The church isn’t a building it’s a way of life

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But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Luke 14:13

It’s common to see a parade of wheelchairs being pushed the few blocks to the church from the nursing home and rehabilitation center down the street.

Once the parade strolls and rolls into the building, the wheelchair bound get seats front and center.

With arms raised they worship.  Boy do they worship.

I can learn a few things from their abandoned style.  Wholly free, carefree, free indeed.

Bound by their chairs physically but free in the Spirit.

I have observed this group and worshiped along side of them for several weeks now.

Then there’s the homeless people, from the inner city, whom can catch a ride on the church bus that travels through the city offering rides.

I’ve been in awe watching them worship too, some with arms raised, some with tears streaming down their faces, some with expressions of joy, some with shouts of joy and others more contemplative.

I listened to conversations with them afterwards.  They expressed gratefulness for being accepted and included many with tears.

Then their stories.  Why, how, when.  Some talked about church growing up and how worship was for them back in those days.

Yes, some grew up going church and then…

I listen.  I see.   I’m touched and I learn.

Many in the church know the names of the homeless and extend friendship.  When the pastor announced  that one of the men passed away on the streets one week I could hear the care, the grief and the loss in his words.

On Super Bowl Sunday the church gathered together for a Party.  That’s common.  Many churches gather their flock together all over the U.S. on that day to watch the game, eat snacks and cheer for their teams.   They party together.

This one was different.  The parishioners received an invitation to serve.  That’s right.  They were throwing a party and the guests of honor were the homeless.  A T.V., the game, a meal and a blessing–were all part of the evening.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

These people, my extended Spiritual family welcomed Bob and me in when we wandered through their doors looking for a place to worship one Sunday and we stayed for almost 3 months.

Our last Sunday with them will be on Palm Sunday and then we will head back to our home church.

Last week two wheelchair bound worshipers were on stage with the praise team helping to lead worship.

Monthly the worship team from church heads down the street to the nursing home and rehabilitation center to enjoy a worship service together.  The gifts and talents exploded from the residence as some came out of the shadows to sing.

Now occasionally they will help lead worship at church.  They will become part of the team.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

In the wake of the recent news reports when all seems so overwhelming and almost hopeless, I’m brought back to truth, just the simple truth that there’s still hope, love and a way to live differently to impact others one soul at a time.

As I approach Easter, it’s that message that I want to carry long after I have to say goodbye to this band of Jesus followers–the Easter people–the people of this church that Bob and I have grown to love and admire.

They don’t just go to church they are the church and they declare that statement weekly at the end of each service.  Their words resonate with me…”We don’t just go to church we are the church!”  And they don’t just say it, they live it.

Blessings!

Nancy ❤

Hydrate!

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I never thought I’d be that woman.  The one dehydrated and hooked to an IV, EKG, blood pressure machine, and God only knows what else all those wires were.

My family would be the first to tell you that I’m a health nut when it comes to the foods I eat but they could also tell you that they have spoken these three words to me often, “Drink more water!”

It was just a few days of being active in the sun to deplete me.

My husband and I took a break from our snow-covered state and entered a warmer climate and I was ecstatic about shedding the parka’s and boots for tennis shoes and shorts.

Coffee in the morning, a sip of water (here and there), coffee in the afternoon, a sip of water (here and there) and wine with dinner didn’t add up to enough liquid to sustain me through the hikes and all of our outdoor activities in a warmer climate.

By the way, the nurse informed me that neither coffee nor wine counts!  They are diuretics.

So there I sat for half a day in the emergency room while the doctor on staff ordered tests to determine why I collapsed that morning.

Long story short, they hooked up a bag of fluids and pumped it through me.

I was back…ready to put my hiking shoes on and go…

I’ve gulped down water like crazy everyday since and I’m feeling great.  Infusing the water with citrus helps too.

I was a woman in need of water.  I was thirsty and didn’t even know it.

infused water 2x - Copy wdpThere’s another woman who was thirsty and didn’t know it.  Let me tell you about her.

She was trying to fill the empty places in her life with temporary solutions but the solutions weren’t quenching her deepest soul-thirst.

When the women in town went to collect water from the well in the morning, she stayed back.  Maybe they didn’t want to associate with her and she knew it.

Most likely an outcast and shunned by the people in her town, she waited until noon (the hottest part of the day) knowing others wouldn’t be around to fill their jars in the heat.  That way she could avoid their glaring stares.

She was, most likely, ashamed but didn’t know how to solve her problem.

But Jesus knew and He cared.  So one day at noon He met her at the well.

Jewish people would steer clear of Samaria and take the long way around to get to their destinations.  The Samaritans were not full-blooded Jewish.  They were a mixed race and considered unclean by the Jews but Jesus thought differently.

On His way to Galilee, Jesus went through Samaria and stopped at the well to rest.

He waited for the Samaritan woman and asked her for a drink.  What a surprise that was.  First of all she was a woman.  Men didn’t talk to women in public.  Secondly she was a Samaritan (considered a half-breed and despised by the Jews) and Jesus was asking her for a drink of water?  That was unheard of!

But Jesus always surprised people and went to places others refused to go and spoke to people whom others wouldn’t think of talking to.

Jesus reached out to her and ultimately offered her a drink from His Spiritual well–the well that never runs dry and even bubbles up to eternal life.

Jesus set up that divine appointment.  He knew she was coming and made sure He was there right on time.  Jesus never misses an appointment.

He confronted the woman with her lifestyle by simply saying, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  “I don’t have a husband,” she replied.

Jesus tells her that she is right and goes on to reveal the truth about her life.

She was a woman who had 5 husbands and the man she was living with then wasn’t her husband and Jesus offered her the solution to escape her circumstances.  The solution was Him.  He offered her His Living Water so she would never be Spiritually thirsty again.

The thing is we don’t really know why she had five husbands or why she was living the way she was.  It could have been by choice.  Maybe there was abuse in her past and she didn’t know what a healthy relationship was.  It could have been that she was left by her first husband and then tossed from man to man.   Women were completely dependent on men to care for them, in those days, or they wouldn’t survive.  Maybe she held out hope that someday the right man would meet her deepest needs and solve her loneliness.

We don’t know the back story, but what we do know is that Jesus cared enough to go to Samaria to meet her and offer her true love and hope and the best part of the story is that she accepted it.

She not only accepted it but she left her earthly jar behind and ran into town with her Spiritual Living Water splashing joy on others and many believed because of her testimony.

It’s truly amazing and the story reveals the depth of Jesus’ love for everyone and His willingness to go out of His way to find one lost soul.

We can’t fill our lives with temporal things and think that it will satisfy our Spiritual thirst.  There’s no person, place or thing that can take the place of God.  As much as we try, our divine thirst cannot be quenched by anything but Living Water.  That Living Water is the Holy Spirit.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit…   John 7: 37-39

I need water to survive physically and if I’m not hydrated my body lets me know.  Ignoring my physical thirst or thinking something else (like coffee or wine) will satisfy my thirst can result in a medical emergency.

But just as important, I need to quench my Spiritual thirst daily too.  If I don’t drink deeply from the well that never runs dry and ignore my need for the Living Water of Jesus, I will collapse Spiritually.

I’m staying hydrated physically now but my recent trip to the hospital reminds me that my Spiritual thirst is just as important and I need to have Spiritual Living Water running through me daily too.

And like the Samaritan woman I hope I will always be just as excited to lay down my earthly jars and run and tell others about the Living Water of Jesus that Spiritually hydrates me.

If you click this link:  John 4: 1-42 you can read the amazing story of the woman at the well and Jesus’ encounter with her.

Blessings!

Nancy

Safe and Secure

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He sat at the round bistro table, feet dangling from his chair.  His white socks stretched to his knees, legs swaying, eagerly waiting for a slice of pizza to satisfy his little appetite.
His tiny mouth puckered around the tip of a straw sipping orange soda while his big, round, dark eyes looked sideways toward his daddy.  He sipped then spoke, sometimes placing his little face in front of his daddy’s eyes.
Deep in conversation they were.  The little one asking questions about many topics.  He had an array of queries about history, math, sports — you name it — he was covering everything and his daddy paid close attention to every detail of every sentence.
Never once did I see a smart phone sitting on their table or in the hands of the father.  Not even to record the special moment with a snap of the camera.  His undivided attention focused on his son.  The little one with the dark spiked hair and toothless grin was of utmost importance to his daddy and the little guy was comfortable in his presence.
If he squirmed or got restless, his daddy responded with gentleness for his son to stay patient for just a little longer.
He watched his father closely and emulated him.   Where his dad placed his napkin, his fork and his drink, the boy did the same.
After sinking his teeth into his first bite of pizza the little boy’s big dark eyes grew bigger.  Glancing at daddy, he tapped his shoulder and said a simple, “Thank you.”
The daddy leaned toward his son, smiled and wiped a little sauce from the boy’s face.   The loving affection for his son was clear and the son sat securely and comfortably in that love.
Their exchange was inspiring.
Is my relationship with my Father in Heaven that comfortable?
Jesus called God the warm; intimate child-like Aramaic word,  Abba Father, a tender, endearing name (like papa or daddy would be).  It’s a perfect example of the affectionate, dependent relationship He had with His Father.
And He wants that for us too.
No lofty prayer, no special words, no cleaning up is necessary before we sit in our Father’s presence.  He’ll wipe our stains clean through Christ.
We can just be ourselves.  We can ask questions.  We can share our needs.  We can say thank you for His unconditional love and for His constant encouragement to reach higher and become better.
And even when we don’t speak, He reads our hearts and responds to our deepest needs.
The good Father challenges us to let go of indifference and to reach, stretch, share and love — like He does.
The hard places discipline us under His careful watch and lead us to say yes to His yes instead of shaking our heads in defiance.
When we say yes to His yes, I bet He smiles.
When He says no to us, I hope we understand that He has only our best interest in mind.
When we ask Him for our heart’s desires, sometimes His answers come as YES, sometimes they come as NO and sometimes they come as NOT NOW — just wait.
But it’s not about the answers.  Not really.  It’s about Him and our relationship with Him and when we realize that’s all we really need, it becomes enough.

Blessings!      Nancy © 2015

Expressions of Love

heart sunset 2 - Copy wdp“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”  Sarah Kay


I’m not sure why I was having a bad day.  It was several years ago.  All I remember was there were tears and I wanted a little slice of time to myself.
Bob left the house and returned later with a box of Good and Plenty, handed it to me and said, “I thought this might make you feel a little better.”
I smiled, opened the box and we went for a walk while I ate my candy.
And you know what?  That simple gesture of love lifted my spirits.
He could have brought home a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I’m not saying those gifts would be meaningless but there’s a time and place for everything.
The little box of Good and Plenty was perfect.
Why?  Because it came from someone who has studied me, therefore knows me and my husband picked a simple, thoughtful gift for that day.  Knowing that Good and Plenty was one of my favorite childhood candies, he went out and bought a box.
It was just an ordinary day, with me needing a little encouragement and my husband decided that Good and Plenty may do the trick.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I ate that candy–it was many years ago so it was a special surprise.
Silly, huh?  But you know what?  It’s often the simplest gestures of love that mean the most.
As hard as I try to remember, I can’t recall why I was so sad that day and either does Bob but we both remember the gift of Good and Plenty and how it made me feel.
That’s important information for many of us to remember, especially during the month of February when images of love abound as we approach Valentine’s Day.
We can start by studying our loved ones, making mental notes of their likes and favorite things, listening for clues of what may lift their spirits, bring them joy, put a smile on their face and then follow through with a simple gift.
It doesn’t have to happen on Valentine’s Day.  Actually, an unexpected gift expressing love on any day has even more meaning and impact.  However, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express our love to a spouse, child, friend and even a stranger with a random act of kindness.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better and less really is more.  One simple rose (in a favorite color) placed in beautiful vase instead of a dozen roses — a box or boxes of favorite childhood candy instead of a box of expensive chocolates — think, study, explore, put thought into purchasing a simple gift and then share your love.

I took the photo of the sunset, at the top of this post, on February 13, 2014 in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  My husband and I were walking the shoreline when we noticed that the sparkling reflection of the sun on the sand looked like a heart.
I refer to that photo as the night that God kissed the shore with a heart for us just in time for Valentine’s Day–a reminder of his love for us.
His love cost everything he had — his only son and his very life.  That’s truly the only BIG GIFT worth receiving, because that’s how we learn how to love even in the smallest of ways.
We love because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The greatest gift is LOVE–go out and express it in creative ways and give someone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Blessings!  Nancy ❤    © 2015

One Word

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As this year draws to a close, I haven’t made one resolution for the upcoming new year but I did pick one word.  My word was actually an umbrella word over 2014 that protected and sheltered me.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  That’s my word.  It had the most overarching effect on me and it brought me to the threshold of 2015 with a sense of being supported and loved.

As a writer, I sometimes wonder if stringing words together on a page is worth the effort, because for me it’s not about using big impressive words or strutting my writing abilities around.  It’s about trying to inspire and move hearts.

At times I look back on my writing and cringe.  As I write on, I’m amazed at how I would choose my words differently just days after I write a piece.

Then a card comes in the mail.  Someone took the time to hand write a note to let me know what my words have meant to them.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  And so I keep writing…

Whether it’s a comment in person, writing or in an uplifting email, I’m always humbled by the encouraging words from people who tell me they’ve enjoyed or been touched by my words.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  And so I keep writing…

I haven’t arrived at a place where I’m completely satisfied with my writing but the beauty of life is that we are in all in process.  No matter what we’re doing or how we use our gifts, we haven’t arrived.  There’s always more to learn.  I change and grow daily and I’m learning to be okay with that and enjoy the process.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  It has pointed me back toward my passion and to remember why I write.

As some of you know, 2014 hasn’t been an easy year for my family.  Cancer came into our life this past summer when my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.

I’ve shared some of our journey in the following posts:

Again the encouragement that we have received from family and friends through the storm has been like a ray of sunshine through the dark and like a flower breaking through the winter.

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God uses people.  All the encouragement that covered my family brought with it the confirmation that God cares and that He will never leave us.

Yesterday we got test results from Bob’s oncologist that the markers for the Leukemia are decreasing in his blood significantly.  At their highest the markers were 89.  In September they were 49.  Yesterday the good news was that they are 6.9.

The goal is to have Bob’s chemo medication reduce the markers until they cannot be seen by the human eye anymore.  Then they will call it remission and he will take the chemo drug for life to try to keep it there.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  I know how much it has benefited me and I want to focus on being a better encourager in 2015.

Words have the power to build up or tear down.  I’d rather be a builder upper!

I will have my eyes open through the new year to look for those I can buoy up and support.

I’m going to scope out my surroundings and attempt to become conscious of:

  • the downtrodden
  • the sad eyed
  • the dejected
  • the ones who have lost hope
  • the struggling
  • the ones who have given up on:
    • their dreams
    • their gifts
    • their talents
    • themselves

I know from my experiences in 2014, just how the right words at just the right time can spur a person on and keep them from losing hope.

Lists of resolutions can seem daunting, most get broken anyway, but one word to carry into the new year is possible.

Now I’d like to ENCOURAGE you.  If you’ve tried making resolutions and said “Eh, that didn’t work,” why not join me and pick just ONE WORD to apply to 2015?  Then let me know what it is and how you’re using your word.  I’d love to hear from you.

Happy and Hopeful New Year to you and yours!

Nancy Janiga©2014

It’s the little things

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Christmas is over but there’s still remnants left.  There’s a bag of crumpled wrapping paper tucked behind a stool in my living room.  The lights still twinkle on my decorated tree and there’s a few cookie crumbs on a plate sitting next to me on my dining room table.

My fingers click away on my laptop amid all the signs of the Holiday and my thoughts drift back to when my living room was full of chatter and laughter just days before.

Family gathered around our decorated home on Christmas to share a meal, share gifts and share memories of years past.  Lots of the memories hang from the branches of our Christmas tree.  It’s always fun to look at the ornaments and recall the memory attached to each one.  And finally we shared an indoor snowball fight with a pail of forty synthetic snowballs.

I think the best purchase, hands down, that I made this year was that pail of indoor snowballs.  They actually feel like the real deal minus the cold.  I grabbed one and threw it at my son.  Startled he sat back in his chair, smiled and said, “What?  Are those snowballs?”  Then came the laughter while snowballs, being tossed at one another, filled our living room.

In those moments, watching, listening, observing nothing was wrong and all was right in the world.

A few days before Christmas, I was making my mom’s traditional date nut bread–a recipe that she handed down to me.  As I mixed the batter, I watched a couple of neighbor boys, through my kitchen window, playing catch in the street.  As they threw the ball their dog ran along side it trying catch it in his mouth.  The sun was shining, it was 45 degrees and they didn’t have jackets on.  It’s unusual in this area to have such mild temps at this time of year.  What’s even more unusual is seeing kids running and playing outside at anytime of the year in this electronic age.

As I watched the game outside and prepared the nut bread, my thoughts went back in time–a time that seemed a little simpler–with my mom baking the bread and the streets filled with kids throughout the neighborhood and usually in the snow at this time of year.  Being inside the house for too long, wasn’t that common back then for kids.

Then I burst into song.  A song that I wouldn’t ordinarily think of.  I can’t carry a tune and you won’t catch me singing out loud in front of you but alone I’ll belt out anything…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Louis Armstrong ©1967

…and I think to myself it’s a wonderful world… and I hummed it for the rest of the day.

The hum carried on through Christmas and there was nothing wrong in my world.

But we all know there is something wrong.  We read the headlines, listen to the news, hear the stories, hear the cries, see the suffering, hearts get broken, tears flow…

We’d like it to stop.  We’d like to see peace on earth and good will toward men.

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Christmas began in the manger but it didn’t end there.  When we put away Christmas, let’s not put away Jesus.  That’s where hope starts.  That’s where love begins.  That’s where joy originates and that’s where peace flows.

Among the chaos of the world, that little child in the little manger brought us God. And He brought us the potential, through our dependence on Him, to have peace on earth and extend good will toward men and women.  It can only begin one heart at a time.

May we embrace it.  Embrace Him.  And in the midst of it all find joy in the little things in life–like those blessings mentioned in the song, “It’s a wonderful world” because the little pockets of joy that we find in the chaos of life are really the big things.

Written by Nancy Janiga @2014

The Kingdom Comes Through Us

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Have you ever been comforted, known peace, joy, love, faithfulness, goodness, or been sustained in other ways through the Spirit of God?  Have you been touched or helped by God through another person?  God’s grace is manifested in so many unique and surprising ways.

When we are blessed, it’s not to hoard the blessings, or to use them solely for our own comfort or to judge others outside of the faith.  We are blessed to be a blessing, to use the blessings–to become ‘kingdom come’ people.

We can spread the kingdom through a smile, a touch, a meal, friendship, a listening ear, a prayer–it’s meeting the needs of others and showing up when others may have turned away.  It’s being present; being the gift.

Jesus talked about seeing the signs of the kingdom displayed through us and he rarely pointed to big things.  It was more about washing each other’s feet.   (John 13:14).

Through his parables we see that the little things are the ways through which the kingdom is often spread: the yeast in the dough, the mustard seed, etc.  (Matthew 13:31-33).

The kingdom comes to earth through us in little ways and little events.  It’s like offering a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty.  It’s simple, easy, loving ministry.  (Matthew 10:42)

When we are available as a kingdom come person, opportunities will open right in front of us.  The question then becomes, will we take the challenge or walk away?  Will we be the person to offer that cup of cold water to a thirsty person?

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I’m always amazed at the situations that my husband, Bob, and I find ourselves in.  Even when far from home and traveling God goes ahead of us and with us to set up divine appointments.  God’s divine appointments certainly reach further than our own neighborhoods.

Last year while walking down a street in Sarasota, FL, we had one of those encounters.

This story is more about the willingness of my husband to be a kingdom come person than it is about me.  I just tagged along.

Our path intersected with a man.  Someone whose hands were bigger than my forearm and whose height towered over both my husband and me.  He shook our hands and introduced himself.  His name was Roy.  He walked beside us and talked and the more he talked the more we came to realize that he was homeless.

I wanted to turn, say goodbye, and move on.  I convinced myself that just praying for him would be enough.  I kept thinking, what if I was walking down this street alone?   But I wasn’t alone, I was there with Bob and something prevented Bob from turning away.  So we walked side by side with Roy.

We heard his whole heartbreaking story as we strolled down a neighborhood street.  He told us about his mother’s death, alone in the world, no direction, no coping skills, no help, no one, nobody, just this big guy up against the big world.  Alone.

As his story thickened, we learned about his prison stint.  Attempted murder he said but assured us it was just a fight with another man and that he was wrongly charged.  “You know, African-American men get raw deals sometimes,” he said.  When he got out of prison he was homeless and alcohol became a remedy for his pain.

I was thinking that would have been a great time to part ways but Bob asked him if he was hungry.  Roy said yes.

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We walked to a nearby restaurant and offered him a seat on their outside patio.

I talked more with Roy as Bob went inside to find a waiter and all along I kept wondering if those working in the restaurant would even agree to serve this homeless soul.

I asked Roy if he knew anyone else in the area that could help him.  He pointed to a Christian church a few blocks away and said that he had been there before, the pastor was kind to him and that maybe they could help.  I encouraged him to go talk to the pastor again.  He said that he would.

Bob gave the waiter some money and pointed to Roy and said, “Give him something to eat.”   The waiter’s eyes grew wide and said, “But I don’t know what he wants.”   Bob explained that Roy was homeless, hungry and that he’d probably eat anything but the waiter insisted on bringing him a menu.

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A pure expression of surprise came over Roy’s face when the waiter approached the table to serve him.  He placed the menu in front of Roy and said, “What can I get for you sir?”  Roy picked a pizza and water.

The waiter told Bob that most people would not have done what he did for Roy and called Bob a good man.  Bob explained that he was only doing what needed to be done and thanked the waiter for serving Roy.

As I watched the waiter bring Roy the menu, treat him with dignity at the linen covered table and prepare to serve him, I realized that God showed up through two willing men that afternoon–my husband and the waiter.

When we said our goodbyes, Bob told Roy that God loved him and would take care of him.  He said, “I know.”

Roy was ‘the least of these’ and the kingdom came to him that day in a tangible way through my husband and the waiter who didn’t refuse to serve Roy.

It reminds me of Matthew 25 and especially Matthew 25:40:  “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

By being kingdom come people, we not only serve others but we are serving Jesus too.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga©2014