don’t quit

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Dear Sis,

What lie do you need to abandon today?
Is it a familiar one? Or something new that crept up on the horizon threatening to take you out?
Don’t you find it most frustrating when you revisit the same old lie and give it power again and again.
It’s the one you have denounced in your loudest voice. You’ve stomped on it and felt like you silenced it once and for all.
And then, boom, there it is again.
Rearing its ugly head like an habitual hazard every time you hit a bump in the road.

And instead of kicking it to the curb, you kick yourself because you just can’t believe you let it in again. Because you know you are the only one with the power to make it stop.
And if you’re like me, you stand there knee-deep in disappointment and discouragement, murmuring to yourself, how can it be?

How can it be you’re still searching for answers to the same echoing questions? Where is this coming from? Why am I sitting with this thing again? Why is the same feeling flooding into my heart when the heart knows better?

Sis, do you find yourself picking through the old files, looking for evidence pointing to the place you first felt the feeling? The first time you believed you were not enough. The first time you stood looking for help and the people who were supposed to love you turned their backs and walked away? No matter which lie speaks loudest in your life they all lead to one conclusion. The ultimate lie we all believe, we are alone.  And it plays over and over in our heads on repeat. And the lie takes on a life of its own that grows into a gaping pit.

How does a girl fix that hole? How does she find a way to fill it so nothing else falls in? We girls need to know, because the next time the bump in the road flings a hazard our way, it might just open up and swallow us whole again.

Haven’t we all patched it up with all kinds of lovely things? We find our people who stand up when things are falling down all around. We embrace God’s Word full of hope for the hopeless holes in our hearts. We repair the tears with promises.

Yet still, that lie pushes back in opening the wound. It’s yesterday’s old aching that echoes from a deep longing.

Because the truth is, a little girl abandoned, finds it hard to believe in present promises.

Oh, yeah, we can read about the straight up truth all day long in our Bible. We can plant it in our minds and hearts, but we need it to grow.
To grow louder and stronger and to chase out the ugly whisper that sneaks in when our lives takes a hit.

Here’s the thing to cling to today. Every battle we walk away from gives us strength and resolve. Every battle no matter how bloody, makes us determined to denounce the lie again. And this new view will give us new strategies for the next time.

Oh, yeah, there’s no doubt, there will be a next time. Sis, life is full of stumbling and struggling and there are powers that push us into corners of the past with those same old voices pressing into the scars we carry. So let’s get ready for battle.

Believe this, every time we stand up and defeat those voices, it builds our courage to keep up the good fight against lies trying to find a foothold in our minds.

Even when the first steps take us back, God equips us to just keep moving through. He has His hand at our back, His voice in our ear telling us the truth, the whole truth. The question is, who will you listen to? You get to choose.
The secret is this. Don’t stop. Going through is the only choice that makes any sense. If you are standing in the pain, and the past is stinging your eyes with unshed tears again, keep moving. Take one more step. Because that step will change something. It will change your mind. Turning and moving in the direction of God’s truth will lead you into love. It’s where you belong dear heart.

Even when you get stuck listening to the old voices, the new one is singing over you. And it’s the sweetest song, written just for you, and it’s been playing for all eternity. It’s meant to drown out all the lies. And God just wants you to hear His heartbeat alongside yours in the melody. It’s a love song of epic proportions. He chose you and He promises to never abandon you. So don’t give up!

The secret is this. Don’t stop. Going through is the only choice that makes sense. He’s just around the bend, and He’s waiting to rescue you from this place. Again and again.

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It’s Not Just a Matter of Survival, It’s a Matter of Revival

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There’s a lot to learn from Lot!

Genesis 19:16, 18 & 19

”When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful.”  Here’s a short story synopsis. The city is destroyed by fire. There are no other survivors. Lot and his family are saved only because the angels grabbed their hands and pulled them out of their indecision.

Isn’t that how we respond when we first hear of God’s plans? We stand with our feet firmly planted in the place we know. The place that seems safe. We have lived there so long change seems way to risky. Besides, that place has become home. Oh, the paint is peeling, the cracks are emerging, and maybe its even sparking a few flames, but we’ve built our lives there. Our comfort zone. We know it’s not perfect. We know there’s a possibility of something better, but then again there could be something worse. So we get stuck. We accept the unacceptable because no one likes moving. If you are like me you realize that the new place will require you to change into a new life. And honestly we just can’t see what that looks like, so we hesitate.

Once Lot and his wife and daughters are practically dragged out of the city the angels tell them to run for their lives and don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Lot’s response echoes his fear of the unknown. “Oh no, my lord! Lot begged. You have been so gracious to me and saved my life, and you have shown such great kindness. But, I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die.” Lot begs the angels to let them stay in a village nearby. He says thanks for saving my life, but the mountains are not the place for me.

At first glance, I think Lot is a little bit wimpy. Angels just pulled him from a burning city, why wouldn’t he trust their directions? But, aren’t we a lot like Lot? When God takes our hand and pulls us away from the old life strewn with stumbling and ashes we beg to stay in the valley. We know we barely escaped. We know God drew us out just in time. But standing that close to God makes us acutely aware of how we came out of that burning city with ash still clinging to our faces. We recognize we are not ready for mountain-top living. Mountain-top living that exposes us to the presence of God.

So we stand at the edge of the old life barely a step or two away. Just in case this new life gets too hard, we want the option of going back. Even if it means going back to a pile of ashes.

God tells us to go, run for your life from these choices you are making because devastation will follow. We turn and go but just far enough to clear immediate danger.

We bargain with God, just as Lot does. We live marginally obedient lives and miss the mountain-top moments.

Lot asked the angels to allow him to go to a small village instead of the mountains. He begs, “please let me go there instead, don’t you see how small it is?” He would rather live small, than live obedient.

Do we recognize our own lives in this story? Is it possible to look around at our small living and see the reality? Living small keeps us believing we are in control. We’d rather live small than risk reliant obedience.

My friends, obedience requires daring dependence. When God says run for your life, don’t look back, don’t stop anywhere in the valley he means it for our safety. We have somehow convinced ourselves living small keeps us safe.

Lot reached the village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. I wonder if he stood in wonder at God’s mercy toward him as he watched the beginning of a new day. He had lost so much. But God had spared his life and the life of his daughters. He and his little family were the sole survivors of the destruction of his city. But the question hanging in the air full of smoke and ash was whether this would lead to a soul revival for them.

God will wait. He wants us to hurry. He wants us to escape. He will send angels to pull us from the fire.  But he leaves it up to us to decide how far we will follow him.  I imagine him standing with open arms calling to us. Hurry! Hurry to the mountain top!

He knows the obedience to move toward the new beginning requires daring dependence. He didn’t leave us alone in the climb. Jesus stood on a hill reaching out his hand ready to help us over the steep place. The Holy Spirit helps us step over the hurdles where fear blocks our way. He promises he will never leave us.

I’m thinking we might just find this climb breathtaking, our hearts alive, wondering why we took so long to get to the mountain top. Oh, I know there will be moments when we look around and wonder if we can take just one more step. Because let’s be honest here, we can’t see what’s around the next bend in the road and that makes us uncomfortable. But, what if we start the new day convinced it’s not just a matter of sole survival, it’s a matter of soul revival? Would it be worth the risk?

I confess I am a lot like Lot. But I have an advantage. Because I know the love of Jesus I’m willing to risk the climb. One step at a time.

What you see is what you get.

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There are a few chores I can put off without much guilt. It’s weird because they are usually the ones I only have to face a couple times a year. One of those is cleaning the windows. Are you with me here?

I can walk past them day after day, week after week, month after month never realizing I am missing an opportunity to see something differently.  Missing the opportunity to see something with clarity. Missing the opportunity to see something from an entirely new perspective. Maybe even missing a single small thing buried beneath the grime of the daily winds and weather that tend to cover the shiny on the other side.

But let’s be honest here, who wants to stop and clear the way? We’d rather use our hand to rub a small circular smudge in the middle of the pane than spend an hour or two with bucket, squeegee and paper towels to do a thorough job. The kind of job giving us endless viewing pleasure.

Do you ever feel the same nagging feeling when you look at your life? You just long for a little clarity. Could someone please just clear the fog, wipe away the smudges, clean up the splatters? I hear the old saying “what you see is what you get” playing in my head and I wonder if the things I long for might be closer than I ever imagined. There’s just a blur of grime in the way.

Yeah, the cleaning and clearing is a challenging job. I do my best but always seem to step back to find streaks and smears. I am recognizing there is a definite method to allow light unhindered entrance. Those streaks are just annoying reminders I won’t always get it all on the first pass. But the little bit of clarity I glimpse helps me press on.

With each pass I recognize time and technique will be more effective than strength and speed. I have to admit, I don’t like it one bit, but patience produces clarity. Stepping back assessing the job from different vantage points allows me to to make slight adjustments. One pass after another brings every little thing I am looking at into full, bright, clear focus.

The funniest thing is I never even realized how much I was missing. I never realized how I was living, loving, looking through the dullness. So maybe that chore I ignore is worth the time after all.

How about you Sis? What’s blocking your view today? Are you longing for a bit of clarity? Is there a chore you have put off until it just doesn’t make sense to ignore it any longer?

Be encouraged. Because if you are willing to do the work, what you see is what you get. Though the job seems daunting and dread follows you in, the view is worth it all. Take it from a girl who’s enjoying the light and seeing things clearly for the first time in quite awhile. Press on dear girl. Press on.

 

Dear Father,

We find You when we clear the windows of our hearts. We allow the wind and weather of the world to cloud our view and stand confused by our limited understanding. Help us to remember to stop and take the time to take care of the chores that hinder the clarity of your light. You invite us to come to you when we are stuck wondering which way to turn. But Lord sometimes we come with something still standing between us. Help us to see clearly what needs a bit of care, a bit of cleaning. We know it will be worth the effort it takes because what we see is what we  get. And Father we all need to see more of your light. All my love, amen.

 

But Lord…

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The Lord said, Go!

Ananais said, But, Lord!

But the Lord said, Go!

So Ananais went.

Acts 9:10-19

’Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananais; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananais.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying there, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananais come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.”  But Ananais answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on your saints [God’s people] at Jerusalem; and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing you as Savior]. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a deliberately chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” So Ananais left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road to Damascus, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles]. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; and he took some food and was strengthened.’

Acts 9:10-19 tells the story of a man who doubted but did it anyway. Can you relate Sis?

I get it. When God says go, I run through a mental checklist of what it could cost me. I’m a lot like Ananais. He knew who Saul was and fear stepped into the path before him. Sis, isn’t there always a form of fear stepping between us and obedience?

I wonder how Ananais missed this promise. “I have shown him (Saul) a vision of a man named Ananais coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” God revealed he had gone before Ananais.

Because Ananais is so focused on who Saul is, he can’t see clearly who God says he is.  Because Ananais is so focused on Saul’s power he can’t see clearly the promise of God’s power in him.

Sis, I think sometimes we are so fiercely focused on fear of the unknown that we forget God is the all-knowing. When God asks us to go, could we cling to the promise he has gone before us?  There is courage to be found there.

I love how God in his infinite patience explains the plan to Ananais. He gave him the encouragement he needed. So Ananais went. And in the going, he found God’s confident heart beating with his. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

When Ananias found Saul he wasn’t timid.

When Ananais found Saul he didn’t stand at a safe distance.

When Ananais found Saul he laid his hands on him and said,

”Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Okay Sis, did you catch that? Ananais called Saul his “brother”.  Because Jesus loved Saul, his persecutor, Ananais loved him too. He trusted Jesus’ perspective even when he didn’t see evidence or reason to. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

I love that Ananais proclaims he was sent so Saul could REgain his sight. Maybe you are like me in recognizing the beauty of grace poured out on Saul through these words.

Saul was a man longing to serve God. He had lead a passionate life for God. He had lead a purpose-driven life for God. But somewhere along the way he lost sight of God. His pride lead him to judge others, blinding him to grace and mercy.

Sometimes we need to sit in darkness before God allows us to REgain our sight. He acknowledges we once saw him clearly, but have allowed the world to crowd in and cloud the truth. The truth that we have a great need for grace.

Ananais said, but Lord…

Saul said, but LORD…

We say, but Lord…

Sis, don’t you love how God will get through one way or another. He will either tap us on the shoulder with a little unveiling of the bigger picture, or he will allow us to sit a spell in darkness so we will regain our sight with a new perspective.

On any given day I can stand alongside Ananais and Saul.

But here’s the picture I cling to. I see Jesus laying his hands on either side of our face, leaning in and whispering—will you trust me now?

Will you say yes to my plan?

Will you go where I say go?

Because Ananais and Saul were willing to trust God, we can find hope for the moments we react with the same words…but Lord. I am so thankful for their stories because we get to see how God will take a single solitary effort of obedience and change the world.

So Sis, lets turn toward trust in the all-knowing when we stand facing the unknown. He’s got the plan, he’s gone before us. It’s a promise we can depend on.

 

Dear Father,

We stand at the road leading to unknowns and we shake in our boots. Oh, we hear your voice, we long to go, but we stagger under the burden of fear. Lord, help us to see your perspective. Help us to see the path you have already set out for us. Oh Father, help us to remember all the other times you have gone before us, because it reminds us to trust you in the new journeys. When we stand hearing you invite us to go, give us courage like Ananais, built on  the promise you have gone before us. When we stand hearing you invite us to change our perspective, give us a new vision like Saul to see through your eyes. Lord, we live thankful you believe we can go and make a difference in this world for your Kingdom. We depend on the promise you will always go WITH us. Thank you Father. We declare we can’t do it without you.

all my love,

Amen.

 

 

Does Practice Make Perfect?

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Dear Sis,

A funny, “aha” moment struck me at the gym today. Who knew there were lessons to be learned from lunges? Yes, I’m completely serious.

My workout is an hour-long succession of movements. Starting on what I call the “dreadmill” we move to the rowing machine and then on to floor exercises. Just like most people I have my favorite parts of the workout. The parts I’m good at. The parts I can do easily and with skill.

Todays workout presented a challenge called the “skaters lunge”. It was an old foe. It is a movement where you launch yourself into a side to side lunge while reaching to the floor. It’s similar to what you see in the Winter Olympic Games, but without ice to glide on and minus the smooth moves.

I will never forget my first introduction to this move about 2 years ago. I was at the beginning of my fitness journey. I worked with a personal trainer who consistently challenged my balance.  Enter the “skaters lunge”. When he demonstrated the move it seemed simple enough. My brain said “I can do that”, but my body said “what you talkin’ about?”

Let’s just say his demo looked nothing like my execution. I’m pretty sure I looked like I was having a seizure. There was no evidence of the graceful side to side movement he performed.

So back to the present. Here’s THE PRESENT. Today, at my new gym, the trainer challenged us to do twenty skater lunges. In the middle of the reps, she walked over to me and asked if I was a dancer, because I did the lunges with such grace. I actually laughed out loud in between gasping for breath.

So maybe it’s true what they say. Practice makes perfect. Of course by the third set of those lunges my form began to deteriorate a bit. They weren’t looking as lovely and graceful as the first ones.  So maybe, just maybe it would be better to proclaim a new mantra.  Practice makes progress!

Practice makes perfect is a phrase that can make us cringe. When you hear those words you just know it is most likely going to be a long, painful process to get to the goal. It’s going to require steadfast, step by step determination.  But the biggest challenge is the fails. The fall down and skin your knees kinda fails.

Sis, do you know what I’m talking about here? Have you ever practiced and practiced and found yourself still tripping over the same spot? Maybe you are like me and you found yourself standing back up trying your best to recover gracefully. After a few tries, we begin to wonder if we will ever get it right. We begin to wonder if we have it in us to try again. And we just plain wonder if we have it in us.

Oh Sis, you need to know, I get that. I stand there with you with scars to prove it. They are deep, ugly scars that never quite go away completely.

Starting again requires a new perspective here. I am counting those scars as my badges of courage. Because I’m still here, I’m still standing and I’m still trying. Those scars are a  constant reminder that I got up again because I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It’s here in this confident belief I find boldness for a do-over.

Sis, I’ve started to realize something else that gives me hope. Real hope. If we are honest we will recognize that practice doesn’t make perfect. Only the love of Christ can do that. So I take a deep breath and feel the fullness of joy in the land of His love that takes away all my failures, my tripping, my stumbling attempts and makes them into the most graceful offering. Jesus stepped into the world and reached out his hand to help me up, to help you up.

So Sis, I invite you to come along with me. Tomorrow I will rise and practice again. Practice while depending on the Perfector of my faith. I will lean in and hold on when I feel off-balance. One thing driving my determination is the sweet assurance that God won’t give up on me if I don’t give up on Him. Let’s start a new day proclaiming practice makes progress.  I think Jesus will be the first to pin that badge of courage on us and celebrate our progress as a triumph.

Love You Sis,

Karen

My prayer for you and me:

Dear Father,

You found us trying to do our best, be our best and you knew we would need a little help. You knew we would have a few fails along the way and you covered the mess with a whole lot of grace and love through your Son, Jesus. We live thankful you never leave us alone in the journey. You stand beside us and guide us and remind us who we are in your eyes. It gives us strength to get up and try again. Knowing you are for us makes all the difference. Lord, we long to live for you too. Help us to live and love practicing what Jesus taught us. We know we won’t get it perfect, but with you by our side we will make progress. May your kingdom be glorified by our efforts. We love you Father.  Amen.

 

See and Be Seen!

Morning my friends,

I jotted down these few notes yesterday morning and as I read them today, I thought of how we never feel like our purpose is quite clear. We spend days, weeks, months, years…a lifetime trying to see with clarity the path God has set out for us. Could it be we are just looking in all the wrong places?

Would you be willing to join me and try a little experiment to test our vision. A challenge to the usual perspective. The same perspective the world holds out as truth because it’s what everyone else is doing. I wonder if we would be willing to take a chance and find a new view.

1. Look UP! Sometimes we are so intent on keeping our head down and trudging through we miss the view altogether.
2. Look OUT! There is something worth seeing outside ourselves, our world, our understanding.
3. Look IN! There is a great reward when we look into someone’s eyes, into someone’s heart, into someone’s story.

Why look? Because you will see what is beautiful, what is worth treasuring, what needs to be seen.
And once you see, you get the sweet pleasure of leaning in and whispering with gentleness again and again and again…I see you, and there is good in you.

Because the world just longs for one single person to see them. To see the unique beautiful thing in them and take a single moment to point to it with child like joy.

We stand in wonder of our purpose in this place, searching to and fro for answers to the big questions, when the purpose is in the people right before our very eyes.

Jesus knew this. His entire life was a journey home, back to the place he belonged. And on His journey he allowed his path to be interrupted by people who just needed to be seen. They each needed just one person to look up, to look out, to look in. Jesus sees the little glimmering thing in someone’s eyes, in someone’s heart, in someone’s story and He points to it with joy. He points to the gift they are to the world.

I think Jesus was the perfect example of seeing people as His purpose. He knew his final destination, but didn’t spend time thinking about how he was going to get there. He knew His home was waiting for His return, and that confidence gave Him release from the focus of what came next. His question was always who came next.

Has God ever shown you the beauty of a soul so clearly you found it impossible to look away? When you see the evidence of Jesus in a person you lean in because you know, you just know there is much to be gained by it. It’s worth seeking out every time.
It’s a place for lingering because it fulfills a longing. We need glimpses of Him.

What if our purpose was to be the one who sees the beauty and doesn’t just admire it from afar, but who steps up, steps out, and steps in to speak words proclaiming it?. What could we build if our purpose was people?

You know, all of us lonely people just trying to make it through this journey need each other.

Could we make a place with a pace that allows us to just breathe deep and find rest for the weary, worn out parts of our souls? It could be a place we walk away from immediately looking to return because someone there recognizes the one lovely thing in us. It could be a refuge from the world we dwell in that consistently tells us we are not enough. It could be a place to see and be seen.

So if we are looking for a purpose to awaken our passion, maybe we need to look at the people who happen to be standing right in front of us today. Because my friend, they are just like you, and just like me, they long to be seen. Will we allow our journey home to be interrupted?

Someone, somewhere needs us to see the one good thing in them. Will we look up, look out, look in and proclaim the beauty right there?

I’m in! Because Jesus did it for me!

 

my prayer…

dear Father,

we tend to look in every direction trying to find purpose for our time here on earth. We think it’s gonna be a big thing, a bold thing, a bright thing. But we are measuring it wrong. We stand in a world that tells us in loud voices that things have to be done, plans have to me made. But, You showed us a different way. You saw us. You saw that we needed to be seen. And the love that flowed through the way You looked into us, well it changed the world. So Lord, let us see others the way you see us. With love brimming, compassion spilling and sweet whispers of encouragement tumbling from our lips. Help us to just look and see the purpose You proclaimed, to love the people right in our path. Amen

Who Are We?

question markSitting here in Starbucks with some iced tea, just scribbling down some thoughts after the Sunday sermon. To be honest, it was a seriously challenging, throw-down kind of sermon. The kind that makes you squirm in your seat and avoid all eye contact. The kind that puts a choke hold on your heart. The best kind.

The truth sneaks up on you through the single harmless questions.

Who are we?

We the people?

We the church?

We the fiercely loved by God?

If someone watched a movie telling our life stories, who would they see?

Jesus gives us a glimpse of the story he invites us to be part of in Matthew 25: 34-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

(Italics mine.)

Some days we struggle to “see” the kind of people Jesus describes in this story. In our day-to-day lives, most of us are not confronted by these real physical needs. But, as I read through this again I wonder if I am missing the true definition of the distress.

I picture Jesus asking me, do you see

someone hungry for love?

someone thirsty for relief?

someone longing to be invited?

someone standing naked and abandoned?

someone feeling sick with regret?

someone imprisoned by shame?

And if you do, can you see me in their eyes? Would you do this for me?

Jesus invites us to be bold and step up.

Jesus invites us to be brave and step in.

Jesus invites us to love others like we love him.

With sincere love.

“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

I believe when we step in, accepting the invitation to love Jesus by loving others, he answers that question I asked at the beginning of this journey.

Who are we?

We are ONE.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for always asking the right questions. The ones that make me squirm and check my heart. We make excuses because we don’t find the kind of people you describe in this scripture in our paths. Help us to see past our understanding and to see those we pass everyday with new eyes. Don’t let us turn away when we recognize that point of pain in their eyes. Because Lord, we proclaim that we will step in, because we recognize you in their faces and we would do it for you. Because your love propels us into that very place. We remember what it felt like to stand alone, and we will not leave someone you fiercely love longing to be invited. Oh Father, we know who we are, we are ONE with you. Let our lives proclaim that truth by the way we love others deeply with all our heart. Amen..