I Can’t Write Their Story

 

Once upon a time 

I reached for the steaming hot ducky felt rice bag for the umpteenth time.  “Thank you, son” I weakly whimper to my fourteen year old.

Lying helpless in bed is not the Mom-image I dream of being for my boys. In spite of the storybook family image I try to write for them over the years, I finally resolve, “I can’t write their story.”

While my youngest boy perfected the ability to stitch straight seams in his 8th grade class, I am certain he never imagined his Mom would be getting so much use from the ducky bag he made.

Up and down the stairs he runs as he takes care of me, commenting how the bag stinks now. Zapped so many times,the rice burns beneath the soft flannel duckies. I place the bag on my gut where bright red burns have created a design the doctor thinks may never go away.

It’s the middle of summer and I have spent weeks in painful misery and long hours in the E.R. I’ve experienced too many blood tests, cat scans and increased doses of ox-codeine than I care to count.

This is not the plan I envisioned for myself or family this summer. The boys and I were going to cook from Alton Brown’s cookbook together. I hoped they would teach me how to lift weights in the garage. I took for granted sitting in my lawn chair cheering on the soccer team, taking videos of their swim meets and watching them improve their stroke.

Instead, I am an absent mom and my husband has taken on the role of Mr. Mom in their summer frolics.

I certainly never planned to listen to the family laughing and splashing in the backyard or conversing around the kitchen table from the misery of my darkened bedroom. I roll over saddened, maybe even ashamed, as I watch my boys walk quietly past my door.

“Please take him out of the room” I whisper to my husband as he shuffles our boy with special needs away from his mom. I can’t bear the thought of him being confused or anxious as I groan and weep in pain.

“Feel… better…. Mommy” he carefully tells me.

This is not the perfect family story I wrote for my children. I don’t want them to have a helpless mom. They shouldn’t have to take care of me at their age. They shouldn’t have to completely care for themselves throughout the day.

I should be vibrant, energetic, interacting with them. I should.

I should be cooking for them and driving them for milkshakes.

I should.

I should.

Wrestling with pain…Wrestling with “should’s”… Wrestling with God…

He stills my heart.

He reminds me this is what I prayed for over the years. I ask the Lord to grow character in my boys, to make of them godly men. I ask Him to orchestrate opportunities for them to rely on Him in a deep and personal way.

This is their opportunity to experience disappointment, even fear and worry — then learn to lean on and listen to their Heavenly Father.  They need to witness the hand of God, to experience their own answers to prayer.

It’s what makes faith real.

On my sick-bed I relinquish to God my rights as Mom. I confess my delusions to control the fine details of my children’s lives. 

Jesus, You be their Master Teacher.

Step into my children’s lives when I cannot and should not.

A sickly Momma is not the image I create in their story. But, God is working with them to create His own story in their lives.

He weaves their joys, disappointments and life experiences for His own good pleasure.

I don’t want to get in Your way, so Lord I am letting go–again–today.

“Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him and expect help from Him,  He will never fail you”-George Mueller

Friends, it is almost a year since my surgery and diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. I have taken time to get my life back in order and enjoy a pain-free summer with the family. Now it’s time to share with you what God keeps trying to teach me at my bedside.

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Faith Conversations with my Teenage Boys

Despite the long hours this mom-on-the-go spends in her vehicle, and the uneasy sense of my rear growing four times its size as a result from sitting so long every day, I do enjoy van-time with my kids. The daily detailed stories, questions and practical faith conversations are shared freely in the confines of our cushioned metal cage. But recently I notice, the boys are more quiet in our daily drives. I wonder if its due to their teenage testosterone or if they are doing more internal thinking. But no, with one glance over my shoulder I understand its those darn smart phones. The addictive games and texts are pulling them in to cyber play, drawing them away from life’s in-the-moment interactions.

Beside me in the passenger seat sits my fourteen year old son. He is nurturing his new smart phone. To my dismay, this has become a common scene. His conversation of late has been centered around his praises and concerns for his new treasure.

“How is your precious?” I asked in a friendly manner.

Huh?

“I think you are going to make a great Daddy one day.” His face twisted in disgust as he looked at me curiously. “When you were a baby, your Dad and I loved holding you and patting you and talking to you and talking about you. We adored you.”

Yea?

He was still wondering where I was going with this.

“You seem to be nurturing your own precious cell phone that way. If you take care of your own children like your precious phone, you will also be a great attentive Dad,” I say with a voice of encouragement.

Oh. Uh-oh.

He got it. Similar conversations have taken place over the course of his young lifetime. It has been our parenting intention to model the futility of loving things–how easy it is to place the temporal above our love for God and others.

I pulled the van slowly into the garage and gently added, “All things will pass away, my boy. Only God and people last forever. Love them more than your technology.”

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Holding my loved ones loosely

Father and Son on their way to Mexico

 

Over the weekend, the driver in front of me kicked up a stone and cracked my windshield.  This is the third incident mucking up my new van in less than a year. I was instantly reminded how accidents even happen at home, while doing the mundane.

How many of us cling to our families and material things as though it will keep them safe from harm?

When our 12-year-old son left for the Dominican Republic on a mission trip a few summers ago, the popular response from my friends was, “Aren’t you scared?” The truth is I am more afraid of clinging to my kids and my fears so tightly, that I thwart the Lord from doing a mighty work in their lives. In spite of my Mama-fears, I must hold my loved ones loosely.

Friday morning I waved goodbye again to the same son (now 16 years old) and his dad as they left for a Spring Missions trip to Mexico.

This morning I said goodbye to my 13-year-old baby.  He is serving the local Salvation Army, homeless, and planting trees at schools downtown with his Junior High youth group.

 

Sweet Baby Dane goes off to serve

 

I was hoping to go with him, at least drive a van load of kids back and forth. But through a series of events, I lent my van to a driver I don’t know, to be filled with hyper junior high kids. The thought of a hole punched in the seat or a shovel scraping the ceiling has crossed my mind.  But, I must also hold my van loosely.

Stones will hit the window while I drive it around the corner, rust will destroy it, and thieves may break in and steal it. Scripture reminds me, “Where my treasure is, there will my heart be also.”  So, I handed over my keys as an act of worship.

I am left feeling a little lost this morning.  A.J. and I are home alone for the week. It’s a funky feeling when most of your family is gone and you are left tooling around on your own. Normally I would welcome the time to myself, but I am feeling as though a large piece of my heart is gone.

Honestly though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Opportunities abound for our kids to grow deeper in their walk with the Lord while serving the world.

So here are the strange prayers from a Mama learning to hold her loved ones loosely:

I pray they get dirty for God! I hope their fingernails get dirty from playing with children and planting trees.

I pray their bodies get smelly from living away from the conveniences of home but being filled up from serving the Lord.

I pray their hearts are broken as they encounter people who have so little. And their hearts stretched as they experience the joy of sharing the Good News and treating others as better than themselves.

I pray they build lasting friendships working side by side with like-minded kids. While they share in the work and the worship, I pray they would come back to their schools and sports teams and shine brighter together!

I pray they will feel uncomfortable or afraid, and step out of their comfort zone, take a step of faith, and watch God show up in personal and mighty ways!

When they feel tired and sore and lay in their sleeping bags feeling homesick, I am grateful they can’t text me. I pray they would lean upon God as their comfort and  provider.

This mom is holding her loved ones loosely today, trusting if I cling to my life I will lose it, but if I lose my life for Christ’s sake and the Gospel, I will save it (Mark 8:35).

I couldn’t have it any other way.

 

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I plan to ignore you

We had a snotty kid last night. He didn’t get his way and tried to make enemies out of all of us. The more we engaged him, the sharper his tongue became.

So, we disengage.

We call it “Planned Ignoring”: I plan to ignore you when you are unreasonable.

I know, this goes against our grain when a kid is disrespectful. We feel the need to stop them in their tracks. But, have you been in a  power play with a teen (or a toddler) who wants to be in control of everything? It is a lose-lose situation.

The mouthy attitude is an attempt to derail us; if we engage the word choices we are distracted from the initial issue at hand. So we plan to ignore the words –for now.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly,lest you be like him yourself,” Proverbs 26:4. I’m not saying my kid is a fool, but he definitely has his foolish moments—as do I.

We wanted to get away from him. But, the truth is, he needed to get away from the rest of us. So, he was sent to his room.

Calmly I said, “Go to your room now”.

Off he went while the rest of the family was able to continue on with dinner and homework and conversation.

The son who was silenced took out his phone weapon and began texting his attitude. The words were unkind for a usually kind boy. The words hurt.

But, we planned to ignore, “Answer not a fool according to his folly”. We had to give each other pep talks, “Don’t engage, wait until tomorrow”.

Engaging in the folly increases the fight and the need for both to win.

Waiting is difficult. We second guess ourselves in the recesses of our mind. But tomorrow, he will wake up calm. Tomorrow he will no longer be in fight-mode.

Early in the morning, I walked into his room and sat beside him in bed as I usually do. I played with his hair and spoke in a loving voice, “Are you up, son?” I rubbed his back. Love is unconditional.

When a child hurts a parent, a parent must love unconditionally. Besides, kindness is received unexpectedly when we know we deserve the opposite. Kindness heaps hot coals on our heads.

“I am taking your phone away for a few days”.

“Why?”

“You were disrespectful to your parents last night. You used your phone to send abusive messages.”

“I did?”

“You know what you did. You may have thought you could get away with talking like that last night, but you did not. There are consequences. You will receive your phone in a few days.”

Peacefully, I walked out of the room.

It was the right moment to address his folly, “lest he becomes wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:5).

Planned ignoring is difficult. Finding the right consequences to fit the crime is not always easy. But probably the hardest thing for me as a parent, is not reacting in anger or hurt feelings in the heat of the moment.

Someone has to remain in control of the situation, and it is good to have a plan—a team-parent plan—to remain calm, steady and focused.

I spent  the next 24 hours in prayer. I’m praying for wisdom in our interactions, praying our boy will have a repentant heart so he can grow forward.

I’m praying for the prime moments to instruct a child about responding with respect next time he is in the heat of the moment.

Are you interested in knowing more about “Planned Ignoring” or would you benefit from support in your parenting choices? These resources may help you:

“The Secrets to Modern Day Parenting” linking modern solutions to everyday problems. Series information: http://www.womangonewise.com/2012/01/12/bible-and-family-life-speaker/

Exceptional Families Coaching: Practical and personal coaching to support you and give you tools for a flourishing family life: www.exceptionalfamiliescoaching.com

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Protection for the teen mind

Have you been lying sleepless in your bed of late? Do pictures flash in your mind of your teenager racing his car in the streets or your daughter abusing alcohol and getting in sexual dilemmas at the parties she attends? We hold our breath and pray our children will survive the teen and young adult years. There are so many distractions for a young driver these days, they don’t have to be racing to be in danger. The “what if’s” are enough to make us crazy.

Dr. Daniel G. Amen offers validity to these fears in his book, “Magnificent Mind at Any Age”:

“Teens do best when their parents know where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Teens do best when they know their parents check on them. You need to be your teen’s prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that provides supervision, judgment, and impulse control), until they can properly monitor themselves. The prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until we are twenty-five years old, so even supervising young adults is appropriate.”

A parent’s job is not complete when their children are able to take the keys and live more independently. We get confused about our parenting role in this American culture. So, what can we do? Do we follow our children everywhere; hiding behind trees and trucks to spy on their every move? Do we attach a GPS to their cell phones?

Active parenting includes asking questions, checking out our teen’s plans, and supervising certain situations. But, we must also learn to give our teens growing independence and practical tools to make their own healthy, godly choices. If we are the ones making all the decisions for them and shielding them from life’s experiences, they will never learn from mistakes and struggles. But where do we begin?

A parent’s wise Christ-centered instruction helps to grow children spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. The instruction is deliberate. In Proverbs we read about the father teaching his son to get wisdom and instructing him not to forget it. He instructs his son not to turn away from his father’s words, but accept them fully. What are the results for the children who have been instructed and have chosen to honor their parents’ words? Wisdom will guard them and keep them from stumbling. Now that’s what a teen’s mind needs!

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight
Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away
from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.

Proverbs 4:1,5-6,10-13

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An anchor for a Dad

This is one of the many reasons Anker has backaches!  Yes, that is one of our boys about to stand on their Dad.

Soon after we were engaged, Anker took me to British Columbia to meet his grandparents.  I was looking forward to meeting another generation of God-fearing Ankers.  There on the porch stood his grandfather, saluting us as we drove up the narrow driveway.   Until this moment, I thought my fiance got his sense of humor from his Dad, but seeing Grandpa Christensen for the first time told me otherwise.   He wore a silly grin on his face and embraced us with love.  We were in their humble two-bedroom home for only moments when I realized the heritage of this faithful and loving family was about to be passed on to me.

A girl often dreams of what her husband would be like one day.  She talks and giggles with her friends about what kind of man and father he would be to her imaginary children.  What a wonderful gift to have the man of my dreams surpass my imagination.

Here is my tribute to the third generation of Anker’s and some of the reasons I am grateful for his gift of Fatherhood to our boys.

Coach:  Over the years he enjoys coaching the boys’  basketball teams,  and continues to be young  Anker’s coach in Special Olympics sports throughout the year.  He spiritually coaches many of the kids through the boys’ youth groups.


Adventurer:  Whenever the boys bring up any potty talk or rude behavior at the dinner table, it is good to be able to tell them, “Save it for backpacking”.  Anker loves taking the boys and their friends hiking and backpacking.  Getting bruised, dirty, digging holes for toilets, and floating in solitude on a hidden lake are the joys of Father and son bonding!

Playful:  This Dad is willing to try almost anything at least once.  He will put just about anything in his mouth, willing to dissect the eyeballs of the fish they catch, or mummify a chicken.  The boys enjoy the playful adventure of hanging out with their Dad!

Anchor:  His name means anchor, and so he is.  No matter how big these boys get, they know Daddy is willing to carry them.  He is my anchor, too.  I have been bitten one time too many while taking A.J. to the doctor for shots.  My anchor schedules his work day to take A.J. to dental appointments and blood tests in order to spare me from the bites!

When I am steaming over a school issue, I can always rely on his even-temper to handle the difficult phone calls to the school district when it comes to our special needs issues.  He is an active and equal parenting partner, and our boys benefit greatly because their Dad is deeply engaged in the things that concern them.

Anker and our boy building a square foot garden

Skill-building:  Anker is a do-it-yourself kind of guy, and brings the boys along to fix and make things.  Our boys are learning a strong work-ethic from their Dad, who wakes early to help me get AJ on the bus, works 11 hour days, and manages to adjust his schedule to make family the priority.   They are learning first hand what it means to “Work hard and play hard” because their Daddy lives it every day.

Anker and Cade building houses together on a youth mission trip

Spiritual Mentor:  He may never have received the award for “CFO of the Year”, but he has been nominated more than once.  It is an honor that embarrasses him, but we as a family are proud of the fact that his coworkers always state he works with great integrity and joy.  Anker’s life proves being a godly man, a family man, and putting the Lord first in every area of life is an honorable thing.  This is the kind of “success” I desire my boys to know.  I am so grateful they have a Dad who knows deep in his heart what matters most in life.

Each night since they were little, my anchor sits in the bedroom with his three boys, reading the Word, praying together, and discussing the things of eternity.  It is a constant in our home regardless of age or busy-ness, because he himself is anchored to his Heavenly Father.

Anker and the boys at "Take your child to work day"

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  I Corinthians 13  (NLT)

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Sorry Mom, but it was worth it

“Mom, I have something to tell you”.

I looked up at my youngest boy, grimacing as he often does.

“I put a dent in your van door.  You can’t see it much, but I did it.”

Sometimes I can’t tell what the truth is with that little grimace of his.  “Are you joking?”

“No.”

As we stepped through the hall the self-talk began, “Stay calm, Bonnie”.  The Spirit of God reminded my heart, “It’s only temporary”.

I glanced at the van and the first of many dents which will remain unrepaired.  Then I gathered my thoughts, “I have 3 things to tell you”.

My son leaned against the van as the words came calmly.  “First, thank you very much for telling the truth.  I appreciate that.  You made a good character choice.”

“Second, just because I forgive you doesn’t mean you can start bashing our belongings around and- -“, his defenses began to build and he interrupted with his reasons why the dent occurred.

“Wait quietly please while I finish”.  He stood up straight as he uncharacteristically zipped his lips.

“Third, even if we take super good care of this van, do you think it will get many dents and scrapes over the years?”

“Yes.”

“I think in about 20 years this van is going to be a piece of junk.  But in the years to come, I am certain you will never become a piece of junk.”

He giggled.

“I think this van will be like all of our other belongings, they will rust or rot and get pretty crappy.  But you won’t.”

He began wiggling, giggling and loosening up while he listened.

“Jesus says all of our material things will pass away, but people and the Word of God will last forever.  So what do you think means more to me, this shiny new van or my boy?”

His cheeks rose high as he smiled a confident smile.  “I do”.

We turned back into our home and he ran upstairs giggling uncontrollably.  His heart was filled and affirmed with his Mama’s unconditional love.

He shouted from the top of the stairs with a voice bubbling over in joy, “I’m sorry Mom, but it was worth it!”

My heart was filled with its own joy.  I may even be thankful for a tiny little dent which helped a tender heart grasp a huge eternal perspective and a deeper knowledge of being loved.

 

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The big picture: alcohol, role models and me

Twelve years old and running free; I was a preteen, just beginning to formulate my thoughts about life, the world and who I would become.  I spent most of my free time hanging out with friends, and one friend in particular whose mom spent a lot of time hanging out with us.  She was cool, available to listen, and she introduced me to Miller beer.  As I look at the bigger picture in hindsight, she was depressed, an alcoholic, and her daughters were following along in her footsteps.

A larger percentage of American parents are providing their teens with alcohol.  “Half of Australian adults and 63 per cent of Australians on a higher income believe 15 to 17-year-olds should be allowed to consume alcohol under parental supervision at home, according to the latest MBF Healthwatch survey.”  Science Daily* (links provided at bottom of post)

 Studies show teens who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin drinking at 21.Alcoholism is the leading cause of death in teens.  It contributes to drunk driving, date rape and violence. Teens today are reporting they are drinking to relieve stress.*  (Does that sound familiar?)

Educators, healthcare professionals and parents are always discussing what we can do to address this crisis of youth at risk.  But there’s one part of the discussion that isn’t easy to bring to the table.

Part of the big picture: our subtle messages

Recently I volunteered with a group of moms to coordinate a lunch for our high school students on campus.  A suggestion was made to make virgin alcoholic drinks for the students.  The moms were in agreement over the idea.  But I was the stick in the mud.  I was concerned with the big picture.  What message are we sending kids if we cannot even have a school lunch without considering an alcoholic drink-virgin or not?  “Here’s your cocktail, Jake.  I know it’s just a virgin drink, but when you are older you will be able to have real fun and drink like a real man.  By the way, don’t drink at Prom”.

There is a growing trend in our culture-it is also growing in the body of Christ-to have an alcoholic beverage with every social event, every restaurant visit, every game on television, every Friday night, every barbecue, and even while visiting our friends during kid’s playgroup.  Now before you get defensive, I am not about to condemn you.  I am not going to tell you alcohol is evil.  I don’t think it is.  But I am asking you to weigh the decision of the measure of alcohol you welcome.  Consider its power and message in your life.

The bigger picture:  You are being watched

You may have great discussions with your kids about drinking responsibly.  But if you are one of the many adults who say “Hoot! Hoot! It’s margarita time”, you are sending a message to your kids.  Your actions speak louder than your words.  Every time you are with your peers are you “Hoot! Hooting!” about the drinks that will be with you?  Every time you have a social event or go out for a fantastic dinner-must the alcohol be front and center?

Our behavior is a powerful teacher.  It speaks messages without words.

In essence our behavior is saying, “If you want to have a good time, good friends, and good dinner, alcohol must be part of it”.  And our kids-who can’t wait to be adults-learn they really can’t have a good time without it.  It doesn’t matter what you say about it, your actions are speaking volumes.

You may be saying, “Oh brother, Bonnie” or something worse by now.  But consider it.  Do you or do you not believe in the unspoken messages of powerful role models?

Kids sneak alcoholic drinks for many reasons.  Will you consider one of the reasons is the message we portray, “In order to have a good time, you need a drink”?  Why wouldn’t they want to be drinking as teens?  Our actions say its what people do when they get together with friends, and without it they are depriving themselves.

The bigger picture:  You have a weaker brother

We have a society filled with recovering alcoholics, addictive behaviors, families hanging by a thread due to alcoholism and broken hearts who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers.  These individuals exist in your family, your work place, your neighborhood, your church.  Do you know who they are?  You may know some by name, but you likely have no clue how many more wounded people are in your life.

We don’t know who might be one drink away from becoming an alcoholic.  We don’t know who has been devastated by alcohol.  But the Holy Spirit does. He knows every one of their names and He has the bigger picture in mind.  It’s why Paul says, “If I can thank God for my food and enjoy it, then why let someone spoil it just because he thinks I am wrong?  Well, I will tell you why.  It is because you must do everything for the glory of God.  Even your eating and drinking.  So don’t be a stumbling block to anyone, whether they are Jews or Gentiles or Christians.  That is the plan I follow too, not doing what I like or what is right for me, but what is right for them­. so that they can be saved”. (I Corinthians 10:30-33)

Have a discussion with the One who knows the bigger picture

My decision to drink or not to drink should not influence your decision.  It is up to each one of us to sit quietly with Jesus and listen to His direction.  The problem is, I don’t think we do.  If each of us were listening to His direction, I hold the opinion that less of the body of Christ would be drinking as liberally as we do.

As you listen, He will tell some of you to go ahead and have a social drink.  He will tell some of you to use more discretion.  He will tell others to stop drinking all together.  As a follower of Jesus and not of the world, will you ask Jesus to clearly tell you what He wants you to do?

Is there a weaker brother I need to consider?  God may not tell you the name, but He may whisper to you, “Yes”.

Am I being a stumbling block to anyone?  Ask God if your social drinking is causing anyone–of any age–to stumble.

Am I relying upon drinking instead of relying upon You?  Invite God to search your heart.  Do you rely on a drink to relax you, loosen you up socially, or to fit in, more than you rely upon Him?  Then it has become an idol.  (I gave up Coca-Cola when I realized I made it an idol.)

It is the season for proms and graduations.  Saturday I will serve my shift for Sober Grad Night until 1:30 a.m., another shift of parents will volunteer until 4:30 a.m.  I don’t know what my little picture job is for the night, but my big picture job is to do my part to protect and raise a culture of mentally, socially, spiritually, physically healthy kids.

Sometimes the big picture compels me to give up my sleep (1:30 isn’t easy these days).   The big picture compels me to give up “what I like and what is right for me”.  It’s part of being a disciple and that big picture job is to be salt in this culture.

P.S. If you want to look deeper, here are some sites and verses to check out:

Many parents encourage underage drinking, Australian study finds This article talks about teen alcohol consumption and its effects on brain development

Teenage Drinking Statistics and Information.  This site includes practical ways for parents to communicate with their children regarding alcohol.

Ephesians 5:15-21 – Passage Lookup – New International Version – BibleGateway.com.

1 Peter 2:16-17 – Passage Lookup – New International Version – BibleGateway.com.Sometimes we misuse our “freedom” in Christ.  We need to check our hearts with this one.  See also 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – Passage Lookup – New International Version – BibleGateway.com.

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