Walking Circuitous Paths

stairway

Every adventure begins with a first step, or so it is said. We must take a step, whether in the right direction or wrong before progress can be made. Though we may not realize it at the time, even our circuitous paths are able to bring us home, when we allow God to lead the way.

When you were younger, were you positive you knew exactly where you were going in life, and exactly how you would get there?

I remember sitting around my room with girlfriends in elementary school telling each other the type of house we would live in, the number of children we would have, what our husbands would look like.

I can’t speak for the others, but I know I didn’t end up in the house with the white picket fence I imagined. And to be truthful, I’m glad I didn’t.

My elementary school plans were so limited. I didn’t have vision beyond what I saw on the covers of magazines, in television shows, or what I read in books.

I definitely didn’t give thought to the fact God was the one who should direct my path.

As adults, sometimes we might play the same game. We know for a fact what job we will have, who our friends will be, how much money we will retire with. But we haven’t given much thought to the fact God is the one who should direct our path.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, it took them eleven days to reach the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 1:2) Yet, due to their unbelief, God refused to let them enter. (Numbers 13 & 14) As a result, they wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years.

They took a circuitous route because they grumbled, complained, rebelled, and didn’t believe God would keep his promises. Their vision was limited. They couldn’t see beyond their next campground.

In fact, they spent most of their time looking backwards at where they’d been and wishing they were still there. They didn’t take hold of the vision God had for them even though his presence led them.

God had a plan from before the beginning of time for what he would accomplish through his people. He has a plan for what he wants to accomplish through us.

Sometimes the way seems clear and we’re right on track to living in the house with the white picket fence, then boom! Something happens that knocks us sideways and we end up wandering in the desert.

Sometimes God takes us on circuitous paths through the desert to bring us back to him. He won’t leave us in the desert as long as we continue to trust him.

Though we may take a circuitous route to get there, our home in heaven is so much better than any white picket fence we could imagine. Wouldn’t you agree?

Did your dreams end up as you planned, or did they take a circuitous route?

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Show me the right path, O Lord;  point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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No Missing Pieces In Jesus

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Sometimes life can seem like a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing. Can it not? Fortunately, when we belong to Jesus, there are no missing pieces.

When Pie was in elementary school, he was majorly interested in the original G.I. Joe television series, toys, and comic books. Who knew, many years later, Duke, Scarlet, and Snake Eyes would be featured in several major movies? Certainly not me.

During one trip to my mother’s house in Georgia, Pie contentedly put a brand new, unopened, G.I. Joe puzzle together. Halfway through, however, no matter how hard he tried to complete the puzzle, there was a problem. Some pieces were missing.

We went to the local five and dime in Homerville to look for another puzzle, but they did not sell any G.I. Joe toys. Not to be deterred, Pie decided to write Hasbro a letter. He explained the problem of the missing puzzle pieces. And you know what? Hasbro came through. Not only did they send a new replacement of the puzzle Pie wrote them about, they sent others as well. Good on you, Hasbro.

Just like trying to make sense of a jigsaw puzzle, we try to make sense of the jigsaw puzzle of life, don’t we? We work hard to get all the pieces to fit properly to create a pleasing picture. We bought the brand new unopened puzzle, expecting all the pieces to be there. But halfway through, we just can’t make it fit. Our perfect picture of what we expected our life to look like is missing several pieces.

That’s when we get in touch with the Creator of the puzzle, the Great I Am. We tell Jesus the problem and wait on his reply. There are no missing pieces in Jesus. He has everything we need to complete the puzzle of our life. He knows what the picture will look like when it’s finished. On the day we stand before the Father’s throne, there will be nothing missing.

The way I see it, our job is to keep the box cover, our Bible, in view and make sure we’re putting the puzzle together correctly. Then put the pieces together day by day, piece by piece, and step by step.

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The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TLB)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Others Don’t Define Us

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One summer semester in college I took Archery. After we finished the classroom instruction, we headed outside for target practice. The male instructor informed us once we hit a bull’s eye, we would receive an A and be finished with the course. Yay!

He added. No girl ever managed that feat in the shortened number of weeks left in our semester.

Gauntlet down. I determined to show him I was not just a girl.

Mind you, at the time I took that Archery class I was a non-traditional student. Not fresh out of high school. I couldn’t even technically be called a girl any more. Those days were long gone. Regardless, I was determined to do everything in my power to show that instructor females could hit a bull’s eye, no matter how short the time frame.

It didn’t happen on the first try. And not the second. But I’ll never forget the day I stood up to the line, took my stance, faced the target, pulled back the string, and let that arrow fly. Maid Marion had nothing on me.

Not only was I the first girl to hit the bull’s eye, I whacked the skin off my arm in the process. If you’ve ever had the bow string thwack across your forearm, you know the pain. And the swelling. And bruising. (Arm guards don’t help me. I need two of them on the same arm because my arm juts out at a funny angle.)

After my arrow sank into the target, my archery partner said something like “Way to go!” as he and I high-fived. YES!

We were stationed at the far end of the line of targets away from the instructor. When the instructor noticed my bull’s eye, he called down the line, “Which one of you boys hit that?”

Boys?

I stepped out of the line and faced him. My male partner, who had not yet scored a bull’s eye, shouted back, “She did!”

The instructor’s stunned silence was priceless. When he gave us the all clear, I stepped forward, tugged my arrow from the hay target, walked back to my partner, and told him so long.

Of course, archery isn’t the only area where others try to define us, our worth, or our ability. It happens all the time in all arenas. It happens in our parenting skills. Our financial resources. Our jobs. Our relationship status. Our skill set. Our education. Our biblical knowledge. Pick an area, and someone will have something to say about it.

Sure, there are areas where we are not able to perform as well as others. You all should know by now I am NOT the chef extraordinaire Pilot is. But I can whip up rather decent desserts. And if you were to ask Pilot, I believe he’d tell you I do a better job with the laundry than he does.

Our abilities do not limit us from being used by God. What limits us is our availability and desire to be used. God can use each of us if we’re willing to let him. Our worth is in the fact we belong to Jesus. And because we belong to him, our desire is to be the best at whatever he wants us to be.

Others do not define us. God does. And he thinks we’re pretty special. Special enough to allow his son to die a horrid death so we would never be separated from him. I’d say that’s pretty special.

Any other toxophilites out there with archery stories to share?

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Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ. Philippians 3:12-14 (Phillips)

You can find my June Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Sandy

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Hand It Over To Jesus

courtesy pixabayDuring one particularly stressful year of teaching, I developed an unhealthy habit of eating Tootsie Roll Midgees. Not just one or two pieces at a time, one or two HANDFULS.

It was mindless munching in a failed attempt to ease the never-ending pressure of too many demands and too little time.

As was my habit, I sat in my classroom long after the students, and everyone except the janitorial staff, left the school, trying to find ways to help my students grasp essential math concepts.

One of my sweet co-teachers stepped into my room and spied the pile of discarded candy wrappers next to the pile of uneaten candy on my desk.

I offered Paula several Tootsie Rolls as I continued to unwrap and pop the remainder into my mouth with record speed.

“What are you doing?”

“Going over these math scores again. Susan’s not happy with the results,” I said between bites.

“No. What are you doing eating all this candy?”

“Stress.”

Paula held out her hands. I gave her another piece of candy. She shook her head.

“I’m here to save you from yourself. Give me all the candy.”

I looked at my friend, then back to my desk. I willingly scooped up the Tootsie Rolls and handed them to her. She must have been suspicious regarding my lack of resistance.

“Any more?”

After a moment, I opened my desk drawer and pulled out a sandwich sized baggie full of candy.

Paula smiled.

I sat for a moment. Then walked to the closet. From there I pulled out a half-full bag of that chocolatey delight. It wasn’t just a small sized bag. Nope. This was one of the mega sized bags you need two arms to carry.

Paula’s eyes grew big as I sheepishly handed over my stash.

“Do you have any more?” I doubt she really believed I did.

When I walked to the front of the classroom and opened up the file cabinet, we both started laughing.

Paula wiped tears from her eyes as I handed over another 720 piece bag.

After all these years that moment in time is as fresh as if it just happened. But I’d like to explore the concept of surrendering all my Tootsie Rolls to what Jesus asks us to do.

Jesus asks us to surrender everything to him. Not just the candy on our desk that people see, but also the candy we’ve hidden away hoping no one will discover.

We are asked to surrender our time. Our resources. Our talent.

We are asked to surrender our families. Our health. Our jobs. Our hurts, scars, unhealthy habits.

We are asked to surrender our hopes, dreams, ambitions, wants, desires, all so we can become the person God created us to be.

It is my belief that as Paula stood in my classroom with her hand outstretched to receive all the Tootsie Rolls I’d stashed away to save me from myself, Jesus holds out his hand to save us, as well.

Jesus wants us to lay it all down. Hand it all over to him, and pick up only what he wants us to pick up in his perfect timing.

Even though Paula promised she’d hold onto my candy and dole it out a little at a time if I needed it, I realized those Midgees really weren’t what was going to get me through the stress of that year.

Jesus was.

And he did.

Dealing with stressful situations? Surrender them to Jesus.

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So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you. James 4:7 (NCV)

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

A Love That Refuses To Let Go

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Years ago when I visited my cousin’s church, my attention focused on a small boy and his father in front of me. For whatever reason, the boy was not happy. Not in the least little bit. Even so, his father exhibited a love that refuses to let go.

Because the boy was not happy, he began throwing things. His father told him to pick each projectile off the floor. With reluctance, and no small amount of displeasure, the boy obeyed. Only to throw something else moments later.

At one point, the father picked up the child. He sat him in his lap and wrapped both arms around his son. The more the boy squirmed, the tighter the father’s grip.

The boy kicked, stretched, whined, and fused, but could not break free from his father’s bear hug. After awhile, the father released his grip. He lifted his son from his lap, and set him in the space on the church pew beside him.

No sooner did the boy’s bottom hit the pew, but he scooted away. The interesting thing to me in all of this was, it didn’t take long at all until the boy scootched his way back to his father, placed his head in his lap, and fell asleep.

As I consider this, I think more times than not, we behave like that little boy. We’re not happy with the way our life is going. We start throwing things around. We might pick them up for a moment, only to throw them down again.

Sometimes in the middle of our disobedience, God sets us in his lap, wraps his arms tightly around us, and expresses a love that refuses to let go.

We squirm. We kick. We whine and fuss because we aren’t getting our way. Things are not going according to our plan or agenda. We’re mad, and we don’t care who knows it.

Still, God holds us. And when the time is right, he loosens his grip, places us on the bench beside him, only to watch us scoot away. We aren’t finished being mad. We aren’t giving in that easy.

But there comes the moment of realization, whether we admit it or not, when we know we were wrong. We know we behaved badly and acted like a tantrum-throwing two-year-old. When that happens, we sidle back next to God and he allows us to place our head in his lap once more.

When we fall back on God’s grace, mercy, and love that refuses to let go no matter how horrid we act, we are safe and can rest. We know beyond any doubt God cares enough about us to want what’s best for us. Even when we strain against his grip.

How have you felt God’s love that refuses to let go wrap its arms around you?

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Once I was bitter and brokenhearted. I was stupid and ignorant, and I treated you as a wild animal would. But I never really left you, and you hold my right hand. Your advice has been my guide, and later you will welcome me in glory. In heaven I have only you, and on this earth you are all I want. My body and mind may fail, but you are my strength and my choice forever. Psalm 73:21-26 (CEV)

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Spread the Love of God

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As Christians, do we spread the love God, or do we keep it to ourselves? Are we guilty of being selective as to who we’ll share the Gospel with? Do we exclude others from our church circle? Are we guilty of being what Rob Cook calls Zombie Churches? You know, churches that look alive on the outside, but are dead on the inside.

Rob has a heart full of compassion for the lost. I’ve been blessed each time I’ve heard him speak. In one keynote at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, Rob mentioned many soul-searching thoughts. I’ve listed a few of them here.

Jesus hung out with sinners. We don’t want them in our churches.

Jesus loved his enemies. We boycott ours.

Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples. We make church goers.

Jesus said we would be known for what we’re for. We’re know for what we stand against.

In Rob’s talk he challenged us not to worry with figuring out WWJD — What Would Jesus Do? Instead, Rob asked us to DWJD — Do What Jesus Did.

Rob gave an illustration of how some churches look to seekers that has never left me, even though I heard it years ago.

Suppose you are drowning and see a lifeboat. You struggle to pull yourself into the boat. As you get ready to climb inside, you notice it is filled with vipers and haters. What would you do? Probably throw yourself into the water and take your chances right back in the middle of all the stuff you’ve been trying to escape. Safe haven? Hardly.

What about our churches? Are they filled with vipers and haters?

Closer to home, what about us? Viper? Hater?

Instead of telling someone they are not wanted inside our churches because of the way they look, where they’re from, number of tattoos or piercings, how about we throw open the doors, get out into the streets, welcome one and all, and show the love the Father has shown us.

As the body of Christ, we should spread the love of God, not keep it to ourselves. How are we doing with that?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT)

You can find my May Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Who Is Wise Among You?

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Due to my growing interest in ancient Greek history, there was a time during my early teen years where I studied the words of several Greek philosophers. Socrates, (or So Crates if you’re a Bill and Ted fan) was at the top of my list. Perhaps that’s the reason I ask a lot of questions and ponder why.

To the people of the day, and for centuries to follow, the words of these philosophers were considered to be truly wise.

One quote by Heraclitus I discovered during my college Humanities class has stuck with me through the years.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. Heraclitus

Life continues to flow, does it not? We can never snatch back yesterday.

Today we are surrounded by people who claim to be wise. To have all the answers. To be able to solve all our problems. During the time Job endured unimaginable trials – all his children killed, his home destroyed, his livestock and wealth taken from him, his health deteriorated to the point he cried out for death – his so-called friends counseled him with their self-proclaimed wisdom.

They said many things, but their wisdom was anything but wise.

In the Book of Job God tells Job, “To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil.” God states wisdom is not to be found among mortals; no human knows its true value. God alone knows the way, knows the place where wisdom is found.

Socrates stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters.”

Well, although I agree we must examine our lives daily to make sure we are following the path Jesus set before us, and I agree ethical virtue is important, I’d have to disagree with ethical virtue being the only thing that matters.

I believe an abiding faith in, reverence and love for, and obedience to the One True Living God needs to top our list of the things that matter most.

What do you think?

Were there any philosophers you enjoyed studying? Any philosophical quotes you’d care to share? Here’s another from Socrates. “Wisdom begins in wonder.” 

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Wisdom is not to be found among mortals; no one knows its true value. The depths of the oceans and seas say that wisdom is not found there. It cannot be bought with silver or gold. The finest gold and jewels cannot equal its value. It is worth more than gold, than a gold vase or finest glass.

The value of wisdom is more than coral or crystal or rubies. The finest topaz and the purest gold cannot compare with the value of wisdom.

Where, then, is the source of wisdom? Where can we learn to understand? No living creature can see it, not even a bird in flight. Even death and destruction admit they have heard only rumors.

God alone knows the way, knows the place where wisdom is found, because he sees the ends of the earth, sees everything under the sky.

When God gave the wind its power and determined the size of the sea, when God decided where the rain would fall, and the path that the thunderclouds travel; it was then he saw wisdom and tested its worth—He gave it his approval.

God said to us humans, “To be wise, you must have reverence for the Lord. To understand, you must turn from evil.” Job 28:13-28 (GNT)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Don’t Neglect Our Spiritual Soil

Last month, as I tackled the task of clearing out the damaged plants the February freeze caused, several things struck me which not only applied to my plants, but to my spiritual life as well. The main thing I realized is don’t neglect the soil.

After I removed the dead plants, I saw the soil they grew in. Throughout the life of these plants, I didn’t pay close enough attention to the soil. Sure. I watered the plants, but I didn’t bother too much with the condition of the soil. You might say once planted, those plants were on their own. 

We may not pay close enough attention to the condition of our spiritual soil to make sure it produces a healthy environment for growth. We may throw a few Bible verses or prayers at it, but we don’t invest the necessary time to make sure it is enriched. Just as with my plants, our spiritual soil will only be enriched to the degree we invest in it.

As I cut back the dead foliage, I discovered leafless vines. There was very little to show for their existence. They weren’t productive.

We can have wandering leafless vines in our spiritual soil too. There isn’t much to show for its existence. It doesn’t produce fruit as evidence of the Spirit living in us.

Some of the plants reached outside the flower pots and sunk their roots into cracks in search of a better place to grow. 

If we don’t tend to and nourish our spiritual soil, we may decide to go hunting around in the cracks for some place else to grow.

It took a deep hard freeze to make me pay attention to my plants’ soil. Sometimes it takes a deep hard freeze in our life to make us pay attention to our spiritual soil.

Jesus tells us he is the true vine. We can do nothing apart from him.

The best way I’ve found to stay attached to the True Vine is to make sure I don’t neglect my spiritual soil.

What do you do to make sure you don’t neglect your spiritual soil?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject.

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Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing. If anyone separates from me, he is thrown away like a useless branch, withers, and is gathered into a pile with all the others and burned. John 15:4-6 (TLB)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Ruth and Boaz

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The story of Ruth and Boaz is a familiar one. It is a story of loss, bitterness, redemption, love, and joy. The main characters are the widow Naomi, her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth, and the kinsman redeemer Boaz.

Throughout the Book of Ruth we see God working. I love how the Bible says, as it happened, and as it turned out. Naomi and Ruth didn’t just happen to arrive in Bethlehem at harvest time, and Ruth didn’t just happen to end up gathering grain in Boaz’s fields. The fact Ruth is King David’s great-grandmother, and Boaz is David’s great-grandfather, putting them both in Christ’s genealogy, is by no means mere happenstance.

If you are familiar with Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz’s story, you remember Naomi’s family moved from Bethlehem in Judah to the land of the Moabites during a severe famine. While there, Naomi’s husband and both sons died, leaving behind three widows.

When word reached Naomi good crops were once again growing in Judah, she decided to return. At first, both daughter-in-laws decided to go with her. In the end, only Ruth left her homeland of Moab to join Naomi on her journey.

First off, this was no leisurely stroll to the market. These two women left their home and walked approximately 50 to 60 miles for 7-10 days. They descended from the mountains in Moab, entered the Jordan River Valley north of the Dead Sea, ascended to Jericho, and climbed an additional 2,500 feet near Jerusalem, before walking south to Bethlehem.

Two women traveling such a great distance alone definitely would not be without its dangers. Wild animals and thieves topped the list.

We know their story ends well. However, I’d like to point out a couple things we might miss by just looking at this as a nice love story between Ruth and Naomi,  and between Ruth and Boaz.

Ruth was from Moab. The Israelites did not like the Moabites for a number of reasons, going all the way back to their wilderness wandering days. So Ruth’s willingness to embrace the God of the Israelites and live among them was huge.

Boaz’s mother, Rahab, was the Canaanite woman who hid Israelite spies right before the people of Israel circled Jericho, and God leveled it.

There was the very real possibility Ruth would be treated roughly if no one protected her.

As the son of an outsider, Boaz understood what being an outsider meant, and was willing to protect Ruth.

Ruth’s devotion to God wasn’t inherited from her family. They were pagan-worshiping child-sacrificers. Ruth chose to worship God.

Boaz was a close kin who could redeem Ruth according to the Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). He chose to redeem Ruth.

In this story, we see a God who works in our lives to achieve his plan whether we are aware of it or not.

We are shown God invites everyone to be a part of his family, regardless of where they came from or what their previous beliefs were.

Before the kinsman redeemer can redeem, he must be related by blood to those he redeems. He must be able to pay the price of redemption. And there has to be a willingness to redeem. 

Just as Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. Through his sacrificial blood we are related to him. Jesus was without sin and able to pay the cost. He willingly paid the price for our redemption.

What is your favorite part of Ruth and Boaz’s story?

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Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot.

The neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s baby boy!” But his real name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. Ruth 4:116-17 (MSG)

You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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