The Weapon of Worship

“Life isn’t a playground; it’s a battleground.”

I remember hearing that saying from various pastors over the years.

Lately, at times I feel in the thick of the battle against the enemy of my soul. He tempts me to give in to depression, defeat, and at times despondency over certain areas of my life not going the way I had planned.

When facing traumatic trials, I feel myself fighting off a sense of panic.

That’s how I felt not long ago when I attended my weekly Bible study. Other members of the group were also going through difficult situations, and we spent time encouraging one another with songs that brought truth and encouragement.

One of those songs was, “I Raise A Hallelujah.”

As I listened and sang the song, I realized that even though I go through battles, God has given me the weapons to fight.

This is what the Word tells me about those weapons: “For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4 AMPC)

One of those weapons is worship. So many times, I feel I have a choice to make: to worry or to worship.

When I worry, I give in to, “Woe-is-me;-this-is-a-terrible-situation,-which- is-only-going- to-get-worse” thinking.

Then my mind imagines all the worst case outcomes of the situation.

When I worship, I give the situation to the Lord. I’m able to see it from His perspective. I’m reminded every bad situation which has happened in my life God brought good out of as I submitted to Him. I’m able to stop listening to my negative thoughts and return to listening to God’s Word and His powerful promises.

That’s what happened as I fully engaged with the song “I Raise A Hallelujah.” Although my circumstance had not changed, my attitude toward it did. I sensed myself winning the battle.

Once again I was able to see that even though certain situations I face seem bad, there is one truth that prevails: God is good.

As I basked that morning in His goodness and how He uses trials to draw me to Himself and teach me important truths, I felt overwhelmed by how much He loves and cares for me.

Yesterday, as I listened to the radio two Christian speakers–a man and a woman–were discussing marriage. The man said a quote, which I believe he had heard elsewhere, which really spoke to me.

“God does not give faith for marriage; He gives us marriage for faith.”

Yes, He has certainly done that in my marriage–used it to help me grow in faith.

I could see that truth also applied to other circumstances in my life. In my latest trials, it seemed God did not give me faith for those trials, but He gave me the trials to help me grow in faith. And I do see that happening. As I reflect on trials that are past, I can see that I would not have the closeness to God or as strong a faith walk as I do without them.

Today, I’m thanking God once again for the trails He has brought my way and how He is using them to transform me. Yes, it hurts sometimes, and I get wounded in the battle, but in the end, I know I will be victorious as I continue to “…raise a hallelujah.”

“I Raise A Hallelujah”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2XtRuPfaAU

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Draw Near and Just Be Held

Yesterday, on Good Friday, as I listened to the radio in my car, a song came on by Casting Crowns. The title is “Just Be Held.”

When I first heard that song, I cried. (I wrote about that in a previous blog on August 30, 2015.) So often in my life, I wanted to be held, but it seemed there was no one there—at least no one human—who understood my pain and grief or who cared about me deeply enough to hold me.

At times the people in my life have seemed incapable of holding me because they had their own grief and sorrow. Sometimes that grief and sorrow caused them to think I was the enemy because of twisted thinking and attacks from the true enemy of their souls.

Once again I was reminded of the good news of this song: God is always available to hold me.

But then the thought of Jesus on the cross came. I thought of Him holding people before He went to the cross. He held Mary and Martha as they grieved the death of their brother, Lazarus, before Jesus raised Him from the dead. He held the little children who came to Him. I imagined He held Peter when He talked to Him after Peter denied Him three times. I know there were scores of other times He held people that are not recorded in Scripture.

In my mind, I saw Jesus on the cross with His arms held far apart. How could He hold anyone then? My next thought was that because of what happened on the cross, and His holding or carrying all my sins there, this opened the door to my feeling held by Him.

I also thought that even on the cross He held people—maybe not literally, but figuratively–with the kind words He said to them. To those crucifying Him, He held them tenderly when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. And to the criminal next to Him, He held him when He said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 NIV

I also thought of Jesus and the words He cried out to the Father, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46. Was that the only time in all of Jesus’ existence that He did not sense being held by the Father? No wonder it hurt so much, and He felt forsaken.

Today, I am celebrating that at any given moment of the day, I can sense being held by my Savior. Over the years He has made up for the times as a child and as an adult where I longed to be held, and there were no human arms to wrap themselves around me and comfort me and speak tender words to my soul. He has healed the hurt of the times when only angry words came from those in my circle, and instead of drawing me close to be held, they pushed me away.

Today I’m also thinking about all those who long to be held and have no one. I think of the mentally ill that I work with. Often, I feel led to hug them and think, “When was the last time this person was hugged or held?” So many tell me that those in their lives have rejected them because of mental illness. But the good news for them is that God will never reject them. He wants to hold them and even heal them.

As I studied the art work I found today of Jesus holding the lamb on His shoulders, I thought of the Scripture verse that talks about Jesus leaving the 99 to look for the lost sheep. (See Matthew 18:12-14) When He found the sheep, He held him. He didn’t want him to wander off again.

The amazing part of being held by Jesus is that because of His infinite nature, we can all be held by Him at the same time and yet feel like the only one.

Many people—even Christians—tell me that they never have had the sense of being held by God. This song by Casting Crowns sends out the invitation to “Just Be Held.” I’ve learned I need to move closer to God for this to happen. I need to remove the obstacles that are in the way such as believing the lie, “I’m not worthy,” or “I’m not good enough.” I need to have faith to “come near to God,” so He can “come near” to me and hold me and comfort me. (See James 4:8)

Too many times in hard times, I draw away from God. But as I’ve learned to draw near and allow Him to hold me, my life has been transformed. I realize at this moment that one of the times I feel held by God is when I read His Word and know that His precious promises there apply to me, and when I see how they have come to pass in my life.

Today, because of the present hard issues in my life, I choose to be held by God. I choose to close my eyes and imagine His arms around me. And when a person holds me, I choose to believe He sent that person. What joy there is in being held by the Lord.

How about you? When was the last time you felt yourself being held by the Lord? Will this be the day that for the first time or the first time in a long time that you choose to just be held? Let go and let it happen. Joy will follow.

I pray for each and every one of you a joyful Easter day, celebrating that Jesus is risen from the dead and because of that we can be held by Him and spend eternity with Him.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior, click this link to read about how I came to salvation: https://elainecreasman.wordpress.com/a-love-that-never-fails/

“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yutmTFtalKs

 

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Repost of “Never Alone #2–Never Alone In Our Pain

Recently, I felt alone because of a trial I’m facing—one that could possibly last for years and even until the end of my life. This trial seems to be one that’s hard to talk about—one that unless you have dealt with it yourself would be hard to understand.

Then I rediscovered a blog I wrote in the past and realized I wasn’t alone—that God had brought people into my life who understood and gave support during trials in the past, and that if I was honest with myself He was doing it again. Also, I had His support through this current trial—even if my heart told me that I was alone.

Today’ I’m reposting the blog which lifted my spirits and reminded me I am never alone—no matter what trial I’m facing. I have changed the song I had with this blog to one I heard recently that cheers me up each time I hear it.

Repost of Never Alone #2–Never Alone in Our Pain 

First posted on March 26, 2016

On Thursday evening I was watching American Idol when what I heard surprised me.

The singer/songwriter, Sia, who was helping Dalton, one of the contestants, asked a question she already knew the answer to, “You’re bipolar?”

Then she said, “So am I.”

That moment touched me so much.

Here were two people being honest about the adversity in their lives. Sia was communicating to this young man, “You are not alone. I know what you’re going through.” Their being honest helped thousands perhaps even millions of viewers who shared their struggle with mental illness.

Today as I was thinking about what happened on TV Thursday evening, I was reminded that’s one reason I write personal experience articles and blogs, being more transparent than I ever thought I could be—so others won’t feel so alone in their pain and suffering.

Over the years God has urged me to be honest about my struggles, my sins, my searching for answers. But it started with reading from fellow Christians who shared their traumas—people like Corrie ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada and so many others.

When I first started reading such books, I wondered why I felt so lifted up by hearing of the hardships of others. The answer is this: I no longer felt alone.

Years ago my husband and I were dealing with a serious, possibly relationship-destroying problem in our marriage. At the time it was one of those issues few people talked about. Then one day I turned on the radio and a woman described that she was going through the same thing I was. I wanted to find out who she was and go and hug her. She knew how I felt when I couldn’t get my husband to understand. I wasn’t alone.

Often when I’m going through yet another hardship in my life, I can whisper to myself, “I feel so alone.” Then I’m reminded that I’m not. “Resist him, (the devil) standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:9 NIV

Some days when I’m suffering, I can feel that God is not near. But the truth is that when I’m going through a really hard time, He longs to be closer than ever. Yet I sometimes choose to back away from Him. I forget that He understands my afflictions. He has been through torments of His own.

The other day I read this verse about Jesus being depressed before facing the cross: “He began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed.” Matthew 26:37 AMPC

Too many time I’ve believed the lie that says I’m alone when I sin. I am not. Even though Jesus didn’t sin, He sympathizes with my weaknesses.

“For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and ympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus understands me and my weaknesses better than anyone ever could. And He does not abandon me when I fall. He wants to help me up and show me how to get back on the right track. My problem is that I slip into self-sufficiency thinking I’m the one who’s going to do that.

Today I’m thanking God for all the people He has brought into my life who suffer in similar ways and for His being there for me in the midst of my suffering even when my distress is brought on by my own sin.

Today in the midst of battling that feeling alone in my suffering, I choose to cry out to Jesus. He will encourages me in ways that are beyond what I can imagine. And He sends “someone with skin on” who knows how I feel and can encourage me as well. I refuse to resist these cures for my feeling alone.

Celebrate along with me today that we are never alone in our pain.

“Even Then” by Micah Tyler

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PBysTjztCU

In case you want to hear about Dalton’s struggle with bipolar, check out the following link. Please pray for him and other young people who battle mental illness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNLVYKGFOzc

 

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Attachment Disorder Revisited

Recently, a friend told me about her trouble with attachments to people because of being in an orphanage for the early years of her life without much human touch or affection. Instead of attaching to people in her life, she attached to things of this world—like cigarettes.

Several days later when I was at a prayer meeting, and we were taking time to “get right with God,” He spoke these words to me: “You are attached to food and to the television.”

I realized these attachments were getting in the way of attaching to the Lord and to other people. I developed these two attachments as a child because I had not formed a strong attachment to my parents, who had eight children and emotional issues. Food and television were where I went to receive comfort when chaos was breaking out in our home. Back then, I went to church every Sunday, but I felt God was not there for me either. Otherwise, He would have stopped all that was going on. I wasn’t saved until I was an adult.

In my present life, even though I have God as my Savior, I knew at that moment in the prayer meeting that I still tend to go back to my former attachments when circumstances became difficult in my life, especially during those times it seems God refuses to answer my prayers. Now was one of those times, I realized, as I agreed with the Lord that I was too attached to TV and food.

Then God said this: “You think if you let go of these, you will have less, but the truth is you will have more—of Me and from Me.”

At that moment, I repented of backing away from the Lord, of often turning to food and TV for comfort during my latest difficult circumstance because it seemed God refused to intervene. I knew, also, that I wanted Him to change the circumstance, but He seemed to want to do something else—change me, as well as give me all I needed to face this trial, such as comfort, guidance, affection, and love.

Today, I remembered I had written a blog about attachments years ago. I read it again, and it helped me. I saw that when various deep griefs come to my life, I tend not to turn to God or I give up on turning to Him, and revert to turning to these other attachments.

I wrote the previous blog as I was dealing with the suicide death of my brother. The anniversary of his death is in two days. He died seven years ago on February 28th.

I pray today and in the days ahead that my attachment to God will grow stronger and deeper, and that the things of this world will no longer have a hold on me. I pray the same for my friend.

Here is that blog from 2013 with two songs added at the end.

ATTACHMENTS  First Posted on May 17, 2013

I have a confession.

I am too attached to food.

Although God has done much to set me free in this area  ie delivering me from bulimia, setting me free from eating only junk food on any given day, ending the destructive behavior of consuming copious amounts of candy to the point of severe stomach pain, releasing me from hiding and hording food and much more, I’m not completely set free.

The truth is sometimes if I had to choose between being with people or food, I would choose food.

Worse, there have been occasions when I choose to be with food rather than with God.

Recently in a seminar I heard these statements:

“The problem is not overeating. It’s attachment issues. “

“In the absence of strong attachments and joy, we find sources of pseudojoy such as food.”

“We attach to the food and not the feeder if the attachment process goes wrong.”

“In seeking attachments there is joy or fear. We attach to the food instead of the fear if there is not a lot of joy in our attachments.”

These statements were from Ed Khouri  from Equipping Hearts Ministry

What this man shared  touched my heart since I knew I still had a problem with food. The issue seemed to be magnified since the trauma of my brother’s death by suicide last year. It seems I’ve regressed to my strong attachment to food which I had in childhood as I dealt with the trauma of not being able to form strong attachment to my parents. Instead I formed a bond to food. It brought joy which it seemed my relationship with my mother and father did not bring.

Even though my relationship with my parents has been healed, I can see that there still seems to be a child within me who goes back to the old ways of coping when hurts come.

The questions I have are, “How do I break this strong attachment to food?” “How do I instead form a stronger attachment to people and to God?” “How do I have sweet communion with the Lord instead of repeatedly turning to sweets?”

This is what I long for:

I shall be fully satisfied, when I awake [to find myself] beholding Your form [and having sweet communion with You]. Psalm 17:15 AMP

When I looked up the concept of attachment disorder online, I found this: “Adult attachment disorder is a term used to describe the emotional dysfunction of someone who cannot form intimate, caring bonds with others. The dysfunction may manifest itself as either a rejection of close relationships or a constant demand for them…”

Here are three ways to deal with this that come to mind:

  1. Fully grieve my past. Sometimes I think I’m finished doing this, but then new griefs come to the surface. I need to deal with them rather than ignore them.
  2. Determine to draw close—first to God and then to others. I need to ask God how to do this.
  3. Be open to healing moments.

My goal is to have a secure attachment to God and people and to completely break my unhealthy attachment to food. God wants to be my primary source of joy, and He wants me to experience a deep joy—instead of fear–in my relationships with people.

God, give me the grace to deeply and fully want what You want.  Heal me of my “attachment disorder.”

“Control” by Tenth Avenue North

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFfztu8-bBQ

“Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship

 

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Overcoming Emotional Eating

Not long ago I joined a loved one at a recovery meeting at a local church. This individual faced a battle with drugs, and I came along to give support. During the class time, we were given a handout to write down a goal for the week, and I wrote down, “Conquer Emotional Eating.” I saw I turned to this because of some harsh circumstances in my life.

We were instructed to write smaller goals, which would help us reach this goal. One of the four of my smaller goals was, “Stop Negative Thinking,” which I realized was connected to overeating brought on by emotional turmoil.

As the week went on, I kept track of when negative thinking occurred, and the actions which followed that kind of thinking.

These four Cs comprised what I did when negative thoughts came to mind: Criticizing, Contending,  Controlling, Complaining.

All four of these behaviors were carried out to try to change the situation which lay at the center of my negative thoughts.

Usually, it was a person my negative thoughts focused on. At times, the person was me.

One negative thought that came to mind was, “She is never going to stop this negative behavior.” First, I criticized the person about their behavior. I considered it constructive criticism and being helpful, but the person just got angry. Then I turned to contending—arguing about why it was necessary to change this behavior immediately. When the person argued back, I then moved into trying to control. One way I realized I did this was to tell the person what I would do if he/she didn’t change the behavior.

After criticizing, contending, and trying to control didn’t change anything, I then moved on to complaining to others about this person and their behaviors which were getting me down. The people I chose gave some negative remarks, which kept me in my negative thinking.

At the end of all of this, I felt discouraged, and the cure for this discouragement surely lay in eating comfort foods such as sweets.

Ever since I saw this pattern which led to me feeling depressed and then turning to food to self-medicate, I’ve been able to repeatedly stop these four actions which involve my mouth before the words came pouring out. Yes, I slip at times, but the good news is that I have accomplished my goal of conquering emotional eating.

Now I can first identify the negative thoughts I have, “this situation is hopeless,” “he’s never going to change,” or “I will never be able to stop doing this (some ungodly behavior).” Next, I can stay aware of what comes out of my mouth. If criticisms come, I can apologize and stop the flow and keep myself from moving on to contending, controlling, or complaining. I can also work on replacing the negative thoughts with positive/godly thoughts: “My hope is the Lord,” “Lord, change me and my attitude toward that other person’s behavior,” and “He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6).

If I identify the four Cs before I realize my thoughts have become negative again, I can go back and ask myself, “What negative thoughts are in my mind right now?” Sometimes, I’m not even aware that they have crept in again.

Another issue that comes up with the four Cs is that sometimes it’s another person laying them on me, which also brings on discouragement and depression in me. Not long ago someone called me and started complaining about another person. She then moved into criticizing me for how I related to this person. I disagreed, and she moved into contending. I confess I kept up the argument for a time. Then the person attempted to control me through telling me what I must do and how I must be.

The key when others try to lay the four Cs on me is to bring God into the conversation quickly, i.e., by saying, “Let’s pray about her.” I can mention a Bible verse that has been helping me with relationships. I can speak positive statements. At times, I’ve had to politely end the call or walk away from a negative conversation. The worst thing I can do is join the other person in negative thinking and speaking and hit back with my own criticism, complaining, contending, and controlling, since this brings us both down.

I feel grateful that the Lord wants to help me with everything in my life that holds me back from being all He wants me to be. As I present myself to Him as being willing to overcome behaviors that hurt me and others, I’m amazed how quickly He gives me insights to conquer those sins. The first step is to let go of denial. With the emotional eating, which is really turning to food instead of the Lord, I need to admit that I’m back to doing it instead of making excuses like, “I’m just enjoying more food than usual,” or “there’s just lots of food around, so I just eat it.”

As I stay connected to the Lord instead of forming unhealthy attachments to things in this world—like food—He will repeatedly show me where I need to change, so I can stop staying focused on changing others.

Today my prayer is, “Lord, show me other godly goals I need to make and meet with Your help. Thank You for all the ways You help me to conquer sinful habits in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

I praise God for setting me free again and again, so I can serve Him effectively, and for the promise that He will keep on doing it as long as I cooperate with the process.

That brings me back to thinking about the Bible verse, which is the theme of this Hearts Set Free blog: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32 NIV 1984).

God longs to set us all free.

“Control” by Tenth Avenue North

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPIE3teCXiQ

 

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What Faith Can Do

In this new year, I asked myself recently, “What’s my goal for 2019?” In previous years, my spiritual goal centered on growing in trusting the Lord.

As I contemplated my question, a song from a number of years ago came on the radio: “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless.

I don’t recall all the exact struggles during my life when this song first came out in 2009.

Yet I do remember how I clung to the words in the song, “What Faith Can Do” back then. I felt in danger of losing my faith because of all that had happened, and all that was happening. It seemed so much was out of my control, and on so many days I felt God was doing nothing.

I also remember that over time God intervened—not so much in the circumstances of my life, but in my heart. He healed my broken heart. He kept my hope alive. He gave me love for those who were hurting me and grace to forgive them.

As I once again sang the words to “What Faith Can Do” recently, I thought of the troubles that surrounded me in my life in recent days–some of which are a continuation of my struggles in 2009: loved ones who once walked closely with the Lord continuing to go their own way hurting me and others in the process, other loved ones trying to take advantage of me and treating me badly, loved ones ignoring my words of wisdom, loved ones fighting with and acting hateful toward each other and trying to put me in the middle, lots of blaming and shaming among those I love. Physical, emotional, and spiritual unhealthiness plagued the lives of so many that I cared about. And the list went on.

Yes, God had wondrously answered prayers recently, but so many other issues seemed to get worse the more I prayed.

I listened to the song that day, and I knew my goal for 2019 was to grow in faith.

I thought of the definition of faith in the Bible. I like how the Amplified Bible says it: “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]” (Hebrews 11:1).

I thought of Corrie ten Boom’s definition of faith: “Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him.”

The end result of growing in faith would be that I could trust Him more. Faith and trust are so closely related.

After looking at some sites on the Internet and thinking about this, the conclusion I came to is that faith is about believing the truth such as the truth about God—even when I can’t see evidence of it–and trust is having confidence in Him.

Another verse that came to mind after listening to this powerful song, was about salvation. I remembered that it had the word “faith” in it. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

I applied this to my ongoing troubling situations: if I wanted to be saved from them robbing me of my  hope in God, I needed to realize that it would be by grace that I would be saved, through faith. It wouldn’t be from anything I did. It would be a gift from God.

I looked on to verse 9 which read, “not by works, so that no one can boast.” The salvation which I wanted from the Lord would not be from any works I did, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to boast. I confess that often I did try to “save” the people in my life to obtain my salvation from hopelessness, thinking if I could just do something, things would change for them and then me. What I really needed was grace from God through faith, where I could believe that He would be Savior in these difficult circumstances. I didn’t need to wait for them to be saved in order for His salvation—His saving grace— to flow into my life.

Right now I realize fear is once again getting in the way of my faith. I hate the what ifs that keep coming to mind about my lost and wayward loved ones and about my own ability to cope with how they affect my life.

Yet I know God’s grace can cause the fear to go away.

Another verse that comes to mind is this one: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

There’s the word “trust” again.

Then this verse with Jesus’ question came to me: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40 NLT). Fear definitely interferes with my faith.

Here are other questions I’m asking:

Will I let go of fear and trust God enough to believe that He is able to save my loved ones and rescue them from their bad choices and help them to turn around and walk with Him? Do I have enough faith to release them to Him instead of trying so hard to save them myself—to believe the truth that He is able? Do I trust that God can and will heal my broken heart and bind up all these wounds? (See Psalm 147:3)

Yes, yes, and yes.

2019, I welcome you. My God is going to do great things in and through me. I’m looking forward to it, and to this being my best year yet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NreUhPk9s9Y

“What Faith Can Do” by Kutless

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Guest Blog: Hope in the Midst of Calamity

Today I am posting a guest blog written by Kristine Diaz Coffman, who lost her home in Redding, California this past summer. Since then—in November 2018—more homes and at least 86 lives were lost due to California wildfires. I remember the first time I heard Kristine’s story I wept. Her mom is a friend, who attends my church and a weekly Bible study with me.

Here was Kristine, a former fellow Floridian, who moved to California, and then she lost everything.

What impressed me about Kristine is that she wrote this piece shortly after losing her home, while she was still in the midst of intense grief. Also, instead of getting wrapped up in this grief, she looked ahead immediately, staying focused on the call God had on her life to help a specific group of hurting women.

All of us face crises in our lives. What inspires me is when God puts someone in my path who handles their crisis in a godly way, keeping their eyes on Him and maintaining a godly perspective. That’s what I want to do with every calamity and crisis in my life.

Here is the link to Kristine’s blog: “The Carr Fire stole our home, but it can’t steal our hope.” I pray you will be as inspired and moved as I was.

https://selahliving.co/the-carr-fire-stole-our-home-but-it-cant-steal-our-hope-2594e233a0ad

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