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Posted on Jun 21, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 8 comments

The Need for Speed

The Need for Speed

I love to drive.  I began driving when I was around eight years old.  Rather than going on a family vacation that year, my parents bought us a little four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle (ATV).  We lived out in the country with plenty of land and I made good use of every square inch of it, whizzing around trees and over hills.  The faster I went and the more things I jumped over, the better. 

When I turned fifteen, Mom took me to the DMV in her mini-van to take my driver’s test for a learner’s permit.  Two weeks later, I was eligible for a restricted driver’s license, but Mom and Dad made me wait a while longer.  The wait just about drove me nuts.  I wanted my license so badly.  When Mom finally took me back for the driving test, I was ecstatic.  I walked away with that precious piece of plastic with the horrible picture on it as proud as could be.  I was allowed to operate a vehicle by myself during daylight hours and with an adult after dark.  When I turned sixteen, the after-dark restriction was lifted and I was FREE.

My parents bought me an orange Ford Fiesta that was as old as me.  I was assured by my parents that if I ever got a speeding ticket, my car would immediately be taken away from me.  I was also assured that if my grades weren’t good, if I talked back to them, or if I got into any trouble of any kind, my car would be GONE.  It was a good deterrent to getting into trouble, but I still believed I was invincible and had no intention of driving slow.

I’m not sure how I kept from getting a speeding ticket.  I got pulled over for speeding on a fairly regular basis.  I was used to the four-wheeler, where the point was to go as fast as possible around anything in my path for the thrill of it, and I didn’t realize that wasn’t a good policy for driving a car.  My car was a little orange torpedo!  But somehow, every time I got stopped, I was merely given a warning.  One highway patrol officer who stopped me on the interstate spoke very firmly to me and didn’t let me go until I understood the impact one of those eighteen-wheelers could have on my little tin can of a car.  I’m grateful for that man today.  He really did slow me down quite a bit, at least on the interstate.

I still like to run as close to the maximum speed I can get away with on a daily basis.  If I’m in a hurry, then I push it a little further.  But a few months ago I heard that still, small voice of God whispering in my ear, “Slow down.”  I tried to ignore the feeling, hoping it would pass.  But it was like God’s face got closer to mine, right beside me, and again the whisper came, “Do you trust Me?”  If I turned my head fast enough, I was sure I’d be able to catch a glimpse of Him.  That was how real the voice was to me.  I thought the question of trust was a little odd, considering that we were talking about driving too fast.  But the answer to His question was, “Yes.  I trust You.”  And so I slowed down. 

I often travel on a highway where the speed limit is 55 mph.  Other highways in Nashville have a 70 mph speed limit, but not this one.  I typically run in the left lane, going as fast as the cars in front me will go.  The first time I set my cruise control to 55 mph, everything inside of me rose up, screaming and crying like a two-year old who has been told to take a nap when everyone else is playing games.  Cars were flying by me, practically honking as they passed, totally annoyed by my slowness.  I wanted to scream out the window, “I know!!!”  I tried to go a few miles over the speed limit to be less obnoxious, but the question returned, “Do you trust Me?”  Grr….  So I dropped back down to EXACTLY 55 mph.  Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, frustrated beyond belief, I poked along.  Inside I was about to boil over in total frustration, but I kept the speed down in obedience. 

I worked through the frustration and irritation and learned a new way to drive.  Rather than looking for the holes in traffic so I could pass everyone else, I learned how to stay out of the way.  I also learned something that totally amazed me:  driving the speed limit didn’t really slow me down much.  I still arrived at my destination in about the same amount of time as when I had driven much faster.  Driving around town that fast might have saved me three or four minutes, and out of town trips might save me a whopping twenty minutes, but not enough to make a big impact.  I also discovered that slowing down saves a huge amount of gas!  The screaming inside me died down and I began to relax as I drove.  Driving that way has probably lowered my blood pressure significantly – once I got over the frustration, that is.

I’ve been driving the speed limit for several months now.  But about a week ago I was really late to teach a class at church, so I hit the gas and sped the whole way, hoping God would understand.  (I was speeding in order to be on time to serve Him, right?)  Oh, the wonderful feeling of driving fast!  I felt like I could breathe again…  And so I fell back into my habit of driving too fast.  I stuck my fingers in my ears and attempted to ignore the prompting to slow down.  God let me have my way for a few days and then He showed up in my car again, face right up next to mine, impossible to ignore, but as usual speaking to me in a loving whisper.  “Why are you speeding?” 

“I really like to drive fast, God.  You’re killing me here.  Can’t You just leave me alone on this one?”  Um, yes…  I was trying to bargain with God.

“Why are you speeding, Kimberly?”  Uh, oh.  He asked the question twice.  God’s about to make a point. 

Why am I speeding?  I was doing so good for several months.  After calming the volcano inside myself down, why am I allowing it to erupt again?  And then the answer came to me so clearly that I nearly stopped the car.  I was driving on a little stretch of road where the speed limit is 30 mph (which is CRAZY) and I was driving 45, right along with everyone else.  Okay, so maybe I was passing everyone else…  But really, 30 mph? 

The answer was, “I’m speeding because at this time in my life, everything is moving so slowly that at least when I drive, I can speed things up a bit.”  And to get really honest, I had to add, “I’m kind of mad at You, God.  You’re taking too long.  You’re moving too slowly.  Could You please move things along a little faster?” 

With that reality smacking me in the face, I slowed down to 30 mph and moved into the right lane.  The speed junkie inside me got all nervous and tried to have it’s fit again, but I told it to shut up.  I finally understood why God had asked me the question, “Do you trust Me?” 

To say that I’ve been frustrated at the speed of my life is a vast understatement.  I fully expected to be married by 24 years old, to have all my children by age 30, and be a rock-star pastor’s wife.  I wanted to run a dynamic ministry, letting my husband preach and play golf with the guys, and take care of the rest of it myself.  I probably would’ve been one of those nightmare pastor’s wives I hear about, but I’m just sharing “The Plan.”  When I wasn’t married at age 28, and saw that my career was not taking off the way it should if you’re still unmarried at age 28, I read all the books and talked to all the successful people about how to jump-start things and at least have a stunning career.  I was told to find my passion, go after it, and then it wouldn’t feel like work and I’d find great satisfaction in what I did.  With that much love and passion for my work, promotions and praise would naturally follow. Plus, a good man would be working alongside me and we’d just match up naturally and marital bliss would follow.  So I followed my heart and went to seminary

Upon graduation, I was hired at my church in Nashville.  I threw myself into the work, passionately pursuing my dream with the highest expectations.  I love my church and support the leaders; however, I did not find the great success and promotion I had dreamed about.  Instead, I felt constantly frustrated and held back.  I believed for a breakthrough, smiled brightly, and pushed ahead.  I just knew that one day my sacrifice would pay off.  I was privately praised by the leaders, received great performance reviews, and felt the anointing of God on my work.  I was called into a meeting where I thought I’d finally receive that promotion, but instead had to wrap my mind around the words I was hearing:  my position was being terminated

And so with frustration building inside me, I began to speed again.  Without even realizing it, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the speed of His timing in a passive-aggressive way.  One of my friends posted a new blog about God’s perfect timing and it was everything I could do not to comment on it, “Yeah, He’s SLOW.” 

“Do you trust Me, Kimberly?” 

As I’ve pondered that question, driving around town without speeding, I’ve had to acknowledge that it’s very hard to trust Him when He isn’t meeting my expectations.  I’ve given my life to serve Him and I think that entitles me to something amazing in life.  If I don’t have a loving husband and babies, then I should at least have a shining career to point to as some greater purpose for my life.  How am I to handle the reality that I’m single, childless, jobless, without a home of my own, and can’t even drive my car as fast as I want to??? 

“Do you trust Me, Kimberly?” 

I’ve comforted myself over the years with the stories from the Bible:  Joseph was taken from prison to the palace in a matter of days; Noah appeared crazy to everyone around him until the rain started; David lived in the wilderness running for his life until he became king; and Peter was a simple fisherman until Jesus decided to make him the rock upon which He built The Church.  But what if ten more years go by and I’m still trying to figure out why some guy I was dating and having a great time with suddenly won’t call me back, and I’m working as a receptionist through a temp agency, and I’m living in someone else’s home because I don’t make enough money to save for a house? 

Well, what if that does happen?  Do I still trust God?  Does God owe me anything for serving Him?  Will that frustration and disappointment of being the most educated receptionist in the world give me the right to drive as fast as I want to? 

As I’ve been reading the One Year Bible, I’ve been confused by the way God seems to randomly allow people to remain in their sin at times, then at other times He strikes them dead.  The kings of Israel (Ahab, for example) were total pagans, but they were allowed to live and reign.  King Herod Agrippa (in Acts) took some credit for God and got worms and died.  As I’ve pondered these things and prayed for God to reveal more of His character to me, I got hit with a profound sense of God’s mercy and compassion.  We ALL deserve to be struck dead, but He gives us chance after chance to do the right thing and serve Him.  He is so merciful and patient with us. 

Rather than question why God allowed these evil things to take place and why He isn’t raining down blessings on my head, I am going to praise Him for His mercy and compassion.   He gave His people chance after chance after chance to serve Him.  He waited for them, as He waits for me.  I get frustrated with how slow God is, but how slow am I?  I cannot honestly say that I understood true submission to God and embraced it until the last year or so.  And now that I have, I demand that He bless me immediately?  Who am I to demand anything of God? 

There’s one more thing He’s teaching me through this slow driving thing.  I’ve really been struggling with bumping up my speed to at least 3 mph over the speed limit, just to keep people from shaking their fists at me as they rush to their next appointment.  God asked me about that one too.  “Why do you care what they think?  Why do you care if you annoy them?  Who are you living your life to please?” 

Yikes!  If I am more concerned about what others think of me than about what God thinks, where does it end?  Does it end with driving a few miles over the speed limit?  What other little compromises will I make out of concern for what others think of me? 

I cannot tell you that it never bugs me to drive slowly.  I cannot tell you that I’m perfectly content to wait for God’s timing on my job situation.  I cannot even say that I’m okay with remaining single indefinitely.  But what I can say with total confidence is that I believe God is working out the details of my life and that it is His great pleasure to bless me.  I’m thankful for the joys that God has allowed me in life.  He has made me rich in friendships, has given me a loving family, and has blessed me with numerous other things that it would be obnoxious to list out here.  If that’s all He ever gives me, I will continue to thank  Him and serve Him.  If He ever chooses to give me more, I will be grateful and give Him all the glory for it.

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Posted on May 18, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 6 comments

Missing the Point

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to figure God out.  What are His plans for my life?  What is He thinking as it relates to my situation?  What in the world is He trying to teach me now??? 

I’m reading Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Penguins and Golden Calves, and what she writes reflects my thoughts on the reading I’ve been doing in the gospel of John.  John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was thoroughly misunderstood by people.  They all had their agendas and tried to figure out how His ministry might help them achieve their own desires or do the things they thought the Messiah should do.  In fact, the only ones who had the right idea were the religious leaders.  They feared He’d replace them or make them irrelevant.  They were correct!  If only they’d become His followers, their lives would’ve radically changed for the better.

But back to my point…  Even Jesus’ closest followers misunderstood Him and tried to get their own way, expecting to become rich and famous (in this world or the next) through their relationship with Him.  He tried to share Himself with them, but they were so busy trying to figure out how His words affected them that they missed the point entirely! 

How often do I do that very thing?  God reveals a little of Himself to me, wanting me to know Him more intimately, and all I can think about is how that information might impact my future.  But maybe He just wants me to know His heart, His desires, and to answer my recent prayer, “Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”  What if this isn’t about ME at all, but about God’s desire for me to know Him?

I write all this because of the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on for the last few months.  God has been changing me, making radical shifts in my heart and mind.  As many of you have noticed, my physical body has begun to reflect those inner changes.  I’ve lost over 50 pounds and have made tremendous changes to my eating habits.  I’ve allowed God to be my Comforter (rather than food), my Protector (rather than my excess weight), and my Provider (rather than trying to provide for myself).  All these things were “head knowledge” before, but now my HEART knows.  I couldn’t hide the change if I wanted to.

So then the obvious question is WHY?  Why now?  What is this transformation for?  Obviously God must have something BIG for me next!  How exciting!

I’ve taken my closest friends and family on an emotional roller coaster with me, trying to “interpret the signs.”  I’ve been all over the map, thinking one day that I’m to become a career missionary to a third world country, the next that I’m to remain right here in Nashville, and every other option in between (at least it’s felt that way).  Which has left my head spinning – especially with the news that my job at my beloved church is ending with a lay off of 25% of the staff.  WHAT????

As I continue my walk with God, I see a choice before me.  I can continue spinning in circles in an attempt to figure it all out, OR I can simply thank God for revealing a little more of HImself to me and drawing me deeper into intimacy with Him.  To know the heart of God and serve Him is my greatest desire.  What else is there?  And to know His heart is to trust Him and to believe that even in the most uncertain times, He is the solid rock of certainty.

I plan to spend the next few weeks praying specifically for what God has laid on my heart – which at this time is that He will miraculously take care of our church’s $12M building debt.  That debt has led to the lay offs and many other challenges.  It is a dark cloud over our heads.  I believe God will do it.  I’m not going to try to figure out what that answered prayer might mean for me.  I’m just going to listen to the heart beat of my Savior and pray as He’s led me to pray.  I’m going to ask Him to reveal to me more of His heart regarding the debt we’ve incurred and how He feels about it.  I’m going to try to get to know God more through this challenge and leave the results up to Him. 

Do you think you ever misunderstand what God is doing in your life?  Maybe if we all followed Him obediently (instead of trying to figure out WHY He’s asking that of us), we’d truly be able to call ourselves the FRIENDS of God.  What do you think?

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Posted on Mar 18, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 5 comments

Why Long for Heaven?

Why Long for Heaven?

I often think that the whole “heaven” thing is just weird.  Do you?  I can’t imagine it.  My life can get really busy and I have so much I still want to accomplish.  The idea of sitting on a cloud and singing for a thousand years doesn’t exactly appeal to me.  At times I find myself wondering if we’ve made the whole thing up.  My feelings about heaven don’t mean I don’t believe in God and want to honor Him with my life.  I just don’t really concern myself too much with the afterlife.  I know my life sucks without God directing it, so I’ve submitted to His direction.  But that’s all about my life.  Not my afterlife.

In my daily devotions last week, there was a part in there about heaven.  I felt a little guilty for my attitude, so I whispered a quick prayer.  “God, please change my heart.  It’s not that I don’t want to see YOU face to face, it’s just that I don’t understand why I should long to be there rather than working for You here.”

A few days later I heard a statement that struck me as strange.  It was something like, “In heaven we will no longer need self-discipline.”  Huh?  No self-discipline?  Well, that’s just sin.  Isn’t it?

I thought about it for a while and realized – it’s true.  As Christians, much of our energy and effort is taken up in self-discipline.  We guard our hearts.  We discipline our eyes (be careful little eyes what you see), we discipline our ears (be careful little ears what you hear), and we hold ourselves back from going places we don’t need to go (be careful little feet where you go).  We fast, denying ourselves the pleasure of food or TV for a time in order to purify ourselves.  We stop ourselves from pursuing inappropriate sexual relationships.  We feed on God’s Word in order to keep our hearts and minds pure.  We’re careful about what we say – not claiming defeat or negativity, not gossiping, encouraging one another.  As Christians, we spend a big portion of our time disciplining our sinful nature and trying to rise above it.  Hopefully we get so used to it that it becomes second nature to us.  But nevertheless, we are in a battle every day – a battle against ourselves.

In heaven, there will be no need for self-discipline.  We will be like God and our sinful desires will be gone.  Whatever we desire, we can do or have.  All our desires will be holy and pure.  There will be no more restraining ourselves, holding ourselves back.  We will just be able to BE. 

Imagine that.

And I told God I’d rather fight the battle against myself every single day in order to accomplish what I think He still has for me to do, than go to heaven and be with Him for eternity???

While there is still much that I want to accomplish in my lifetime and I have no desire to leave this earth at a young age, the peace and freedom God promises us in the afterlife are almost too much for me to comprehend.  The joy of it blows me away. 

I know that it’s a weird concept and very difficult to wrap our minds around.  We cannot comprehend what we have not seen.  And yet, that is the mystery of faith.  We believe, even though we cannot see.  We trust, even though our trust may be misplaced.  We choose to follow this path and see where it takes us. 

I am aware that it’s possible all this God stuff is made up.  But I also know what He has done for me.  I know the peace and joy He has given me.  I remember that He parted the Red Sea, He raised the dead, He calmed the wind and the waves, He walked on water, and he healed me.  This God I serve is worth facing my fears of foolishness.  He is worth facing my doubts.  He is worth giving up everything.  And I look forward to the day I see Him face to face and feel the total peace and rest of no longer fighting against all the evil that my human soul is prone to pursue.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson and John Wyeth

…Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace…

Is there anything that makes you long for heaven?

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Posted on Feb 16, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, My Crazy Family, Spiritual Life | 0 comments

February 14, 2010

February 14, 2010

I cried a lot today.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I don’t have a boyfriend or husband, but for once that had nothing to do with my tears.  I cried today because after three days with my niece, I had to leave again.  I also cried because I know my life is changing.  

Alexis Grace

 

My niece is two years old, and she has totally charmed me.  If I tell her I’m going somewhere, she gets a concerned look on her face and insists repeatedly, “And me.  And me!”  She wants to go along.  This morning I packed my bags and put them by the door.  I told her I had to leave, had to go back to my house, and I’d miss her.  Instead of saying, “And me!” she said, “Stay here.  Please stay here with me!”  And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny little pieces.  As little as she is, she understands the difference between a short errand and going home.   She understands that she won’t see me again for months.  And today she further understood that her charm will not always get her what she wants.  It broke my heart that I’m the one to teach her that terrible, but necessary lesson. 

My life is changing.  I’ve been blessed with 3+ years of stability, proximity to my family, a stable job, and relative calm.  I know this time has been a gift from God and I’m thankful for it.  But something is stirring inside me.  I wish I could articulate exactly what it is, but the only thing I know to call it is CHANGE.  God is changing me.  He is stretching me.  He is challenging the commitment I’ve made to total obedience, trust, and love.  He is asking me to give up things I’ve held to tightly, to open my hands and offer them to Him, with no visual of anything to replace the cherished.  

He isn’t dangling a big piece of Godiva chocolate in front of my face and asking me to let go of the m&m.  He’s just asking me to let go of the m&m.  I really like m&ms. 

I cried today because letting go is so hard to do.   

Even though I believe God has something more for me, it’s so hard to let go of the comfortable and familiar.  For a moment I berated myself for being so emotional, so dramatic, and for indulging in self-pity.  Then the thought came to me, “If this isn’t worth crying over, then what is?”  So I let the tears come and didn’t try to stop them.  I cried myself out.  

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17th.  This year I’m taking the time to purify my heart, mind, and body.  I’m emptying myself before the Lord.  I’m looking forward to standing before Him, ready to be filled by His truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness.  I’m also dreading the days ahead when I will likely feel the gamut of my emotions with nothing to soften the rawness.  I’m giving up my comforts so I may learn to look to the Lord alone for comfort.  

Anticipation of the results is what will give me the strength to do it.  Love for My Lord and Savior will pull me through.  And yes, I plan to be radically changed.  I’m ready.  I’m excited.  Today I mourned the loss of the familiar, but my tears weren’t without hope.  Through my fear, I face my blindness regarding the future and trust God to guide me to a place of bright color and beauty.

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Posted on Nov 13, 2009 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 5 comments

All You Can Do to Stand

All You Can Do to Stand

Coffee-and-BibleThis morning I read my devotional from The Book of Common Prayer Daily Office, a collection of readings for each day of the year that includes a Psalm, an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading.  There were FIVE Psalms this morning and I was running short on time, so I skimmed through a few of them.  I guess I was kind of looking for something I liked or wanted to really focus on this morning.  (Don’t judge me…)

Many of the Psalm readings are horrible diatribes against David’s enemies, asking God to kill them, smash them in pieces, and cut out their children’s tongues.  At least that’s the basic theme of them.  I typically skim through these chapters or sections because as good as it may feel to reign down curses on my enemies (or the person who’s particularly bugging me at that time), Jesus expressly forbids us to do it. 

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (NKJV)

How do I reconcile that with David’s requests that God bash in the heads of his opponents?  And so I typically skim through these passages and deal with the nagging question of why these sentiments ever got published to begin with. 

MaskWell recently I’ve been having a battle with my mind – trying to correct firmly ingrained ways of thinking that are wrong and detrimental.  Although it’s very uncomfortable, I’ve been speaking out loud the truth (yes, talking to myself) and praying for God to remove the lies.  I tend to lean more toward figuring things out than seeing demons behind every door – but Jesus does spend a significant amount of time in Scripture casting them out.  Reading through the Gospels might actually cause one to think there really were demons behind every door.  So just in case there might be any evil spirits plaguing me, keeping me from moving forward and believing the truth, I even went so far as to speak to them and do the whole thing I grew up hearing – binding them, casting them out, and telling them never to return.  I figured if it is an evil spirit, rationalizing it away won’t exactly work, so I gave it a shot. 

So what in the world does that have to do with David cursing his enemies in the Psalms?  I do have a point, I promise!  As I was reading through the curses this morning, another Scripture popped into my head.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (NKJV)

Hmmmm…  David did have human, flesh-and-blood enemies trying to kill him and take the kingdom from him.  I don’t.  I’m pretty sure no human being has ever tried to kill me.  However, Ephesians says that as Christians we have to stand against the wiles of the devil.  There is such a thing as “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Creepy!  And real.  It goes on to say that we can stand against them if we put on the full armor of God: 

ArmorEphesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. 

The war metaphor basically means we are to speak truth, live righteously, be peacemakers, have faith, accept the gift of salvation, read and study Scripture, pray, and be alert. 

Remembering that my enemy is actually Satan, I stopped skimming and picked up the Psalm again from the beginning.  I read out loud and when I got to the part about David cursing his enemies, I applied those words to principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness.  I let them know that they are not going to bother me any longer.  And I smiled, knowing that God has given me authority to curse the devil and command him to leave.  It felt pretty good to ask God to totally destroy and banish them forever. 

I don’t believe that every single issue we face as Christians has a demon lurking behind it.  I’m not even sure the one I’m facing has any evil attached to it at all.  But I’m willing to do what Ephesians 6:13 says – all I can do to stand.  And from now on when I see a Psalm about cursing our enemies, I’ll remember exactly who my enemy is and pray that Psalm out loud, cursing him with gusto.

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