The Homeless Veteran: Guest Post by Bobby Hegedish

Engaging with homeless people I encounter has become a joy and a passion for me.  My friend Bobby Hegedish has discovered a similar calling. I think you will love his story of a homeless veteran. Orlando (although a city like Cleveland where I call home) has a much different vibe than most of the cities I have been to. Ethnic, cultural and economical diversity paint the town colors that make it known as “The City Beautiful.” I don’t usually find myself walking the streets of downtown Orlando past 11:00 PM. However, walking the streets recently to where my parked car was located gave me a sense of being small. Surrounded by skyscrapers and people, from wanderers to third-shift workers, I had a sense of being invisible. But in a moment of discrete observation and contemplation, the city around me became like a scene from a good documentary. What happened next would have made a great scene in such a film. Muttered words I could barely understand came from a man passing by on my right, head to the ground and papers in hand. From when I was a child, I have had a particular burden for those who had less and the homeless. Regardless of how they got there, it was their reality. Yet in small suburban Cleveland growing up, there weren’t many people with those situations to interact with. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Stopping in my tracks, I turned to the man in a split-second decision to attempt a conversation with him. I’ve tried many ways of serving the poor throughout the past several years: giving money or food, taking them out to eat, giving rides, and even a place to stay. These have been exercises as well as tests of faith for me. However, it is so easy to dismiss and project critical, judgmental thoughts onto folks like this man, who I found out was named David. These initial heart-level responses are inherent: external circumstances which trigger pre-disposed responses. Call it “flight Read more

Write the Vision: Guest Post by Stacey Thacker

  “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.’” (Habakkuk 2:2) A couple of years ago I found a kindred heart on the pages of God’s Word. His name was Habakkuk. He has a tiny three-chapter book in the Old Testament with his name on it. Maybe I liked him immediately because he wrestled with God. Or perhaps it was because of something God told Habakkuk to do, even though he was feeling fresh out of amazing like me. “What did God tell Habakkuk to do? He told the prophet to pick up the chisel and write the vision on a tablet. God also told him how to do it. The phrase “keep it simple.” Now consider that God had to tell farmer-turned-prophet Habakkuk to keep his message simple. He didn’t have a hashtag, images purchased from iStock, or even colored pens to make his message extra special. He didn’t have a Journaling Bible or a You-Tube video. He had a simple message written on tablets of stone, and God said, “Hey, Habakkuk, just write what you saw. Nothing less. Nothing more.” When God speaks we don’t need to dress it up or make it fancy. His Word, his vision, his instructions are enough. God told Habakkuk to write it down. And he did. I know what you may be thinking: “But I’m not a writer. I failed writing in college. I avoid writing grocery lists. This doesn’t apply to me.” Before you move on, though, let me just put this out there for you to consider: Habakkuk was a farmer. Peter was a fisherman. David was a shepherd. Matthew was a tax collector. James was a carpenter. I am a mom. Write the vision on people's hearts. You don’t have to identify as a writer to write down faith-affirming words inspired by God. You simply have to be willing. And whether anyone sees your words or you tuck them away in a journal like I did for years, your words matter because your soul matters. Writing is indeed clarifying soul work. And isn’t that what we need Read more

Our Loving Bitmojis--Just in Time for Valentine's

We would know we love each other if we never said the words because of the little things we do daily to demonstrate Read more

Lingering in the Word of God Brings Transformation

This is the third post from my word for the year—linger. What does a true follower of Jesus look like and live like? I ask that question often, especially as I read—and linger--in the Word God. Today I was in Romans 12—which is abounding with words that unveil the beautiful, character-growing transformation that God has promised to do in our lives. A Living Sacrifice The chapter is brimming with instructions to encourage us to surrender to God’s labor of love in our lives. So we will take a brief look at just verses 1-2, and hopefully continue through the chapter in later posts. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, NLT) Paul is addressing you and me as well as the believers in Rome: brothers and sisters—all of us! What he wants to say to us is so vital and essential that he pleads with us. Because of all God has done for us, he reasons, we must give our bodies to God. This giving of ourselves is no small matter—we are to give ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. A living sacrifice? Clearly something different than the sacrifices of animals. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? (Here’s a hint: We will find out what that looks like as we encounter the verses that follow in the rest of the chapter.) And a holy sacrifice? Me? You? Holy? Only because we have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus. And acceptable to God? Again, only because we have been bought by Jesus’ death on the cross. How does our Father receive our very personal sacrifices? As worship. Perhaps this giving of our living selves is Read more

Hidden Figures - the work and worth of women at Tim Fall

  For years I have been an advocate for the staff women in our ministry, seeking greater opportunities for them to use their gifts. In more recent years my friend and acquaintance circle has expanded to embrace many women of color. So it's no surprise that I loved Hidden Figures. It is a beautiful story of overcoming prejudice and discrimination to accomplish great things.  And I am grateful that Tim Fall invited me to write a personal reflection on the movie. I hope this "review" will get you up and on your way to see it.. Here's a taste, then head on over to Tim's blog, Just One Train Wreck After Another, to keep reading.   My stomach knotted. Already? Would there be trouble even in the opening scene? Three young black women on their way to work at NASA in the early 1960s stalled on the side of a country road. As the “mechanical one” worked to fix the problem, a police officer pulled up behind them. Cheerfulness turned to confrontation. My whole body tensed as I remembered such encounters in books I had read, in movies I had seen, in stories my friends had related. Gratefully “working at NASA” rescued them and the officer escorted them to their jobs. I attended the showing of Hidden Figures with the global leaders of Cru. It’s become tradition at the annual Executive Team retreat to take a break and attend a current significant movie. I asked why Hidden Figures was chosen, though there were other important films available in the same theater.... Keep reading: https://timfall.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/hidden-figures-the-work-and-worth-of-women/ What about you?  What emotions did this stir? c2017 Judy Read more

On My Knees

Lament with Hope and an Invitation from God

Night of Prayer

We gathered, about 50 of us, for 4 hours on Friday night. It was a monthly Friday Night of Prayer. Only this was not a usual gathering. Death and sadness, anger and grief, fear and frustration called for lament…with hope.

First we worshiped. A friend with his guitar led us as we sang, preparing our hearts.

Since lament is not a common practice in this western culture, I asked some of our pray-ers from other cultures to describe the importance of lament to them. A friend from a Jewish background said it was common, when someone died, to have seven days of lament. Family, friends, neighbors grieved together over those days. An Ethiopian man said they did the same for three days.

People praying

Night of Prayer

The tears of lament

Christianity Today just posted an article from a year ago about the Book of Lamentations, quoting Bible scholar Kathleen O’Connor: “Lamentations provides a bottle for the tears of the world.” When we lament we take our tears and our fears to God. We let him know what we think and how we feel about the events of our lives. And we appeal to God to act justly and demonstrate his faithfulness.

Many of the psalms are songs of lament, most of which follow a similar approach to God: a complaint, a request and, usually, an expression of trust. The concerns could be personal needs, or threats from enemies, or disappointment with God’s actions or inactions.

We read through Psalm 80, joining the psalmist in his despair at the brokenness of Jerusalem, crying out “How long, Lord God Almighty?” And then: “Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”

We sought to understand that lament expresses our desire, our efforts to enter into the pain and loss and grief of others as well as our own. We thought of those who have lost loved ones, who are oppressed, who don’t receive justice….

And we expressed our laments—for our own sin, for our own city of Orlando, for the hatred and killing and strife and prejudice in our nation, and for the terror and horror and poverty and injustice and oh, the fear.

people praying

Joy and Hope

Then we sang, moving into praise and adoration.

To turn to rejoicing and hope, we joined the children of Israel when the prophet Isaiah assured them of new life as the Lord released them captivity in Babylon and led them back to the Promised Land.

Beginning in Isaiah 61, we thrilled to these words spoken to Israel, but made ours as well because our Lord them used to announce the beginning of His ministry:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] 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. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

The prophet gave amazing encouragements: renew the ruined cities; instead of shame and disgrace, a double portion; everlasting joy and an everlasting covenant; blessed by the Lord; clothed with garments of salvation and robes of righteousness; praise springing up before all nations.

Certainly joy arrives and hope appears.

prayer of lament

But there is more. Isaiah said in chapter 61 that God’s people would be the display of his splendor—they—God’s children, and—we—God’s children, show His splendor to all creation. He continues in chapter 62: “you will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your Lord….I will take delight in you….”

From the shame of idolatry and the sin of pride and the offense of immorality and the guilt of murder….our God redeems and forgives and restores—and delights in us.

Then in 62:6-7, we receive an admonition and an invitation: “You who call on the Lord, give yourself no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

Do you see that?

The admonition:

When you cry out to the Lord, in lament, in desperation, in intercession, in need, in pain, don’t stop. Give yourself no rest. Keep praying, asking, beseeching.

Which we did, throughout the evening.

We cried out for the pain and suffering and loss and captivity of people all over the world. We cried against the evil we see all around. We asked our God to set people free, to open blind eyes and soften hard hearts. To bring salvation to a desperate world.

And the invitation:

Give God no rest. He asks us to keep asking Him, to keep seeking, to keep knocking! Don’t quit. He is a God who sees, who hears, who answers. We won’t wear Him out.

Then this: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’”
They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.”

We closed after midnight, thanking Him in song for the grace and freedom He offers to us.

Selah!

What about you? Have you taken time to lament?

C2016 Judy Douglass




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Promise Keeper–Your Prayer Has Been Heard

rainbow-

I’m grateful that in this final week of Advent, the days before Christmas, most of my activity is done, most of my gatherings are completed. A few gifts to wrap and deliver, a small family get together on Christmas day. Finally time to truly reflect on Advent.

A favorite Advent reflection for me is meditating on the many ways Jesus comes to us:  He comes as the Living Word and the Living Water, as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as the Bread of Life and the Light of the World.  And so much more.

One of my favorite ways that Jesus comes is as the real Promise Keeper.

And oh what promises our God has made to us:  forgiveness, a relationship with God, abundant life and eternal life, peace, comfort, hope….

And one more that I love: He hears and answers prayer.

We have so many prayers ascending to our Father. One of the most common is: “How long, O Lord!?!”

“… How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)

I know I have said those words.  I imagine you have as well.

We yearn, we despair, we hope, we weep, we believe—waiting on the answer to our prayers.

There is another who surely asked that question, for seemingly unanswered prayer, for longing and waiting.

His name is Zechariah.  He and Elizabeth had pleaded and waited for a child for decades.

Then this: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:13a)

This message was delivered by a heavenly messenger, assuring Zechariah that he had nothing to fear—and that his decades of prayer for a child had not fallen on deaf ears.  God had heard.  And now was the right time for God’s answer.  His son, John the Baptist, would prepare the way for the coming Christ.

And that was the message God gave to me.

My emotions—in “how long, o Lord?” times—cause these kinds of thoughts and questions:

Are you listening, Lord?  Do you care?

What about the promises?  Can I believe you?

Fear reigns—fear for the future of a loved one.  Will change ever come?

So is there sin in my life that blocks my prayers?  Or am I just not effective at all at praying?

Will hope ever be fulfilled, or will hope always be disappointed?

I could go on.  I’m sure you have asked these and other questions.  But the right answer to these questions is not in things turning out the way I want, in my pain leaving, in the answer to prayer I desire.

The answer is in God, in who He is, in what He is like.  I never understand what He is doing or how He is working.  But I do know that He does all things well, that He is good and is always looking for ways to do good to us, that His promises are true and can be trusted.

And I can know, with Zechariah, that my prayers have been heard.

So, in this time of good news and celebration that is often full of bad news and disappointment for those of us who wait for an answer, may you know that God has heard your prayers and His answers will be right and at the right time. He is a promise keeper.

What about you?  What prayer are you waiting to see answered?

c 2015 Judy Douglass

 




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15 Scriptures I Pray for My Grandchildren

boys playing

I was just with two of my grandboys—always such a joy! (And exhausting). I play with them, read to them, bring them gifts, play peek-a-boo or some other game. I love them.

One of the best ways I express that love is to pray for them–for all my grands. I will pray for getting along with siblings, for health and safety, for attitudes and sports and school and many more specifics.

I believe, though, that some of my most effective praying is to say back to the Lord verses from Scripture on behalf of each grandboy and grandgirl.

Here are a few Scriptures I pray often. There are many more.

Truths for them to know

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,… (Psalm 139:13-14)

For we are His workmanship (work of art), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

I have loved you…with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Living like Jesus

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Prayers Paul prayed for his disciples

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)

I thank my God every time I remember you….And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3; 9-11)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-20)

These are some of my favorites, but there are so many more. Almost any Scripture that has spoken to you can be turned into prayer for your children and grandchildren.

What about you? What verses have you prayed for loved ones?

C2015 Judy Douglass

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Prayer that Opens Doors 3: Blessing

I recently had the privilege of leading a prayer seminar with my husband at his home church. One of my sessions was on “Prayer that Opens Doors.” This is the third of three posts on prayer that does just that. The first was on Praise, and the second on Thanks.

 

scattered rose petals

When someone near you sneezes, do you, or does someone nearby say, “God bless you”? It happens often, doesn’t it.

And perhaps as a child in church you sang “Blessed to Be a Blessing.”

Do you hear or say “God bless you” any other time? Not too often, I imagine.

Yet we are called to be people of blessing—as a way of life.

To bless is to express good wishes or offer prayer to God for someone’s welfare and benefit.

We are to bless God 

In Nehemiah 9:5 we read: And the Levites said, “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting: ‘Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.'”

How do we bless God? We bless Him when we praise Him and thank Him, as we read in the first two parts of “Prayer that Opens Doors.” Calling Him by one of His many names blesses Him, as does thanking Him for His beautiful character.

Surely we bless Him when we worship in song. How many times have you sung “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) from Psalm 103:1: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.”

And I’m certain He is blessed when we live in love, mercy and grace toward others.

We are to bless others

God’s Word is filled with blessings—spoken to us and that we can speak to others. This one is a beautiful model for us:

Numbers 6:22-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Speaking a blessing rarely entered my mind until a few years ago. I read a book on blessing, and God encouraged me to make it a way of life. So now I consciously speak blessing to almost everyone I encounter—a store clerk, finishing a phone call, at the doctor’s office, a homeless person. I end my emails and most communications with blessing words.

One of my favorite ways to bless someone is to pray for them in the form of a blessing, and even to write out such blessings for them. If I want to write a blessing, I think of needs a loved one has, of Scriptures to pray for them, of requests to ask for her, and I ask God for Scripture for those requests. A personal blessing might look like this:

A BLESSING FOR YOU

May you know that God delights in you and is crazy in love with you.

May you know what a treasure you are to me, to God and to His Kingdom

May Jesus satisfy your every need and your every desire

May you always walk in the Spirit.

May you love the Lord your God with all your heart.

May you love the lost into the Kingdom.

May you be filled up to overflowing with God’s abundant blessings.

Love, Judy

We are to bless our enemies

Do you have enemies? Some of you probably have true enemies who threaten your lives. But most of us might consider those who speak ill of us, or abuse us emotionally, or compete against us intensely as foes. Sometimes those who annoy or irritate us can feel like enemies—someone whose negativity we have to endure.

Jesus made it clear: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing,…so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

How do we bless our enemies? We pray for them—asking God to do good to or for them. We speak words of encouragement and hope to them. We look for tangible ways to express kindness to them.

Some years ago there was someone in my life I didn’t really like in my life. Which she knew—my feelings were not hidden.

God said, “Judy, I want you to bless her. If she is to come to know me, she must see how much I love her through you.”

So I began a journey of intentionally blessing her. I chose to do tangible, helpful things as well as speaking love and grace to her. At first it was pure obedience. Then I began to really love her and desire to bless her. Eventually she began to believe I was sincere. She began to trust me. Our relationship grew into a real friendship.

And there you see an open door. When we bless people, whether brief encounters or long-term relationships—and even our enemies—we hand God that key. With it He opens doors—to our hearts, to the hearts and minds of those we bless, and even to turn enemies into friends!

What about you? Is there someone you need to bless?

C2015 Judy Douglass




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Prayer that Opens Doors 2: Thanks

I recently had the privilege of leading a prayer seminar with my husband at his home church. One of my sessions was on “Prayer that Opens Doors.” This is the second of three posts on the prayer that does just that. The first was on Praise and the third will be on Blessing.

JD Prayer that Opens Doors 2- Thanks FB 940x788 (1)

 

The pattern has been the same with all my grandkids. Whenever someone does something for a child, the parent says, “What do you say?”

The correct answer, of course, is “Thank you.”

We humans aren’t naturally grateful and it takes years of training for us to remember to say “Thank you” when someone is kind or helpful or generous to us.

God has observed the same reality. He felt it was necessary to remind us on several occasions to say “Thank you”: …”give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18; also Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 5:20)

Seriously? He wants us to give thanks about everything, always, all the time.

In Part 1 on Prayer that Opens Doors: Praise we had the same response: How can we be praising God all the time? And now, how can we be thanking God in every circumstance?

As with children, practice really helps. And the will to practice, to make it a habit, to grow a truly grateful heart, is not so hard when we like the circumstances of our lives.

When we are healthy, have a good job, delight in loving relationships, have happy children, feel accepted and loved, experience success, receive a desired surprise—all these are easy to say thank you for. The key is to remember who is the giver of all good things and to express gratitude.

But when health is threatened, a job is lost, a relationship is broken, children are making destructive choices, loneliness and rejection abound, success is elusive and all surprises are not desired ones, how can we say thank you?

But God asks us to. These truths help to motivate me:

Giving thanks acknowledges that He is God and He is good.

When life circumstances are challenging, and yet I say, Thank You, Lord, I am saying to my heavenly Father, “I know You are God.” I am recognizing that He is El Elyon, the most high God, and He is El Shaddai, the almighty. He is sovereign and over all and in control.

But when life seems unfair, painful, confusing, scary, it is also important to remember that He is good. Just look at these assurances of God goodness:

Jeremiah 32:40-41: I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”

Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 86:5: ”You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.”

Psalm: 100:5  “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 119:68: “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”

Psalm 145:9:  ‘The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” 

Giving thanks expresses trust in God. 

As we increasingly experience God’s “godness” and His goodness, we find our hearts and minds are more and more able to trust Him.

Fear—of all the uncertainties and concerns of life—erodes our trust. We find it harder to believe that God loves us and wants good for us. Learning to say thank you, even amidst pain and loss, restores our trust. We can go forward with confidence that we know who holds our future—and He knows, He cares and He is able in every situation.

Giving thanks opens the door for God to work.

I’ve found that, when hard circumstances restrain my gratitude, it as though I am holding tightly to the key to my heart and the key to my circumstances. But when I thank God even when I don’t feel thankful, it is like I hand Him the key to that locked door.

With that “thank you” key, He opens my eyes to begin to see the good He is doing, small though it may appear at first. He opens my mind to accept that His goodness will prevail, over time if not immediately. And that key opens my heart to restore trust that this all-powerful God is truly acting in love and compassion for me.

When our son joined our family at almost 10 years old, life had dealt him some hard blows. Gratitude was not in him. We worked hard to teach him gratitude in general and especially toward God, even in hard times.

Slowly “thanks” became part of his vocabulary and even resided in his heart. For many years he worked landscaping and once, while trimming a hedge by a fence with a chainsaw, the saw hit the fence and kicked back against his head, barely missing his eye and leaving a nasty gash.

When I got to the hospital and asked how he was, he said, “It hurts a lot. The first thing I did was call 911. The next thing I did was say, “Thank You, Lord.”

What about you? What is a challenging circumstance you need to thank God in? 

C2015 Judy Douglass

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