Category Archives: Picture

blindness and sight

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John 9:1-3 As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

 Isaiah 42:16 And I [God] will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.

 

 As I was thinking of these verses this morning, I saw a picture of a blind man, crying out to Jesus.  As others saw this man, they assumed that God had not answered his prayers because of sin, particularly the sin of unbelief.  And the blind man was also aware of his own sin and unworthiness.  He knew he needed mercy and was powerless to change.  The next thing I saw was God reaching down and guiding this man by the hand.  But this time, He did not heal the man’s blindness.  The man still could not see, but now instead of sitting, God was guiding Him.  He was leading the blind man to walk in spite of the darkness.  God was graciously leaving him in darkness so that he could better understand the presence of his God who had promised never to forsake.  The encouragement to me was that whether God heals the blind eyes and allows sight or leaves you in the darkness, that in both circumstances, He is working to display His greatness and He is the God that does not forsake His children. 

 

The idea was sparked by a quote I read this morning (one of the quotes in my post below)… 

Often I have heard people say, “How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!” Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. “No, Corrie,” said Betsie, “He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” Corrie concludes, “There is an ocean of God’s love available – there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love – whatever the circumstances.”   Corrie Ten Boom

prison clothes and the King’s table

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ever feel like you are underdressed for an occasion?  you show up for a party in jeans and a sweater and everyone else is dressed up?  imagine that the President invites you to the White House for a dinner party… would you show up in jeans?  of course not.  You would be embarrased if you were so drastically underdressed and i’m sure you’d feel very out of place. 

growing up for the first 20 years of my life in mostly fundamentalist churches, I often heard something like this as an encouragement to wear your best clothes to church on Sunday… to dress up when you come into the presence of the King to show reverence and respect.

but the reality is, God looks much deeper than the outward appearance and examines what is truly at the heart level.   I am not saying it is wrong to wear nice clothes to church, but personally, I am not of the conviction that God is impressed by my pantyhose and knee-length skirt.  He is impressed by a heart of humility that seeks to serve his Body and worship Him for His holiness. 

but all too often I am tempted to think that because God looks on the heart, I am in trouble.  that He knows my sin and I often feel ashamed to stand before the King with prison clothes on my heart.  Aware of His holiness, my sin can feel so condemning and overwhelming.

I’m so grateful for times when God reminds me that this simply is not true.  That Jesus died not only to save me from hell, but to release the chains that are around my heart that is so prone to sin.  I am not captive to those sins anymore.  Those prison clothes are not what defines my heart.  My heart has been changed and is now ruled by Jesus Christ.

but it often doesn’t feel like that does it?  condemnation.  shame.  regret.  fear.  those things can often overcloud the 3 words so precious to me:  “it is finished.”  as Martin Lloyd Jones stated in his book Spiritual Depression, its exactly at those times that I need to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself… to start talking truth from God’s Word. 

Several years ago, I read through the Bible in 3 months.  There were a few passages that jumped out to me at that time.  One was the first five verses of Zechariah 3…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

I shared this passage in Care Group Friday night along with an impression that God wanted to encourage those in the group that struggle with this very thought… with the thought of standing before God in our prison rags… that He wants to remind us that through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are accepted… our clothes are changed, our chains are gone and we are invited in as a child of God as a result of His amazing grace.

Yesterday at church, it was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit move.  Someone came up during worship and shared the exact same passage… Zechariah 3:1-5 and the exact same encouragement to the body of Christ.  It edified my heart to see God working in various means to build up and refresh his church.  And from such an “obscure” passage… 

After care group on Friday, someone shared with me another passage along the same lines… 2 Kings 25:29:

So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.

I think this accurately displayes who we are in Christ.  I pray that God encourages each of you who know Him with the hope found in the truth that we were… “once your enemy, now seated at your table.”  Jesus, thank you.

thoughts on “the room”

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I remember the first time I read this story by Josh Harris called “the Room” (see post below).  It was shortly after I had become a Christian and I was reminded in such a powerful way of the amazing grace shown to me.  What a cause for rejoicing.  What peace this story brought to my soul.

How I need this reminder though every day… not just 5 years ago.  This past week, I was having a conversation and the other person accused me of something falsely.  I tried to point out that what they were saying was not the truth and the response I heard was “well, you are a liar.  you have shown a consistent pattern in your life over many years of lying.  things like that don’t change.”

How happy I am to know that those words are simply NOT true.  It is an accusation that Satan tries to use quite often in my life to cause me to despair.  But I know without a doubt that I am not that same lying punk kid I was 5+ years ago… the gospel has the power to change lives… even mine.

How do I know this?  I mean, if you look at my life, you still see lots of sin.  I hurt friends, I fail God, I don’t live with the righteous obedience that He requires of me.  So  how can I say so confidently that I am not the same person anymore?

Its because I’m no longer bound to my former sins any more than Jesus Christ is still bound to the cross on which He died.  The resurrection proves that His death was sufficent.  Those precious words “it is finished” applies for every CURRENT struggle… not merely the pre-salvation ones.

I pray my friend understands this truth one day… that the gospel does indeed have the power to change a wretch like me.

I’m not at all excusing my sin or saying that its not serious. My sins were so serious that Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for them.  But I have the confidence and hope that in His suffering and death, my condemnation, guilt and shame were absolved.

what a glorious truth!

the room

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(by Joshua Harris)

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order.  But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked”. I opened it and began flipping  through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 16 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With”.  The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused.  I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.  And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him.  Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me.  I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door.  There were still cards to be written.

the cliffs of insanity

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do you ever feel like God asks too much of you? 

I was sitting at lunch on Sunday with a few friends and one guy mentioned this statement: “it just feels like God is asking for too much… holiness, sexual purity, hope despite circumstances, etc… its just too much.” 

My first thought was to remind him that if he compared his circumstances with all God has offered him through salvation, that he wouldn’t say such a thing.  But before I said a word, thankfully the Holy Spirit convicted me of often thinking and saying the exact same thing in my own life.  “God, ___ is too much.  Please stop.  Please take this away.  Enough already. Can’t we be done with this trial / lesson / etc?”

As I was thinking about this last night, my thoughts turned to the Princess Bride.  In this movie, is a section where Fezzik carries the princess and two others on his back as he climbs a rope up the cliffs of insanity.  They are dizzying and from a normal human’s perspective its “inconceivable” to think that someone could climb those cliffs.  Its an obstacle that can’t be overcome. 

I think of many situations in my life this way.  For this post, the obstacle of choice is finances.  I often find myself overwhelmed by the struggle, frustrated by my lack of self control in certain areas, and discouraged that I’m still fighting this battle and disheartened by additional unpaid days off work.  In my mind if I could just pull myself up by my bootstraps, then all would be fine.  I’d have millions in the bank, no struggles and happiness galore.  But thinking that is about as foolish as expecting the princess to climb the cliffs by herself.  Without the power of Fezzik, the giant, there is no way she would make it to the top of the cliff.  And the same is true in my life… without the power of the Holy Spirit to lead me and carry me, there is no hope for change in my life.  The cliffs really are insurmountable. 

Thankfully, the Bible has something to say about the cliffs in our lives and the power of God.

Mark 9:22-24 [the father of the child said] “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Romans 8:26 … the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Matthew 6:32 But if God so clothes the grass of the field which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Nehemiah 9:19-20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.  Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. 

Psalm 9:10 for you, o LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 He who calls you is faithful, He will surely do it.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

I’m grateful that the power to make changes in my life is not up to me.  if it were, there would be no hope.   I can look back and see so many other insurmountable cliffs that now seem miniscule.  And because of God’s faithfulness, I know we’ll get over the current ones too.

the dragon meets the lion

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“The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I dont know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I jsut stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

The the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was do deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peele the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was Ias smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me – (with his paws?) – Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. and then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”

from the Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

pictures

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the last 2 years of my life in “pictures”:

1. suitcases at the cross, covered fully in blood. red sheets all around, overhead. completely forgiven.

2. seed in ground. Master Gardener knows how much water and heat it needs to grow. seed doesn’t know the end result, but the Gardener does. He will tend his plant perfectly until it grows into what its supposed to.

3. child in waves. Father takes her there to train her. He won’t let her drown, even when she’s scared to death… even if she swallows some water. She will be okay because He is behind her holding her up, even when she can’t feel it.

4. dark night. stars are still shining. don’t forget to look up, its not completely dark.

5. out of valley. up to a mountain. the climb is hard. the road is steep and there are dangerous cliffs. there is fog. God goes before and is behind and on each side and guards each step.

6. looking at life with a pillow in front of my face. my problems and trials are the pillow. its all i can see. but learn to move it aside and see all God has done. give thanks. He has richly blessed me.

7. army attacking. standing alone in green field. thousands coming on every side. no armor. cried for help. looked back up and see angel warriors surrounding me. fighting for me because i’m precious to God. He won’t forsake me or let me die… i’m His precious child and He paid a costly price for me. He will protect me.

8. the battle is over. i’m not harmed. but i’m too weak to stand. its the middle of the day but all i want is sleep. i can’t move. i’m afraid the army will return. then i realize i’m being held. i’m safe in His arms.

9. acorn falls from a tree. the acorn thinks it fell prematurely. needs to stay and grow. instead its planted. the weight of the dirt seems unbearable. at first it fights, death is painful. it rains. the acorn is cold, alone and sad. then it remembers what it was told earlier… death comes, then comes a beautiful tree. pain, then growth. the acorn longs for that growth, longs to be a big beautiful tree. knows death is the only way.

10. walking on a road. the path is dark. the light guiding me is dim. forces in the darkness are attacking… loud, relentless and mean. the light seems smaller. must keep following. must keep trusting. no matter what, keep moving and trusting. He is faithful… remember His promises. standing still is not an option. sitting down would be wrong. walking cannot be done in own strength. must walk by faith. must put into action what seems impossible. go.

up

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the way out is up.
to leave the valley involves a hard climb. 
the steps become painful.  the trek becomes weary.
you sweat.  and cry in pain. 
but its the way out.  and you must go.

up is the way out.
don’t forget who walks before you.
He climbs, ensuring each step to be safe.
there’s comfort.  in the middle of struggles.
its the way out.  and you’re not alone.

out is the way up.
you climb blindly.  it is hard. 
but the Alpha and Omega goes behind and before.
always there.  Your protection is a guarantee.
He IS the way out of your circumstances.  He is good.

the way is out and up.
look around.  each step was planned for you.
He faithfully leads you.  Look to Him in faith.
though you only see fog, He is that cloud that hides the next step.
but trust Him.  He is leading you out of yourself. 

and though hard, that’s a beautiful place to be.

Christ our Renovator

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Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: William Collins, 1970), 172.

Dream

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So, on Saturday night I had a dream like I’ve never had before. I awoke overwhelmed, encouraged and freshly aware of God’s kind sovereignty. Here’s how it went.

God has given me an unusual burden for my friends in Myanmar. I don’t know why, other than to share in their burdens and approach the Throne of Grace asking for help in their time of need. They’ve been on my mind almost constantly since Cyclone Nargis hit 10 days ago.

So, in this dream, I was allowed to travel to Burma to provide needed relief aid to the disaster vicitims. Imagine Hurricaine Katrina hitting an area with wooden houses and sheds. Its no surprise the devastation is great. While there, I was meeting Burmese families who had lost children, wives who lost husbands, men who had no way to provide for the family members that remained.

I met with a Christian lady (still dreaming, remember) who had lost the pastor of her church, her husband and 2 of her three small children. She had no home to return to, no job to work in order to provide the basic necessities for her small boy and no available medical care. From a worldly perspective, this dear child of God had no hope.

As I handed her a cup of water, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me how grateful she was. I asked her why. “How can you be grateful? You’ve just lost everything.”

With tears streaming down her dirty, weathered face, she looked at me and said (through a translator) that her husband, 2 children and her pastor were now in the presence of Jesus. How her tear-filled eyes rejoiced! She missed them. Her heart ached for the small comforts she had only 11 days ago (though I would have, in my western-worldview not seen even that as “comfort”). But she smiled. She had hope amidst a hopeless situation.

She rejoiced in her trial because her almighty Sovereign God had planned that cyclone to obliterate her town. He knew it was coming long before she did. He knew, before she was ever born that on May the 2nd, 2008, her world would change forever. But this God, who is all-powerful loved her. He, who controls the winds and waves, cared for her soul enough to open her eyes to the love of Jesus. She, my nameless friend from a dream, rejoiced because, though she was born Buddhist, was told of Jesus several years ago. And He became beautiful to her. He brought hope to her war-ravaged world.

I wanted to hug her, but the culture there is not as personal and open to feeling as mine is and I did not want to offend her. So instead, I told her that I had been praying for them. I then asked how I could pray specifically for her.

She wanted me to know that she was blessed – that she had already been given everything. She wanted me to pray for her friends that didn’t have this same hope. She wanted me to pray that her faith in her sovereign, loving Jesus would grow through this “light and temporary affliction.” She wanted me to share that blessing with others that I knew too.

Then I woke up.

When I got to church a few hours later (I had the dream Saturday night), we prayed during worship for the folks in Burma. God reminded me at that point, that we were corporately offering up a sweet smelling offering to our God that controls the waves. Through Jesus, our feeble prayers and humble songs were a beautiful sight and smell before the Throne of Grace.

The worship set was in many senses a disaster – the sound equipment didn’t work at all; half the band couldn’t play as a result. It was from a musical standpoint very amateur. But what a reminder – Jesus took those feeble attempts and perfected that worship. When it arrived before the Throne, the Almighty Commander of the Waves received the sweet gift of a beautiful symphony of praise. As we were more aware of our weakness, He became yet again greater to me.

Worship yesterday was powerful. It was as if the roof was lifted and I could see Jesus handing God the Father a beautiful package of us simultaneously acknowledging our neediness and His all-encompassing greatness.
I often forget that transaction that takes place at my church at 10 AM each Sunday morning.

One day, we’ll all be standing together before that throne, singing in every language, rejoicing with praise alongside that pastor and husband and those 2 children that died 10 days ago in the cyclone.
I‘ll stand next to my friend from Burma whom I’ve never met, with hands held high, in complete thankfulness to the One who created each trial in our lives. I’ll rejoice, as I see face to face, the One who not only planned, but also accompanied me through each trial.