Category Archives: Disorientation

Believing!

DSC_1456By Judy Villanueva

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)

“A short-cut!” my husband exclaimed and off he traipsed across the lake-bed. I was a small distance behind and watched as he blazed a new trail only to end up thigh deep in mud! Oof! He was thoroughly stuck and had to lay down flat in order to work his legs free and maneuver his way back to solid ground. I guess that’s a good picture of my life as it relates to “believing”. I want to believe and do…until I don’t…and then, I’m just stuck in the mud of unbelief, uncertain where to turn or how to get back on feet of faith. My challenge of belief is not whether God CAN do anything, but rather, lies in the muddy mire of WILL He do what I ask?

The “can” and the “will” of it are two separate matters, I suppose, but when I’m on my knees pleading for pity — I want both! The CAN of God inspires me to ask with great expectation for anything and everything on my heart but it is the WILL of God that governs His CAN and demands that I exercise faith.

Do I trust His yes or no? Will I tolerate “what happens next” when it isn’t what I’ve prayed for?

“If you can?” are the words that seem to jump out at me today with care and confrontation. They seems to look me in the eyes with love and ask if I do, in fact, know with Whom I am speaking when I pray.

When I want what I want, are my prayers lifted to the God who not only CAN but always DOES in perfect harmony with His wise and good purposes? In the midst of my pain or impatience, can I remember that the One to Whom I pray CAN ONLY be true and faithful? What then shall I believe?

That I’ll always understand the answers God gives or that He WILL forever ACT with perfection and love…beyond my understanding?

Jesus words, “If I can?” invite me to stop and look at Him today, to sit at His side and let His voice overshadow my doubts. When He is next to me and at the heart of all my prayers, I can feel my feet of faith grow wings and my unbelief set free from the mud to trust God do the impossible … above and beyond what I understand!

“Jesus, in Your presence I find rest for my soul and faith to believe that everything is possible. Draw me close to Your heart where I am reminded with Whom I am speaking and given courage to believe that You CAN and WILL be faithful always. Amen.”

What about you?

Are you mindful when you pray that you are speaking with the God of the universe? It helps!

What fuels your believing? Feelings or faith?

What are you believing God for today?

God cannot but WILL and ACT in accord with His perfect knowledge and faithful heart. You can trust Him and believe that beyond what you can see.

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Worship

Held

IMG_4539By Judy Villanueva

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.  You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:1-5)

One of my earliest memories is of being rocked in my father’s arms and soothed by a tune that he used to hum over us kids.  His deep voice made it a rumbly lullaby that I could both feel as well as hear, and it wasn’t long before the humming gave way to sweet dreams.  I remember the feeling of being held and calmed by his voice and, to this day, this little tune quiets me.  It is a melody that I’ve since heard myself hum to calm my children and grandchildren. Being held and “hummed to” created safety all around and inside of me.  “Dad is here.  It’s all going to be ok.  I can rest.”

Is there a more beautiful reality than that our lives are held by God…always?

Our sitting down and rising up, our every thought and word, coming and going, working or lying down, He knows!  He is intimately acquainted with everything about us.  We are seen, known and loved by the God who made us…at all times, in all places, no matter how we feel about it.  How DO you feel about it?  It is an easy idea to cuddle up with when all is well with our world but it can be a most prickly truth to believe in the dark of night.  How, when we are frightened by the night, can we rest in His arms and let the sound of His voice bring us peace?

The fact that we are finite creatures means that we can only  see “in part” and are not able to grasp the entirety of why things happen as they do. There are times when we will not understand our lives…when we simply do not and can not have the same perspective as the God who always sees everything all time, now and forever!

The nature of being held means that it’s not up to us to know everything.

Believe or not, that is good news! What IS up to us is to trust the One who sees and knows what we cannot, and let HIm hold and deliver us into the plans He has for us. Can we lean back into the divine arms that cradle our lives with love, compassion, goodness and purpose? He holds all things together with perfection… even when we cannot perceive it.

“Thank you, Father, for holding my life…always.  To know that you do, consoles me.  To consider that you know me through and through helps me to exhale.  You are here.  It’s all going be ok.  I can rest.  Amen.”

What about you?

Is your heart troubled?  What brings you comfort?

Where/with whom do you experience being known?

Do you need to know today that you are seen, known and loved by the God who made you?

He loves you and is intimately acquainted with all your ways.

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Worship

Death and Daisies

DSC_0468By Judy Villanueva

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Our family recently suffered the loss of a beloved member.  It hardly seemed real and doesn’t feel real even now.  Whether anticipated or unexpected, death seems to throw us into an unwelcomed and unimaginable state of disbelief.  While a shared destiny, its arrival ushers in an incomprehensible moment, a soul-wrenching anguish.  It is with great reluctance and tears that we let go and eventually accept the realities of life without our dad, mom, spouse or friend.  We are born into a world that brims with life, and knowing that one day hearts stop beating and next breaths simply aren’t inhaled doesn’t make death any easier to tolerate when it takes away our loved one.

And, then there are daisies.

Have you ever noticed that life is always piled up on top of life?  In other words, we are seldom purely happy or sad and most often experience a mix of emotions that live together all at once.  Grief sits in the middle of the arms that hold us and sadness amidst the good that surrounds us as the sun comes up and we awaken to God’s fresh mercies.  Life continues to pour out love and beauty right alongside great loss and, incongruous as it may feel, our hearts are designed to take in and hold both the joy and the sorrow.

Hellos and goodbyes stand side-by-side inviting us to let go of what has ended and reach out for God and the life He offers beyond the pain of loss.

Each June the fields around our house are visited by hundreds and hundreds of daisies!  At first, only a couple of bright yellow faces peek out from amidst the grass but before long the whole landscape is blanketed in what looks like happiness!  Their time with us is a gift every year and their presence, a reminder that God is good and beautiful.   As I soak up the blessing of “daisy-joy” I can feel the love of God wrap around my heart with healing grace…and I am helped to allow for laughter amidst the tears, joy alongside my sorrow and gratitude to rise up from the middle of my grief.

“Father, how we need You to hold us in times of loss and pain.  We cannot have been made for death as it seems so very incomprehensible.  Help us to lean against your faithful heart and trust You now and always.  Help us to receive the comfort that we find inside Your arms of love.  Amen.”

What about you?

Are you in a time of great loss?

Have you experienced the comfort of God’s presence?

Do you know the peace that surpasses all comprehension…found in the arms of God?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Worship

 

Sparrows

DSC_0021By Judy Villanueva

Luke 12:6-7 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

That God does not forget one sparrow is a great consolation to my soul, for I am not sure there is anything more troubling than to feel forgotten.  Sold for less than one cent, sparrows were considered practically worthless and yet, Jesus testifies that not one is forgotten in God’s sight.  Do you ever feel forgotten?  I do.  To feel invisible is something that will pull the rug right out from under me, every time.  It might happen when I don’t feel heard, considered, or remembered.  It might occur after a long period of waiting in prayer for provision or relief from a trial.  Whatever the catalyst, feeling forgotten wants to suggest that we do not matter and strikes a harsh blow to our faith and perception of God.

I think that Jesus must know that all of His children have a question embedded in the deepest part of their souls.  ”Do I matter?”

Is my life of value and am I on anyone’s radar?  In this passage, Jesus addresses our need to hear and know how God feels about us with an emphasis that is unmistakable!  His words are a revelation of  God’s divine nature designed to help us to know Him better.  Jesus tells us that God’s heart is such that He keeps track of little sparrows and He even counts the number of hairs on our heads.  Yes, we matter to God!  His care for us goes far beyond knowing our names and where we live.  God’s love is intimate, personal, and particular!

When I read this morning that God does not forget even a sparrow, I felt my hope wake up!  It’s easy to feel lost in the crowd down here on planet earth…one life amongst millions over the centuries.  When trouble comes and stays for a long visit, it’s tiring and a little tempting to wonder if prayers have been overlooked or forgotten. This little verse helps me hear Jesus, all the way from the twenty-first century, reminding me that God has not forgotten me or my prayers!

It’s a whisper and a clap of thunder that arrives with an armful of hope for my heart today.

It refuels my faith and reshapes my wounded perception of the God who remembers me, who has utter, complete and perfect knowledge of my life…always!

“Lord, I feel refreshed today that You remember me, my hair, and my story.  Thank You for knowing me intimately, personally and particularly.  Heal  my false and wounded images of You and help me to trust in Your good heart.  Amen.”

How about you?

Do you ever feel forgotten by God?

How might you feel today, in your life right now, if you were convinced of God’s utter, complete and perfect knowledge of you?

Have you heard God say to your soul that you matter?

God loves you and you are on His radar.

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Worship

Higher Ways

DSC_0167By Judy Villanueva

Isaiah 55:9  

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Turning over, I pressed the button on my phone to see what time it was…3:00am. Ugh!  I thought, “If I don’t start thinking I won’t start worrying and I’ll be able to go right back to sleep.”  No such luck.  Loved ones flashed through my mind like a slideshow, each one holding their pain or need.  Before long, I was wide-awake and aware of a familiar tightness in my tummy.  I knew that loving my friends and family with worry would never be as helpful as loving them through prayer but it was the middle of the night and I was at a disadvantage.  I wanted to pray but found myself listening instead to faith crushing questions like, “What’s the point?” and, “Does prayer really make a difference?”

Our lives are full of events that we understand and right alongside is everything else!  God does not explain everything and, even if He did, we’d likely not grasp the complexity of how our lives fit into the immense orchestration of lives and events that He watches over with love. Our sanity, not to mention, our faith depend on believing that He is good and able to hold all the pieces of history and work them together for purposes that we will one day celebrate.

In the meantime, we hope and pray in the gap that exists between what we know about God and what we do not understand about our world.

Knowing God and trusting Him is everything!  Praying in the middle of the night needn’t depend on our ability to make sense of everything and can instead lean on the tender heart of the God, who listens.  Do you know His heart?  There are many good things to know about Yahweh but the experience of His love and the conviction that He reigns over, above, in and through ALL of life is a gift of peace in the dark and precious laughter in the light.  Which is easier, I wonder?

To trust in what happens next or to trust in the One who holds what happens next?

God holds what happens next…and He holds us, too!  We can’t know what we can’t know or control all that we wish we could, but we can put our trust in the One whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

“Thank You, Father, that You love with perfection, even when I cannot see or measure it.  Watch over all our prayers in the middle of the night and help us to feel you with us especially when it’s dark and we are tired.  Bless us and fill us with faith in Your good heart.  Amen.”

What about you? 

Do you know that when you pray, God is always listening…even at 3:00am?

Have you experienced God’s love?  Have you felt His tender heart?

Do you need faith in the middle of the night?  Strength to pray in the gap?

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night.”(Psalm 92:1-2)

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Worship

 

 

 

Held

DSC_1223By Judy Villanueva

Psalm 139:1-5

 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;   You understand my thought from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down,  and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue,  behold, O Lord, You know it all.  You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.

One of my earliest memories is of being rocked in my father’s arms and soothed by the rhythm of a tune that he used to hum.  Dad’s deep voice made it a rumbly lullaby that I could both feel as well as hear, and before long  humming gave way to sweet dreams.  I remember the feeling of being held and calmed by his voice and, to this day, this little tune quiets me.  It is a melody that I’ve since heard myself hum to calm my children, grandchildren, and my own heart when it is frightened.  Being held and “hummed to” created safety all around and inside of me.  “Dad is here.  It’s all going to be ok.  I can rest.”

Is there a more beautiful reality than that our lives are held by God…always?

Our sitting down and rising up, our every thought and word, coming and going, working or lying down, He knows!  He is intimately acquainted with everything about us.  We are seen, known and loved by the God who made us…at all times, in all places, no matter how we feel about it.  How do you feel about it?  It is an easy idea to cuddle up with when we feel “warm and cozy” but it can be a most prickly truth to believe in the dark of night.  How, when we are frightened by the night, can we rest in His arms and let the sound of His voice bring us peace?

When a mother consoles her crying baby, she holds it despite the wailing and flailing of little arms and legs.  The child has no idea how it will ever be content again and is simply as unhappy as it needs to be!   Mom, on the other hand, watches over the upset babe, all the while working to provide for its needs.  Sound familiar?  We are finite creatures and, while we have certain capacity to make sense of our lives, we are unable to grasp the entirety of why things happen as they do.

Sometimes, we must simply wail and be as unhappy as we need to be, but eventually…and often after we’ve exhausted ourselves, we must rest in the infinite arms that hold us.

We must come to our senses and look for God’s face.  We must listen for His voice that sings over our troubled hearts and let His firm grasp of our lives bring us the peace we crave.  His arms are mighty, His heart is good, and the sound of His humming, however it comes to us, gives way to rest.

“Thank you, Father, for holding my life…always.  To know that You do, consoles me.  To consider that You know me through and through helps me to exhale.  You are here.  It’s all going be ok.  I can rest.  Amen.”

What about you?

Is your heart troubled?  What brings you comfort?

Where/with whom do you experience being known?

Do you need to know today that you are seen, known and loved by the God who made you?

He loves you and is intimately acquainted with all your ways.

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Rocks and Trees

DSC_0271By Judy Villanueva

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
  From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  (Psalm 121)

“…with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

I have a hundred pictures of trees growing out of rocks!  It catches my attention like a burning bush and shouts “Hope” to my soul!  My husband and I have literally planted over a hundred trees in the last ten years.  We’ve watered them, fed them, and have spent hours weeding, pruning, and protecting them.  To my dismay, maybe a third have survived!  The large pine under the eaves, on the other hand,  has been pushed completely over by ice sliding off the roof more than once and now stands taller than the roof.  One of our healthiest aspens was severed in half by another ice slide and grew back with such vigor that it now also rises above the roof offering abundant shade each morning.  I’m no arborist, but the common denominators seem to involve hardship and lots of water!

As for trees that grow out of rocks, I can only surmise that God loves life and can call it to rise up…even from the hardest places!

I stand before trees with rocky birthplaces in silence, awe and incredulity!  I take pictures of them to remind myself that God can do anything!  I come from a family that tends to be rather practical, which is a tremendous asset when it comes to making decisions, processing conflict or buying a car.  But, as it relates to matters of faith, being practical seems to tether me to the possible when what I really want to reach for is the “tree out of the rock” impossible!  I want to hope beyond reason, pray for miracles, and watch breathlessly for God to interrupt my practical expectations with a divine thunder that initiates an impractical faith!

It helps me to remember, that once upon a time, a Father called forth life from behind a stone that covered a tomb…that held a beloved Son.  Was it a whisper or did He shout, “Arise!”?  The stone was rolled away and beneath the burial cloth, a heart began to beat and the sound of God breathing filled the air!  Listen!

Can you hear the sound of God breathing over your life today?

Rest.  He is.  Truth is that sometimes all we can do is lean back into the hard places, drink in God’s presence, and wait for Him to help life break through.   In the meantime, we can lift our eyes to the mountains, marvel at trees that grow out of rocks, and let them shout “Hope!” to our souls.  We can trust that God loves us.   He can do what we cannot and with Him, all things are possible.

“Lord God, breathe into our weary hopes and help us through our trials.  Grow trees out of rocks and do the impossible according to Your good will!  Help us to trust that You love life…our lives, each one!  Strengthen us and sustain us as we wait for life to break through.  Amen.”

What about you?

 Can you hear the sound of God breathing over your life today?

Do you need God to do something that seems impossible? 

What catches your attention and reminds you that you can trust God?

Do you have a practical faith or one that breathlessly waits for God to do the impossible?

Rest. Drink, and trust in His love.

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Worship

(Dedicated to Steven, Trina Beaumont and my little brother)

 

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Are You The One?

DSC_0649By Judy Villanueva

Matthew 11:2-6

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

John’s was the voice that cried out in the wilderness “Prepare the way of the Lord!”  He is in the guy who wore camel hair shirts and ate locusts with wild honey.  We definitely get the impression that he was sold out for Jesus, and bold in his message to repent and be baptized! Yet, here in this passage, we find him in prison sending his disciples to Jesus to ask a curious question.  “Are You the One, the Messiah or should they wait for another?”  It seems to imply that John was feeling off balance and in need of reassurance.  It makes me wonder if he wasn’t scratching his head trying to make sense of the life unfolding around him. Was being in prison part of the plan or did something go wrong?  No doubt, his circumstances were not what he had expected!

John the Baptist might seem like  a hard guy to relate to, but as I witness him straining toward Jesus in need of strength and direction, I feel an immediate connection!  John’s question is my question and was my question this very morning!  I ask it often during times of disappointment or fear, and certainly, whenever I cannot make sense of how the pieces of my life fit together.  You know those times when life is not how we imagined, or when it seems like God is taking forever to answer our prayers?   I’m afraid we might find Jesus’ response to John less than comforting.  He doesn’t say, “Hang in there, cousin!  I’m on my way to break open the prison doors!”  Instead, Jesus tells John that the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised and the good news is being preached to the poorIn other words, “Take heart.  I am He!  I am the One!”

Jesus’ words might feel both reassuring and disconcerting to the hearer because while it announces His reign as Messiah, it does so right alongside John’s plight in prison.  This is always the case!

Jesus is Lord and Messiah, always AND right alongside the life that is ours…the life that we may love, as well as the life that may include the hardest trial we’ve ever faced.

It was John’s challenge, as it is ours, to hear Jesus announce His reign and to trust beyond his own understanding.  I need to hear Jesus say, “I am the One!” when life has caused my heart to falter…and allow the reality of His reign to strengthen and remind me, that despite present conditions or anything I may not understand, His kingdom has arrived!  It’s already here!  That’s what Jesus was telling John!  That’s the good news being preached to the poor and that’s the blessed Truth that sets us free today!  Take heart!  He is the One!  Look no further!

“Lord, help me to hear you announce that You are healing, raising  the dead and reigning over all!  It gives me strength to wait with hope and trust You rather than lean on my own understanding.  Help me to lay down my need to know everything and instead, to bow in faith.  Thank you that you are the One!  Amen”

What about you? 

When do you feel off balance and in need of reassurance?

What does the arrival of God’s kingdom mean to you?

Are you able to rest, knowing that Jesus reigns?

Above and beyond whatever circumstances you find yourself in,  God is good and He reigns!

 

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Dissonant Notes

DSC_0396By Judy Villanueva

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3)

I came to faith with great energy to hope in God — to wait with expectation for what God would say and what He would do!  Young and full of faith, I climbed out on the proverbial limb and watched for Jesus but, answers to prayer lingered and unwelcomed outcomes arrived instead.  Disappointment in prayer began to undermine the song I wanted to sing from the branches and before I knew it I was on the ground dusting myself off and kicking aside the cracked branch next to me.

Dissonant notes. They are notes that play on the base clef of our souls.  On the treble clef we hear the melody of faith, joy and peace.  We believe God’s word and trust Him.  But, if we listen closely we may become aware of dissonant notes that are also playing, the ones a little off-key that remind us of disappointments, losses, and our wounded souls.  Did you know that it is possible to feel hurt by God?  Now, that may sound irreverent , but I’ll suggest it’s just honest.  It is what happens along our faith journeys in this fallen world when we don’t understand the unexpected things that happen in life.  We believe that God is faithful but we cannot make sense of pain, sickness, and suffering in this world.

So, what do we do with our dissonant notes?  First, it is helpful to listen and allow them to help us understand the hurts inside of us.

In listening we come to realize how pain may have warped our image of God and interfered with our ability to trust Him.

Rather than ignoring our hurts and disappointments, we can offer them a place to heal.  In God’s Word we find powerful and reorienting Truth that creates melodies of hope within us  and purifies the way we see and know God.  Taking time to rest and be still aids in quieting our souls and fosters a sense of  God’s presence.  Here we learn to accept what cannot know or control and trust that God is faithful and able to watch over our lives.  Finally, in worship we learn to sing alongside our off-key notes with melodies of grace that invite them into the larger songs being written through our lives by God — songs of His faithfulness, redemptive power, and everlasting love!

“Lord, I am so aware of my off-key notes, especially when I am discouraged or disappointed. Thank You that all my notes find their place in the song You are writing through my life. Help me to wait and watch for Your faithfulness. Amen.”

What About You?

Are you aware of the notes that play in your soul?  Contented and off-key?

Have you taken time to listen and understand them?

Can you bring your soul full of notes (joys and sorrows) to Jesus…to rest and be loved?

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Worship

Windows

DSC_1207By Judy Villanueva

Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”

I love it when God says “Yes!” What’s not to love? I understand “yes”. “Yes” feels good! “Yes” feels right! Right? There is something about “You got the job!” “Will you marry me?” “You win!” that affirms that we are loved and that Someone good is watching over our lives. “Yes” is like a spring rain or a summer breeze that wraps around us with happy! It usually makes us smile, relieves our hearts, and makes us want to dance! I love it when God says “Yes!”

I’m guessing you know where this is going? There are other times when it can feel like God isn’t listening or doesn’t care because doors close, we don’t win, and someone else gets the job. We pray for God’s will and offer to submit to a “No.” And, we mean it…sort of…or at least until the answer is actually “No.” Then, it’s easy to get lost. Disappointment is tricky and tends to throw everything up for grabs. Is God in control? Why did this or that happen? Did I hear wrong? What can I now expect going forward?

It is at these times that a window opens, a particular moment when God invites us to trust Him with our whole hearts. It is here and now that faith is exercised. Can we accept the “no,” and will we place our hearts in His care?

Acceptance and trust are things we do on our knees and often, on our faces.

Surrender. Breathing in rug-dust, placing our hearts before the King, we ask for mercy, strength to trust and a sense of His love to hold us and help us go forward. He is here. He is good. He waits at the window to be our spring rain, our summer breeze…our supreme and beautiful happy.

“Lord, how I need you to move in close when a “no” has pushed me over. On my face, I come to You and surrender with my whole heart. Help me today not to lean on what I think I know, but to come to You for comfort and strength to trust. Amen.”

What about you?

Have you experienced a disappointing “No” in life?

Do you need God’s help with acceptance and trust?

What would it be like to trust God with all of your heart?

God is faithful. He loves you and watches over your life.

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