up to that time, had been so productive.

 

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I wonder what those men said to each other each morning, over those 3,000-plus days of working, learning, waiting, and wondering?  Surely their conversations included some positive uplift, or they would have quit.  Perhaps they made such comments as:

  • “If we don’t find oil, at least we can say we gave the effort everything we’ve got.  If we quit before all possibilities are tried?   That‘s failure.”
  • “All the signs indicate there is oil.  We cant quit!
  • “Today might be the day!”

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Just as oil is sometimes discovered by accident, so God’s blessings fall into our laps as glorious surprises. Other times,  God chooses to postpone a blessing while we dig our way through learning, working, waiting, and wondering–like the oil men of Spindletop, Texas.

How do we press on when circumstances look bleak, when common sense tells us to quit?

1.  Pray!  The key to knowing when to persevere and when to change direction is to spend time with God.  Ask him to make clear what the next step is.  Most likely he will not reveal the whole plan at once.  He rarely works that way, because it eliminates the faith factor.  Our moment-by-moment trust in him is too crucial to the abundant living he desires for us.

 

 

2.  Believe!  Dozens of promises in scripture probably apply to your situation and mine.  We can recite those promises–not as demands (“God, you said this, so I’m expecting you to do it.”) but as faith-builders.  (“God, you said this, and I know with you all things are possible.”)

 

 

3.  Fight!  Fight against discouragement with plenty of encouragement.  God is very creative in the ways he brings hope to our spirits.  We must keep watching and listening!

 

 

A friend or even a stranger can speak uplifting words that resonate in our hearts.  Sometimes it’s as if God is speaking directly. One sign for me, that someone is speaking for God?  Goosebumps!  I can almost feel his light touch on my arm and his voice saying, “Pay attention to this, Nancy.”

Our God is a well of unending supply.  Whatever we need in this life, including wisdom, direction, and perseverance toward a goal, he will provide.  In fact, he will do whatever it takes for his praying, believing, fighting children to discover the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (over failure), a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

That’s one way our loving, supportive Heavenly Father displays his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

 

 

(Revised and reblogged from February 13, 2014.)

 

Photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; Art4TheGlryOfGod on http://www.flickr.com (2), http://www.pinterest.com;  http://www.pinterest.com.au.)

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Second grader, Ben, trotted up to my teacher desk and enthusiastically shared his latest news:

“I bought my mom some honeysuckle room spray for her birthday, but it makes the cat sneeze.”

 

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I know what you’re thinking: Ben’s words aren’t particularly noteworthy. You need to know how he spoke them—with a lisp. Try repeating his words, substituting th for s, and see if you don’t start to chuckle:

“I bought my mom thome honeythuckle room thpray for her birthday, but it makth the cat thneethe.”

Maybe you had to be there.   But let me tell you, I deserve a medal for my self-control that morning, holding back the giggles until Ben was out of earshot. Every now and then—like the other day–I’m reminded of that incident, and I still smile.

Now don’t ask me how my brain made the following connections. The neurons were firing way too fast to trace their trajectories. (Of course, after you read the following explanation, you’ll probably say my neurons were misfiring.)

Anyway, my thoughts jumped from Ben’s report of making the cat thneethe to face-lifts*, which, in his endearing lisp would have been faith-liftths.

Ah-ha! Now I was onto something important. Faith-lifts! And I began to ponder: What are some of the most meaningful faith-lifts I’ve encountered?

God is so generous with his encouragement. We find it in scripture, other books, the lyrics of songs, a spoken word , creation, and even the recesses of our hearts as God speaks in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).

 

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For example:

 

A Faith-Lift from Scripture 

“He will be the sure foundation for your times,

a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”

–Isaiah 33:6

I praise you, God, for your rock-solid reliability. And as I reverence you through thought, word, and deed, you provide for my every need. Hallelujah!

 

A Faith-Lift from Reading

 “Jesus offers inward quiet in spite of outward trials. Rough winds may ruffle the surface of a lake, but far down in the depths there is perfect calm” – Herbert Lockyer (Seasons of the Lord, p. 89).

 

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Thank you, oh God, for your peace that defies explanation and dwells deep within my spirit.

 

A Faith-Lift from Listening

“Don’t worry that you don’t have strength before you start. God gives strength as we journey” (heard on the radio).

Help me, Father, to step out in faith because my confidence in you.

 

A Faith-Lift from Song

“I see the work of Your hands.

Galaxies spin in a heavenly dance…

“I delight myself in You,

Captivated by Your beauty…

“I run into Your arms,

Unashamed because of mercy…”

–Big Daddy Weave, “Overwhelmed” (2012)

 

Thank you for such glorious contemplations, Lord God!

 

Faith-Lifts from People

 I praise you, Father, for the myriad ways you minister to me through others. Sometimes what they share brings tears to my eyes as I sense your instruction and inspiration coming through their words.

 

Faith-Lift from Creation

 Soaring mountain peaks speak of your power,

Restorative rain, of your refreshing,

The steadfastness of sunrise–your hope,

A gentle breeze–your presence,

Gleaming sunbeams–your glory, and

The teeming stars–your infinity.

 

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“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (Psalm 96:4a)!

 

A Faith-Lift from Spirit-Impression

All was still as I sat on the deck one morning. Even the birds were quiet. But no sooner did I journal my observations, than a breeze began to stir. I sensed an impression simmering to the surface of my thinking—thoughts that seemed to come from God himself:

“When nothing seems to be happening, when prayed-for circumstances remain unchanged, remind yourself that Spirit-breezes of blessing will come when the time is right. Wait with patience and rejoice in the knowledge that I am at work.   Revel in the expectancy and assurance of My arrival” (Isaiah 65:24).

 

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M-m-m. I’m thinking: such faith-lifts as listed above actually do produce face-lifts, because worry, fear, and tension are erased in the splendor of his adequacy in all things!

 

“I will lift you up, O Lord, for you have lifted me up.”

–Psalm 30:1 NLT

 

*(Plastic surgery was not uncommon where we lived at the time. Perhaps the connection occurred as my thoughts jumped from student to school to community. That’s as good an explanation as any. I’m sticking to it.)

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pets.thenext.com; http://www.faithgateway.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wisconsintrails.com; http://www.jpl.nasa.gove; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Take a close look at the intricate design above. Did you notice the artist’s medium? Corks!

And look at what some clever soul did with some old tires.

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And how about this stemware rack? Quite the creative use for a discarded garden rake.

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All three of these projects are examples of upcycling—the process of converting useless products and waste materials into new products of higher quality or value than the original.

On a much grander scale, consider:   those of us who know Jesus have also been upcycled.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.

The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

 And what does that new, upcycled life include?

  • The opportunity for intimacy with Almighty God
  • A fresh perspective on life
  • Strength to face whatever might happen
  • A glorious certainty for the future
  • A deep sense of peace and joy that circumstances cannot destroy

And that’s just the beginning of the list.

Just as resourceful people are able to upcycle any number of materials, God can use everything in our lives:

  • Every relationship
  • Every situation
  • Every trial
  • Every hurt
  • Even every failure

No matter what we go through, God can upcycle the experience to create something worthwhile.  Good things like:  1) important life-lessons, 2) steps in his carefully orchestrated plan for our lives, and 3) a positive influence upon others.

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.

–Bill Wilson

(founder of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Paul expressed the same truth in scripture:

“God is able to orchestrate everything

to work toward something good and beautiful

when we love him and accept his invitation

to live according to his plan.”

–Romans 8:28, The Voice, italics added)

The inconsequential bits of our lives are never wasted in God’s economy either. For example:  He uses every good deed, every exercise of self-discipline, every effort to keep peace, to mold us into better people and to minister to others.

And then there is the trash of our lives—those circumstances and relationships we wish never had happened.  Even the trash is upcycled:

Wailing becomes dancing (Psalm 30:11)

Tears become joy (Psalm 126:5),

Ashes become beauty,

Despair becomes praise (Isaiah 61:3),

The crooked roads become straight (Luke 3:5),

Darkness becomes light (1 Peter 2:9).

Someone very clever expressed it this way:

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Does that mean we sit and wait while God turns our tears of disillusionment to joy? The ashes of disappointment into something beautiful? The crooked road of bad choices into a straight, smooth path?

No, God honors us by allowing us to participate in the upcycling process.

“Always work enthusiastically for the Lord,

for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

— 1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT

Let’s strive to choose the next “best thing” before us, and let God upcycle the results!

(Photo credits:  www.winecorkdesigns.com; http://www.newscentral.exsees.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.mediawebapps.com.)

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No, that’s not a typo in the title; I intentionally chose rust. However, that parody on an old hymn actually did result from a typo years ago.

Steve was just a few months into his first pastorate in St. Petersburg, FL. The mean age of the congregation was somewhere in the 70s. When the church secretary typed the opening hymn title for one Sunday’s bulletin, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, she accidentally omitted the “T” in trust.

But there was a whole lot of truth in that typo-title. Many saints of that congregation could testify, even into old age: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).

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And just what might those blessings be? A few possibilities quickly come to mind. When we put our trust in God, we enjoy:

  • Peace of mind (Isaiah 26:3-4)
  • Guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Help (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Strength (Isaiah 12:2)

But there are many more blessings that come to those who trust in God—some of which are quite surprising. The following is undoubtedly just a partial list:

Intimacy with God–not just acquaintance. The more we exercise trust, the more we recognize his involvement in our lives. With David, we can affirm: “All those who know your mercy, Lord, will count on you for help. For you have never yet forsaken those who trust in you” (Psalm 9:10).

Hope. Praise God for his hope that fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him (Romans 15:13)! I can’t imagine going to bed at night without hope for tomorrow—much less for eternity.

Joyful Expectation and Quiet Confidence. Our lives are in the hands of an absolutely perfect, all-powerful, loving God. We can count on him to see us through every situation. So with great delight we can say, “I don’t know what God’s up to, but I know it has to be good!”

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Life above the Fray. Like Paul, we can learn to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:12), knowing that God will give us the strength to endure (v. 13). A heart full of trust has no room for worry or stress. (Remind me of that when the challenges pile up, will you?)

Adventure. Think of the adrenalin rush these Bible heroes must have experienced, as they placed their trust in God:

  • Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho—with trumpets and loud shouts!
  • Elijah praying for fire to consume a drenched offering to God, in front of 450 prophets of Baal
  • Nehemiah watching the walls of Jerusalem reconstructed, after the Israelites had been held in Babylonian captivity for seventy years

Are we going to sit on the sidelines of life and miss the miracles, because we’re afraid to trust? Perish the thought!

Influence. The Light of Jesus shines most brightly through those who demonstrate trust in the midst of dark circumstances. People remember those saints who maintain a positive, faith-focused outlook in spite of trials.

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For all these reasons and more, it is indeed sweet to (t)rust in Jesus–to rest secure in the loving, everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father.

 

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I praise you, Lord, with all my heart,

for being a trustworthy God who never fails his children.

How glorious to know

I can trust in your unfailing love!

(Psalm 9:1; 13:5; 52:8)

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixgood.com; http://www.masterfile.com.)

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Slow, somber music faded away.  All lights were extinguished, including the spot on the cave-like tomb, stage left.

Black silence enveloped us for several moments as the burial scene concluded, a dramatic part of the Easter musical production at our church.

In a hushed voice, the narrator picked up the story.  He explained that when Sunday morning came, women went to the tomb. We, the audience, could see them approaching from stage right, talking among themselves.

They peered into the tomb, and cried out as they discovered the body of Jesus was gone. No sooner did they begin to question what might have happened, than an angel suddenly appeared next to them.  I don’t mean, “walked up and joined them.”  No.  One moment that angel was nonexistent; the next moment there he stood, gleaming brightly.

How did the stage crew create such a startling scene? They used a scrim, a large sheet of gauzy fabric, behind the back of the tomb. When the tomb was lit from the front, everything behind the scrim was invisible. When the spotlight behind the scrim came up, suddenly the audience could see the angel.

That scrim-effect made me think: we live with a virtual scrim in front of us every day. We cannot see what God has planned for us in the future. Events of tomorrow—even this afternoon—are blocked from us by black silence. In his infinite wisdom God has determined that’s the best way for us to live.

But! After the fact–after events unfold—sometimes we’re able to look back to see behind the scrim, and note how God orchestrated events for our benefit.

I’m remembering a particularly difficult move years ago. We were leaving a much-loved church where my husband had pastored for six years, and beginning a new ministry across-state.

My personal challenge would be obtaining a teaching position in our new locale, at a time when there were more teachers than positions available.

But look what God did:

First, he “introduced” me to Diane, a delightful young woman—also a teacher. Her parents were members of our new church. Diane actually attended elsewhere, but every now and then would join her parents on a Sunday morning. She visited shortly after our arrival.

Second, God urged Diane to offer help with our unpacking. We spent a delightful morning emptying boxes and organizing various items while getting acquainted. I learned that she taught at a small private school, with just two classes at each grade level. The school was close by, too—only four minutes away. Diane suggested she submit my name for the substitute list. I told her, “Sure!”

Third, God created many substitute opportunities for me at Diane’s school, but fulltime employment seemed unlikely. No one was close to retirement; no one was moving. Meanwhile I applied at public schools within a reasonable commute of our home.

But in April, without even an interview, God prompted the headmaster at the private school to offer me a position. One of the fourth grade teachers had just been elected mayor. Trying to fulfill those responsibilities and teach was more than she wanted to tackle.

I started the following August, which gave me the entire summer to prepare. My classroom was right next door to Diane’s.

When that job opportunity opened up, it was as if the spotlight turned on behind the scrim. Suddenly I could see how God had carefully arranged the whole sequence of events.  My disappointment over leaving our previous home and church turned into a God-ordained appointment at that private school, one that lasted twenty-two years.

“Never underestimate what a redeeming God can do, “ says Karol Ladd.*

And keep your eye on that scrim, for the glorious moment when you can see how he’s been orchestrating events for your benefit (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

*from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive by Karol Ladd, Howard Books, 2009.

 

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When have you glimpsed behind the scrim of your life?  What events has God orchestrated for your benefit?  Share with us your story in the comments below!

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inspire

Dove chocolates come wrapped in foil on which are printed positive and encouraging statements. Recently I found this one:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

A positive attitude of praise and celebration, even for the little blessings, does contribute to a sense of well-being.  But there’s an important omission in this quote–the cause of all those blessings.  Perhaps the sentiment might be worded like this:

“The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Now a pleasing sentiment has become solid truth, because with God in our lives, joy is our constant companion.

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord;

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

(Psalm 92:4)

 It requires such a small effort, really.

 Sometimes, all we need to do is focus on the pleasure of ordinary events:

  • Water vapor curling up from a cup of coffee
  • Sunbeams finally breaking through, after three days of unrelenting rain
  • The first butterfly of spring dancing among the daffodils

Sometimes all we need to do is change our perspective.  We can choose to:

  • Get depressed over the huge stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen, or reminisce (while we clean!) over the delightful meal just enjoyed with family and friends
  • Grumble that vacation is over, or celebrate that two weeks out-of-town makes even our scuffed-up, well-lived-in home look mighty inviting
  • Sigh with dissatisfaction that personal goals have not yet been reached, or take note of how far we’ve come

Sometimes all we need to do is make a celebration out of a small moment.

I had been shopping at the mall for several hours, scouring the sales racks to no avail. Suddenly I looked down at my purse on which I had draped my light jacket and sweater. The sweater was gone. It was one of my favorites.

So not only did I not purchase an addition for my wardrobe that afternoon, I had subtracted a piece of clothing I already owned.  That sweater had just been dry cleaned, too. “Insult to injury,” as they say.

Retracing my steps seemed pointless; I had been in so many stores.

Not long after realizing my sweater was gone, it was time to meet Steve for dinner at a restaurant attached to the mall.  We ordered our meals, and then I told him what happened.

“I’ll check the mall lost-and-found after we eat,” I said. “By then maybe someone will have found my sweater and turned it in.”

So that’s what we did.

No sweater.

Steve suggested we stop at the stores where I’d shopped, as we made our way back to the car.

At the very first store the eyes of the young sales girl lit up when I asked about a lost sweater. “What color was it?” she asked.

“Red,” I told her.

“We did find it! It’s right back here!” she enthusiastically replied, walking to the back of the store.

Sure enough, there it was. Someone had even put it on a hanger.

Well! I thanked her, and the manager behind the counter, not knowing which of them had found it and been so thoughtful.

One of them jokingly said something about doing good deeds for chocolate.

As it happened, just two doors down was the Godiva Chocolate Shop. Steve and I popped in, bought two little boxes, and went back to the clothing store.

When those two girls saw the Godiva bag they whooped in surprise and delight. Steve and I laughed, too.

“God blessed me through you by returning my sweater; we wanted to bless you,” I said.

“Oh! That remark about chocolate was just a joke!” the salesgirl cried. “But you have no idea how much I needed this. Today has been especially rough.” She started around the counter with her arms outstretched. “Come here! I need to give you a hug!”  Then she added, “Look!  I’m crying!”  I had tears in my eyes as well.

The level of endorphins was so high in that shop the lights shone brighter, the air smelled fresher, and the atmosphere crackled with joy.

And all because we took a small moment and magnified its significance, and we gave God the glory as we celebrated a God-orchestrated event.

Truly, “The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

And God celebrates, too.  After all, he loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), right?  Surely that includes givers of chocolate and hugs.

(Photo credit:  www.inhabityourmoments.com.)

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What are you celebrating in life today?  Share your joy in the comments below!

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection, nor the inclination, when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to ten and reciting John 3:16 at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore.  I know it’s counter productive and does absolutely no good. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”                            

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation, or reciting an uplifting scripture.

For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

  • “There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

 Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

  • “I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).

 Restoration will come. “Though you, [God], have made me see troubles…you will restore my life again…you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20).

  • “I am never going to succeed.”  

Not true.  God says [He] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

  • “I have no idea how to proceed. Maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

 I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

  • “Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?” 

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

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“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

Focus determines direction.

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What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the Comments below!

(Photo credits:  www.facebook.com/wonwithoutaword; http://www.zazzle.com.)

 

 

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