Africa?

So this is the week, the long-awaited departure date to travel with ManUp and Go as part of a mission team to serve.

Let me give you a little back story.

Last fall I committed to traveling with ManUp and Go on a missions trip to Kenya. As we prepared our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits for this trip I was sure this was the time to go. My heart was set on spending my birthday in Kenya loving and serving and experience whatever the Lord had in store. What I wasn’t prepared for was the trip being cancelled due to the unrest in the country. I grieved this trip as weird as it sounds, to prepare your heart to go and let the Lord work through you to serve the widows and orphans was devastating when it didn’t come to pass. When the trip was cancelled we had the option to keep our funds in reserve and go on the Kenya trip the next fall. Due to the airlines guidelines on ‘when’ the plane tickets needed to be used up, the next fall Kenya trip was out of the time frame. There were a few trip options but they all overlapped previous commitments in my life. One being softball season, I’m a coach, and the other being during my business convention trip in which I had already paid for the tickets to go, and I was super excited to be ‘recognized’ for my business growth. I remember feeling this still small voice asking me to consider giving up my convention. I hadn’t even considered it. I’d been involved in this business for over 4 years and had never made it to convention. I was beyond excited to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate and be pampered for my accomplishments. Yet this voice still whispered to me to consider letting it go to fulfill what I originally committed to back in the fall.

What if THIS trip gets cancelled? My big struggle was looking beyond the first cancellation and making peace with it. I had so many negative thoughts going through my head. “Maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe it got cancelled because my heart wasn’t in the right place, maybe THIS trip will to get cancelled because I’m still not right in my heart?” Oh the negative assault was heavy.

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I called my travel partner for the business convention and explained that I felt I needed to cancel and instead go to Africa. I just had to go on this mission trip. She understood and I made a commitment to travel to Africa yet again. I battled with feeling as though I let my business team members down in not staying with my first commitment. Yet the Lord has given me great insight into seeing opportunities and not becoming so stuck in our ‘plans’ that we aren’t willing to budge. So I budged and chose to leave the celebration and awards and go serve.

I’m not blogging to get some kind of a ‘that a girl’ pat on the back, but more to share with you my vulnerable spot in knowing my selfishness got in the way of seeing a bigger picture. It took me quite awhile to even receive the idea because I was so blinded by my reward.

We leave for Ethiopia and Uganda in 5 days. So what do I take with me? What shouldn’t I be taking with me?

I take an attitude of love and compassion, I take an open heart and mind, I take the heart of a servant and I take an approach that God has this, all of it, the hard, the joy, the craziness, the unknowns and I am called to do but one thing, trust Him. Trust His protection, His abilities, His spirit within.

What should I leave behind; worry, stress, anxiety, fear, judgement, a hardened heart and a closed mind.

I think we all could take the challenge of leaving things behind in our lives at times, and letting God lead and accepting that HE is ALL we need. Jesus is the greatest reward I will ever receive, and to go and serve in His name is an honor. Not every person is called to this kind of going. Some are called to go locally, within your family, your friends, your work, within the country and some outside of the country. We must be open to listening to what the Lord wants to do in our lives, and sometimes it’s at the most unexpected time or even dare I say, the most inconvenient time to my flesh, but NOT to my spirit.

So here’s to Africa… Seeing the Jesus that is already there and loving others right where they are at.

Blessings.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Tick Tock

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It’s hard to imagine time not affecting our lives. The world we live in today is ridiculously fast paced, it’s instant gratification, it’s more work in less time. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and it will not be slowing down. We have to realize the importance of our time and what a good balance is in our lives for our well-being: our mental, physical and spiritual health.

When I was 21 years old I was a single mom going to college and working a night job. At that point in my life I was in survival mode, my goal was to get through college so I could get a better job and provide for my son, it was one of the most stressful times of my life. I worked diligently at schooling as I was closing in on graduation, on finals, on the stress of getting that bachelor’s degree. I worked a night shift at a copy center as well to help provide for rent, food and pay for the babysitter. I was also a new mom doing this on my own and I had no idea what I was doing.

At this time in my life I started seeking God, I wasn’t brave enough to go to church yet, but I was brave enough to open my Bible and start seeking him and seeking his guidance to get me through this challenging time. When I look back at it today, at the ripe age of 42, I think how did I ever do it, how did I graduate college, work night shift and raise a child? Even though my faith was in infancy, my God was providing for me, he was providing my sanity, he was providing energy and strength, his strength to get me through this time in my life. I’ve considered what was truly important at that time, was the degree truly important, was the job I had truly important and was being a mother truly important? The amount of stress I was under, I’m sure, didn’t make me the best mom in the world at that time, and I’m thankful for a God who understands and has grace when life is difficult. I felt this pressure to get it done fast, and I think that’s where the problem lies, where we think things have to be done immediately, it’s instant gratification, it’s getting that new title, achieving a job ranking, achieving a degree, and so on, for maybe it will bring me happiness. Is that really what’s important? I certainly can’t do anything about the choices I made then, but I do know if I had it to do over I probably would’ve taken the process a little slower, I would’ve not taken as many classes, maybe worked a little bit less and spent more time being present with my family.

I’m so thankful for a God that understands us, all of us, he understands our growth, he understands the way our brain works, he understands our drive, he understands our desires and he understands that we don’t always understand what we are doing in the process. He is so patient with us to work through this life of ours.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9

I spent many years in the workforce working 30 to 40 hours a week, and I’ve watch my husband work 40 to 60 hours a week over the years. We worked diligently to provide for our family, which is important, and a great responsibility. Yet after seeing the simplicity of people’s lives in other countries, I think, could’ve I just been OK with having less and understanding that spending time with my God and my family was the most important thing of all? I’m certainly not implying that you go out and quit your job and stop doing everything, but I am asking us to evaluate what we’re doing with our minutes and our moments we have.

It seems we just get too busy for God. When you think about it, it doesn’t really make any sense, why would we be too busy for the one that provides all for us. He provides the job, he provides the schooling, he provides the home, he provides the opportunities, he provides the family, he provides everything.

I’ve chosen in my life today to sit in a different place, I spend time resting in the Lord, relaxing in his beauty, choosing to work but not overwork, and choosing to spend time with my family and friends building relationships.

Today is much different from what it was even 20 years ago. I didn’t have a smart phone, I didn’t have a laptop or a tablet that offers constant connection and constant distractions. The demand that comes in our world today is a rapid pace of technological growth, and it’s not going to lessen, it will actually get worse, it will increase. The ever-increasing technology that we are facing is going to require us to be extremely intentional with our time. If we don’t take time to rest we can easily slip into feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and overall stress from overstimulation. Making time to spend with people face to face is becoming ever so important to our well-being.

I suppose you’d say I’m someone who jumped off of the gerbil wheel, I just jumped off and said this isn’t what God wants for me and my family. I’m not saying he’s asking you to jump off the gerbil wheel but maybe evaluate where you’re at in your life right now. What’s taking up the most time in your days, what’s truly important, and where does our time need to be? In Ecclesiastes it speaks of a time for everything, we need to evaluate what we aren’t leaving time for and what’s being eliminated from our day that is going to be life-giving, and life breathing, to not only us, but our family, our friends, and our future.

We live in an over involved, over stimulated, and instant gratification world, be on guard of your minutes, moments and intentions.

Blessings

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 
10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Claiming Introvert

I distinctly remember the day my husband said,

“Are you really taking down walls if you have a brick in one hand and mortar in the other?”
Sometimes the Lord speaks through the last person we want to hear it from, lol…… Yet he was right… I was into wall building and had been for many years.
For quite some time I’ve been what I would consider an introvert. Struggling with social gatherings, parties, having anxiety over family get togethers and even attending church. What I’ve recently discovered is that I’ve been living a life that was feeding off of lies. Lies that said, “You’re not good enough, you’re not kind, you’ve got too many skeletons to even speak, you’re just better off staying away from everyone.” Brick after brick the lies so deeply seeded kept me trapped in my own prison, my mind.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
You see my past had warped my processing and my expectations of myself and others. I had “filters” that I’d been looking through and they had altered ‘my’ truth and tainted it with fear over the years. Bricks, more bricks…. that soon built what I thought was a protection wall, but what it really was, was a self made prison.
It wasn’t until I took a good long look at my past, and started seeing it from my 41 year old perspective that the Lord brought amazing revelation in tearing the walls down.
I’m not that child anymore, I’m not that teen anymore and
I’m not that person who was hurt or scared anymore.
It was time to let it go and remember who I was before the hurt and who I was created to be.
Revelation, Repent, Renew, Rejoice, Repeat…. and the walls came tumbling down…
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rm 12:2
Before the hurt I was a social person, a child who called every older gentleman, ‘MY’ grandpa, and greeted about anyone with a “hello”. A child with many friends and a child who loved her family and friends deeply and wasn’t afraid of the unknown and honestly wasn’t afraid of much of anything.
So this journey brings me back to myself, my true self who cares about others, speaks to others, listens, advises and just likes being kind. THIS is who I am.
Not a person caged by the walls I’ve built,
not a hurt teenager, not a victim, not a failure and not an introvert.
I am someone who seeks truth, knowledge and wisdom, who cries out for others, who know that my purpose is bigger than myself and knows that I have the best Father to guide me, Abba. I am a child of God, a vessel for his love and kindness and a person who cares about relationships, people and making a better world by being a light regardless of the darkness that I’ve walked through. I am a child of God, a God who has blessed me by His love, for that I am eternally grateful.
He is with me through it all, He is with YOU through it all, He suffered along with me, He suffered along with YOU, He rejoices with me and with YOU too. Know this full well!! He has been very patient with these vessels of his, a patience that only He has.
So let me ask you, are you a wall builder? And are you tired of all that work?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22-23
Blessings.
Below photo: This is an image I drew a few months ago representing a place I am now. The walls are down, I just need to get up and walk through the door, for freedom is on the other side!
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Totality

What a bunch of HYPE over this crazy eclipse! Ugh… what a battle I had internally as to go or not go. The path of totality was 2 hours from my home. Do I dare take the drive through insanity to be a spectator like everyone else? It reminds me of going to a World Series game. People just kind of go a bit crazy.

My largest battle was my spiritual inner turmoil. As a photographer I wanted to go ‘capture’ it, as a believer I wanted to go ‘experience’ it. My inner dialog went something like this…. “GO!!” Then “Don’t, just stay home.” and back and forth and back and forth. This went on for months. As my friends were encouraging me to go, and I was a bit resistant, only out of ‘fear’ of getting caught up in the HYPE instead of the glory of God’s beauty, I struggled. I did not plan to go and decided I would make up my mind when I made up my mind… I’ve been known to do things last-minute…

August 21st arrived and around 6:10am I saw out my bedroom window the cloud formations which I knew would be spectacular lighting for a sunrise, so I jumped in the jeep and drove down the road about 1/2 a mile and snapped a few shots. God’s glory was shining bright in Kansas!! His presence was felt!!

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So August 21st at 9:30am after my morning walk with my dear friend I decided to go to the blackout zone, knowing full well the clouds were out and I may see nothing, which in turn took my mind from ‘capture’ to ‘experience’. I wasn’t planning on seeing the total eclipse because of the clouds, I was more excited about feeling and experiencing the environment around me during totality. I also thought this would be a great experience for my son. I asked him if he could get ready in 20 minutes and if he’d like to experience this eclipse with me.

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My son and I left for Nebraska and took the “road less traveled”, it went straight up from Kansas to a small town NOT on the NASA website map. The roads were not bad at all and we made pretty good time. The eclipse had already started when we arrived in the totality zone. There were a few “parties” going on in Fairbury, and we decided to keep on driving towards Western, NE. I chose to turn on a dirt road about 5 miles out of Fairbury and travel east. NOT A SOUL IN SIGHT! So we pulled off along the dirt road and got out to see what we could see. This is what we saw.

As beautiful as this storm was, after about 20 minutes we realized the storm was moving towards us. We jumped in the jeep and headed back south on the dirt road trying to escape the rain.

About 2 miles south we stopped again and looked around on the muddy sand road. I gazed down the road looking for a sign of light peeking through the clouds and my son and I realized we were about 15 minutes from totality. I saw a field about 1/2 a mile south that looked as if it was lit up. So we jumped in the vehicle and drove. As we approached the ‘spot’, to the east was corn, to the west was a beautiful pond/lake. We decided to get out and make this our observation spot. Regardless if we saw the sun or not it was a beautiful spot! The boy of course has to go explore the corn, to see if it was ready, and within the next 5 minutes the skies began to change. The clouds cleared enough to see the sun. My son grabs his glasses and says, “MOM, it’s almost totality!” We notice the rainbow ring around the sun and the colors began to change.

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The process through those SECONDS was amazing… I took a few photos during the eclipse(a total of 101 for the whole time.. that’s not many for me!) The horizon lit up like a sunset at 360 degrees. Bursting orange and yellow up to the darkness. The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the wind gust. When it went dark, like someone switched off a light, the wind blew and it wasn’t a light wind, it was a GUST! It took my breath away. If you research the word “Spirit” in the hebrew and greek language many times it is referred to as ‘wind’…. friends…. it was something I’ve never experienced before. The sheer beauty around us of the skies, the eclipse, the temperature, the sounds, the feeling was unbelievable. Peace be still.

To stand in the awe of something so unique and God divine made me wonder how the world can question His existence and authority. The one resounding thought I’ve had the last few days is the importance of understanding His authority and the importance of renewing our minds each day.

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 

Read, Repent, Renew, Repeat.

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I grabbed my other camera and lens, the cheaper one with the most zoom, to see if I could possibly get a photo of the eclipse up close. I took 8 photos and put it down. I figured if I got it great, if not I need to SEE THIS MYSELF and absorb the amazing environment around me. Much to my surprise once totality had passed and I looked at my camera screen, this was on it(see below). God opened a door for us to see.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

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So all of this to share with you my takeaway:

#1 The importance of respecting our Creator.

#2 Do not put Him in a box, He has the ability to bring us amazing opportunities, even if we don’t plan it.

#3 Lastly, the sheer amazement of God our Father who is authority over ALL, who is Creator of all, who is the One that let His Son die for US. When Christ died He took on the weight of the world’s sins, HE took our sins and placed them upon Himself so WE could be saved.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The eclipse was a great perspective reminder of how BIG our God is and how WE must submit to His will and authority.

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I challenge you to find Totality:

A totality in seeking Him in His Word, a totality in loving as He loves, a totality in repentance, a totality in renewal, a totality in freedom in Christ.

To GOD be the GLORY.

Blessings.

Teaching Daughters

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This past week I had the privilege of taking my daughters on a first ever ‘girls only’ vacation to Orlando, FL. My expectations were to get there, and get there safe, and then relax and enjoy some time away from the normal hustle and bustle of daily life at home. As far as our plans, we had an idea of what we wanted to do and we would make those decisions final once we arrived.

First off, I do not like to schedule my vacations down to the minute… it doesn’t allow for spontaneity and adventure. Many may disagree…. but that’s how I roll. Both of my daughters functions very well under a schedule, not so well with the unknown… but I think that was my intent on this trip, to teach them that as much as we plan, things can change and how we handle that change is truly what is important.

Case in point…. Day 2…. RAIN, RAIN, RAIN. The girls had come up with all the plans for the day… Paddle boat, explore the resort, kayak, laying out and maybe going to the beach if we had time…. When we went out to rent the paddle boat, the RED flag was flying… no boats… not safe to be on lake because of waves. Plan 1 shut down…

Plan 2, ride bikes?… and the rain started pouring down… plan 2 was on hold, they wouldn’t allow us to leave in the rain… so we decided to play ping-pong, outside… in the wind…. as you can imagine, it was difficult… but we laughed a lot. We then went on to play putt putt as it sprinkled…. We laughed at how horrible we were. my oldest daughter hit one of her balls in the lake, AND she got it out! We laughed a lot….

Once we finished we went back to the bikes, as it had stopped raining… We rode the bikes out to a HUGE gazebo on the water off the lake. The bikes couldn’t go out to the gazebo, so one of us had to wait with the bikes while the others went to check it out…. I waited first, my youngest daughter waited second, so I could go down the pier and look around… While out, it started to downpour and I mean monsoon downpour. We ran back to my youngest daughter waiting and got on the bikes. We had about a mile ride to get back to the resort and get out of the rain… I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Our bikes were splashing through the puddles. The roads were a solid puddle. We were drenched, head to toe. I remember shouting, “Our bikes are making waves like boats in this road!!” We laughed hard, and it was refreshing, to the body, the spirit, the soul. This simple memory is my favorite… it didn’t cost me a thing, it wasn’t Pandora at Animal Kingdom, it wasn’t a massage at the Spa, it wasn’t anything but me and my girls finding joy in the rain, in the unexpected… it was a true example of life.

It rains on us sometimes, it doesn’t always turn out the way we think it should… but nonetheless we can find joy in our moments. 

We experienced flying into an airport we had never been to, going to Disney for the first time… and it was raining when we got there, we experienced waiting in line for over 2 hours to experience the Pandora Flight of the Banshee, we experienced a safari, we experienced a sunny day at the pool on our last day and Candyland on a rainy day. We had amazing adventures on many days, some were experiencing Pandora and some were getting massages, which I am grateful to have these experiences with my girls.

But God gave them something I couldn’t…. an experience not man-made, but God-given. Joy in the rain.

Blessings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. –James 1:2-4 (NIV)

My Life can Change the World or the World can Change my Life

There are times in our lives we face unwanted or unexpected change.

My recent whirlwinds(plural, yes plural) have caused me to evaluate who I really am. Through my struggles, through my fears, my pain, my weakness, who am I?

What am I really capable of?

What am I in the eyes of God?

Who am I?

Within my family and friends circle in the last 4 months I have seen more suffering that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime, all at one time. My heart is breaking for others, whether they are fighting cancer, struggling with losing a job, a recovering alcoholic, a teenager being pursued by a grown man, someone trying to heal from an abusive past, back, knee, leg injuries, financial pitfalls, suicide, marriages falling apart, loss of a loved one, loss of direction, depression, anxiety and the list goes on and on.

Too often we don’t realize the impact we can have on one another’s life, good or bad. Our words are not considered “of value” in our own minds many times, yet God sees them as a huge responsibility. My words can build up or tear down. My actions can be healthy or unhealthy.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words. ~Prov 18:21

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My life can change the world or the world can change my life. 

With God all things are possible…. we’ve all heard it…. do you BELIEVE it?

And Jesus looking upon them said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. ~Matt 19:26

What am I really capable of? What am I not capable of? When we choose to let God become the captain of our ship, He will move mountains before you(Matt 17:20). He will pave the path(Isa 45:2)(1 Peter 1:7). I sit in my home, wondering how I could make a difference, my small circle of friends and family and my many walls I’ve built up over the years.

How can I, who lives behind walls make a difference?

Everytime I choose to share life, love, stories and experiences that the Lord has walked(and many times carried me) me through, I am making a difference. If you told me 4 years ago that I’d be speaking to people about emotions and the impact they have on our health, I would have laughed at you. “I don’t speak in front of people, I have stage fright! I would never do that!”

Yes, I wouldn’t, but God does!

Yet He uses us in our weakness for He is strong. I can, because He does. (2 Cor 12:9-10)

He has removed me from my comfort zone and thrown me into a state of flux, I MUST depend on Him to reach the hurting. I can’t do it alone. He is equipping me with more knowledge and understanding than I ever thought possible for this brain of mine. He is my knowledge and my wisdom.

In the eyes of God, I am His child. He sees me in my splendor, my Savior within me. He sees my potential and He is my biggest cheerleader. He sees me as a vessel for His message. He sees me apart from all of my flaws and sins. He sees me, just me apart from all of the pain, the heartache, the weakness, the fear, the doubt, He sees his Son in me. His perfect loving son who has placed within my heart his desires to help, to love, to know, to do what God asks of me.

Who am I? 

A Child of the One True King. I am a child of God.

The reason for the image below. If you didn’t know me, this is where you would find my heart, in my journals and in my paintings.

Find your own way to speak with the Lord and know that YOU are a child of God!

Blessings.

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Journalizing and Painting. Two intimate ways I work through emotions and speaking with God.

A Prayer for Our People

IMG_8320Today I pray for the people of the United States of America, during this transition my prayers are fervent. Join me.

Apart from you Lord, we are lost. Too much trust has been put in man/woman, not in You Father. In GOD we trust, such a simple yet profound concept that we all seem to struggle with, due to lack of faith and lack of patience, which ironically come from the spirit within, from You. (Gal 5:22-23)

Oh if we could only empty our souls of control, selfishness and anger and allow Christ’s love to shine through. We get in Your way to often, yet how dare I think You cannot accomplish what needs to be done regardless of our choices. We just seem to take the hard road. I pray that we may understand and grasp the freedom that comes in submitting to Your will and trusting only in You. Cleanse these souls Lord so that we can live out your will for our lives.

Yahweh Shalom, we are weak and selfish. We have fallen and failed you time and time again, yet your patience with us is undeserved. I plead for our country, our people that we can unite again and become a strong nation founded on trust in You. With You All is Possible. You are our strength, our peace, our joy and our love. Apart from You we will always struggle, for we cannot be our own strength, peace, joy and love. Heal our lands, lead our powers to be and unite this people. Lord, this is your land, your people, all things are yours. We have failed you a million times with our selfishness and greed. We may feel unsure about our leaders, but I do not feel unsure about the ultimate Leader, YOU. Lord forgive us, help our people, our leaders to see the errors of their ways, help them to turn back to you. Rebuild our government to sit on your shoulders. Help them to lead the people. Guide us Lord in this fallen world. Bring the good to light, cast out the darkness and illuminate this place, ignite Your peace within us. (Is 9:6-7)

You are the beginning and you are the end. Thank you Abba for the blessings you have poured on us that we do not deserve. Guide us to live loved and live a life honorable with You. Your mercies and love never falter.  You are our peace. 

Thank you Father, Amen.