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Heavenly Father,

Today I am writing the next-to-the -last chapter of a book  I thought was ready to be written 20 years ago…but Your timing is always so much better than mine! You might have given me the vision twenty years ago, but there’s much more You planned to happen before the words could be written. Although I’m writing it, I feel like You are the true author, Lord. You just write in lives instead of on pages. If I would have tried to write this book earlier, it would have been me trying to push my words through. Now, it flows out and I’m surprised at what is written down. I know how Mother Theresa felt when she once said, “I am but a little pencil in the hand of God.”

The title of this book will be MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU. If it was written too soon, I would have concentrated on the story my first husband and I went through as he endured a traumatic terminal illness and all the incredible things that happened as we faced life and death together.  It would have been a memory book of our intertwined lives and the way You worked in them. Then I began a 20 year journey of helping others through grief as they faced the death of their loved ones.  I realized our story was not the only lives You work through. If I had written this book even then, it would have been too soon. I would have added helpful information that has helped so many others through the deepest part of their grief. However, You knew it wasn’t ready yet.

Through the years, You have placed a deep compassion in my spirit for those who are heart-broken at the death of a loved one. How I longed to help them. I can share my experiences and all the proven ways that help grievers through that dark valley of the shadow of death, but I know the only One who can truly help them is You. They each need to express their story, memories, loss, and cries. In this book, they will read parts of my story and will find practical ideas that will really help; but this book will also be written by the griever. What started out as a memory book of my first husband, along with helpful ideas, will also be written by the griever as they share memories of their loved one. As they tell their own story of the deep void from the relationship they are grieving, they will discover (as I have) You are with them and will never ever leave them. The true story is still being authored. It is the never-ending love story You have for us that transcends death and brings eternal life. It goes far beyond what any book can contain.

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“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down. I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

“We write this to make our joy complete.” 1 John1:4

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Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, show me how to live out Your word in my life so I may be in the Book of Life…

moms

mom therapy

chrissy

julia

sky 2014

Jeremy and Sherry

 

Heavenly Father,

My granddaughter is a young mom of two little boys. She had a really bad day the other day. All moms do. Some days, mothers feel like they are never doing enough. Sometimes they feel guilty for almost no reason at all. There are times they feel inadequate thinking they are not very good at being a mom. What about those times your child acts out or throws a fit in front of all kinds of faces that seem to be thinking, “You should be doing this or not doing that!” How about those times when you seem to be telling your child to do something and it’s like your voice is simply background noise…then dad walks in and says one word and everyone shapes up! Being a mom means having your heart break because no one seems to understand your child’s special needs, or your child cries himself to sleep because of cruel comments of another kid or adult, yet more unbroken promises of another parent,  or deep wounds,  illness or poor choices  which  you can’t protect your child from.  Being a mom can be deeply painful.

Being a mom is also one of the most satisfying jobs there is: like when your toddler hugs you because you’re the most important love in their life, watching your child give their long-awaited allowance to a homeless man, watching your teen overcome a long-time fear, watching them grow and develop as the unique and miraculous person You created them to be. What a joy to watch how You, Lord, take everything that has ever happened in their life and blend it all together for good.  How rewarding to carry on adult conversations with this person who once couldn’t even talk and depended on you for food, shelter and protection.

My granddaughter might have had a challenging day, but someday she will barely recall the harsh trials and will only stand in awe at the men those little boys have become. She will be able to laugh at the hard memories and stand amazed that she played a part in who they have become. Father, today I pray for all the beautiful moms I know (the foster moms, adoptive moms, bio moms, grandmothers) who may be having a good or a bad day today. Lift them up, bless them, refresh them, and strengthen them so they can go on loving and encouraging their children. May they love whichever children You have placed before them with Your love…because You, Lord, not only created the heart of mothers; You have the heart of a mother. Let us love with Your love.

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“How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37b

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord, for his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”   1Samuel 1:27-28a

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands…”   Isaiah 49:15-16

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Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, You have loved me even more than the mother who carried me in her womb by…

cut flowers

Heavenly Father,

I do not want to be cut from the vine! As much as I love having fresh cut flowers straight from my garden on my table, I realize their beauty won’t last long. They’ve been cut from their life source. I can keep the water fresh in the vase to make them last a little longer. I can add a little packet of food, sugar or bleach to the water to try to extend their beauty, but since they’ve been cut off the plant, they are destined to wither up.

This spring I‘ve done a lot of pruning. Once a branch is cut off from the main tree, shrub or plant, it cannot continue to thrive or live. The cut branch certainly cannot produce any blooms or fruit. It might as well end up in the trash or compost pile. As long as the main plant is supplying the life, it will send out new branches- but those branches cannot make new leaves or flowers once they are cut off. Only the main plant can supply the life.

Father, I never want to try to do anything apart from You. It will not last. No matter how spectacular something I do on my own might appear, it will wither up. That’s why I come to You again this morning. I need to stay connected to Jesus who is my vine. Only with the Holy Spirit flowing from You through Jesus and then through me can my tiny branch live and thrive. If I am not rooted in Jesus, I can produce nothing eternal. Yet with Your life flowing through me, You can take this insignificant little twig and make it produce exactly what You designed it to do. Some little branches might produce a radiant flower to brighten someone’s life; other little branches might produce juicy fruit to feed hungry souls; some branches may provide shelter and shade to weary souls. Yet none of the branches can cause any of this eternal life on their own. That’s why I want to live in You and You live in me. Lord, flow through my little branch today and produce something eternal that I could never ever produce on my own…like love!

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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.

                I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”   John 15:1-8

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, this is how I can remain in You…

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Heavenly Father,

Everyone around me is making their plans for severe weather in Oklahoma this afternoon. Our meteorologists have been warning us that today is ripe for widespread severe weather and up to grapefruit-sized hail. Most of us have a Tornado Plan- what to do in case of an outbreak of twisters. Oklahomans know where to run for shelter. In recent history, F4 and F5 tornadoes have leveled whole towns to ground level. The sale of tornado shelters has greatly increased. Some are underground or above ground safe rooms. Some people know to go to an inner room with preferably no windows. People are better prepared than they used to be due to advances in radars and computerized weather tracking. The average Oklahoman knows more about tornadoes than most of the world due to our history and national meteorologists in our state. We might joke about getting on top of the roof to watch a twister coming til the last minute but we have learned to take severe weather warnings seriously…so we prepare our “hidey holes” in which we will ride out the storms.

Father, I’ve been through all kinds of storms in my life- some light and some critical even to the point of devastating. Through it all, I have learned You are my “Hidey hole”- the safe shelter I run to. I don’t wait til the last minute until it’s almost too late. I come to You often. It doesn’t matter where I am, or if I’m far away from home. I can run to You anytime and anywhere. I am familiar with my place of shelter because I go there all the time on beautiful peaceful days, rainy days, scorching days, and days filled with all kinds of storms. I don’t have to clear the spider webs or worry about snakes that might have slithered in. It doesn’t matter how strong the storm is raging outside.

When I am with You, I am at peace. My spirit is calm because You are with me. You have warned us we will face storms in this life. It can happen in the blink of an eye. Yet all is well because I have a shelter that goes with me wherever I go. I’m prepared. Though everything around me may come crashing down, I live with You, Lord, and You are with me wherever I go. You are my “hidey hole” – my shelter, my love, my Lord and my God. I love my shelter with You!

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“I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”   Psalm 55:8

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.”   Isaiah 25:4

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.”   Psalm 27:3-5

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me to seek shelter with You by….

 

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Heavenly Father,

We are drawn to Your beauty wherever it shows up! I am especially drawn to flowers. It’s like opening a special gift You’ve given me just for today. This time of year, You surround us with gifts of Your beautiful love. Everywhere I look I see flowers with more unfolding flowers. Some are so vivid and spectacular they show up just driving by. Others need to be viewed for their intricate detail. Some don’t stand out from afar but how dainty and refreshing to get a close up view. Then there’s those who blooms we never notice, but the new growth feeds our souls. There’s something soothing and restoring about being surrounded by the earthly garden You have placed us in.

My horticulturist daddy started teaching me at a young age what is needed to produce a flower: sun, water and oxygen. Yet that doesn’t explain the thousands of species and varieties in the world. Even the same plant never produces the same exact bloom every time. How can there be so much varied beauty in this world? Each new flower, every tiny leaf, every molecule blade of grass is a tender love thought from You! It can only occur because of the life You’ve breathed into it!

Lord, I want to come to You first thing this morning. I want to soak up Your Son, drink from the Living Water and Breathe in Your Holy Spirit. There is no way I can thrive, grow or bloom without You. I know You will give me what I need on this day to produce whatever bloom is needed today. I know I wither, dry up and die without You. I chose to live abundantly, fully by coming to You to receive all I need to bloom where You need me to. I love You, Lord. Let Your love and life flow through me today to draw someone to You!

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“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon dressed in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”  Luke 12:27-28

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me, you can do nothing.”   John 15:5

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”   Revelation 21:23

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me be still and soak up the Light of Jesus today by…

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Heavenly Father,

With Spring here, I have a whole list of projects I would like to complete…painting the house, redoing the fence, painting the ceilings, building a new stone flowerbed, repairing a brick retaining wall… The list goes on and on. I can envision all these projects completed but there is never enough time. There are projects to do at home, at church, at work, at relative’s homes… Yet each of these worthy efforts take a back seat when I stop and spend time with You. It seems You always help me see more important priorities than just my planned projects.

Although it might make me feel good to complete something I work so hard on, to see something I planned work its way to a grand finale, I know those projects will not last forever. A drought could kill a landscape. The paint will peel. The fence will rot. I can recall pouring my energy and time into creating a wonderful landscape only to drive by after moving away and see everything mowed over. It is a fact how easy it is for one of MY projects to become too important. Maybe that’s part of the issue. It’s about me and what I can do! All my projects will not last forever…but relationships will!

Lord, help me seek to love first and foremost. After all, that’s what You call me to do. The two greatest projects (no- commandments) are to love You with all my heart, mind and strength…and to love my neighbor (everybody) as myself. Love takes time, energy, work, prayer, commitment, forgiveness… Father, help me be willing to invest more in relationships with You and others. Any projects I attempt to do without love are just empty and irritating… but anything that has love invested in it will last forever! Thank You that I am more than a project to You. Thank You, Lord, for loving me as I learn more about You!

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“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’”     Matthew 22:36-39

“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”   1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:1, 13

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”   John 13:34

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, All love flows from You. How can I show more love to You? To others?

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Heavenly Father,

I’m a huge believer in love…real love that lasts forever! In fact, there have been a few times in my life I have been honored to play a small part in matchmaking (putting 2 people together who ended up married!) There was those 2 friends from high school who went on a blind double date with us…the man and woman who attended the grief group I host (both grieving their spouses, who ended up together)…and even my son and daughter-in-law! (I guess you could say I played a part in all our children’s marriages since I was praying for their future spouses while they still feared “cooties” from the opposite sex! Now I’m praying for our grandchildren’s mates!) What a joy to see two people you love fall in love!

This weekend was a matchmaker set-up! My husband and I hosted a 24 hour Good Friday Prayer Vigil. From noon on Friday (when Jesus was crucified) until noon on Saturday, people came and went all day and all night. We set up a quiet room, complete with candlelight and no distractions. We urged people to sign up for a date with You for at least 30 minutes. We even provided conversation starters! Sometimes they were nervous beforehand about being alone with You. Some had been coming every year for 14 years and couldn’t wait for their annual special date! Every year, there are those who are afraid they won’t know what to say for 30 whole minutes. Often they end up staying longer because they don’t want to leave. We were so blessed to see the before and after effects. Some came in heavily burdened or frantic from the chaotic world…but when they came out, they had the glow of one in love. There was peace in their spirit and lightness in their step for they had been with You- the love of their life!

I love being a matchmaker! It’s not my job to make them love You, Lord. I just try to introduce them or provide an opening. Your love makes them fall in love with You! Everyone needs a love in their life that never leaves them, who helps them through whatever they must face, who sees them as they are and still loves them, who believes in them and encourages them, who challenges and comforts them…someone who they can go to and all is right with the world. You are truly the only one who can do that. Our sin and pride keep us from You…so You sent Jesus (the True Matchmaker) to lay down His life for us; to bring us back to You. He makes us bright and holy by His precious blood so we can not only have dates with You, but live with You now and forever! It’s a match made in heaven! I love You, Lord!

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“for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:4b-5

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.”   Revelation 19:7

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, thank You for showing Your eternal love through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection given for me! Help me show my love for You through…

 

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Heavenly Father,

One month ago my son and daughter-in-law who live in Arkansas called to tell us they were expecting their third baby! I was overjoyed- just as they were. One week later, they called back to say it was a miscarriage. I grieved with them though long distance. It was hard because they had already told their two other children. The kids had each used fabric markers to make a tiny shirt for their new baby. My granddaughter had been hugging and patting her mom’s tummy. It seemed like all their hopes and dreams were gone. This family turned to You together to help them through their loss.

They came to visit us this last weekend. The kids brought the little memory books they had made about their baby sibling they had hoped to hold, play with and tease one day. I was deeply moved by their drawings and thoughts. My daughter-in-law seemed to still be having physical issues with the miscarriage while they were here, so my son took her to the Emergency Room. After telling their story, the doctor ordered blood work and other tests. I waited up late to hear what they found out. When they came back, they sat down with a stunned look on their faces and blurted out, “We’re still pregnant…and further along than we thought!” With shocked voices, they explained how the ultrasound tech moved the scanner over her body and showed where her bladder and everything else was, then pointed at the screen and said, “And there’s your baby with a healthy heartbeat!” They both had to lean way over to see for themselves. What they thought was dead was fully alive! And they found this out on the week of Resurrection Day!

Holy Week leading up to Resurrection Day is always my favorite Holy-day. The greatest thing to ever happen is celebrated today.  When Jesus died on the cross, it seemed all hope was lost, but He overcame death for us …and is fully alive! He is born in us when we surrender to Him. His Spirit inside us grows until nothing can hold it back. How do I know He lives? I once was dead yet now I live a full, abundant, overflowing, ever-growing eternal life in You, Lord!

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“In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’”   John 3:3-6

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, H has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead…”   1 Peter 1:3

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Prayer Peek & Prompt-

Father, Let me be willing to die to myself so Your Spirit may give birth to new life in my spirit

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Heavenly Father,

I have to walk around my yard at least once a day this time of year…and keep my eyes open as I walk in the neighborhood or drive to work. You’ve planted surprises for me at every turn. A month ago everything looked drab and lifeless. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought everything was dead. But I’ve lived enough years to know that Spring comes every year! With it the beauty and joy of new life pops out of the most unexpected places. Who would have thought such bright and cheerful flowers would faithfully come out of the ugly Daffodil bulbs planted so many years ago…and that they would multiply so! The trees which lost almost half of their branches in the last ice storm are bursting out with fresh new green buds…and in some cases, vivid purples and pinks and even snowy white flowers.

The brown soil which lacked water most of the winter is now rich with moisture and little tiny shoots are pushing out with hints of lush green and white hosta leaves. There are even a few dark pink Azaleas starting to peek out of their dead-looking stems. It’s so exciting to watch new life unfold before my eyes each day. Even the squirrels and birds are jubilant, scurrying about getting ready for their own new life.

Father, thank You for the surprises You surround us with all the time! Give us eyes to not only see, but hearts ready to savor and thank You for those delightful blessings. There is no way we can produce any of this joyous life on our own. It is bestowed by You alone. It is ours to soak up Your Spirit like sap that rises inside us and brings new life and hope after the winter trials of our lives. It is no accident that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection this time of the year. What looked like death on the cross was actually new life being born and rising up in all who will accept and believe in You and Your Son- from whom all life flows. May Your Spirit burst out from me in joy unspeakable!

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“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seed to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”   Ezekiel 36:26

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

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Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me see Your life all around…and to receive the overflowing eternal life You have given me through Jesus Christ.

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Heavenly Father,

You gave me the most awesome pep talk this morning! I didn’t even realize I needed it, but I got it anyway! First I opened up an email from a fellow Christian writer who wrote about not letting excuses (like being too busy, too hard, or wanting to quit) keep me from writing what You put on my heart to share. Then I get a phone call from a friend who wanted to thank me for the turn-around in her life (all I did was point towards You! But that was big and that’s what it took!)…then I spoke on the phone to someone I care deeply for who is grieving. I shared the not-yet published manuscript for CHILDREN”S FOREVER MEMORY JOURNAL with them to use with their kids to make a memory book. They told me how much it helped the whole family.

Our preacher just finished a sermon series on Fighting for Your Marriage. He used the picture of a fighter in a ring who has an opponent, yet who also has someone in their corner to coach them, cheer them on, give them first aide and water. He was talking about a spouse, but he was also talking about the greater mystery of Christ and the church. This morning, I got a hard-hitting yet powerful pep talk from You. It was a reminder that I am never alone in the fight!

I will be in this ring, fighting against an opponent, until my very last breath. The low jabs, trying to hold me on the ropes or pin me to the mat, and painful punches to my body and soul may catch me off guard at times, but they will never knock me out! I have You in my corner. You sent Your Son to overcome the opponent once and for all. Jesus, who reigns victorious at Your side, is in my corner. He has already defeated the opponent and knows exactly how to help me overcome! Thanks for the pep talk, the living water, the encouragement, the direction, the refreshment, the reminder that You are with me and no one can defeat me. I will go back into the ring to fight the good fight in the most peaceful, loving way- with Jesus in my corner!

 

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“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28:19-20

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”   1 John 5:4-5

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Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, there’s no greater reassurance than to know You are in my corner! Am I in Your’s?