4 Ways to Trigger Jesus’ Faith

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My parents and I were trying to parse out some scripture this morning over the phone re: salt and light and for some reason my thoughts floated toward Jesus’s faith in God. I think it started when my dad mentioned Jesus’ holy attributes as well as his human ones. Jesus was the Word, but he still had to memorize it. Jesus, by nature, was all-powerful, yet had to subjugate himself to human authority: his parents, instructors, the government. He was the very source of all life and health, yet all around him people were sick and dying and calling on his ability to heal. He even got tired, became angry, was hungry and thirsty, all very, very human. But what stood out to me this morning was that faith factor. How else could he calm the waves with a word, call a dead girl, “just sleeping,” or deliver a man from a legion of demons? This took bravery. It took authority, and it took faith. How can we trigger this faith? By doing exactly what Jesus did:

1) Spending time alone with his father

2) By listening to what He says

3) By reading what He writes

4) By observing the things that bring Him joy

How do we practically do each one of these things? I believe items 1-3 are largely covered by reading scripture. That leaves #4: What brings God joy? We do. We humans do. I know it’s unbelievable when you factor in how terrible we can be at times. But He does. Case in point, He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. He loved spending time with Moses, speaking with Him face to face, watching his face shine. I know he loved this (and us!) so much that he sent his own son so the He could speak with us face to face, so he could touch us tenderly on the shoulder as he offered us living water, he could break open pieces of bread and fish and divide them among a couple of thousand to make our tummies full. He could call our dead bodies out of a grave and he could offer us the very best wine at our own wedding. See, it wasn’t the super spiritual mountain-moments in Eden or at Sinai only, it was the mundane, the food and water, the touching and healing and the driving out of bad things to make room for the good.

One of my very favorite pictures is one of Jesus that I don’t see around much anymore, is a bearded man in a robe with a beautiful little lamb draped around his neck. Do you think that lamb could hear his heartbeat and vice versa? Most likely.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will carry the lambs in his arms and gently lead the ewes with young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Yes, Jesus is holy and just, and like him we are called to be holy. But do we have to be holy for God to start loving us? Absolutely not, in fact, I had this discussion with a little girl in our Sunday school class recently. She asked, “God love us when we do good things, right?”

Me: “Yeah, he certainly likes it when we do good things, but that’s not why he loves us. Think of your mommy and daddy. They love you without conditions. Even when you do bad things, they never stop loving you. Yes, they are happy when you help with the trash at home or clean up after your pet, or when you’re nice to your brother or sister, but no matter what, they always love you.

 Look! I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

 

 

 

A Prayer Over the City

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As a grafted-in royal priesthood of the Most High God, I pray this prayer of healing, protection and deliverance over the city of Paris.

In your Word, Father, you state that we are more that conquerors in You who loves us, so we stand against this terror in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We will not accept the bloodshed of innocent man as the final authority, we accept You, Your might and your power over all evil.  Just as you delivered your people from the hand of their oppressors, so will you deliver your people again.  We will not bow, I know the arm of the Lord is not too short to save because, Jesus, you are Lord, I have see your hand of deliverance in the courtroom, I have witnessed your protection from an intruder to my home when I called upon your name, you have guarded me in head-on, side-on, back-on car accidents–hard pressed on every side but not crushed–I have witnessed your deliverance time and again.  Surely, our hairs are numbered and our lives are in your hands.  Father God, we call upon the name of King Jesus, the very one who sent fire when Elijah prayed, the God who sent manna when Moses cried out and who sent your Son when the fullness of time came.  You sent your son to die for everyone, no matter what, and still he stands at the door, waiting, just waiting for us to knock.  And so we ask you with all of our hearts for comfort for the grieved, for safety, protection and deliverance for this city.  Father, we do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This is How We Should Pray

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When nations are torn asunder and the victims of this unrest are the youngest and most tender, I wring my hands when I think of everything that my child has, every opportunity, every gift that she has as a result of a peaceful place to rest her head and my heart is broken.  And I wonder how to talk to God about all this.

I’ve been camped out for weeks in the last chapter of Richard Foster’s book, Prayer, particularly in a chapter titled Radical Prayer, and more specifically how we can embrace the whole world in prayer:

So we throw caution to the wind and pray not just for individuals but also for nations, not just for the renewal of the Church but also for the transformation of the world.  We pray for and work for the kingdom to com on earth–on all the earth–as it is in heaven.

Here is how a wonderfully wise woman of prayer taught me to pray for the nations.  We are to begin, she said, by focusing on one nation and prayerfully discerning what kind of nation it should be.  If it is an aggressor nation, for example, we may sense that it should retreat form its self-aggrandizement and begin “sending out into the world little golden arrows of trade and commerce and financial cooperation.”  At time we may narrow our prayers to those who make decisions that can change he course of a nation toward rightness.  We bless the broken bits of virtue these leaders already display and ask that they, like loaves and the fishes, will be multiplied and used for good.”

I could go on and on, but I will stop here and begin:

Lord, we pray for the nation of Iraq, that the subversive force of ISIS would be defeated by those who seek justice above all else, that men who hearts are fully devoted and committed to you would come to power, that for Syria, in this civil war now for four years in which more that 300,000 have been killed, major cities reduced to rubble and where 4M have fled, we refuse to see this as their end.  We refuse to accept this.  We refuse to accept the forces of darkness and we cling to your kingdom of light.  So we pray, just as the prophet Isaiah did for the nation of Israel,  the year of the Lord’s favor on Iraq, Afghanistan on Syria.  You have sent us to proclaim good news to the poor, you have sent us to bind up the brokenhearted, you have sent us, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes the oil of joy instead of mourning; and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  That they, those who have turned their hearts toward you, will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.  Strangers will shepherd their flocks; foreigners will work their fields and vineyards.  And you, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.  You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.  And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”  I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.  Amen.

Heart is Where the Home Is

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Sometimes, most times, we don’t understand why things happen, the loss of a job, the sudden death of a loved one, infertility, divorce. We try to parse it out, we cling to Romans 8:28 but it doesn’t take the ache away. We give up and we want to quit and bury our heads under the covers and moan and cry and act out and make it all the things disappear. And that’s ok sometimes, but I think that God has a practical balm for that…

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They say that home is where the heart is, and if that’s the case, my second home is in a tiny little town in South Carolina, where the soil is sandy and the people are friendly, and lots of them have just one name–and here resides my friend Cami, her husband and her four little beautiful, whip-smart children.

This little town has been the site of many a gathering: New Year’s Eve, a wedding shower, birthdays. Her beautiful white house sits stolidly on one of the main routes shooting through town and has a wrap-around porch that fits your foot like a bedroom slipper.

The house has been on the market now for almost six months and part of me doesn’t want it to sell because haven’t we all been busy making memories here in the kitchen and dining room and the trampoline for the last 8 years? In the back is Pauly Girl, their old Golden Retriever and a new addition to the family, another Golden, Poseidon, in honor of her oldest being really, really into Greek Mythology these days…

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And it is here that we all hug and laugh and cry and eat and play the telephone game and watch babies crawl and kids fuss at each other, the girls tell secrets and if the husbands aren’t too weirded out or bored sometimes they stick around too.

This is where part of my heart has healed and become whole again, sure it took a lot of different pieces and places to make that happen, but this too, this house, these friends that I have had now for 19 years, the ones, who, without any question will love and support and pray–we come not for the house, but we come because our Cami opens it up to us.

Did I mention she grew up here in this town?

Did I mention we’ve all grown up a little here?

This weekend, one of our friends that she had a dream about this town: that it was different, way different, it was full of castles with bridges that connected the castles. So maybe, just maybe one day we’ll all have castles here in K-town. That means we have only to step out our front door, and grab a couple of our friends on our way to see our friend with the biggest, coolest castle, the one with the drawbridge down waiting for visitors…

What does home mean to you?

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Don’t Let Sins Derail You from the Father’s Grace–A Look at Moses

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When I was in counseling a few years ago, the therapist told me that pain is caused or experienced in three different ways: our sins, another’s sins and the sins in this world. I’ve taken that with me, processed it 100 different ways and still go back to it often. But it wasn’t until a few months ago, though, when my Sunday School teacher got down at eye level with me and the other women in our single parenting class and said, “Listen, ladies. I need you to listen to me. What your ex-husbands did–left you–this is not your fault.” It took 5 1/2 years for this idea to click. This was not my fault. Yes, I have acknowledged over and over again that it took two to tango, to get to the point where he even considered leaving, but it was his decision, and that’s it. There was nothing I could do to change it, but still I wrestle with the effects of it (and still do) as we share the parenting of our daughter. But the bigger question remains, am I now “marked”? Can God use me? Yes. And He has been ever since.

Interestingly enough, my study of the character of Moses brought me through this sort-of rabbit trail of grace. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Moses was not allowed in the Promised Land, I kept questioning in my head–What? That’s so not fair, especially after Moses has given his life, in obedience to God, to serve the Israelites. I was particularly incredulous after reading this passage on the character of Moses:

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Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

 In my human understanding, I tried to reconcile this with Psalm 106:32-33

 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

 Twice in the desert, God gave Moses instructions on how to provide water for the people of Israel:

 Exodus 17:6

Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Numbers 20:8-12

Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”   Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.

It’s true, this second time they complained, Moses reacted in disobedience to God. Moses and Aaron suffered the consequences of this decision.

But, we can’t lose sight of the person that God formed Moses to be, yes, he sinned, and yes, he lost this blessing of entering the Promised Land.

However, this is what I take from Moses’ experience:

1) If our hearts are surrendered, God uses us.

2) We are responsible for our own actions, not another’s

3) Even in how we respond, there is grace. Sister, brother, I have done and said so many things in my life that I wish I could go back and revise or altogether delete the footage that played out. All of us do. That is the most amazing part of what Christ did for us on the cross. He has this magic eraser to blot out our sins.

Our lives will look differently from others who have chosen to obey God from the start, they will look perfect, even, but don’t allow that to set you up for failure, even these picture perfect families, marriages and children have struggles.

Be of good courage, God sees your heart, that’s the only thing he sees, not your FB status, your car out in the driveway, the money in your bank account and certainly not the clothes you are wearing right now. He sees you and he loves you, just as he saw and loved Moses and Aaron. Sure, Moses received only a glimpse of the Promised Land–

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Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land–from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

I don’t see this as taunting, it’s like God took him into this beautiful, expansive secret, this promise that he wanted to show to Moses to say, “Look, when I told you I AM. I AM a promise-keeper, a Provider, a Shepherd a Father who loves his children. I AM all these things and more. I love my children so much and I love you, too, thank you for caring for them, my good and faithful servant, Moses.”

Duet. 34: 10-12

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor…Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

 Let it be said for each one of us, that no matter how we’ve started out, let us finish this well.

41 Years Later and Charleston

As we stood outside Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace Friday afternoon under the blazing June sun, a park ranger approached the man behind me, “Sir, I’m not sure you’re going to be able to take that in,” referring to the book bag slung over his back as he stood with his second-grade son and teenage daughter.  The ranger went on to explain, “The police, the FBI came by here this morning and put us on alert, we just have to be extra safe.  Concern for copycats.”  He walked away to ask his associate to check those filing into the house with purses and packs of their own. 

“Copycats,” I thought. 
Copycats are those kids in class next to you who didn’t prepare for their tests or forgot to do last night’s assignment or who were just too lazy to do their own work. 
Copycats are not murderers.
But somehow, in a world full of hatred and bitterness, they can be.
Minutes before, my eyes were welling up with tears reading the exhibits at the MLK Visitor’s Center.  An entire wall devoted to the Jim Crow laws, with heinous statements like:
 All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license. Georgia

The board of trustees shall…maintain a separate building…on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana
My daughter kept moving me from exhibit to exhibit, hoping the next one didn’t bring tears, but it didn’t work until we went to the room where we were told about Dr. King’s nomination and subsequent award for the Nobel Peace Prize.  This man wanted justice, but he also wanted peace.
And yet, after his death, the theme of bloodshed continued, the victims in his family. 
In 1974, a gunman, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio fatally shot MLK’s mother, “Mama” King and Deacon Edward Boykin and wounded three others in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a place that King described as a second home, a place where his father served as senior pastor for over four decades and a place where Dr. King himself served as co-pastor.
In a span of 6 years, Rev. Martin Luther “Daddy” King Sr. lost his two sons and his wife, as his son A.D. King drowned in a backyard pool in 1969.
“How long, Oh Lord?”
I had been teary, worried, anxious, muttering things like, “What can I do?” over and over again and the other night I sat down and listened to the reactions of the family members of the Charleston shooting: “You took something very precious to me…but I forgive you.” 
How do we root out these seeds of bitterness? 
I don’t have the answers, but I saw how these victims reacted and I drew strength. 
Here is the secret.  We don’t lock ourselves away, we lock arms in solidarity, in embraces with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We listen, we grieve, we pray and we keep forming those bonds, we remain true to our word like our lives depend on it, because they do, because these bonds may be hard to piece together to begin with.
We love, because he first loved us. 
Do you hear me?  Respond to that voice mail, that text message, follow up on that conversation and Love, because love is the only thing that is going to cast out fear. 
Love is the only thing that is going to bring reconciliation. 
Love always protects, always hopes. 
Love never fails.
If I speak with the tongues of angels and have not love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  My words have no worth unless they are followed through with action.
Change you laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom, humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up in due time.  This is not the time for empty platitudes.  This a time to put our faces and our knees to the ground and ask for mercy, once more, and know that love casts out fear.
We note, too, that life is short and the only things that matter are eternal.  So whether God allows you to see 90 or somehow, life is cut much shorter than that, you leave behind a legacy that these 9 people did to their families: that of faith, of forgiveness and yes, love.

How Our Tiny Baby Brains Are Formed

Yesterday I dragged Little A to Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  Being placated with a Wendy’s frosty on the way, she was fairly calm by the time we got there so I–I mean we could see the new brain exhibit on display.  As is typical for any museum visit accompanied by a child, you are allowed to read approximately three things and then your time is consumed by interactive exhibits that warp your voice, scare the stuffin’ out of you or make you feel stupid because you can’t solve a simple puzzle. 
However, I did glean someknowledge.  A great deal of attention was focused on neurons, how they form, why they form, how our actions (reading, trying new things, challenging ourselves with complex puzzles or tasks) can cause them to grow. And for some reason, I took a picture of this statement: “Your brain began forming before you were born, building the intricate network of neurons that help you survive in the world.  Once developed, the basic structures for sensing, feeling and thinking last for a lifetime–yet your brain continues to change.  The neural connections keep making adjustments with every experience and everything that you learn.”*  Next to this blurb was a three-phase picture of the neurons inside a child’s brain as it learned to walk, progressing from a few, tiny neurons to a whole intricate network of spindles connected together to form a mass of spaghetti clumps.
Just beautiful.
So, as we were reading a couple of chapters in the Psalms, this knowledge brought the following verses into a whole new light:  Psalm 51: 5-6 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”
Since, in the womb, God was teaching us wisdom, wouldn’t that mean that even more so, we would want, like that passage in Philippians commands us to do, to pursue those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, that we should think about such things?
But, this to me, points to a loving God, who wanted us to know so much about him and cared for us so much, that He began teaching us wisdom even before we were born.  If this doesn’t cause you to sit back in awe, then there’s a good chance you are a robot–or a scarecrow.
Any thoughts you’d like to share on how awesome our God is?

*”Brain: The Inside Story.”  Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  767 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA  30307.  15 June 2015.

Be Content With What You Have


Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
I moved just a few weeks ago to a cheaper apartment, just two miles down from my old one.  The first few weeks were…scary.  Apparently the previous tenant had left things helter-skelter and they had to do a major overhaul, new carpet, appliances, etc.  They only had about a week and a half to get things ready before I absolutely had to move in.  So, there were a lot of loose ends when I did, a LOT of loose ends. 
I called a friend (so sorry) at around 1 a.m. the morning of my first night’s stay and started crying, I think I went through a laundry list of everything that was wrong and ended with, “This place smells weird.”  It did, it smelled like a hotel.  Hotels are great for a night, maybe even a week, but to set up permanent residence? 
No thanks.
About two weeks later Little A and I left to see my family for a week.  When we came back about one quarter of the apartment was flooded.  Every time the people upstairs took a shower, water came out of the pipe under their shower and dumped directly into our bathroom–and surrounding areas…
God is good.  If this kind of thing would have happened in my 20’s, my head would have no doubt popped off my head.  But this could be fixed.
Lately, before the move, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff, how to get rid of it, what to get rid of, how easy and simple a life of minimalism really is and more often than not, the first part of this verse in Hebrews has been running through my mind at the store, “Be content with what you have.”
Someone once said to me, “Everything has a shelf life.”  Good point.  If your shoes have holes in them, buy a new pair. Need new underwear?  Buy it.  You’ll meet extremes in this life for sure, but these (extreme minimalism vs. extreme excess) take a lot of work.  Why not look to the ant, consider it’s ways and be wise as scripture says, or the flowers of the field and how God clothes them.  Thank God for the little extra that flows in at times and be grateful and share it.  When things are lean, buckle down, save your pennies and still find ways to be generous.  The Sunday School teacher put it pretty beautifully this last Sunday to the group of 2nd graders: she told the kids to extend their hands in front of them with palms up.  “See,” she said, “how can you expect to receive anything if your hand isn’t outstretched in giving?”
The apartment is dry now and for that I am thankful.  Albeit, the closets have acquired a new smell: spicy. 
Care to share a way that God’s been teaching you contentment recently?

To My Daughter on Her Last Day of Second Grade

To say that I am proud of you would be an understatement.  I am constantly amazed by your sunny disposition and the little writer (and artist and savvy business woman) I see you becoming.  You’ve taken a tough situation, with a teacher you certainly didn’t gel with this year and you stuck it out, reminds me a little of taking a required swimming class the very last semester they actually required it to graduate from college.  I hated it, but it made me more comfortable in the water, taught me the difference between the freestyle and breaststroke, and in the end, made me a stronger swimmer, and yes, I did invoke the backstroke as an integral part of the last swim exam.
Allister, life hasn’t been easy for you and me, we’ve traveled a winding, uncertain and sometimes lonely path together but you have made me the person that I am.   And somehow, by God’s amazing grace we’re still walking upright.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness, sensitivity, generosity, determined spirit and your compassion for those around you.  Thank you for falling asleep to my bedtime prayers, comforting me as I fell apart over all the bugs in the new kitchen, told me to work out when I didn’t feel like it, assuring, “You’ll feel better when you’re all done,” while you sat there and watched your portable DVD player.  Thank you for forgiving words I said this year out of sheer exhaustion and frustration.  
Book learnin’ is great, but I see you learning and growing in leaps and bounds in lots of other areas this year.  Yes, I may buy you the Newbery books, but I realize your true affinity lies in comic and Where’s Waldo? books and I have bought you some of those too.  Who knows, you may be drawing your own someday.

I love you, little girl with brown hair, blue eyes and a pretty adorable smile.  I can’t wait to see what next year holds.   

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. 
Col. 1:9a

The Words of My Mouth


(Inspired by Proverbs 10)

Lord Jesus, may the words of my mouth:
-always reflect your commands
-be a fountain that refreshes another’s spirit
-reflect a heart and mind that is discerning
-be prudent, withholding words when needed
-be like choice silver: of utmost worth, sought after and valued
-nourish many, bringing new life to every person within earshot
-flow with the fruit of righteousness
-find favor even in the stickiest situations
There was an incident in the park yesterday, or, what could have been an incident, and somehow, in the midst of ugly words and worthless chatter, the Holy Spirit took over.
I said nothing.
It took everything I had, but I said nothing and as I drove away, I thanked God, for in that very moment, with four little sets of ears listening and four sets of eyes watching,

I said nothing.