Archive for August, 2014

hbonarwood1What do you want people to say about you, when you die?

I have attended enough funerals, stood at enough grave sites, to know that it is the most worked for pursuits, the dearest to the heart of those around, the best of ones life that is shared and remembered.

As Horatius Bonar lay on his death bed, his greatest wish was that people not write about his life.

I read about him this summer, and thought I would share a brief synopsis of his life, written by Dan Graves, called “Horatius Bonar Pointed People to Christ” at http://www.christianity.com.

“”Please don’t write a biography of me.” Racked with pain in the Summer of 1889, Horatius Bonar knew he was dying. He also knew that people would be interested in his life. But during his ministry, his one interest had been the glory of Christ, and he wanted to keep it that way. “Point men to Christ, not to Bonar,” he might have said. That is what his sermons had always done:

“If Christ is not the substitute, he is nothing to the sinner. If he did not die as the sin-bearer, he has died in vain. Let us not be deceived on this point nor misled by those who, when they announce Christ as the deliverer, think they have preached the gospel. If I throw a rope to a drowning man, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more than that? If I cast myself into the sea and risk myself to save another, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more? Did He risk His life? The very essence of Christ’s deliverance is the substitution of himself for us–his life for ours! He did not come to risk his life; he came to die! He did not redeem us by a little loss, a little sacrifice, a little labor, a little suffering: ‘He redeemed us to God by His blood’ (I Peter 1:18,19). He gave all he had, even his life, for us. This is the kind of deliverance that awakens the happy song, ‘To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood’ (Revelation 1:5).”

Christ’s deliverance wakened happy songs in Bonar. Although many of his hymns were originally written for children, they were so brim full of sound teaching that adults loved to sing them, too.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place, And he has made me glad.

When Horatius Bonar died on this day, July 31, 1889, his wish was respected; no biography was written of him. Just a few memories and a short sketch of his life have come down to us.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he studied at Edinburgh University. Early on, he allied himself with three of the most spiritual men of his day: Thomas Chalmers, William C. Burns and Robert Murray McCheyne. As a young pastor, he earnestly preached in villages and farmhouses throughout his district. He saw evangelization in a different light from his contemporaries. “We think if we can but get men converted, it does not much matter how. Our whole anxiety is, not ‘How shall we secure the glory of Jehovah?’ but ‘How shall we multiply conversions?'” To Bonar, Christ had to come first.
When the evangelical party formed the Free Church, Bonar was with them heart and soul. In his eyes, the old church with its civil service pastors, had failed in its responsibility to arouse the faith of the nation.

A man of prayer and song, Bonar was also a man of sorrow. Five of his children died young. But later, his widowed daughter and her five children had to move in with him. Many grandparents would groan at the added burden, but Bonar rejoiced. To him it was as if God had given him five children to replace those he had lost.”



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Recently, as hubby was cleaning up after dinner, I was griping to him about a frustration or two in my day. I think I may have done this too much lately.

He then said, “don’t take this personally (ya right … saying that only encourages me to take it personally), but I think we are both in a state of discontent right now. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might be good to look for the reason for our discontent.” For whatever reason, I did not reply, I only pondered his words. And then pondered them some more.

As much as I pondered, and as much as I tried to look at the reasons for discontent in our life (lives), there was only one consistent line of thinking that came to mind, “who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

The quote comes out of the story of Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman, chosen by the king of Persia to be his queen. It was through this position that she was able to secure the safety of the Jews throughout this Persian kingdom. It was through her understanding, that perhaps God had placed her in the position she was in for this very purpose, that encouraged her to do what was right.

But, why the discontent? Why did that verse keep recycling through my thoughts, for hours after? It is not as though, like Esther, our decisions could affect the physical lives of ourselves and those around us. It is not as though our decisions affect anyone, right?


That verse that has been recycling through my thoughts has reminded me of a very important reality … we do not live independently, but in community with others. We may like to think (perhaps out of a false sense of humility, or a very real sense of arrogance) that others lives are not affected by our choices, but we are not islands. We live in community, we live with others, we depend on others. In turn, others depend on us.

Maybe that is what Esther heard and understood, as her uncle Mordechai reminded her of her current circumstances (not ones she had sought or chose). He also reminded her that there was perhaps a purpose in her position, and therefore, a purpose-giver (without directly saying so).

That giver of purpose is the the Creator of our souls (our very beings), the Creator of all that is around us, the same God of Esther.

It is He who directs our paths, and it is He who creates us with and for purpose. Even our discontent is not without purpose (maybe even our griping). But, we must not sit in our discontent, we must seek it’s purpose, it’s role in the circumstances we are currently living.

Maybe hubby was right (oh boy … I can hear him snickering as he is printing and framing those words … I will never be able to live with him now), maybe we need to look for the reason or purpose for our discontent.

Maybe, we (each of us) have come to this position, this place, for such a time as this.

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I do not remember where I saw these words, but when I first read, “the past is always present” I loved them. A play on words that contradicts itself, and yet is so true as we live our lives.

I love the past concerning my childhood (although, there was that time I got stung by like a gazillion bees just because I listened to the advice of Mr. Dressup … HE was wrong about standing still … but, I digress).

I love the past of my teenage memories (most of them … there was that time I mistakenly tucked my skirt into my undies, and then walked on a busy road to my grandmother’s place, with my back end in the forefront … but, I digress).

I love the past of my heritage (I grew up on the east coast of Canada, in a family who have been there for, literally, hundreds of years).

I love the past of my marriage (I have the most fantastic memories of vacations, and planning for vacations … that is something we are good at together).

I love the past of my children being born, and growing up (each stage is so full of novelty and excitement).

What I do realize, though, is that although the past is … past, it is still here, in the present. It is part of who we are today, how we think, and how we react. It is the reason we anticipate some events, as well as the reason we feel anxious about other events. When I see or hear a bee, I immediately respond (at least inwardly) due to my being stung as a child … that memory of the past is always there.

The past can keep us from making the same mistakes too. There is not a time that I am wearing a skirt or dress that I do not, consciously, check to ensure that the back end of … me, is covered up.

Pride in my country, and the part of it where I come from are a result of the place I grew up and the cultural expectations I experienced there.

Every time I see a tent on a green, grassy hill, I remember a memorable vacation with hubby.

Every time I see a woman, pregnant for the first time, I glance at her eyes, and know that, once that baby is born, no future decision will ever be the same, because she will never again be the same.

The past is always within us, even today. Our choices today will have impact on how we live tomorrow … and each tomorrow after that.

The greatest consequence of the past is that we remember. We remember experiences, we remember joys, we remember hurts, we remember what we have conquered, and what has conquered us. The past IS always with us, so we need to live today acknowledging the long term consequences of our present.

“Choose well. Your choice is brief, and yet endless.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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I sat there looking at the four types/styles of leaders on the paper, and wondered which I might be, but with each passing moment I was more and more confused. It seemed to me that I was about half of one, and half another.

For whatever reason, it really irritated me that I could not definitively figure out which type or style I was. I was looking for black and white within a mind consumed with grey.

Finally it came to me, the following day, while I was still obsessing about my split personality. My split personality is due to being a people pleaser.

As anyone else who shares this innate need to please other people can attest to, we do all that we can to make other people notice and be happy with us and our efforts. We will even do and be who we are not, in order to attain the affirmation and positive attention of others. After years of ‘becoming’ what and who we may not be, we can end up struggling to see who we really are … who God created us to be.

Now don’t go thinking I am depicting myself (or other people pleasers) as martyrs or victims of the expectations of others. For most who seek to please others, they do it because that is what they have been taught, or it is something that feeds them. For some it is even a means of control and power, providing opportunity to manipulate or create a positive image of themselves.

Whatever the case, our gifts and our abilities can be modified by the behavior of becoming something … someone else.

This is seen so often in volunteer organizations. A need is expressed, and someone jumps to meet the need, not because it is within their unique talents (or even interest) but because they do not wish to disappoint or see the need unmet. Often this results in not having the best person doing the job. It can also result in the one doing the job being too busy to fulfill a task that they are best suited for, because they (we) are too busy filling positions to make others happy.

As I looked at the leadership qualities for each of types of leader I read, “good with paperwork” on one and “not good with paperwork” on another.
Would I choose to do paperwork?
Could I do paperwork?
Would I choose to do paperwork if it pleased someone?
Should I choose to do paperwork BECAUSE it pleases someone?

This could put us on a mission, to find out who we really are, not for the sake of pleasing others, but for the sake of pleasing the God who has given us a purpose and a future.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily,
as for the Lord
rather than men.”
Colossians 3:23

“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord.
“plans to prosper you
and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

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*A re-post from a year and a bit ago, and a reminder of the barrenness of a busy life, as the calendar begins to fill.

June + kids + church + school = busy … and I cannot wait to do a little bit of subtraction!

I have been longing for the end, counting down to the end, all the while it seems as though there are stretches of days when every time I open my email inbox there is another ‘end of year’ event to be attended.

Don’t get me wrong … I love celebrating year ends, graduations, retirements, partings and weddings! They are each, on their own, most delightful events to be invited to, to witness, to attend. It is when they come one after another, with no pause for refreshment, for refueling, that they begin to extinguish the candle of my days, making it too dim to see the light of blessing that each one is.

I yearn for refreshment … the kind that comes from being home from waking until sleeping (maybe even with a little sleeping in between), the kind that comes from not one phone ring, the kind that comes from just us five being home, with no knocks at the door, no invasions of anyone or anything from the ‘outside world’ … except maybe a parcel delivery … and not one with an invoice to be paid!

Socrates was right, the busy life can be barren … lifeless, empty. It can be life-sapping rather than life-giving. It can leave us with little to give.

We need Sabbath rest!

But, do we make that happen? Or do we constantly add more to fill our days (and nights), rather than make time to rec-r-ate?

In Psalm 39:6 we are given the reminder that, “all our busy rushing ends in nothing.”

Is there a barrenness to your busy schedule? Do you, like me, get to a point where the calendar is so full, you refuse to add any more to the daily boxes?

Barren means not reproducing, not productive, it is a ‘lack of’ …

Busy means active, occupied, it is ‘full of’ …

How can we be both busy and barren? How can we be both full of and have a lack of at the same time?

God, in His process of creation, chose rest a feature of the seven day week. One-seventh of life is intended for rest. And this is not just Old Testament theology, because in Mark 6:31, Jesus reminds us that busy needs to be balanced by rest, when he said to his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

My you and I find the will to omit something from our calendars this week, and go to a deserted place, and rest a while … and become, once again ‘full of.’

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*A re-post from three years ago.

The other day, I remembered a song, that was just a song, a few years back. When I say it was just a song, what I mean is that it was a catchy beat, with lyrics that ran so smoothly off my tongue, I didn’t even realize what the song was really about. When I was listening the other day, I decided it could be my theme song!

It is the song Hats, by Amy Grant (wow! I just checked to see how many years ago it was released … it was twenty years ago! Time does fly … but, I digress). The basic idea of the song is that she (the singer) is wearing so many hats … “one day a mother, one day a lover, what am I supposed to do? Working for a living …”

Is that not the musical description of being a woman in North America today? Whether we work full time in, or out of our homes, we are all wearing so many different hats, often many at the same time.

We may or may not be married.

We may or may not have children.

We may or may not have a paying job (or two, or three).

We may or may not have a house and garden that demand our time.

We may or may not have ‘stuff’ to take care of.

We may or may not have church or other places of volunteering and participation.

We may or may not have fitness routines.

We may or may not have hobbies … Ya right! Like we have time for hobbies!!

And then there’s ‘the list’ that we keep updating when we have a nanno-second of nothing else on our minds. I love how this ‘list’ was described and popularized in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It.

And, on that note, although there are a number of technical flaws in that movie, it is so worth seeing. Watching it, I am sure there were parallels to my own life in a few scenes. It is a movie with real struggles, living in a real life (with some exaggerations … it is a Hollywood produced movie after all), exposing choices and disappointments that real people face every day … and the ending … well, go see it! But, I digress 😉

The list is what we do when we have free time, it is what has become our recreational time … we re-create our to do list, with the hopes that, one day, we will have everything crossed off the list and then we can finally have true recreational time. It is a vicious circle! One that has no end.

Truly it is the list that identifies the hats we wear each day. The hats we must wear, the hats we ‘should’ wear, the hats that others top our heads with, the hats that belong to someone else, even hats that have been handed down from one generation to the next. Our head feels heavy under the weight of them, our shoulders slump, our pace slows. We about to stumble and fall. We need assistance, we need a way out from the weight of all that we must do.

For me, there is only one way to alleviate the feeling of being weighted down by all those hats. And it is not a ‘catchy’ theme song. Reading it even gives me permission, and even strength, to remove a few of the hats from my head. Mostly, it reminds me that there is fresh strength available to me, if I just choose to lift my hat laden head to the one who energizes.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:28-32

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My post today is not one that I wrote, and I do not even know who wrote it, so I cannot give them the credit. What I do know is that I recently heard it, just when I needed the reminder of the message within. So, today, with back to school approaching, I am sharing this post with you, praying that you receive it just when and where you need it.

Are You Too Busy For Christ?
Keep The Christians Busy
Satan called a worldwide convention.
In his opening address to his assembled demons he said:
“We cannot keep the Christians from going to church. We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We cannot even keep them from conservative values.

Nevertheless, we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship with Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.

So, let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyle, but steal their time, so they cannot gain that relationship.
This is what I want you to do. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection!”
“How shall we do this?” shouted the demons.
“Keep them busy with the non-essentials of life. Invent schemes to occupy their time.” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6 or 7 days a week, 10 – 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with
their children. As their family fragments, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.

*Super-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice.
*Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, and to keep the TV, VCR, CD players and PCs
going constantly in their homes.
*See to it that every store and restaurant in the world blares secular music constantly. This will jam their minds and break
that union with Christ.
*Fill their coffee tables with secular magazines and newspapers.
*Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day.
*Invade their driving moments with billboards.
*Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogs, and every kind of newsletter and promotional
offering, free products, services, and false hopes.
*In their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and
unprepared for the coming week.
*Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God’ s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events,
concerts, and movies instead.
*When they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled
consciences and unsettled emotion.
*Let them be involved in soul-winning, but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power
from Christ in prayer.

Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.”
Convention Aftermath
It was quite a convention. The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.
Has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge.
How about this definition of BUSY: Being Under Satan’s Yoke.
Author Unknown

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* A re-post from three years ago … one whose message I needed to be reminded of, myself.

One of my daughters just got glasses … again …

She first started wearing corrective lenses when she was about nine. And she looked stunningly brilliant in them (I might be a little bit prejudiced, since she is mine 😉 ).

But then adolescence arrived (sigh) and SHE not longer appreciated her appearance in specs. She begged, she pleaded, she bribed (where she learned bribery as a form of motivation, I have no idea) for contact lenses. And then they broke, so we had them fixed. Not long after that, they mysteriously broke once again. And, like Humpty Dumpty, they couldn’t be put back together. I was not impressed!

She felt that the only solution was to replace them with contact lenses (obviously SHE does not pay the bills). I told her she was free to invest in them whenever she would like, but that I would purchase new frames for her. She was NOT willing to budge (where she got her stubborn streak I will never know … I bet it’s from her father’s side). And neither was I (I got my stubborn streak from my hubby, of course).

So, I watched her struggle through months of not being able to see the writing on then board at school, not being able to fully appreciate watching a movie at the theater, and playing basketball … how she ever managed to get on the team with her blind spots (which were wherever she tried to look) I will never know.

Finally, this summer she forfeited (thus, I won … not that winning is everything, or that I am an intensely competitive person 😉 ), and new frames and lenses were purchased.

And what was her response when she put them on?

“The trees have leaves.”

Now for months, my daughter has known that the trees have leaves. To some extent she could even see them, but not clearly, not as individual leaves, but as a clump of green. What she knew to be leaves, was really only her memory of what it was that made trees green. She was blind to the reality of their existence, because she rejected the tool that she required to see evidence of them.

In reality, she was blind by choice.

And, once she made the choice to get glasses, and to no longer stumble through the mirages in the desert, what she saw was so delightful, so … eye opening … she wondered why she had waited for so long.

How many of us choose to wander through physical, emotional, mental or spiritual deserts? How long do we thirst for a cure, for relief, for answers when they are right in front of our eyes? But, we allow our pride to hinder us from making the choice to see clearly?

The regrets of John Newton’s chosen blindness for much of his life are so clear in the lyrics of his hymn, Amazing Grace, that you can almost feel his heartache within yourself as you read or sing them. He was fortunate (as are we who sense a oneness with understanding of his words) to have opened his eyes while he still had life to live … to see all that he had been missing.

Have you ever been living your life and felt as though there was just no purpose, no reason for any part of it? Ever felt as though you were living in a life of fog? As though your existence was dull and out of focus? Maybe it is because you (and I) have lost sight of our responsibility to seek corrective assistance so as to improve our outlook on life.

There is only one thing that can magnify the vision of our life … Jesus.

Jesus then said,

“I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day,

making all the distinctions clear,

so that those who have never seen will see.”

John 9:39

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*This is a re-post from three years ago, after having been for a visit on the East Coast of Canada. Today hubby heads there (he refers to it as the Promised Land) and my thoughts have been going East more each day … it is time I make plans for a trip to that temporary home, from my past..

I have brought up the house issue a few times. The house ‘issue’ being my love of houses with character, and the discontent I live with in our present west coast contemporary home (it is all size and little character). Well my trip to the east coast, this past summer, did little to hinder my house ‘wanderlust’ (House Wanderlust). I felt as though I was in architectural heaven! Character abounds on the east coast, which for more years has been more widely settled , than the west coast.

While I was there, I am sure the incidence of road rage increased, as I was constantly making last minute stops at the side of a road to take a picture of a house, a church, a barn, or of landscape.

It never ceases to amaze me of how the sights of these character (or, as hubby would say, “old”) buildings makes my heart flip flop. But, when you live in a place (as I do) where buildings over fifty years old are torn down to make room for ‘modern’ architecture (modern architecture, to me is an oxymoron), you can see where my longing comes from.

On the east coast, an older home is one which is over seventy years old. And it is not a rarity for these homes to be inhabited (case in point is hubby’s parent’s home, built over one hundred years ago). Many are homes that were built for, and once inhabited by, sailors and sea captains in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when shipbuilding along the Bay of Fundy was a major industry. The end of that industry resulted in the gradual demise of many communities beautifully situated along the Bay, and it is reflected in the low cost of character-rich estate homes in those communities (low cost, as in  w  a  y  less than $200,000).

I even love the dilapidated ones. The ones that (like the picture to the left) are empty of inhabitants (other than the rodent and insect variety), with a broken window or two, with faded exteriors. Often though, their strong and well built frames are standing straight and tall for all who pass by to see that they may no longer be lived in, but the beauty that was built into them stands tall for all to see and admire (or, in the words of hubby’s dad, “look at that straight roof line”).

The people who built those homes probably sacrificed greatly to build and maintain those beautiful abodes, whose walls must be full (of not just newspaper for insulation) of memories. Memories of people who worked hard to build and maintain those homes. Memories of lives lived in wealth, and lives lived in desperation. Lives filled with love, and lives lived with sorrow. It is, I think, that which draws me most to older, character homes. I look at an old home and I wonder about it’s history, I wonder about the stories that it could tell, if it could talk.

But, a house is, if nothing else, just a temporary home. A place to lay your head, and live your life. As I look around our current temporary home I am reminded that what makes it appealing at all is who lives under it’s roof. It is not the craftsmanship, or character that was built into it, but the characters and the craftsmanship of their (our) Creator that makes it the place I most love to be.

And, for that reason, I love my ugly west coast contemporary … temporary home … but mostly I just love the characters who share it with me.

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Life can leave your cup depleted. Responsibilities can leave your cup exhausted. People can leave your cup empty. Even church can leave your cup barren. Life has seasons that drain … well, the life right out of you.

One day, as I was having an empty cup day, I wondered what it was that would fill me up again.

People were not the answer … to be honest just about everyone in reach was standing on my last nerve. It was feeling like everyone wanted a piece of me … they wanted my ear, my thoughts, my time. I was tired of voices, demands, whining and more demands. The sounds of the voices around me were similar to the auditory effects of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Everyone was taking, everyone was wanting their cups filled by me, and there were no offers of giving … of refilling my cup.

Usually, when I need my cup filled, and people aren’t offering to fill it, I go for a walk. Communing with creation can outdo any psychiatrist’s sofa, or bartender’s stool. But, my cup was void of available time to enjoy the rejuvenating effects of a walk on my favorite trail.

It seemed as though there was nothing and no one that was available and desiring to fill my cup. The emptier it got, the emptier I felt. The emptier I felt, the more firmly in place were my self pity pants. I was wallowing. Really though, it was valid wallowing … I was begging for a refill, and no one was willing to take the time to throw me a line! I was drowning in despair …

Then, the still small voice said, “you are choosing to drown in your own despair.”

When I ‘hear’ (not audibly, but in my heart, in my soul) something like this I head to Google, because I know there is a ‘rest of the story’ to be found. I know that voice is a voice of reason, and I know (without a doubt) that it is God’s voice, calling out to remind me of what I already know … and have forgotten. So, I Googled (I love how that word is both a noun and a verb … I am learning grammar, through working in a grade 9 English class 🙂 ), and there it was, in 2 Corinthians 4:

“Therefore … we do not lose heart …  we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us … We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart … Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Some days I cannot wait to rid myself of this existence as a clay jar … I want my unseen, eternal body, I want my unseen, eternal life that awaits me in heaven. Where my cup is always full, because it is only my God who can fill it. But He fills it for me here, today too … my clay covered ears and eyes and mind just do not always acknowledge or remember that.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Psalm 23:5-6

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