Sabbath Retreat

I came back from a week in the mountains with some great friends as well as some new men I haven’t met before. This was an incredible week to take time away and rest in the Lord, intentionally.

Sabbath rest is extremely important and it is a discipline that is overlooked. One of the books I was reading during this week was “Emotionally Healthy Leader.” This is an awesome book which forces you to look inside yourself and see how, through the grace of God, we can be better and more healthy leaders. This is a book that I would recommend.

In the chapter on “Practice Sabbath Delight,” Peter Scazzaro writes about a time when he visited a trusted friend. He was frustrated when the Christian leaders he taught all over the country preach about Sabbath rest and even say it is a great “idea,” would not actually practice a true Sabbath. Bob, his clinical psychologist friend told Peter, ““They can’t stop. If they stop, they’ll die. They’re terrified. They’re frightened to death of what they’ll see inside themselves if they slow down. And you want them to immerse themselves in things like solitude, Sabbath, and silent reflection?” He chuckled again. “Do you have any idea how foreign this is for any leader —Christian or not? Something so much deeper is driving them; they just have no idea what it is.” It was the penetrating truth of this statement that stunned me: If they stop, they’ll die. They’re terrified.”

Does this describe you? If I was honest earlier in my life and ministry career, I would have to say that that statement actually pinned me to a “T.” After all, why would I want to purposefully look into the depths of my character, passed mistakes, and anything else that God wants me to work on. My thought was “I can do this. I’ll spend time with God and make Sabbath as part of my daily life. But there was a problem with that mindset; I wasn’t discipline to take at least an hour away from “my day” when I “had to be productive and get things done.”

As I have learned and realized the importance, I try (not always though) to take a complete 24 rest from the work I have to do the other 6 days of the week and spend time to delight in God. This means I will rest from work (paid and unpaid) and only do the things that give me complete joy. Some of this includes spending time with family, more time for reading, prayer, reflection, play.

For the last few years, I have been going on week long men’s retreats to the mountains. During this time away (not off like we think of being off), I have learned how to structure my days so I can come back refreshed, joyful, and ready to get back into the work of life.

Each day I will take a minimum of 2 hours, and a maximum of 5 hours for reading, meditation on Scripture, prayer, taking a walk, etc. This is usually done by myself. The rest of the day I would spend time with the group and go hiking, go into town to walk or hangout. Basically, the second half of my day is play and spending time with friends.

I am not sure of your station in life, or what you are going through. But I would encourage you to take time every 7 days for a true Sabbath rest (not necessarily stopping work; but having no deadlines to focus on). If taking 24 hours to do this each week seems challenging, I would encourage you to take time to build up to it. Purposely plan what you will and will not do on your Sabbath time and just see how God refreshes your soul for the next 6 days of building relationships and your work.

After Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 6

What are your plans after you reach retirement age? Are we only working now so we can play and relax after we retire? I have come to the understanding that we have misguided ourselves when it comes to retirement.

Retirement is not simply quitting work and spending the rest of our life relaxing and doing nothing. This time is actually a gift. This is not the time to think we have “served our part,” or “I’ve done _______ for awhile, it’s time for someone else to do it.”

Growing older is a grand adventure. As we age, hopefully we are learning from our experiences and allowing God’s wisdom to sink into our hearts. I imagine it is easy to say it is time for “new blood” or “someone younger is better.” But this is the opposite of what we need to happen. The scripture focus for this week shows us, we should continue to respect and honor those older than us.

Take some time to read these words:

“Don’t correct an older man, but encourage him like he’s your father; treat younger men like your brothers, treat older women like your mother, and treat younger women like your sisters with appropriate respect. Take care of widows who are truly needy. But if a particular widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn to respect their own family and repay their parents, because this pleases God. A widow who is truly needy and all alone puts her hope in God and keeps on going with requests and prayers, night and day. But a widow who tries to live a life of luxury is dead even while she is alive. Teach these things so that the families will be without fault. But if someone doesn’t provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied the faith. They are worse than those who have no faith. Put a widow on the list who is older than 60 years old and who was faithful to her husband. She should have a reputation for doing good: raising children, providing hospitality to strangers, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in distress, and dedicating herself to every kind of good thing.” ~ 1 Timothy 5:1-10 CEB

Notice the first part, “encourage.” So, to complete this series, I would like to encourage two groups of people: those who have retired, and those who have not.

First, to those who have had the opportunity to retire: Thank you for all you have done to pave the way for new generations to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ now and in the future. Your commitment to following him in and outside of your workplace has been an example to us all and we value you. We do not view you as someone who is obsolete. Instead, we value your input, your wisdom, because God has done incredible works in and through you. God is still working and moving in and through you. Embrace this truth and continue to be beacons of light for us all. 

Second, for those working people. You have been given an incredible gift also. You and I have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ at work, at home, in the community, in worship. Take head of this special time. We do not work just so we can retire. We work to make an impact for the Kingdom of God here on earth right here, right now. We are able to do this because of the grace that God has bestowed. Look to the older people. Be sure to encourage and include everyone because you never know who God is using to connect with another person. Value the time you have at work and continue to foster growth in your relationships.

I pray God continues to be known all through your life. At home, in the community, in worship, and even at work.

Praise God for the incredible gift of work!

Amen.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Strong Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 5
If you are doing well at your job, or rather want to do well, there are trainings and seminars an employee should go to. These often talk about the “weak” areas that should be developed in order to perform better.
Think back to a seminar or training you attended recently. How much of it was trying to get improvement in one area or another? Many “self-help” books talk about this very thing: make your weaknesses your strengths.
Our scripture for this week comes from the book of Ephesians. This verse comes right after Paul telling the people they are saved by grace, God’s gift to us, which is something we could not have done nor can we boast about.
“Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.” ~ Ephesians 2:10 CEB
I have read several books and articles this year which talk about and teach leadership skills and management skills. Many employers and managers focus on what area of our work, our character, is not as strong as it should be. These are called “growing edges.” If we are not careful, we will begin to focus on the things that are “wrong” with us and forget to nurture the aspects that are “right” with us.
Each one of us has been given different gifts and talents. We cannot be like everyone else, nor can we expect everyone else to be like us. The gifts and talents we have, work with anothers’ gifts and talents. When we collaborate more using our strengths, we can, hopefully, find great harmony and see how much more will be done in a more joyful way.
I have a hard time continuing to work on what I am “weak” or “bad” at; but I love getting to work on and continue to nourish the areas God has given me strengths.
This week, I encourage you to take some kind of assessment to discover your Spiritual Gifts. You can also see what your strengths are. Some great resources for this are: www.spiritualgiftstest.com/test/adult
Work in your areas of strengths and give God the glory because “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.”
*Note: The concept for this series we first published on www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Off Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 4
We have been focusing on our lives during the working hours. This week, we have the chance to look at what it should look like when we are off work.
I am one of those people who loves my vocation. After all, I get to speak about Jesus Christ daily and do all I can to share his good news. This is a fascinating and joyful position to be in! There are times when I want to keep working on “church work” even in the evenings and nights. These are the times I have to force myself to stop and be sure to be fully present with my beautiful wife and children. This is the time of day when I should completely devote myself and attention to them. There are times when an emergency arises; but we take this in stride and still work to find a balance. To all the workaholics out there, including me, this week is especially made for you.
We live in a culture that makes access to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a great temptation to keep working and think everything has to get done everyday. We are constantly putting out fires. But I believe we all have to remember, the work will keep piling up. There will still be work tomorrow.
Sabbath rest is more important than we realize. We are more productive when we take at least one day off a week. This sounds like a contradiction, but it’s true! If we constantly go and go and go, and work and work and work, our bodies and minds do not have the time to recover.
In Genesis 2, we find that rest from work was the first full day of our human experience. Our rest and our relationships are what should give us the energy to be able to do our work with higher quality and purpose. A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “Shifting Focus” on this very topic.
Take some time to meditate on this passage from Genesis and see how God views rest in our lives.
“The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.” ~ Genesis 2:1-3 CEB
May we all appreciate the importance of real rest and embrace it.
*Note: The concept for this series we first published on www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Investing Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 3

This week, we are focusing on how we spend our time at work. Since this is where we end up spending most of our time during the week, how do we relate to those around us?

Yes, our families are the most important relationships; but the amount of time we spend with our co-workers is significant. This is an area of our lives that we can easily miss out on this incredible opportunity to be an influencer for Jesus Christ in the world, especially in the workplace. These are the people that really get us during the best part of our day. We have the chance to show people Jesus Christ everyday.

This week’s scripture focuses on the Apostle Paul and him investing in his coworkers by sharing life together and sharing the love of God through Jesus Christ.

“After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus. He had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul visited with them. Because they practiced the same trade, he stayed and worked with them. They all worked with leather. Every Sabbath he interacted with people in the synagogue, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks.” ~ Acts of the Apostles 18:1-4 CEB

When you read this scripture, what stands out to you? I invite you to underline or mark the words or phrases that stand out to you either in your Bible or printing this page out.

Paul invested in the work life, which transcended into personal life, of Aquila and Pricilla. Think of how their bond grew over time, especially sharing in gospel message of Jesus Christ. The concept of investing in the work and personal life is convicting for me.

We will spend 40-60+ hours per week in the workplace. In a 168 hour week, this is a huge chunk of time. We invest in our family and significant others in a lesser amount of time. In our day to day work, this is the absolute perfect time to share the gospel message through our words and our actions.

So now, the tough question. How are you and I going to be the example of Jesus Christ transforming our lives with our actions, our words, and our thoughts?

Investing in the lives of our coworkers can change the workplace entirely. The purpose of work will be more evident because just maybe, God has placed you in your workplace to make an impact for the Kingdom of Heaven with the people you work with.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Good Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 2

Last week, we focused on work being God given and how we have the opportunities to join Him in the restoration and redemption of the world. How has your week been different? Have you felt a greater sense of purpose for the work you do?

Our passage this week comes out of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Again, this translation is from the Common English Bible:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:13-16 CEB

What are some of the things you notice? This is one of those passages we seem to hear a lot, or at least I do. The part that is focused on is the final line, “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” We also hear about being the “salt of the earth.”

How does this apply to the workplace? We’ve already established we have been given the gift of work and we should do it to the best of our ability to give God the glory in all aspects of our life. Work is where we spend the majority of our time each week. We will go through highs and lows, frustrations and joys, separation and team work. This is the time of our week we have the opportunity to share the love and light of Jesus Christ to our co-workers (even if we work in a church). Not everyone at our work knows the joy, peace, and grace of Jesus Christ. So we get to show them by our actions, our words, and even how we think.

When I was younger, I used to love to put salt on my food. It didn’t matter what it was. Today, I have learned to cook the salt into the food to help the meat tenderize better and to give more flavor from the inside out. This is how I believe we should live out our work life as well. The joy of Jesus Christ in our lives shining through from deep inside us. This is how we let our light shine, how we can be the right kind of seasoning in the workplace. We not only do a better job because we are working to show the Kingdom of God; but our co-workers will also see a difference and seek to discover the joy of Jesus Christ in what seems to be the mundane and tedious work day.

Just as salt brings our the flavor of our food, we have the opportunity to generously share the love of God through Jesus Christ which seasons the atmosphere and souls around us and brings out the real person inside that God is working on.

Take this as a challenge: see how allowing the joy of Jesus Christ truly makes a difference in your life. Not just in Sunday worship. Not just at home. But when you are at work.

Be the salt and light in the workplace. It is possible because Jesus Christ is working in and through you.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Eternal Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 1

Have you been to a seminar to help you become more productive at work? Have you ever read books or articles on how to lead better at work? Many of us work hard to do better at our job. Yet, there is also a great number of people who do not find satisfaction in their work or think having to work is a kind of a curse for us.When we think about work it is almost as if we think our only purpose is to focus on doing a good job just to provide so we can get what we want and for our family. Then at the end of the day, we don’t have enough time or energy to “do good” in our community, in our world.

Work is not just something we endure so we can get ready for the weekend or vacation. Our work actually has a purpose. It is not a curse. It is God-given. This six week blog series is going to look at the eternal aspect of work. This blog will be published each Tuesday morning.Maybe we can gain a clearer focus so we can discover our purpose in work is actually to live out a life that gives glory to God in all we do and to steward the gifts we’ve been given.

This week, I invite you to read Genesis 2:5-15. Here is the passage as written in the Common English Bible:

“before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the LORD God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land— the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. In the fertile land, the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides into four headwaters. The name of the first river is the Pishon. It flows around the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. That land’s gold is pure, and the land also has sweet-smelling resins and gemstones. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It flows around the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris, flowing east of Assyria; and the name of the fourth river is the Euphrates. The LORD God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.”

What is the first thing you notice (besides the strange names that are difficult to pronounce)? I also have a picture of the Garden of Eden as a place of perfect paradise. This is a quiet, peaceful, joyful place because the presence of the Living Lord is tangible and fully experienced. 

This passage opens with the idea that there was no being created to take care of the garden. God formed out of the earth, a human, who was created to take care of, to work the land so it can continue to produce fruit and for people to live in perfect harmony with God Himself.

All of this happened before “the fall” in Genesis 3 meaning that God gave humankind the gift of work so we can partner with Him to take care of the land. Apply this to your setting. Your work is actually a gift from God. You and I have been given gifts and talents to do our work. We do not do this work alone. God is with us. When we think about partnering with God to work and steward the resources and people around us, how does this change your view of work?

Did you notice something else in the passage? Read the passage again.

“a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land” I find this very interesting. if we think about this, the water is coming up and nourishing the fertile land all around. Water brings life. Where is scripture does it talk about water bringing life? All throughout the New Testament! Jesus Christ is the Living Water in the world (John 4).

When Jesus was resurrected from the dead (John 20), Mary Magdeline thought He was the…gardener! Not only does Jesus Christ (Emmanuel – God in flesh) nourish the world, but He is also working the to restore the earth back to the original state of paradise. We get to participate in the redemption of the world with Him!

Everything we do at our work has eternal consequences. The way we treat those around us has eternal consequences. Our work is not just about getting the job done in order to play. Our work actually has a purpose. So whatever it is you do for a living, know this, you have partnered with Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world. Each person we come in contact in the workplace should know they also have the chance to partner with Jesus Christ in the restoration of the world.

How has your view of work changed now? 

“Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17 CEB

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

New blog post: “Lessons Learned From 16 Year Old Me”

I know everyone can look back on their life and see the lessons learned over the years. As I look back on my life, I realize that it was God using those time in which I learned the most valuable lessons to shape me into the person I am today. I am still no where near perfect; but I hope I am closer to the person God desires me to be than I was last year.

When I was 16, I was going for my first paying job, outside of mowing lawns, etc. So like every good small town guy, I applied at Walmart. Thinking about this now, 20 years later, makes me laugh. I remember when I was under 10 years old that the teens worked at Walmart in my small Texas town. This was the place I thought everyone needed to work at when they became a teenager. The time came. I walked in for my interview (several people were interviewing at the same time. I sat down. Right after I left the interview I was disappointed. I didn’t get the job!

Lesson number one learned quickly, be sure not to put all hope or thought into one strategy without thinking about other options. I had to learn how to handle disappointment rather quickly. Another lesson learned was how to lead and follow. Finally, I can look back at the losses and realize I have thankful for my life and where I am today.

Handling disappointment is something we all struggle to learn as we age. We will not win everything and that is okay. We are not meant to win or get everything we want. If we did, we would be the most spoiled people and not care about anyone except what we want and not think about anyone else’s needs / wants. This is something that we just really have to learn. We should remember that God has a great plan for our life and I have noticed that the things in life we get disappointed over may very well be the things that God does not desire for us to have or experience.

I remember very clearly the interviewer asking me, “do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?” and I gave the best answer anyone would give to make themselves look good. Say it with me. “Of course I’m a leader!” Now, at the same time, I heard another teen answering the same question. His answer has stuck with me to this day. “There are times when I am asked to lead, or I step up to lead. But there are times when I know how to follow. So, I am a leader and a follower.” It seems that following another person and trusting they know what they are doing puts us in a vulnerable position. We would rather be in a position of authority and tell people what to do. But this is not what true leadership, or wisdom, is like. True leaders are willing to allow another person to lead. Truthfully, I still struggle with this; even in my walk with Jesus Christ. I like to be in control; but I know there are people I can learn from and people I should let take the lead because of the gifts they have.

Following is also a challenge because the leader will not do things just like you or I would. That is a beautiful thing because then we can show we are learning from everyone. It is too easy to tell the leader what they need to be doing and how to do it; but I have learned we can learn to appreciate different styles of leadership by letting the people do what they feel should be done. There are many times when people look at me, I look younger than I am, and assume that I do not have the experience or knowledge to get the job done. There are times this bothers me; but there is also wisdom to listening. Could we all handle our conversations better? Absolutely. People will always assume they know more than me; but I am learning to thank God for the wisdom and guidance they are attempting to give, even if it is done in an inappropriate manner.

As I look back on my life, I am grateful for the lessons I learned as a 16 year old. Praise God I am where I am today. I believe that if I had chosen different paths in my life, I would not be married to my wife, the most beautiful and caring woman, today. Nor would I have the 2 precious children either. I know I still have a lot to learn. If we ever get to a place where we automatically assume we know how it do it better than another person, or we are smarter, we can miss out on great opportunities to see how God is leading.

Everyone of us will have opinions on what I have just written. And each of us has learned lessons through the years. I invite you to take time and think about some of your most life shaping times in your life and find a way to praise God for the person He is shaping you to be. What have you learned?

To God be the glory. Amen

Normal Life

Mark 10:1 “Jesus left that place and went beyond the Jordan and into the region of Judea. Crowds gathered around him again and, as usual, he taught them.”

This month we are looking at the 10th chapter in the Gospel of Mark. As we begin this new series, I invite you to open your heart and see what God may be speaking to you through the Scripture. (Click here for the sermon on Mark 1:1-16)

Reading through Mark 10 and you can see some difficult passages. Divorce, adultery, rich man told to leave behind possessions, figuring out who is the greatest and a blind beggar.

But today, we get to pause in the first verse.

Think about your normal day. What does it involve? Waking up, breakfast, going to work, lunch, going home, dinner, trying to relax, bed, and then start all over? Any memorable conversations?

I think what we do in our day to day lives is of more importance than anything we do. Our habits are formed, health, etc. These are the moments when we are living real life. Life is the little moments we do daily. We do not have to go out of our way to say we’re “living life.”

I love the line, “And crowds gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he taught them.” Jesus’ “normal” life was being surrounded by people. It was very hard to schedule who he could meet with because you never knew who would show up. But he did not let that stop him. His details he had to do each day were in the midst of talking and teaching people. He taught them about the Kingdom of God.

Imagine how our lives would be if we made this our priority. Everything we do would certainly give God glory (like Colossians 3:17 says it should); and we would lead people to see and experience the Living God.

Jesus’ “normal” day was not written in a schedule, it was being where he needed to be. We have our days scheduled, but what if the people we meet with and talk with are the very people God had scheduled for us to meet? Maybe we need to hear what they have to say. Maybe, just maybe, our normal day is more special than we realize.

Sharing Life

Today, we begin the final chapter in Galatians. This is a great chapter on how we should live in community with others in the faith.

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Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load. 

Throughout the letter of Galatians, Paul is speaking of a personal faith in Christ and how Christ gives individuals freedom. Now in chapter 6, the last chapter of this letter, Paul shifts his focus from the individual to the community. This should remind us that Christ is working in us personally, but Christ is also working through the community. I am not going to pretend that living in a community is easy; nor will I say it is peaceful. When we add other people into our lives, life becomes more, not less complicated. But, Paul is reminding us how we should live and encourage each other.

Paul reminds us that we should be gentle. Oftentimes we say that the other person needs to be told just like it is and it doesn’t matter how the words come out. They need to know they are wrong! This is true; but there seems to be a way to correct, but also build up so that the other person can become better. We can affirm the person’s strengths and good qualities, then we can speak of what went wrong. The end of verse one is something we should also keep in mind: Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. This reminds us that we are also susceptible for the same kinds of actions and attitudes as that of the person we are there to correct.

We do not live this life alone so. This statement by Paul reminds us how we should be with each other: Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. I think it is awesome, Paul found another way to say the simple phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the law of Christ. We should be the people who do not allow others to live, or think they live, this life alone; there are always people there for them even when life seems to go down the drain. But he also goes on to say, If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves.” To me, this means we need to be humble and not think highly of ourselves. Many times if we are trying to help someone in need, we want them to get the help they need, our way. It becomes hard to listen to a person who thinks they are more important than they are.

Conversely, we should not compare ourselves with anyone else. We should be the people who do our work to the glory of God, which means we do it as best as we can. Then, when our work is tested, we know for sure we did what we were supposed to do. We have our own work to do, so we must do our job and not add to other people’s work load just because we don’t want to do it.

Our faith in Christ gives us absolute freedom to be there for people, no matter how different they are from us, and to do our work the best we can. When we live in this way, we proclaim Christ with our entire lives, words and actions.

“LiveFreeInChrist

*photo credit: counselingoneanother.com