A New Perspective

“It is not the ‘ministry’ you could have ever anticipated or chosen but we are confident in God’s ability to help you live it out!” (from a dear pastor and his wife)

window xx wdpI pondered those words as winter released its grip.

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I think God gifts us with creativity to help us cope through the messy parts of life.  I find that my photography is a way to count my blessings.  I capture most of my photographs indoors now.  I keep snapping and pondering…

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It’s been 2 months today since I posted here but I haven’t been stagnant.  What have I been doing?  Besides taking care of my husband, through his cancer and transplant journey, and finding stillness in my photography, I’ve been praying the Lord’s prayer.  Everyday.  Often several times a day and finding power to live out this ‘ministry’.  My prayer, the words that I learned as a child, take on new meaning and perspective these days:

Our Father who art in Heaven 

( You are my Father.  A good and gracious Father.  A Father that I can approach with the truth about my feelings, even weep and find comfort when I need it the most).

Hallowed by thy name

(You are worthy to receive all my praise.  You are high and exalted and I worship you and thank you for allowing me to grieve my way to acceptance.  I praise you for understanding me from the inside out).

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

(May your will be done here in this place (here on earth) where Bob and I live.  Thy will be done.  In releasing my life to your will, it frees me — frees me to give thanks, and leads me to acceptance and in thanksgiving and accepting your will I am surprised by JOY).

Give us this day our daily bread

(Daily bread.  We have enough to eat.  Thank you.  But we need more.  Give us what we need today…peace, patience, endurance, stamina, faith, hope, love, comfort…Give us yourself!  You are the bread of life and in receiving you we receive life.  Abundant life comes by living in your presence.  As my brother, Jim, said to me, “The Lord doesn’t just provide what we need He is what we need”.  And, Lord, you are enough).

And forgive us our sins  

(Forgive me for the sin of fear, despair, or looking back on life as it once was…that life that we left.  Bob’s illness took us out of our comfort zone and we found that comfort zone lacking in many ways.  It’s only in the valley, the trials, the storms that we experience the truth about our Christian faith and what it truly means to follow you.  We understand more fully what you meant when you said:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”.  (Luke 14:26)

Even our own families and the familiar can become idols.  We have given up a lot, left family, home, possessions, Bob’s health, friends, church, and now we’re living in a medical bubble in a strange city.  At times it feels or seems like we’ve given up everything …and as hard as that is…it is also freeing).

As we forgive those who sin against us

(Sometimes it hurts when those we thought would be there for us are not or cannot.  Is that a sin against us?  I’ve tried to sort that out, Lord.  When our hope lies in what others do or don’t do, it robs us of peace and joy.  Many do not understand the weight we carry.  Forgive them for they know not what this is or what it’s like. Until we walk in another person’s shoes, we cannot fully grasp the truth.  It is the same for me; for us.  I acknowledge that I don’t always understand what others are going through.  We need to forgive one another!  That frees us to love).

And lead us not into temptation

(Lord, help us not to look at life through our earthly eyes.  Keep our focus crystal clear through our Spiritual eyes.  That first step toward sin often comes through what we see and perceive that we need.  Keep our eyes holy).

But deliver us from evil

( Lift us out from under the weight of the evil one.  Remove his activity in our life and let us not fall into his trap of believing that you are not able to heal. You can and still do and we rest in our prayers for Bob’s healing.  Let us not be lured into self-pity, bitterness over circumstances or lack of trust in your plan and purpose.  We trust and believe in your sovereignty).

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen!

(And may our lives and all we do and go through point to you.  May you receive glory).  Amen.

Blessings!

Nancy

In Our Trouble

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“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Trouble.  Jesus promises us trouble.  He didn’t say you might have trouble or there is a possibility of having trouble.  He tells us we will have trouble.

His words are recorded at the end of chapter 16 in the gospel of John.  Right smack dab at the end of His teaching to the disciples–which was meant to prepare them for His impending death and resurrection–He tells them what to expect and that it wasn’t going to be easy or comfortable.

He taught them but they really didn’t get it.  He also promised them a gift…the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When they received that gift after His resurrection, they understood and they received power to live as overcomers.

Jesus overcame death through the resurrection.  And His followers will too.  “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

But what does all this mean for me today in the here and now?

In my present situation, it means that when the doctor tells me that I will be my husband’s nurse–post bone marrow transplant–and there will be daily infusions to give him in his chest catheter, flushing the 3 lines with saline and heparin, taking his blood pressure, temperature and watching him closely for signs of disease…I tremble!  This is trouble!

And I cry out to God and I overcome my fears, not by bailing out, but by sticking in there with the help of the Holy Spirit.

When I am at my weakest, when I feel helpless and I look at Bob who is even more helpless, this is trouble!

And I cry out to God and somehow I’m uplifted and given strength that I could never muster up myself.

When I say, “I’m not capable for this task.  I’m not a nurse and if I wanted to be a nurse I would have become a nurse,”  and when I fear doing new things and organizing and administering 13 medications, preparing food that Bob can tolerate, keeping the house fit and sanitized for a transplant patient, and transporting him to hospital visits, I miraculously don’t cave under the weight of it.  Humanly, I think I will.  But I don’t

God knows ‘I can’t’ but through Him I can do all things.  Just like Philippians 4:13 promises.

And in the midst of the trouble there’s even moments of repose, quiet and deep peace.

It doesn’t always come easy but it comes.

God is good in the midst of trouble and in our weakness He is strong.  And that’s how we overcome.

Blessings,

Nancy

(The above photo was taken in our home away from home near the hospital where my husband is being treated.  I have been photographing indoor scenes since I don’t get out in nature much.  My camera is my companion on this journey.  I thought I’d have to give up my photography but how could I?  It’s a gift from God, and all that I photograph are reminders of the small delights and simple pleasures that I have to be thankful for).

New Year; New Hope

bob on beach(I snapped this photo of Bob at the end of January 2015 on the gulf coast of Florida).

Someday, once again, Bob will enjoy the simple pleasures of God’s creation that he loved so much.  I cherish the above photo because to me it’s filled with light and hope.

My one word for 2016 is HOPE.

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After the last 5 difficult months and many more difficult months ahead, 2016 is still filled with so much light and hope

Bob had his bone marrow transplant a couple of weeks ago on January 13, 2016.  As many of you already know our oldest son, Scott, donated his bone marrow to save his dad’s life.  What a gift!

Bob’s discharge from the hospital was on January 27.  Just 2 weeks after the transplant.  The doctors and medical staff stand amazed that the engraftment of the new cells began about 4 or 5 days sooner than anticipated and that allowed his discharge to happen sooner also.

What has been impossible for us to do or the medical staff to do, continues to happen.  We know and hold on to the fact that nothing is impossible with God.

God is shining.  God is receiving the glory through our journey and even though we still have a hard road ahead we know we are not alone and His mercy will sustain us.

Bob is weak.  His immune system is compromised and won’t get better for many months.  The immunosuppressants (or anti-rejection meds) also lower his ability to fight infections so he must be protected like a new born babe.

In many respects, he is like a newborn, with new life and new hope.

One of our favorite verses since Bob’s diagnosis with the chronic form of Leukemia in 2014 and on into 2015 when it transitioned into the more serious acute type of leukemia has been Lamentations 3: 21-23:

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Because the Lord’s steadfast love never ceases, we have hope for 2016 and beyond.

Blessings,

Nancy

(To all of you who are praying for my Bob and for our entire family…THANK YOU!  That’s what is moving the hand of God and helping us through this difficult time.  Although we know God knows all things, sees all things, and is present with us, he wants us to pray and uses prayer in a mysterious way to carry out His plan.  We are grateful for the many prayers going up for us).

Our spring is coming

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They are telling us that we’ll be here until spring.  Who would have thought that we’d be here, in this place, longer than we would be home in the time span of a  year?  It could end up being a total of 8 or 9 months.

They tell us we’ll be living a “new normal.”

There isn’t anything normal about this.  Cancer isn’t normal.  We weren’t created for it.  God has given us life.  So we fight for that precious gift daily.

Jesus wept at Lazarus’ grave.  He weeps with us too.  Our sorrow becomes His sorrow.

The truth is this world is fallen.  We were created for life~for right here forever~but it was stolen away from us.  Now we live with glimpses of paradise but this world isn’t paradise.

Part of the fall brought with it sickness and disease.  It has affected Bob.  He is fighting for his life and until the Lord tells him to quit fighting here~and welcomes him into his eternal home~he fights on and I fight alongside of him, because life is a gift!

God has a plan in all of this and it’s unfolding.

Summer, Fall, Winter…  The seasons changed.  And so have we.

It has brought us back to a vulnerable childlike place.  But isn’t that exactly where God wants us?

We don’t experience His presence unless we are humble, vulnerable, like little children crying out to a parent.  And what good parent ignores a child?  And what good papa doesn’t quiet the cries of his children?  Abba, our papa cares.  He’s a good Father.

Bob and I have a question that we ask each other often.  That question is…  “Is it time to lament?”

You see one night when things looked bleak, when we didn’t think we could go another step and we were tired of being strong, I said, “Christians have lost the art of lamenting.  We need to lament.  It’s not an option.  It’s a necessity.”

So lament we did.  Lying in bed we cried, cried out to God, not with fancy words or prayers.  No, just with the truth of how we were feeling.  And you know what?  We fell asleep in the arms of God.  And the next day brought peace and answered prayer.

We are looking forward to the end of this storm, this winter that we are in.  We are looking forward to seeing all the signs of spring and new life…The crocus’ poking up from beneath the snow, the sun shining brighter, the patches of snow disappearing and the grass greening.

We are looking forward to spring with the hope of being home where we can live out what the medical staff is calling our “new normal.”

Blessings,

Nancy

(Transplant day is Wednesday, January 13, 2016.  Scott’s bone marrow will be harvested that morning and Bob will receive the infusion that afternoon.  Thank you, our friends, who have been so faithful in prayer.  We love and appreciate each one of you.)

When God sends messengers

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My husband, Bob, has been in the hospital for a little over two weeks. He’s already had 4 rounds of intravenous chemo and they just changed his oral chemo med tonight. The oral chemo targets the Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.  The intravenous chemo targets the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The CML mutated into ALL but the CML still exists.  The doctors tell us that both cancers have the Philadelphia Chromosome, which makes his condition rare and difficult to treat.  Since they don’t have much data to fall back on with this rare combination, his medical team came up with what they are referring to as a “hybrid treatment plan.”

He’ll receive round 5 of intravenous chemo this Thursday.

All his blood counts are in the range that the doctors expected them to be this week and overall his doctors are happy with how Bob is responding.

About 4:00pm yesterday, Bob’s chemo nurse told him that he would be receiving another chemo drug by injection on Friday and that his doctors would explain more about it in the morning.

Bob wasn’t expecting to receive anything on Friday so the news was overwhelming and hard for him to hear.  He slipped into depression.

I wasn’t there when he heard the news. I returned at 5:00pm.

I usually park in the parking garage but decided to go in the emergency entrance when I got back to the hospital.

As I entered, there was a man sitting in a wheel chair by the door. He looked at me and asked if I was a volunteer. I said no. He asked, “Do you work here?” I replied, “No, I’m on my way up to the 5th. floor to visit my husband. The man asked, “What’s your husband’s name?” I responded, “Robert”. “Can you give Robert a message for me?” he asked. I nodded. Then he said, “You tell Robert that I’m praying for him and to keep the faith!” I smiled, thanked him and told him that I’d definitely give him the message. As I approached the elevator, he yelled out “You both keep the faith!”

How can we not keep the faith when God sends messengers (perhaps even angels) to encourage us daily?

Bob’s words after he heard the message? “Our God is good. He is reminding me that He’s right here with me and He’ll never leave me.”  His spirits lifted.

Peace returned to Bob’s heart and he rested well last night.

Blessings,

Nancy

(I snapped the above photo from Bob’s hospital room)

Your answer could be right around the corner

hills 3 x - Copy wdpI tossed and turned most of the night knowing what was ahead of us in the morning.  At 5:30am, my eyes opened.  I stared at the ceiling for a while then rolled over and closed my eyes.  My husband’s arm wrapped around me and grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze.  This would be the last time we’d be this close for many months.  As tears rolled down my cheeks, I drifted off to sleep for half an hour.

Bob’s cancer is mutating. He not only has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia but, through a bone marrow biopsy, his doctors detected Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  An extremely rare combination. The only hope for a cure is through a bone marrow transplant or what is commonly known today as a stem cell transplant. That process begins today.

We will travel 170 miles from home where he will enter the hospital for a month to receive extensive chemotherapy treatments — both orally and intravenously to try and bring both cancers into remission.  This will begin the process to move him toward the transplant.

I’m moving into an apartment near the hospital where I will be close to him.  It could be 6 months or longer before we can return home.

It’s been a whirlwind.  We just heard the news last week and we’re already being whisked away.

Bob has a wonderful medical team at one of the best hospitals in our state but our trust is in God.  He has been our guide and strength through this long and winding road.  If we had to depend on ourselves, we’d be incapable.

We heard the news on Thursday and they wanted him admitted the following Monday.  Where will I live?  How can we manage this so far from home?  Those were questions that I kept asking God.

We stopped at a café to eat lunch after we met with the medical team last Thursday.

Scrambling through the internet looking for rentals, proved futile.  We were trying to find a place, in a college town, near a University Hospital.  Bob’s doctors and staff at the hospital told us that it would be extremely hard to find an apartment there.

Concern for Bob flooded me.  I didn’t want him admitted into the hospital on Monday with this weight on his shoulders.  His concern was over me having to deal with this alone after Monday.

We had to get back to our home 170 miles away to get ready, pack and prepare for Monday.

As we left the café, we turned the corner and drove less than a block and saw a “Now leasing” sign.   We pulled in.  They had a 2 bedroom apartment available.  The people living there were moving out on Monday.  It was the only unit available.

The leasing agent showed us the place, in a quiet and quaint area, and said it was ours if we could give her a deposit that day.  We did and it’s now ours.  The extra bedroom will come in handy for family visits.

Our answer was right around the corner!  God had the place picked out for us long before we knew that we would need an apartment in that area.

He hasn’t brought us this far to leave us and we know that ultimately He is in total control.  We are leaning on Him for strength through this storm and praying for Bob’s healing.

God is good.  He’s always good even in the middle of a storm.

Blessings,

Nancy

(I took the photo in this post in New Mexico a couple of years ago)

Bless and be thankful continually

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“We bless you, Lord.”

I heard those words flow out of the mouth of someone praying once.

And those four words got me thinking.

Does God need our blessing?

I know I need his blessing.  I need his blessing to live.

I’m blessed when I inhale my first breath of morning air.

I’m blessed with my first sip of coffee and with my first spoonful of Cheerios.

I’m blessed with a warm shower and my bar of dove sudsing up my washcloth.

The clothes I put on are his blessing.

His provision.

Sustaining grace.

The sunshine.

Shelter.

Rain that soaks the earth.

Plants and flowers that bloom in my yard.

Everything.  Everywhere.  I’m surrounded by his blessings.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Jonathan Oatman, Jr

We sing, recite and teach children and grandchildren to sing and recite these or similar words.

But are we conscious, really conscious of even the simplest of blessings?

We need his blessing to survive.

Does he need or want ours?

The Orthodox Jews blessed God.  So did Jesus.

If we look closely at Jesus’ prayers and even the Apostle Paul’s, we see clearly that their style of prayer was one that continually blessed God.

That prayer style was passed down from Moses when he told the Israelites to focus on the Lord and to not forget that he is the source of all that they have and that he alone sustains them.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you.  Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God.  Deut. 8: 10-11.

Moses didn’t want the Israelites to rely on God only in their lean days but to also acknowledge him in their abundance — especially when things were going good.  That’s when it’s easy to forget about God.  He was stressing the importance of blessing God always and in all circumstances.

Blessing God with short bursts of prayer shifts our attention to him…the source of all blessings and to keep him foremost in our line of vision and in our thoughts.

Praying before meals often becomes a mindless ritual but what a great time to really pause, think, focus, and remember God’s blessings that we received throughout the day and to bless him for them.

Jesus took the bread and gave thanks — the original translation says, Jesus took the bread and blessed…not to bless the food but to bless God for the food…in other words, to thank God.  Some translations sneak in the word ‘it’ as if Jesus was blessing the food.

Maybe that’s where we’ve gotten confused with what praying before meals is really about.

Jesus was giving God thanks for the food.  He was not blessing the food.

The original Hebrew word for bless is barak which means “to kneel.”

I get the image of kneeling before him in total surrender and worship when I think of the word barak.

To bless God is to give him thanks.

We can give thanks before meals and not only then but continually all day long.

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Even during painful situations, we can thank him for the specific ways he sees us through them.

“Bless (thank) you Lord for…

We can write them down, focus on them, take our eyes off of our circumstances and place them on him and bless his name.

Life gets hard at times but God is good.  Always good.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.  Psalm 103: 1-5, RSV

“Oh, Lord, we bless your name.”  And we can say it over and over, because there isn’t a second in life that hasn’t been saturated with his blessings.

Oh, Lord we bless (thank) you for________.  You fill in the blank and I’ll bet you will be able to fill in more than just one blank.  Count your blessings name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done!

Be blessed!

Nancy

Celebrate!

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Red, white and blue.  I’ve seen it everywhere this past week.

If you live in the USA, you have too.

There are flags waving, crepe paper adorning, patriotic symbols flashing, celebration of the 4th. of July, our independence day, the birthday of America ring out across our land.

And the celebration continues into Sunday, July 5.

I celebrate my freedom to worship today, to serve the God I love, to live in a country where I can proclaim my faith without fear of persecution.  I celebrate that I can worship openly, not in hiding, like so many fellow believers do in other parts of the world.

Despite my freedom, at times I feel like a fish out of water or a fish in the water swimming upstream, going against the flow.

When I get weary and tired, God’s strength and power gives me the Spiritual muscles to keep swimming even when the current pushes against me.

And He gives me the power to live here, now, at such a time as this but to always remember who I am, where I came from and where I’m headed.

He gives me the power to LOVE. And I hope I will LOVE coming from a humble position.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers. adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18: 9-14

My prayer is that I will LOVE coming from the humble place of one needing mercy–ah, grace, mercy–I am nothing without it and everything with it.

I’m aware that as a Christ follower I am called to be different, live differently than our culture — to live counter culturally — but I am also called to love differently than is humanly possible in a world that is not my home.  That is hard and impossible without the power of Christ in me.

I don’t want to forget that this is not my home.  I don’t want to forget that I live in a world where I don’t really belong.  I don’t want to ever forget that I am a citizen of Heaven and that I am just passing through.

I am a sojourner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a sojourner too.

We are not citizens of our world trying to work our way to Heaven.  We are citizens of Heaven allowing Him to complete His work through us.

As I look around at all the red, white and blue.  When I celebrate, join in on the festivities, parades, fireworks, I’m reminded that this celebration can’t compare to the one going on in Heaven when we open our hearts and lives to Jesus–the one who loved us enough to come down into this world to save us.

He’s the one who throws open wide the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven and welcomes us into a new and forever citizenship — a land with similar colors to remember and celebrate.

Jesus bore the red – through His blood, the blue through His bruises and we wear the white.

When God looks at us clothed in Jesus, He sees us as though we have never sinned.  White as snow.  Pure and perfect without blemish or stain.

As I celebrate my freedom here, I’m thankful for my liberty, the freedom to worship, the freedom to express myself.  I celebrate all that and more.

I celebrate the beauty, the glimpses of His glory that surround me daily and I’m truly thankful for all the good and perfect gifts that He’s given to me for my enjoyment.

But I also remember not to get too comfortable and to remember that I will be called to live counter-culturally at times, maybe even be ridiculed for that, possibly be misunderstood,  but I will remain joyful remembering that this is not my home, I’m just passing through.  The best is yet to come.

Blessings,

Nancy

Breaking up the Unplowed Ground

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It’s been a long goodbye this week.  I’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones traveling cross-country to start a new chapter of life in a new place.  It’s been a bittersweet separation these past few days.

My emotions range from being hopeful, happy, excited and then sad and lonely all at once.  Then there’s worry and anxiety close by to turn my world upside down.

Letting go.  It’s hard.

I spent the last few months in my garden.  Weeding, working the soil, planting.  It’s therapy.  And the therapy became a blessing as I have anticipated this week for some time now.

I worked the soil, in a large planter on my deck, trying to release a stump leftover from a shrub that once grew in the pot.

I dug, pulled, chopped, yanked.  Little by little the deeply embedded roots gave way to my prodding and poking.  Bit by bit I tossed the entangled roots until I got to the stump.  I dug a little more and released its grip.  It was finally gone for good.

Adding more potting soil, it was ready to receive fresh new plants.

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My heart can feel that way sometimes–choked and clogged by a number of embedded emotions that need uprooting so that new growth can sprout.

It may seem easier to let them fester, ignore them or even wallow in them but if I want to flourish, both emotionally and spiritually they need releasing.

It’s funny how God can speak to me in the most unbelievable ways.  Yesterday it was through a Persian poet born in 1207.

I opened a magazine and these words popped out at me:

Do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?  Rumi

Ok, God.  I hear you.

I wandered through my garden today and noticed the beauty.  There are flowers blooming everywhere.

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The hard work this past spring produced an over abundance of growth.

I know It’s time to work the unplowed ground in my heart too.  I sit quietly, flipping through the pages of His unshakable and reliable word.

Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts…   Jeremiah 4: 3-4a

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

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I’m doing the hard work of pulling out some of those deeply rooted roots and weeds in my heart, because I know that to see new growth and flourish I must first dig out the worry and anxiety.  I have to uproot the wanting to hold on tightly when it’s time to let go.

And you know what?  The more I work at this uprooting process the more I’m seeing evidence of joy and peace sprout once again.

What do you need to uproot today?

Blessings!

Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

Spreading the Kingdom

Today I’m sharing a piece that I wrote last August.  I believe it’s a timely message for today too!  I hope you find some inspiration and truth in this post.  Blessings to all…

Pens and Journals

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So I was reading the Lord’s prayer today.  You know the one that Jesus taught his disciples.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

Then I stopped.  What caught my attention is the part that says ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

If Christians throughout history have prayed those words and we have prayed those words, you wouldn’t know it by the headlines.  I don’t see it in the news.  If his kingdom is coming and his will, at this time in history, is being done where is it?

I see war, talk of more war, prejudice, hate, violence, heartache, shootings, looting, abuse and the repeat button gets pushed daily.

Our Prince of Peace, more than likely, is weeping…

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