Trusting to Jump into the Pool of Life

While spending the night at a motel, we walked past the swimming pool and observed the following scene. A father was encouraging his small daughter to jump into the water. Actually, Dad was inviting the girl to jump into his arms because the father was already in the water. The little lass was hesitant because the water was much deeper in this location than where she had previously been playing in the shallow end of the pool. The father was asking his child to trust him and take a risk. It would be fun. Although this was not an unusual interaction to be happening during a family swim time, the Lord asked me to look more closely as He wanted to reveal something to me through this encounter.

The young girl playing in the shallow water was enjoying herself but the father wanted to interact more personally with his daughter. He desired to be closer to her. Maybe he wanted to teach his daughter how to swim or help her overcome a fear of deep water. Our Heavenly Father has a similar yearning for us. Although attending a worship service on Sunday mornings has value for us as believers, God longs for a deeper personal relationship with each of us. (Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.”) God does not want us to be content to only “play church” for a couple of hours every Sunday. This represents a person with a shallow faith. Our Heavenly Father holds out His arms asking each of us to trust Him and jump with both feet into a commitment of living with Him and for Him 24/7. (John 3:16-17,36 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.)

Let’s create a spiritual setting for our swimming scenario with our Heavenly Father. He invites us to jump into the pool of life with Him. Isaiah 51:15-16 says, “For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar – the LORD Almighty is His name. I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”

Are we, as believers, ready to jump into a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father? Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” These are safe arms waiting for us! In case, we fear something unsafe might happen after we jump, Isaiah 50:1 assures us, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” When we jump into the arms of our Heavenly Father, we have the opportunity to jump into the His Word. We can trust our Heavenly Father because of promises He has given us.

I want to encourage you to quit playing in the shallow end of faith and jump into a deeper relationship with God. Let me share with you some scriptures that will give you confidence to trust our Heavenly Father with your life.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145:18

He will not let your foot slip–
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Psalm 121:3

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

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 your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.
Psalm 56:3

I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
Psalm 13:5

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Joyfully,
Cheryl

 

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IF…

bible-studyAnd a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees
before Him, and saying, “
If You are willing
, You can make me clean.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him,
and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
Immediately the leprosy
left him and he was cleansed.
Mark 1:40-42

Today, I want to consider two different interpretations of the phrase “If You are willing” found in the verses of scripture I have quoted from the gospel of Mark.

I usually have interpreted this phrase to reveal a lack of faith by the leper. He does believe because he seeks Jesus for healing and he shows a reverence for Jesus by coming humbly to Him. I have perceived the leper as possibly being a relatively new believer who was not extremely confident in his faith. Jesus is touched by the honesty of the leper and reaches out to touch him. While the leper was healed by the touch of Jesus, I also believe he developed a deeper relationship with Jesus because of this personal encounter. Jesus assured the leper that He was willing and able to do what the leper asked. Previously, I have pictured the leper as one who was wanting to know more about who Jesus was and what He could do. This man had faith, yet he lacked faith.

Recently while reading these verses, I thought about the possibility of the leper expressing this phrase for a different reason. I wondered if the words, “If You are willing,” revealed a more profound faith and understanding of who Jesus was. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Then in John 8:28 Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own.” I have to wonder if this leper had a greater understanding of who Jesus was than I had originally accredited to him. He may have been respecting the fact that Jesus was only able to do what was in agreement with His Heavenly Father.

Regarding both interpretations, there are three points I want to highlight.

First of all, I want to note that although leprosy is a physical disease, it is also spiritually symbolic of sin. I may not have the disease of leprosy in my body but I do admit that sinfulness can be found within me. So, I ask the question, Do I sincerely believe that Jesus can forgive my sins? I John 1:9 assures me, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

My next focal point is related to the fact that the leper came to Jesus in person and asked to be healed. To put it into other terms, I can say that he prayed. Do I take time to pray and specifically ask the Lord for what I desire? Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” However, in addition, I need to remember to surrender to God’s will when interceding in prayer. I must follow the example Jesus gave to His disciples as to how to pray. In Matthew 6:10 Jesus told His disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Pastor Bob Reeves of Calvary Assembly of God has said that we need to recognize both the power of God to do something and His right to do something. We do not dictate our terms when praying. We follow Jesus, not ask Him to follow us.

Finally, I must examine my level of faith. Does the phrase “If You are willing” reflect a lack of in my faith that would benefit from being deepened? I may need to cry out to Jesus the words of Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Or, am I exhibiting a faith in God that surrenders to the will of God when I verbalize the words, “If You are willing”? Maybe I should heed the words of Hebrews 10:36, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” The truth I must remember from our scripture for today is found in Mark 1:41 when Jesus says, “I am willing.” Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Jesus will meet me and touch me no matter what level of faith I am experiencing as long as I call out to Him.

My Reader, how deep is your faith today? How do you interpret the leper’s words? You can receive a touch from Jesus no matter which interpretation is currently most appropriate for you as long as you cry out to Him.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Riding the Bicycle of Faith

bicycle

While watching a young boy attempting to ride a bike with the help of his father, I realized how learning to ride a bicycle and learning to walk by faith have similarities. Hebrews 11:1 NLT says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” As I continued to watch the young boy, he did not give up his hopes of successfully riding his bike alone. I am challenged to have a similar confidence in trusting the Lord with my life if I am to attain a walk of faith. In the beginning, the new biker may not reach his goal, but with practice he will triumph. Regarding the walk of faith, I may not initially be aware of all that the faith lifestyle entails, but as I grow in my faith, the Lord’s plans and purposes will become a reality.

When thinking back to when I first learned to ride a bicycle, I remember that I did not have the luxury of training wheels. However, I did have the steadying hand of my father. With my hands on the handlebars, I would frantically jerk the front wheel to the right and to the left trying to gain my balance while Dad’s hand stabilized the bicycle. I compare this to the scripture of Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” While walking by faith, I need to listen for the Lord’s voice rather than rely upon my own strength. Just as my dad held on to the seat of my bike so I would not fall, my Heavenly Father holds my hand so I will not stumble as I walk by faith. Isaiah 41:10 assures me, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Just as a bicycle has two wheels to create movement, so I imagine a bicycle of faith having two wheels to live by. I define these two wheels as trust and obedience. If I trust and obey the Lord, I will be able to confidently move forward. I will ride upon a bike of faith.

I examine these two wheels more closely by looking at a couple of scriptures. I named the front wheel trust. Trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth or strength of someone or something. In this case, I am referring to trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “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 your paths straight.”  Trust involves a commitment of the heart. When I trust the Lord, He will give me a straight path to ride my bike of faith upon! I named the back wheel obedience which is defined as submission or compliance to one in authority or to instructions. Making a specific spiritual application, I refer to obeying God and His written Word. II John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” By trusting and obeying God, I keep moving by faith and drawing closer to the Lord.

When learning to ride my two-wheeled bicycle, I fell numerous times but my dad was always there to pick me up and encourage me to try again. The same thing occurs as I ride upon the bicycle of faith. My Heavenly Father is always there to pick me and set me back upon the wheels of trust and obedience. He is there encouraging me to keep going. The Psalmist says in Psalm 84:11b “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” I move forward when I stay upright whether it be riding a bike or walking by faith. It takes time to learn to ride a bike proficiently and it takes time to learn to live a life of faith without stumbling. In fact, a person is never assured that one will not fall off a bike if a wheel unexpectedly hits a large stone in the wrong way. One just needs to get up, get back on the bike and continue down the path. Neither should I be discouraged if I stumble upon a stone of sin and need the help of the Lord to get back up and continue my journey with Him.

I like the verse of Galatians 6:9, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” As I unpack this verse phrase by phrase, I make an application to my bicycle of faith with the wheels of trust and obedience. “Let us not grow weary while doing good” is obedience in action. The concluding phrase of “if we do not lose heart” is an example of trust. The result of obedience and trust is to “reap in due season” a harvest of deeper faith as referred to in the middle phrase. My goal in life is to trust and believe what God says in His Word and then obey and do what I have learned.

My Reader, in conclusion will you join me in singing the refrain of the old familiar hymn Trust and Obey by Samuel Stammis? The words are, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Wavering Waves

water-waveswater-calm

Since we live near Lake Ontario, we take the opportunity to spend at least one summer evening walking along the lake shore each year. The water is always mesmerizing whether it be placid with tranquility or violent with raging waves. Recently while lingering at the water’s edge, I realized how I encounter both peaceful and turbulent times regarding my faith in Christ. When being confronted with a difficult situation, my faith may waver like the waves of the lake while at other times my faith is unmoved like a serene body of water. Sometimes I feel like the little child Paul describes in Ephesians 3:14 “who is tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” At other times I identify with John’s description in Revelation 4:6, “Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.”

Waves in the water and wavering in my faith can both be dangerous. Water waves arise when strong winds cause turbulence on the lake. Wavering of my faith can occur when doubts arise and cause turbulence within my mind. I am reminded of what James has to say about doubts in the first chapter of his book.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,
who gives to all generously and without reproach,
and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith
without any doubting, for
the one who doubts
is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by
the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will
receive anything from the Lord,
being
a double-minded
man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:5-8

While looking at the lake water, I see the little water swells that have the potential of becoming larger whitecaps if they are not thrown back into the larger body of water. Small doubts regarding my faith also have the ability to toss my faith into turmoil if I do not prayerfully ask for God’s guidance and throw my waverings back into His sea of godly wisdom. However, I cannot except the Lord to calm the raging sea within me unless I have no doubts about His ability to help me with my doubts. There are times when I must call out to the Lord with the words of Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” To believe and not doubt means not only believing in the existence of God but also believing in His loving care.

And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God.
“Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘
Be

taken up and cast into the sea,’ and
does not doubt
in his heart
, but believes that what he says is going

to happen, it will be
granted him. “Therefore I say to you,
all things for which you pray and ask,
believe that you
have received them, and they will be granted you.
Mark 11:22-24

When walking on the pier that extends into the lake, I sometimes feel a spray of water from the waves upon my feet. My feet get wet but the rest of me stays dry. A similar thing can happen regarding my faith in God. A few droplets of doubt may wash over my mind but if I sincerely believe what God says in His Word, these little doubt drops cannot penetrate my heart. I need to remind myself that faith does not always mean that I understand everything that is happening, but rather it means that I trust and believe in the Lord. Although I may not understand, it does not necessarily mean that I doubt. To stabilize my wavering or vacillating mind, I must commit myself wholeheartedly to God.

yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver
in unbelief
but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,

and being fully assured that what God had promised,
He was able also to perform.
Romans 4:20-21

As my waverings and doubts diminish, my life and faith resemble the lake when it is calm. I can see my reflection upon the water, when the lake is smooth. Similarly, when my faith is untroubled my life reflects the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” As my faith deepens, my life reflects more of the glory of God

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have discovered similarities between my walking along Lake Ontario and my daily walking by faith. Lake Ontario can be tranquil or it can be turbulent. Likewise, I also encounter both peaceful and tumultuous times regarding my faith in God. There are waves and waverings. There can be a glassy sea and a glorious peace. I enjoy this summer season when I can walk along the lake and be encouraged in my walk of faith at the same time.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Living in the Land of In-Between

 

between

The story of the Israelites being led out of Egypt into the Promised Land of Canaan is recorded in the books of Exodus, Numbers and Joshua. The accounts tell of a 40 year journey that should have taken only 11 days. Where were the Israelites during these 40 years? They were wandering and waiting in the wilderness. They were in the Land of In-Between. They were between Egypt and Canaan. What happened in the lives of the Israelites between Egypt and the Promised Land?

What took place for the Israelites back in 1436 BC still has significance for us in 2016 AD. I believe the experiences of God’s chosen people 1400 years before Christ was born were a foreshadow of what we will encounter over 2000 years since Christ was born. We live in the shadow of the Israelites and I want to learn from their experiences on both the physical and spiritual levels. Let’s look at some details.

The Israelites were in slavery and bondage in the physical land of Egypt. From the spiritual perspective, Egypt is often considered a symbol of sin. As human beings we are born into the bondage of our sinful human nature. Moses was sent to deliver God’s people out of Egypt and lead them into the Promised Land of freedom. God sent His Son, Jesus, to deliver us from sin. When we accept Jesus as our Savior (He saves us from sin) and Lord (He rules our lives and guides us in the freedom He purchased for us through His death), we travel from our personal Egypt to our Canaan. Our Promised Land is where we will dwell with God throughout eternity. Jesus says in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” So, if we have a personal relationship with Jesus, where are we? Like the Israelites, we are in the wilderness, the Land of In-Between. The Israelites sojourned there for 40 years. We will dwell in the wilderness, or the Land of In-Between, throughout of our earthly lives.

Join me as we look at some scriptures relating to the Israelites and to us. Let’s apply their experiences to our journey in the Land of In-Between.

First, God was with the Israelites throughout their journey in the wilderness and He made His presence known through the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night.
The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
Exodus 13:21-22
Today, Christ lives in us and we have the help of the Holy Spirit.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Second, as their leader, Moses could always talk with God and seek His guidance and direction.
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Exodus 33:11
Each of us can personally talk with God anytime we want. This is our privilege of prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

Third, God provided food in the form of manna for the Israelites each day. The Israelites set a good example for us in that they gathered their frosty flakes in the morning to give them nourishment throughout the day.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
Exodus 16:4
God has made provision for our spiritual manna in the form of scripture that we can feed on every day. May we remember to take time to gain new spiritual insight when our minds are fresh in the morning.
like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
I Peter 2:2-3

Fourth, the soles of the Israelites’ sandals did not wear out even though they wore them for 40 years.
Yet the LORD says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.
Deuteronomy 29:5
God watches over us so that our souls will not wear out for the duration of our journey in the Land of In-Between.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
I Corinthians 10:13

My Reader, every day of our lives is spent in the Land of In-Between waiting for Jesus to return so we can live with Him throughout eternity. While we are on the journey to this Promised Land, each of us will experience specific times of waiting that bring our attention to the fact that in a narrower sense we are also living in the Land of In-Between. We will feel like we are in the wilderness wandering and waiting. Life can be rather wild in the wilderness! The trials of some trails are more difficult than others. Maybe you have lost your job and you are waiting to find new employment. Maybe you are waiting for results from a medical test that will reveal whether or not you have cancer. Maybe you are waiting to see whether your spouse will go to marriage counseling with you or if you will be served divorce papers. You can give a name to the situation that accentuates your waiting in the Land of In-Between today. I know it is frustrating to wait. However, there are lessons God can only teach us in this Land of In-Between. The Israelites traveled around Mt. Sinai many times during their 40 years of waiting to cross over into the land of Canaan. So I encourage you to take another trip around your mountain or sit at the foot of your Mt. Sinai until the Lord reveals your next travels. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6, “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 your paths straight.” The Lord will make our paths straight even when we are waiting and wavering in the wilderness of the Land of In-Between!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: The phrase about the land of the in-between resonated in my spirit when I first heard it. I do not know if there is a specific person to whom I should give credit for these descriptive words or not. However, I do know that what I have shared in this post are insights the Lord gave me when I thought about and prayed about the Land of In-Between.

Gazing in the Garden

garden-hearteye-gaze-pink

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to sit at Your feet, as the great mercy seat,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to gaze in You eyes, so that faith may arise,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to feel Your embrace, and receive Your grace,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

My Reader, are you ready to grasp another key to unlock the garden of your heart? Last week, we examined the first key while humbly sitting at the feet of Jesus at the mercy seat. This week we will look at the second stanza of this praise chorus that verbalizes the desire to gaze into the eyes of Jesus so that faith may arise within the heart. Please join me in this garden.

If I apply the words of this praise chorus to my natural surroundings, my picture might be as follows. I am sitting on a park-like bench in a tranquil garden on a summer evening. I gaze at the stars. The longer I focus upon the sky, the more stars I see and the beauty of the heavens increases. Making a spiritual application, I describe the scene as follows. As I humbly sit at the feet of Jesus and meditate upon His Word, I realize how merciful the Lord is to me. Although I began with my head bowed, I now lift my eyes up to His face. The longer I gaze into the eyes of Jesus, the more I comprehend what it means to live by faith.

To understand the meaning of gazing into the eyes of Jesus, I focus my eyes upon scripture. I repeatedly find the phrase “the apple of the eye” that speaks of a place of priority and importance. This phrase seems to go along with the concept of gazing. Zechariah 2:8 says, whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.” Wow – God considers me the apple of His eye! If the Lord keeps His eye on me, then I desire to keep my eyes on Him! Proverbs 7:2 says, “Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.” This Proverb gives me insight to how I can gaze upon the Lord. Along with David, I plead the words of Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

The words of my song promise me that if I gaze into the eyes of Jesus, my faith will increase. Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hmmm. I have been reflecting upon gazing and now I read words about not seeing. Is this contradictory? Not necessarily. Webster’s dictionary defines gaze as to look intently and steadily; to stare, as in wonder or expectancy. For me, to look with confidence and expectancy is faith in action. Gazing in faith involves spiritual sight rather than physical sight. For me to live by faith, I will follow the instructions of Paul in I Corinthians 4:18,“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” In her book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young embellishes this verse by saying, “Fix your eyes not on what is seen (your circumstances), but on what is unseen (My Presence).”

What is my response to gazing into the eyes of Jesus and having my faith arise? The last three lines of this chorus say that I want to laugh and sing. Last week I focused upon how I want to laugh. This week I want to look at the concept of wanting to sing. I reiterate Psalm 126:2 from last week because it mentions both laughing and singing. “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy…. ‘The LORD has done great things for them.'” In Ephesians 5:19, Paul speaks of “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” I like this because the setting for my singing is in the garden of my heart. Psalm 28:7 says, “My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” This is what I want to do!

I conclude by saying, I want my eyes to look into Jesus’ eyes and I want to see what He sees. My purpose for gazing into the Lord’s eyes is for my faith to increase and never cease. This will create a song within the garden of my heart. My Reader, is there a song in your heart today?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: Next week we will conclude our time in the garden of the heart by looking at the third stanza of this praise chorus.