Lessons from a Dirty Fan

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The last two-to-three months has found our family in the midst of two property renovation projects. Gratefully, this weekend we finished up the last touches on the second house we are putting on the market. As I dusted and wiped down the ceiling fans, it occurred to me: we each are like a busy fan whirling and whirling. Like the ceiling fan I was cleaning, we too are frantically flying through our days working, or trying to get from point A to point B, meeting goals, beating deadlines, checking off our to do lists, or even distracting ourselves to death; however, we are nonetheless collecting dust, stains of the earth. Newton proved that objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force; but dust seems to land on anything moving or stationary!

In the frantic pace of life, even for people like myself who try to keep a simple, steady rhythm, we circle round again and discern that we haven’t taken the time to stop and reflect on our souls, our situations, our strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps, at best, we have paused. We haven’t completely halted to inspect the accumulation of dust, rather we have forged on with little notice of the cleaning of the heart and mind that needs our attention.

Hearts, like fans hurtling headlong day in and day out, can look the picture of health and beauty, but upon closer inspection can be layered with a thick covering of dust and earthly filth.

In our own homes, we tend to get in the spring cleaning mode as the spring days quickly glide into summer. We may find that we are dusting off shelves, emptying closets, and cleaning out drawers…even cleaning ceiling fans. As we do that, perhaps those actions could be mirrored in spring cleaning of the soul. Some time to stop and consider:

  • what practices do I need to cease in order to become more like the image of Christ?
  • what practices should I resume or initiate?
  • who do I need to forgive, or forgive again?
  • who do I need to seek forgiveness from?
  • where am I wasting resources that could be of better advantage used differently?
  • what is God whispering to me by the power of His Holy Spirit that I’ve been too busy to notice?
  • what leading have I dodged from the Holy Spirit?
  • what have I been lamenting over that I need to praise God for?
  • what passion needs to be further put into practice to see God’s Kingdom come?
  • what distraction do I need to do away with?

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~Psalm 51:10

It seems ceiling fans aren’t the only thing that needs a little dusting off.

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What Do the Books You’re Reading Say About You?

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When I graduated from my master’s program in college, one of my friends gave me a gift card to a local Christian bookstore with a note that read, now you can buy something to read for your pleasure.

In a seemingly simple moment, the transition was made from read what I must, to read what I will. Freedom, glorious freedom, to choose what influences, entertainment, and knowledge pool I would dive into from that moment forward. It was frankly a novel idea for me as a recent graduate ready to embark fulltime into the workforce. No longer would I spend late nights studying copious notes and reading text after text concerning speech and language disorders, anatomy and physiology, the workings of the brain, nor information on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Now a choice was possible, and time, for the moment, was available.

Fast forward twelve years and perhaps hundreds of book choices later. My reading pile has run the gamut from Beth Moore Bible studies, to science, government, Christian worldview to young adult fiction, and childcare to flood geology.  What does the current stack of books on my beside table say about me? What does the pile of books you are reading say about you?  What literary choices are we making that speak volumes about our current season of life?

Continue reading and join the conversation at iBelieve.com.

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Lessons Gleaned from the Sea

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the day.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

Near the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. With the passing of each year, birthday after birthday with our children and friends, we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

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Five Ways to Strengthen Your Christian Worldview

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Every day we are faced with information that will either affirm, assault, or sharpen our worldview. Worldview is the lens through which we view life, make decisions, and interact with our fellow-man. The greatest way for Christ-followers to strengthen our Biblical worldview is by actually reading and memorizing God’s Word. If we are to live as Jesus lived then we should study that which He studied as a boy (the Old Testament), that which He lived (the Gospels), and that also which came after Him as inspired by the Holy Spirit (the remainder of the New Testament).

Every song we listen to, every book we read, and every media we watch, is derived from a worldview held by the person who wrote the lyrics or the script. We as Christians need to arm ourselves to recognize the worldview messages behind the media we ingest. In this way, we can sort through the surface message to get to the truth claims, or marketing, that media holds out to us.

Here are five ways to strengthen your Christian Worldview:

1. Albert Mohler’s The Briefing daily podcast. In each day’s twenty-minute podcast, Dr. Mohler summarizes and interprets via a Biblical woral score, the   daily news events
2. Russell Moore’s Signposts weekly podcast. Covering a wide range of topics, Dr. Moore tackles a cultural topic be it movies, practices within the church, or politics and puts it in perspective of the cross and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Read any of Nancy Pearcey’s books. Nancy Pearcey is a worldview expert and will help you summarize and inspect the truth claims of science, art, and religion.
4. Subscribe to Breakpoint.org daily radio one and three minute broadcasts.Anoyhr great resource started by the late Chuck Colson, which covers the topics of our day.
5. Read  God’s Word daily. The Bible has the greatest ability to change our lives and solidify our Christian worldview.

These exercises take only minutes a day, but the dividends have the potential to be eternally impactful.

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The Gospel, the Value of Women, and the Debauchery of Donald Trump

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No doubt you saw last week’s tweet by Donald Trump including a split screen image comparing his super-model wife, to the Harvard graduate wife of Senator Ted Cruz. If not, then venture here. In response, Dr. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Council, had these words to say on Instagram:

If you have a wife, a sister, a mother, or a daughter, and you can still defend this, you have a seared conscience. Only a culture trained by pornography could be drawn to this misogyny. ~Russell Moore

Amen, Dr. Moore, amen!

This kind of sexism is what started Trump’s one-sided battle with Fox anchor, Megyn Kelly. Since the first Republican debate, Trump has lashed out in personal attacks via Twitter over the relevant question she posed concerning Donald Trump’s statements towards and about women. He has not stopped since that debate belligering Megy Kelly and even calling her Crazy Megyn.

It seems Mr. Trump is only entertained by women and can not view them apart from their sexuality. Tough, intellectual women–of beauty I might add–are an enigma to Mr. Trump. I ascertain that he has saturated himself in pornography, for what may be decades, resulting in his objectification of women and his reduction of women to mere outward appearances.

Last week, Ted Cruz overwhelmingly won the Republican primary in the state of Utah–perhaps the most religious state in the union, thanks, sadly not to Christianity, but to the Mormon religion. That same state of Utah, WORLD magazine reported last Wednesday, may become the first of many states to declare porn a health crisis. (See Utah’s Bill SCR009 here.) What’s the harm of pornography? Well a great deal actually. According to an article by the Family Research Council, Pornography changes the habits of the mind, and its use can easily become habitual, leading to desensitization, boredom, distorted views of reality, and an objectification of women.

I don’t think it is coincidental the same state to contemplate decrying pornography as a health crisis also voted against the current frontrunner of the Republican Party who has repeatedly objectified and demeaned women (cue Carly Fiorina). Pornography permeates a person’s worldview and interactions with others. Perhaps the religious citizens of Utah were better poised to recognize that correlation in Donald Trump than the evangelical voting block. (Though, they are no more immune to the vice of pornography as a 2009 study tracking subscriptions to online porn sites ranked Utah No. 1 in the country. Hence the legislative cry of crisis.)

In contrast…

Jesus highly valued and esteemed women. Consider the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, His friendship with Mary and Martha, His respectful attitude and care for His mother, Mary. Moreover, if that’s not enough, Jesus revealed His divinity to women specifically; the Samaritan woman and to Martha upon the death of her brother Lazarus. (See John 4 and 11.)

Jesus knew and knows the deleterious and potentially eternally damning effects of lust and sexual sin. (See Matthew 5.) 

Pornography is a problem for nearly every demographic, from teenage boys to senior citizens. For men primarily though not exclusively. While pornography was once limited to a costly subscription to Playboy Magazine, today it is a free-for-all digital enticement (see here: section four on hedonism).

You may think, so what?

The gospel.

The gospel and salvation message of Jesus Christ is the only remedy to our sin sickness as individuals, a nation, and the world.

The gospel of Jesus Christ can take a brain ravaged by pixilated images and redeem and renew it. The gospel of Jesus Christ can take a person dead in his or her sins and make he and she alive in Christ. Additionally, the gospel of Jesus Christ says that we should not use our freedom in Christ to continue sinning so that grace may abound, but that there is mercy and forgiveness in new life when we die to our sin and live in Christ (Romans 6).

It is inarguably true that we are a society ravaged by pornography. It is a real and present danger in the midst of our culture and even in our churches. Yet, our Savior who saves us also promises to complete the good work that He started within us. We must each be faithful to put on the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel shoes, take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the mighty Sword of the Spirit to fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6). In all wars there are moments we advance and moments we fallback in defeat. The good news regarding every battle we wage with sin is this:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 4:7-10, ESV, emphasis mine

We can win the battle, we can fight the good fight of faith, we can stand up when we get knocked down by our flesh and renew our mind in God’s word daily. We can change the way we think towards one another when we seek the power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we can change the culture by changing minds with the message of the gospel.  Then and only then will we be able to see one another for what we are: image bearers of the One True God. Not objects to be used and disposed of.  Not figures and forms to compare and contrast.

There is good news when we turn our eyes away from the entrapments of this present world and in repentance turn our eyes to Jesus…even if you happen to be Donald Trump.

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Thank You For the Cross Lord

Thank You For the Cross

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

~ Matthew 27:24-26

Many people believe that they are good people. Failing to compare ourselves to God, we can always find someone worse than us. I’ve even had an elderly lady tell me she doesn’t do bad things like those politicians!

Following the example of Pilate, we wash our hands of Jesus blood when our pride blinds us to our sin and we reason that we are good people.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

~Romans 3:23-24

Jesus did not drink the cup of God’s wrath for good people. Rather, when sin entered the world through Eve and Adam eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, good people ceased to exist. All people thereafter became fallen, sinful, lost people separated from their Creator by our sin nature. Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath against sin so that fellowship between God and man could be restored for eternity.

Christ’s sacrifice is not a blanket forgiveness for all people. His blood sacrifice provides forgiveness of sins for those who repent, turn from their sin in confession and action, and believe on Christ Jesus for salvation.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ~Romans 10:9-10

The priests and onlookers shouted out that Christ’s blood be on them and on their children. However, His blood is on each of our hands as we have all sinned against God.

Praise the Lord Jesus Sunday comes after Good Friday. However, today, I am thankful for the cross of Christ Jesus. I am thankful that He would look on a pitiful sinner like myself and lay down His life so that I didn’t have to suffer eternity apart from His Father and all good things.  Let us ponder today the cross and crucifixion of Christ and praise Him for His substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. He alone is worthy of our praise.

Thank you for the cross Lord,

*Photo by Hannah Foster, used with permission.

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Celebrating the Coming Kingdom

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My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.  You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world– to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:36-37)

Wonder, amazement, and awe are emotions felt when we pause to consider the coming of Christ. Jesus left his eternal domain of Heaven and took time-capsuled residence among the fallen and flailing.

The King of Kings, Creator of All, clothed in human flesh… the dust of the earth. At the Father’s will He was crushed, stripped, beaten, and pierced for my transgressions: envy, covetousness, pride, slander, anger, ungratefulness, and ungodliness to name a few.

Jesus bore a mocking crown of thorns and accepted blows and insults as a lamb slain for the final sin offering. He is the One whose sacrifice we celebrate as His people freed from our sin.

Each man who had a part in the punishment of Jesus was known to Him by name. He knew everything about them. Likewise, he knows everything about us. All that we have done or will do both for shame and for His glory and yet, even then He chose the most burdensome cross of all: to do the Father’s will and restore relationship between Holy God and wicked man.

The Redeemer came to reunify the created to the Creator. Like the Good Shepherd that goes after the one lost lamb, He came so that all the lost have freedom to choose life. Life not given at first breath, but by means of dying to ourselves. That we may be reborn to new life in Christ that can never die.

Now we may walk with our Savior.

In Isaiah 53, the prophet, Isaiah, prophesied about Jesus, the Messiah, 700 years before His birth and 733 years before His cruel death on the cross. Our God is the Master Author, Scientist, and Historian. He is the more than we could ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Bowed as branches we celebrate His triumphal entry, as was His way: riding upon a lowly donkey. May this Sunday’s celebration remind us to eagerly await the second coming of the One who, appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:11-28)

But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-62)

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 21:9)

Looking to the clouds and eagerly awaiting our Lord…

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Ten Verses to Walk You Back from the Political Edge

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Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win the kingdom? There is no salvation or hope of everlasting life but in the cross. (The Royal Road, Thomas a Kempis)

Perhaps you, like me, are a bit consumed with the presidential race of 2016. I’ve poured over pundants, read principled Bible teachers, and raised my fists in both victory and disgust while watching presidential debates. As recently as today, I’ve laughed at memes of Chris Christie’s face as he, to borrow the words of Tammy Wynette,  stands by his newest man–perhaps he finally realizes what he’s done! I’ve done these things all the while praying and simultaneously scratching my head over the polictal carnage inside the Bible Beltway and across our nation. What are people thinking and has it really come to this? Is anger-filled, empty slander, or entertainment, all that a so called civilized people seek in the leader of their country? I hope and pray not.

These thoughts beg the question, what should we do with our political concerns? How does the gospel infiltrate our political thinking?

There is not a short answer to this except to point out that the secular and sacred split we see in our country and the world around us must not be employed by Christ-followers. We are to let the gospel inform every decision we make in all areas of our lives: personal, professional, private, public, and political. We don’t sever the teachings of the Bible from our service in the world. God’s truths aren’t just for the Sabbath, they are for the work-week as well.

I am not implying that all Christians will or should support the same candidate, but that our loyalty to Jesus Christ and Him crucified, resurrected, and coming again would inform our choice.

I am certain that many of us feel as if we have come to a political precipice in our nation. We have a sinful, worrisome tendancy to bite our nails as we see America toppiling over the edge. We need to remember, no matter what happens at the ballot box in the next few weeks, nor in Novemeber, God’s Kingdom will continue to endure. Further, only the gospel changes man eternally and secures him a safe, peaceful dwelling for all of time. Government cannot legislate morality nor forgive the sins of man and right man’s relationship with God. There is no salvation nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross. (The Royal Road, Thomas a Kempis)

Following are 10 verses to walk us back from the worrisome political edge of this election year:

  • You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22, NIV)
  • Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NIV)
  • Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36, ESV)
  • Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  (1 Corinthians 5:24, ESV)
  • For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28, ESV)
  • And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.  (Daniel 2:44, ESV)
  • For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)
  • He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Daniel 2:21, ESV)
  • The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. (Psalm 33:10, ESV)
  • Sing to Yahweh, you His faithful ones, and praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5, HCSB)

May God show His continuing mercy to the people of America by giving us a leader we do not deserve–one who seeks His face. And may we the people of the Lord Jesus spread His gospel in our homes and to the ends of the earth to see everlasting change.

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Admitting Our Weaknesses to Seek God’s Strength

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I like to think that I stay on top of tasks and deadlines. However, there come certain times and circumstances in our lives that demand we lighten our load before we lose our mind! Just this week, I had to call and cancel my daughter’s orthodontist consultation for the second time. Actually, the call went something like this:

“Hi, Marline. This is Brooke Cooney. I am scheduled to bring my daughter in tomorrow for her orthodontist consultation. Last week I called to cancel because I hadn’t sent in the paperwork beforehand and also, we had a guest with us all week. Today, I am calling to cancel because I not only didn’t send in the paperwork, but now I can’t find it. Last week one child ran a fever and had a virus all week. This week my younger child woke up with a fever and has the virus too. Also, we are in the middle of an adoption and have just come off a weekend with family in town. I am sorry, but I will need to cancel and just stop by when everyone is well to fill out the paperwork and reschedule.”

Needless to say, Marline received more information than necessary, and was fine with me rescheduling. She was a little baffled that I lost the paperwork, and quite frankly so was I—the yellow folder containing all the paperwork will show up eventually. Cue the power of positive thinking!

I am a Type A woman, and Type A women like myself often want to function out of our own strength. We don’t usually ask for help, and when we are offered help, we hesitate to take it. Additionally, we’d rather not raise the white flag and admit we can’t make all things go according to schedule or as planned.

Right now, my family is walking through an emotionally difficult time as we are walking the slow path of adoption. Further, my husband’s mother is in the second half of a year-long chemo and radiation round to address breast cancer. To top those two situations off, the demands of homeschool, ministry, and work don’t cease. I feel like I am constantly giving and am at times to the point of completely poured out. I know my husband often feels the same. 

Please join me over at iBelieve to continue reading.

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Walking By Faith: Responding to the No and the Yes of Jesus

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Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:18,21, ESV)

A few weeks ago, I was strolling alongside a newly-walking one-year-old. He had tired of simply watching the gymnastics lesson and wanted to try out some moves of his own. Instead of letting him onto the gym floor with my kids in class as he first attempted, I took him outside to walk on the sidewalk. I wanted to hold his hand to protect him from falling and getting yet another bump on his face. He’s gained the nickname “Bruiser” because of all his recent spills.

Needless to say, newly walking one-year-olds think they have the whole walking bit down. He didn’t want to hold my hand this time. He hadn’t asked for assistance, but rather, he had a taste for freedom.

As I grasped his hand and wouldn’t let go, I considered that all he was hearing was, no, no. 

No, don’t pull away from me.

Continue reading at iBelieve.

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