Slowing Life Down

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A New Journey

A new journey will soon begin in our lives, one where we are deeply seeking to leave the fast paced world behind us and seek a slower life where we can connect with God’s beautiful creation on a daily basis.  We are both excited and nervous about what the future holds.  Yet, we know that God wants us to want less and seek him more.  So, we are on a mission to have and need less in our lives.  (FYI- Everything is for sale).  The next phase of our lives will be to let more of the worldly things go and seek God in his creation.  “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” 1 Colossians 1:16.

Why?

Why?  Some people do ask us about our decision to explore God’s world.  We feel a deep calling to let the hustle and bustle of this world go and seek the beauty while we are able.  There will always be time to work and we will continue to world remotely as we can, but we know that this is the time for us to go.  We have watched God work over the past several months to ensure our decision is the right one.  We have followed the path God laid before us when we were young and we have been blessed. Our careers have been fulfilling, our children are grown and independent and moving on with their lives.  We are proud of the young women they have become and their hearts for the Lord.  We have followed the path God laid before us so long ago when we met back in 1986.  “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”  Acts 2:28.

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Peaceful/Slower Life

Today we feel a calling to a more peaceful life where we are in control of our destiny and day to day life.  Where we can seek the peace of God more diligently each and every day.  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  1 Timothy 2:1-2.  Although, we have made the decision to this by traveling either by water or land, each of us can slow down and live a life that is more focused on God and less on the worldly things of this world.  Dive into prayer and seek your Father.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

Closing Verse:  “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

Challenge: Seek a slower more peaceful life and don’t miss out on God each and every day.

New Body…New Life

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Celebrating Life

This past weekend we laid my mother in law to rest.  The funeral was such a celebration of her life and I am thankful for friends and family who came together to celebrate her.  I can smile again thinking about her life and knowing that she has found a new home in heaven.  Last week I was mourning while watching the slow and painful stages of death. My heart was broken as I watched her through nine long days and I longed for her to find peace with her Father in heaven.  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18.  I could only ask each day over and over -Why is she hanging on?  Others around us asked the same question or Who was she waiting on?  I am not sure and we may never know, but a friend did share that God would not take her home until her purpose was complete.  “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,” Job 14:5.  We may not know her final purpose yet, but I do believe there was a purpose in the last nine days of her life.  May God’s Will Be Done.

Party in Heaven

Last week I could only mourn her end and how heart wrenching it was to watch, but now I can celebrate her life and knowing that she is “partying” in heaven.  (We told her everyday that she was going to be late for her party).  I know that at her party she now is new and alive.  “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” John 11:25.  Her frail and worn body has been replaced with a heavenly body promised by God in 1 Corinthians 15:54, ” When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:  “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

God’s Promise

Scripture brings so many promises to believers of what God has done, is doing, and will do.  God provide the perfect sacrifice in his son Jesus Christ, so that through death we now can find life.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  While we walk through this earthly life longing for our home in heaven, God is preparing a place for us in his house.  John 14:1-3 provides us with this promise, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”   So I walk now more confident in my future and in the promises God has made because I have victory in Jesus – ““O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.  Death has no hold on me anymore because Christ conquered Death.  I fear not.  “And the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”  Revelations 1:18.

Closing Verse:  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4.

Challenge:  Walk each day in the faith that this earthly world is not your home.

 

Sometimes There Are No Words…

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Mourning

This week has been a hard week and I know that I have words to write but they are just not ready to come, so I wait on God just as I have done this past week.  I have waited for God to call my mother in law home and into his glory.  I pause to mourn the woman who brought my best friend and life partner into this world.  She went home this week, and I am so happy that she with her Lord and Savior.  Yet, I am sad that she is gone from this earth.  So, I must take a moment to celebrate and mourn her.

Sherry Benfield Long – June 5, 2018

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Closing Verse:  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Challenge:  Spend each day loving others and living life because it is far too short.  We will miss you Sherry.

MY MOM

As I mourn the passing of Sherry, today I celebrate my Mom and her birthday.  I am blessed to have a Mom who has taught and loved me into the woman I am today.  Thank you for all you have done!  Happy Birthday!

 

#ITSPERSONALl

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Personal

My family is a family of educators.  Our history is full of educators, but I will not bore you with all the extended details.  “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Colossians 3:20.  I do want to share my direct line:

My Grandmother (Father’s Mother):  Swanee

My Father:  Alfred

Me:  Allie

My Daughter:  Hannah

We are a lineage of public educators and I can remember some of my parent’s struggles growing up, but I know there was nothing else my father should have been doing except loving students.  He  was a middle school physical education teacher, a coach, and an administrator at all levels.  People to this day continue to tell stories about his love for his job, other educators, and students.  I followed his footsteps as a high school English teacher and finally as a middle school school library media coordinator.  I found my passion!  I love this age!

Now, as I near the end of my career, I pass the passion torch to my daughter who chose a harder yet fulfilling path.  She loves her students deeply as she walks each day through the doors of a low performing school with low income students.  She loves and cares for sometimes their physical needs, sometimes their mental needs.  She celebrates their successes often and cries with them when they struggle.  So yes, Public Education is personal.

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#RedForEd

Last week the country watched a unified effort as North Carolina educators stood up for their students.  I am sad to see how others view educators.  I know the evening news shows the bad most of the time in education, but the majority of educators come to work and love their “kids”.

I have seen teachers:

  • Buy clothes and sew clothes for students
  • Buy formal wear
  • Buy food
  • Provide snacks, breakfast, and lunch money
  • Get students medical services
  • Tutor on their own time after school or at the public library
  • Buy school supplies not just for their classroom but individual students.
  • Be parent stand-ins
  • Travel to watch and support student’s passions

These are just a few of the things I know teachers have done for their students. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.  Honestly, schools nor educators are financially able to meet the needs of some of our students.  I firmly believe the majority of educators want better for their students and classroom before themselves, but even educators deserve better.  Yet, why don’t we want better for students and their teachers.  ”

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11.

I pray our “elected leaders” in both parties are doing more than listening because as our family motto goes, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”.  Act for our students and the educators who love them.”

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”  Proverbs 1:5.

My Favorite Teacher

Jesus was our great teacher.  “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”” John 3:2.  His example is one I see in so many teachers.  Think about your favorite teacher, I know that when I compare mine to Christ, I see clearly God’s work.  When I think of some of the great teachers who touched my life, I remember characteristics such as service, discipline, loving, passionate, and caring.  All of these are characteristics of Jesus Christ, My Savior and Great Teacher.  Yes, I believe teachers are the some of the strongest people I know.

Closing Verse:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”  Matthew 28:19.

Challenge: Volunteer in your local school.  They really need you in the coming weeks.  Go and see God’s work.  There is nothing better than touching a child’s life.

#WatchGod

God continues to show his grace.  God continues to bless.  God continues to allow this person to shine.  My prayers continue for God to bless and show his love in this person’s life.

All Creatures Great and Small…

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Fear

Harley is a beggar because she is so afraid of missing a meal.  We have cared for her for 9 years now, yet each morning and afternoon she prepares to remind us to feed her.  Harley lives with the constant fear that she will not be fed, and no matter what I don’t think I will ever ease this fear.  Watching her fear and anxiety is a strong reminder that I need to believe that my Father in heaven will care for me and not be fearful of the future.  He will provide for my needs.  “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4.

I experienced another example of fear this past week, and I am not sure who was more fearful the baby bluebirds, the babies parents, or me!  I came home from work to find our bluebird house on the ground practically upside down.  Apparently, one of the men mowing our yard hit the fence and caused the house to fall.  I knew baby birds had recently hatched because the Mommy and Daddy bluebirds had been working non-stop to feed their young.  “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26.

Caring

My husband found me in tears and jumped into action.  His caring not just for me but the babies was touching and appreciated as I struggled not to just fall apart.  His love for both reminded me of my Father who cares for me like the birds of the air.  ” He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.”  Psalm 147:9

After he put the house back up and even checked and knew the babies were alive, he consoled me while sharing the reality that the mom and dad might abandon the nest.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35.

Praying and Singing

I watch the rest of the evening only to see no activity.  I laid in bed that night thinking about the babies in the nest and knew that sometimes this is the cycle of life, but how lonely and frightened the little ones must be.  I prayed for the Lord to care for the babies.  ” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

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The next morning sitting on the back patio sipping my first cup of coffee, momma bluebird arrives to feed her babies.  Soon daddy bluebird follows and the chirping fills my heart.  All is right with the world again.  “Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. ”  Psalm 104:12.

Spread Your Wings

Two days later – early in the morning mommy and daddy bluebird are still hard at work, and the chirping is growing louder and stronger.  I know that they will soon be spreading their wings to fly.  “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

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I will be sad to see the babies go but happy that more bluebirds will soon fly and sing upon our earth.

Closing Verse: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7.

Challenge:  Live your life knowing that God is in charge and will care for you just as he does the birds of the air.

#WatchGod

Another week and I continue to see smiles across the face of the person I am praying for daily.  I know that life is not great at times, but I can see areas where happiness and success are claiming her life.  Praise God!

#WatchGod

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Loving Others

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34.  I am beginning a May Challenge that I read about recently,  and will be sharing my journey each week in my blog post.  I am sharing the challenge now hoping that readers will join me and share their experiences with me and others.  I want to hear what happens!  So……

Challenge

Here is the Challenge:

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Choosing Someone to Love

As a sidenote, I keep prayer cards one for each person that I pray for each day.  This is a tip I learned in a life group reading and discussing the book, A Praying Life by Paul L. Miller.  I feel lead to choose someone not on my prayer cards.  This might have been the greater challenge because I have a lot of prayer cards!

I looked around me at others who touch my life for that person that God was calling me towards.  That person who needed something, and then God place him/her in front of me.  “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24.

Challenge Begins

I begin my 30 days of prayer for this person today.  “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  I can not wait to share what I see God doing in his/her life each week!  If you accept this challenge please share what God is doing through your prayer life for this person.  Join Me in #WatchGod.

Closing Verse:   1 John 4:19-21 “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Challenge: Ask God to provide someone for you to spend 30 days praying for.  #WatchGod

He Lives

Reflection and Fast

Today is Good Friday, the beginning of our Easter weekend and the culmination of Lent.  This has been a time of reflection and fast for many.  This time of year causes me to just pause and evaluate my life and relationship with Christ.  I choose to give up a little something to only slightly feel the impact of what Christ had to sacrifice for me.  His sacrifice is one that I alone can never match, but my walk here can be for him!  In the words of Paul found in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Celebrate the Life of Jesus

My words will not be the words that should be typed or read this weekend.  Stop and read the resurrection story and celebrate the sacrifice and love Christ had for us all!  This story can be found:

Mark 16

Matthew 28

Luke 24

John 20

Each is story is  powerful and shares how much Christ loves each one of us.

Renewal

Easter is like a New Year.  I feel a sense of renewal.  A reminder of my walk and relationship and an opportunity to make it stronger.  Let the gospel work.  I pray you stop and read.  Stop and Listen

Closing Verse:  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:  25-26

Challenge:  Find time to reflect on Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Sometimes I Wonder Why?

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Why?

This past week I was reminded of God and how he works in my life.  I move through life and forget sometimes how much control he really has in my walk.  How he cares for me and others around me?  This week he reminded me once again of his presence in my life. “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” John 14:20.  I stood in a moment when I knew that God had been at work.

Skip it or not?

I have to honestly admit I was dreading something this past week.  The snow at the beginning of the week made it even more desirable to skip out on a promise I had made, but I knew I had given my word so I plunged forward.  I guess I felt my heart strings being pulled and did not even know why.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.  That is the work I saw from the Lord this week.  He used everything to bring good not just into my life but to those around me.  I am not sure if those with me realized the impact but this day did not pass me by without knowing that God had been in full control and done his good work.

Where God is?

Now looking back from the other side and knowing that I almost did not go, I can see God’s full plan and the blessings he provided for me.   I thought I did not want to go, but now I know that I would not have missed it for the world.  What I thought I was going for had nothing to do with the lesson that God taught me that day.  Where was God?  He was in an unexpected place where I was not looking, yet he reminds me to look every where for him.  “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13.  Maybe it was a slap in the face to remember that I am to be seeking him, but when I fail like this past week he will seek me.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Closing Verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own           understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Challenge: Seek God first in all that you do, but know that he will seek you in a place you might least expect it.

Celebration in Heaven

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Saying Good Bye

Over the past week or so, I have watched the country say good-bye to a man who believed in the walk to Heaven.  He has preached to Louis Zamperini and was known as the Pastor to the Presidents, as he prayed and advised many.  He has loved so many people and so many have been touched by his passing.  Even as he made his last trip from Montreat, NC to Charlotte, NC, the roads were lined with so many people who needed to say goodbye.  I struggled to watch news report about him because for some reason losing him has brought forth in me so much emotion.  I did not know him or his family, but he was just a person who seems to easily connect with people – thousands and thousands of people.  This past Sunday night, I watch the short documentary and just cried, but I know that living or dead, Billy Graham belongs to God.  “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”  Romans 14:8.  It feels like the world has lost something good. Someone who found the good when there seems to be so much hate.  Rev. Billy Graham personally touched me at a trying time in my young life with his words, and for that I am thankful.

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Zola

In November of 1987, I said another goodbye that caused more pain than I had felt in my 19 years of life.  My grandmother, Zola Williams White, passed away.  She was such a role model for me, and I saw and knew her love for Christ.  What she and I failed to do was talk about death and her not being in my life one day. What would that be like?  I was a Sophomore in College, I needed to know where she was or if she was.  Seems strange to tell this story now, but back then without a laptop, smart phone, etc to do simple research, I began a journey to find some answers. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

(my grandmother)

Heaven

This journey began by finding Christian bookstores and visiting each looking for answers about Heaven.  I looked at so much material.  I read many, but we all  know that there is not really an answer to be found.  I have to stand in my faith just as she had done for some many years.  I know looking back she was not afraid, but where I found my comfort was in a book written by Rev. Billy Graham.  Facing Death and the Life After was published in 1987 released just about the time of her death.  I feel like it was written for me, and reading this book began a turning point for me to walk in faith after being so angry with God about losing her. I realized that Heaven is a place that Christ promised us while on Earth.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  John 14:2.  I long to be there.

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Goodbye is not Forever

So watching the funeral and events leading up the funeral have been painful knowing that a great man of God is not among us anymore, but how happy heaven must be to have Billy Graham home.  One day I pray that I meet Billy Graham in heaven standing along side my grandmother who I know is loving both Christ and Billy today.  How do I know?  God’s Word Tells Me -“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119″105.

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Closing Verse: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Challenge:  Christ is challenging us to follow him and walk by faith.

 

Blessings

We pray for blessings 
We pray for peace 
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep 
We pray for healing, for prosperity 
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering 
All the while, You hear each spoken need 
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things 

Prayers

Funny how when life just seems crazy and full that a simple song will remind me to stop and get my priorities in order.  What is the best way to get my priorities in order than to find myself on my knees in prayer.  Prayer is one of those really personal times when I connect with my Father and share my life with Him.  I share both the blessings and the struggles.  I share my physical and emotional needs and for God to hear even the unspoken prayers in my heart.  As I listened to the song, I really began to think about my prayer life and my relationship with Him.  He promises to provide for all my needs, but sometimes I do not see my needs the way He does.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you

will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will

put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,

and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more

value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour

to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…”

Matthew 6:  25-34

We pray for wisdom 
Your voice to hear 
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near 
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love 
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough 
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea 
And long that we’d have faith to believe 

Alone

I do pray for wisdom, but not just for me but those around me, for those leading me, and for those who are struggling to know and feel God in their lives.  Sometimes I feel like he is not near.  I feel abandoned and alone, yet I know that He is listening to my cries.  This is when my faith is tested.  I cling to the Word and its truths.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1.  I read and remember the promises made in the Word.  I strengthen my faith, find my priorities, and feel his blessings by turning to prayer and His Word.  “But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28.

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops 
What if Your healing comes through tears 
What if the thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near 
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise 

Jesus, My Example

Remembering that he did not promise that our lives would be perfect and easy in this walk.  Jesus who is my example did not walk an easy road.  “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18.  As a Christian I have to look for the Lord in the trials, the tears, the raindrops, and even the sleepless nights. These are the times when I do need and feel him close to me.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

When friends betray us 
When darkness seems to win 
We know the pain reminds this heart 
That this is not, this is not our home 

Heaven

Even when the trials seem to be winning and the darkness in this world begins to cover my light, I long for my home resting in the arms of my Lord and Savior.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2.  I long for the peace that he will give me.  I long for the rest that will come when I walk along side him in heaven. ‘And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”’  Luke 23:43.

What if my greatest disappointments 
Or the aching of this life 
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy 
What if trials of this life 
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights 
Are your mercies in disguise

Blessings

The great reminder that this song, “Blessings” by Laura Story,  provides for me is found in Romans 8:28, ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I believe that even the disappointments, the aches, and the hardest nights are providing me with a thirst for a life beyond this world by providing “mercies in disguise”.

Closing Verse:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  2 Timothy 4:7.

Challenge:  Get your priorities straight and seek the Lord.