How Will You Respond?

IMG_20190102_102321-e1546442880137.jpgSome time ago, an invitation to a wedding, beautifully embellished, arrived in the mail. Running my fingers over the shiny raised print with tears leaking, I whispered, “Where has the time gone?” Within the envelope was a smaller stamped envelope with a card that politely stated, “The bride and groom request the honor of your response.”  

This invitation brought the reminder of an invitation written long ago, not on aged parchment with elegant ink, not to be a guest at someone else’s wedding. This invitation came through the womb of a virgin girl named Mary. He was born a babe and laid in a manger. He grew in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52), lived the perfect life for the world. His invitation to us is not merely asking us to be guests at His wedding, but to be His bride. He grew to carry our failures and griefs to the cross, willingly holding out His hands and feet to receive the imprint of love.

Nail scars and the spilling of blood for you and for me is how God wrote the invitation to be his Son’s bride so many centuries ago. His love is one that overcomes our failures and shortcomings, our sins. Jesus’s death was not the final word. Three days after He was laid in the tomb, Jesus rose again – He defeated death and sin for the world. And yet, He carries those scars as a reminder and promise to love us in our every failure and every success, through every heartache and every joy.  

Just as I filled out the elegant response card to the wedding and slipped it in an envelope to confirm my attendance, Jesus is asking you to respond to His invitation. He is inviting you to not only attend His wedding, but to be His bride. When you accept Jesus’s invitation, He washes you and makes you clean of all your failures, sins, and stumblings.  He carries the weight of your guilt and shame to the cross and sets you free. He makes you white as snow and promises to never leave you. The debt you owe for your sins has been fully paid by the Groom who longs for you to be His bride. (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23) 

Jesus is waiting for you at the alter, to take you in His arms and call you His beloved, to carry you through every heartache and to be with you through every joy. Once you call His name, no matter what the future has, joys or sorrows, victories or defeats, He promises to always be with you. How will you respond? 

“If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’; and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved; for in the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Romans 10:9-11

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

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The Anguish of Addiction

“Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NAS Bible)

Two days from a new year and it seems the same old me just won’t die. I thought by now God would have won all the battles, settled all the pain, and enabled me to forget the past. He hasn’t, but I still know that He is good. He loves me and He has been gracious! He has healed so much of my past and put to death so many of the ghosts that once haunted me. Most days I don’t crave poison.

Even so, I still get stuck sometimes … I have been sober 663 days and my body still craves the biggest mistake that I have ever made. And some days, days like today, are SO hard that the tears of hopelessness burn my eyes. Permitting them to fall causes just as much shame as the craving. They would require an explanation to the family and a confession of how awful the battle is in this moment. Thankfully, the battle is dead in me most days – just days like today, I struggle to think straight.

Some days, the body remembers what it was like to shoot poison and it wants it. I usually know what triggers it, but not this time. This time it came like an unexpected punch in the gut and jolted me from sleep. I woke in the darkest hours of the night, my body begging the poison that promises forgetfulness, promises peace and life, but delivers darkness and death. I cried out to this God who loves me to help me. I cried out to those who have braved this storm with me, but in shame, withdrew my plea. In the end, I woke the man who walks this broken road with me. He held me while my body rebelled against sobriety. I laid there after he fell back to sleep, filled with self-hatred, regretting having fallen into this addiction.

I didn’t sleep until after 7 this morning, and then only for an hour. The tired from lack of sleep adds to the hopelessness of the craving. I have tried to take every thought captive, to speak truth to my heart, no matter what my body has been telling me.

God is good. He has carried me this far. He is not suddenly going to fail me or abandon me.

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5, NAS Bible)

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NAS Bible)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” (Joshua 1:9, NAS Bible)

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NAS Bible)

And the good news for today, if you are struggling like I am, is that He is still good! He is not going to turn His back on you or deny you. He loves you so much and is willing to go into the miry pit of whatever struggle you are facing to walk with you. You can not escape Him! How do I know? Because He tells us that repeatedly in His Word. Try reading Psalm 139 (especially verses 7-12) and notice how far His presence extends. There is absolutely nowhere you can go to run away or hide from Him! Nowhere!

Oh, Lord God, thank you that Your lovingkindness is everlasting. Thank You, that in the midst of our battles, we can know that you are faithful! Heavenly Father, when our bodies, minds or emotions are crying out for lies, sins, or poison that lead to death, I am asking, according to the words of Your Son, Jesus, to sanctify us in truth. Please, Father, wash our aching hearts in the truth of your word. Strengthen us through the promise of your presence and grant us the courage and strength that come from knowing you are with us…you will never leave nor forsake us. Thank You that in a world that is constantly changing, You are sure and Your ways are right! Help us each to walk in Your truth. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

To Whom Shall I Go?

Spinning the little Jesus ring around my right ring finger, my thoughts were of denial. Opening the window, I removed the ring from my finger and told Jesus that maybe, just maybe, I had been through enough. Maybe I needed to just walk away. As I prepared to send the ring sailing out the car window as a symbol of stepping away form my faith, my heart asked one last question – made one last statement: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69 ESV) And I knew that apart from the Lord, I had no hope. That without Jesus, I had no life or joy. HE is my everything, not children. 

And slowly, purposefully, I slipped the ring back on my finger, tears streaming and hope filling my heart. My resolve to follow Jesus and surrender the desire for children to him again steadied my aching heart.  As my husband drove the car, he took my hand and whispered, “I love you.” 

The weekend had been hard. We were at a marriage retreat when a close friend whispered her secret, “I’m pregnant again. And you know, I don’t even want it. What in the world do we need another one for? I am already so overwhelmed.” I know she didn’t mean any harm. She was just expressing her fears and concerns. She had no idea how heartbreaking it would be for a woman who desperately wanted children and couldn’t have them to hear. 

And then, the other woman announced she was expecting during a small group meeting. “I’m pregnant again. It’s what my husband wanted. I see no purpose in more.” Oh, another heartache. I, who had been denied the ability to have children, wanted so badly to be able to announce that God was doing something exciting.  Instead, two women who didn’t want children were blessed. 

My heart ached and my first response was to fall at the feet of Jesus. My husband and I  skipped the next session of the marriage retreat to sit together in our room, hearts aching and tears streaming. We prayed and spent time with Jesus together, but the pain still sliced our hearts. 

It was in that pain and grief that I spun the ring around my finger and wondered if walking with Jesus was worth it. That pain led me to an open car window and the desire to throw my Jesus ring out, along with my faith. But it was also in those moments of grief and sorrow that I discovered that the real blessing isn’t a child to be held in my arms, but that I have a Father who holds me in His. I have a Heavenly Father who is life and joy and whose love is sufficient, even in the hard things. He is a Comforter to sorrows and He is my stability during difficult times. 

You may wonder what happened to that Jesus ring. It was lost several years later, when a chubby fisted toddler that God had allowed me to birth (what an incredible gift!!) threw it out the car window while we were driving, but the Savior it represented holds true today. He has built my faith through the hard things and He has held me through the things that meant to destroy me.  

I am so thankful for that day when the words of Scripture coursed through my heart at my weakest moment. I am so grateful that He called me back to the truth when I forgot – there is no one else to turn to in the difficult, heart breaking days. Just only, always Jesus.

As you walk through the trials and difficulties of life, may you find that Jesus is enough, that God is present in your pain and that in Him is life. May He give you the faith to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69, ESV)

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (NASB)

Grief

The darkness had not yet slid into the gray of the day,  not yet surrendered to the morning light, when my eyes cracked open. The black of the night reflected the pain in my heart. Grief weighs heavily some days. 

This is the season families gather and celebrate, when grown children return to the nest to wrap their arms around the parents that have grown them. Facebook posts of happy family outings, generations gathered together to celebrate just seem to be a knife stabbing the heart. Celebrating the Babe laid in a manger that long ago night who grew to carry the weight of the world, to set captives free. Joyous. And yet, my heart so deeply grieves. 

Grief seems rawest at what are supposed to be the most joyous times. Death and sin tinge joy with sorrow.

A friend suffers deep loss and she grieves. I watch her grieve with all this beautiful grace. I carry her in my prayers, knowing that even though she is doing well, grief interrupts life at the most unwelcome times. We were not made for death! Death was invited to become part of our existence long ago in a garden (see Genesis 3), but when God spoke us into being, He created us for life in communion with Him.

Grief is born not only from the loss of earthly life, but also from the robbing of earthly hopes and dreams. I was told at a young age that I had a broken womb. Children would not be part of my life, at least not naturally born children. I grieved deeply because of both the harm that caused the brokenness and the empty womb that resulted.

But, with God all things are possible – that broken womb cradled many children, two of whom my arms were privileged to cradle and I have watched grow. Still, there was another ache. The ache of a mother bereft of her unborn children. The inexplicable joy of being a mother tainted by the grief of the children my arms would never hold here on earth. 

These last few years have been years of deepest sorrow and grief. Grief that I was unable to name for so many years because Christian truths were supposed to wash away the heartache.  This pain stemmed from harm I endured years ago, years so far behind me that I thought I had outrun them. Still, heartache and pain when unacknowledged don’t really go away. They stay and take up residence in the heart, hiding in places and making themselves known in unrecognizable ways. 

It is this grief that weighs on me now. Unacceptable grief. Grief the church doesn’t know what to do with other than quote a Scripture at and claim that if I meditate on truth long enough, if I get involved in serving, if I follow the right equation,  the sorrow will resolve. It is messy, debilitating grief at times. It makes me feel incredibly alone. Like Tamar, the sister of Absalom must have felt after being raped by her  half-brother Amnon. Hide away your shame – well, no. Really, hide away yourself. Don’t let others see your heartache. Only her shame didn’t go away – and was never hers to bear anyway. Her shame festered in the heart of her brother Absalom, who eventually killed her rapist Amnon. Grief, unacknowledged, sin unpunished, destroyed more than a woman. It destroyed an entire family. 

My grief and shame are similar to Tamar, and they have ruined an entire family. Only, the shame was never meant for me to carry. And I was not the one who ruined the family. The shame and ruin belong to the men who harmed me and to the one who could have protected me and chose not to.  And holidays always accentuate the grief of a family torn apart by men’s selfish sins in my life.

And for you today: Grief is a part of everyone’s life. So, how do we handle it? How do we walk through grief without losing our faith? 

First, grief is not sin. No matter what we are grieving, the loss of a loved one, the loss of innocence, the wayward path a son has taken, the answer is the same. Run to Abba Father, crawl into His lap and just cry to Him.  He knows this world was not made for death and destruction, for the harm men (and women) do, for the sin that is so rampant. He knows that our hearts grieve. And He holds the brokenhearted.  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV) I know it may not feel like it, but your Heavenly Father sees your tears and cares. And you know what? He records those tears (see Psalm 56:8). He doesn’t chastise you for your grief, but welcomes you in to His arms of comfort. 

For those of you who have lost a loved one, grief is necessary. The depth of your grief is not evidence of lack of faith, but evidence of the depth of your love for the one you have said a good-bye to. We know we shall see them again, but some days, that doesn’t help the ache in our hearts when we miss them now, to feel their arms hugging us, to hear their voice. In moments of grief, we understand how beautiful heaven is, that we shall never have to say good-bye, that death is defeated! (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18) We do not grieve as the world. We grieve, but we also hope. Because grief causes us to feel lonely, I would recommend connecting with  a GriefShare at a church near you!

Only God can give us the faith to hold on to His promises when our hearts are aching and grief overwhelms. Surround yourself with His people who allow you to grieve freely without trying to fix you. People who love Jesus and aren’t afraid of tears or the messy truth of life in a fallen world.  People who keep the faith for you when you can’t keep it for yourself.

Another suggestion: if social media seems to flaunt all the happy families and accentuates your grief, don’t be afraid to take a break. I have to do that occasionally to keep  my eyes on Jesus and His many gifts instead of on the seemingly perfect families others have.

And finally, if you aren’t in a season of grief,  is there anyone you can support in their grieving process? Great support comes through your prayers and your encouragement. Pray for God given wisdom and words, pray for the person grieving to be able to hold on to the promises she already knows as she walks through this season.  Send her a card that lets her know how loved and valued she is. Be present and listen, without needing to fix it for her. Let her grieve. Let her cry. Listen to memories of her loved one or listen to her lament over the things done to her. Her pain needs to be seen and validated without a lecture or without someone trying to fix it. She needs truth, but she needs love first. 

Father, Thank You that when we grieve You are the great Comforter. I pray for the grieving today. Father, give them a friend to walk with them, an arm to lean on, a sister to share her tears. For those walking through grief with others, Father, will you just grant them wisdom and grace, an abundance of love and insight. Help them discern when to speak and when to remain silent. In Jesus’s Name. Amen. 

Abundantly Overflowing

(The following poem has graphic content that may be triggering to sensitive readers)

Her turtleneck and long sleeved shirt hide a new blue-black bruise
At ten, bitter beer, burning whiskey numb her pain and fear
Teachers, pastors, friends close their eyes to her every tear.
Childhood memories abundantly overflowing curses and abuse

Men decide her worth – she doesn’t get to choose.
Seventy-two dollars and he sells her soul the first time
Causes shame and guilt. She doesn’t know man’s sin is not her crime.
Childhood memories abundantly overflowing curses and abuse.

Sixteen and she chooses to fight against men’s use
His hands circle neck, squeezing out her breath
Darkness descends, but she is cheated of her death
Childhood memories abundantly overflowing curses and abuse

Eighteen and she tries to escape the path she didn’t choose
College friends, drinking hard, still being chased by the past
Secrets she never dares tell and no one ever asks
Childhood memories abundantly overflowing curses and abuse.

Eighteen and her life is changed when she is asked to choose
in a whispered invitation from a Man who died upon a cross
to surrender to Him all her broken parts, sins and worthless dross,
childhood memories abundantly overflowing curses and abuse.

Childhood memories abundantly overflowing curses and abuse
she relinquishes to the One who came and died
so she could be made whole and new, never to be denied.
In Him she with joy is abundantly overflowing, never again
by shame and guilt to be accused.

This poem was written in response to:

Poetic Bloomings Prompt Day 5 – Autumnal Poem A Day Chapbook Exercise: Cornucopia

https://poeticbloomings2.wordpress.com/

For you this morning:

If you are in a dangerous or abusive relationship, please seek help. Go to the authorities. Tell a trusted friend. Seek a safe place to get away. You are valuable and you are loved by the God who created you. I know your pain and I know it is hard to believe when you are in the midst of horrible circumstances that God could possibly care, but he does. He is able to make a way of escape and to heal the pain.  Find a good counselor to help you process the harm done to you.

The above poem is based on my life. He has saved and rescued me. He has redeemed the broken parts through His gospel of grace. He has brought me healing through counseling and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (E.M.D.R.). He is able to heal and to redeem every broken thing.  If He would do that for me, how much more is He willing and able to do for you?

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!    ~Psalm 40:17 (ESV)

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”     ~Isaiah 41:13

Father God, You are a good, good Father. I pray for the hurting that You will speak Your healing, give them Your wisdom, courage, and grace to take the necessary steps of escape I pray You will bring mentors, friends, helpers into their lives that will show them the way. Please, Father, be who You promise to be, their ever present help in times of trouble. Help them to step into freedom, to know and experience Your love in a real and living way. You are the God who is able to do much more than we could ask or imagine. And today, I ask you to work in mighty ways through Your word and Your Spirit. In Jesus’s Name I ask. Amen.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   ~Psalm 46:1

Broken Hearted

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.                                                                                                                                   ~Psalm 34:18

I woke in the middle of the night again, panicked. There are truly no words to describe the terror that claimed my heart while I slept. I don’t often fall to these night terrors anymore, so when they come, they are unexpected. Having completed counseling, I now have the tools to deal with the past when it attacks. Even so, the first thing my mind screams for is liquid peace coursing through my veins. That is the hard part. Some mistakes we make threaten to haunt us the rest of our lives – for me, shooting poison into my veins is one of them. Thankfully, God is my hope. He enables me to overcome the lies with His Word of Truth, planted in my heart through decades of walking with Him.

When hearts break and tears fall, when the drugs call, this little lie tries to slither its way into the darkness: God does not see my pain. Or worse still, He sees but does not care. In so many moments over the last few years, this little lie has tried to wrap itself around my heart, but by God’s grace and through His Truth, the lie did not win.

Choosing to believe truth when the emotions are high and the lies attack is impossible on my own strength. So, daily, hour by hour, moment by moment, I sit at the feet of Jesus, praying He will enable me to cling to Him, His Words, His Truth – the only real truth. I crack open the Bible and am awash in His love. His promise is that when my world falls apart and my heart leaks tears, He is near. He is sitting with me. When the spirit is crushed and without hope, He is an ever present help. When the need for liquid poison calls my name again, Jesus is with me. He is stronger than the need for drugs. He promises not only His presence, but His healing, freedom, and love (see Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:19-21). Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted and heal their wounds. Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives. Jesus. He is the only answer my heart needs. He is the only answer any heart needs.

And this morning as I wrestle with the uncertainty of our future and the brokenness of my past, I sit with this same Jesus, crying out. Confident of this, that He will not leave me or my family alone. His Word promises, “…he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So, we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.'” (Hebrews 13:5b-6) What a beautiful promise. There is nothing I have to fear because the Lord is my helper, not just on the days when I get everything right and have it all together, but always. Thankfully, His promise is that He will never leave me nor forsake me. The promise and assurance of His presence gives me courage and alleviates my fears.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV) He is near us, even as we cry out to Him. He is close to us, even when we don’t feel Him. His Word is true and is the balm our souls need. My Jesus sees the struggle, hears the cries of my heart and whispers, “Peace, be still.” And the storm inside of me falls quiet at His command.

For you this morning: Perhaps you are struggling with a broken heart due to the loss of a child or  spouse. Maybe, like me, you struggle with addiction. (Addiction comes in many forms – addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, approval, adrenaline.) Or maybe, you are just overwhelmed with life or are having panic attacks, struggling with anxiety.

Right now, whatever your struggle, God is with you. He has not left you. I know it may not feel like it, but the truth does not depend on our feelings. It depends on the character of a faithful God. He is faithful and He is near, not because you feel it or have it all together. Not because you gave generously at church or served faithfully in a Sunday school class. Not because you got the house cleaned and the laundry done. Not because you are good enough. God is with you because He has promised to be with you. Your impatience with your toddler won’t cause Him to leave. Your irritation with your husband, that fight you picked, the car accident that was your fault, that mistake you made at work, that last drink of alcohol you took, those pills you popped, that little lie you told…not one of those things will drive Him away. In Christ, He is with you because He has promised to be with you. 

For you: Are you struggling with believing God in some area of your life? Do you have wounds that need healed? Whatever your pain is, God is with you. He loves you. Maybe try one of  the following: 

Read through Isaiah 61:1-3. Pray it out loud. Make a list of who God is and what He promises in these verses. Confess to Him where you don’t see him involved in your life and ask him to show you His presence.

Turn on the praise music, sing at the top of your lungs and dance around the kitchen. If you have children, invite them to join in. I find it most helpful to use a wooden spoon as a microphone (especially if the kids are present, because their laughter rings joy).

Get out into the great outdoors. Take a walk at the park, play in a mud puddle, swing on a swing.

If you have a gratitude journal, maybe you could read back through it to see what God has already accomplished. If you don’t have one, why not start one? It’s simple. Just list a few things you can thank God for each day.

Call a friend you know is struggling and share her burden. Kind of strange, but bearing some else’s burden often helps us bear our own.

Father God, you who made the heavens and the earth, thank You that Your Word is true even when we don’t feel like it is, even when we don’t feel like You are near. Thank You that You are the hope of our hearts and the healing our souls need. I pray today, Father, that You who are present with each of us every moment of the day will make Your presence tangibly evident to our hearts.

Paid In Full

My tween son and I went to the grocery store today.  We were being silly as I  kept threatening to break in to song in the middle of the store. Laughing and playing through each aisle – I am sure we smiled and giggled together more today than we had in a long time. Right up until we checked out and my debit card was denied. Then, I was trying to figure out how to pay. How? The money that I was confident was available in my account was gone.

Standing at the checkout as the cashier asked if I had a credit card or checkbook or cash available to pay the $66.33, I felt my joy wilt.  I calmly explained that my debit card was my only form of payment  and apologized for the inconvenience, but I wasn’t going to be able to complete the purchase.  My son stood there, looking confused, while the cashier called over the manager and security. Add a little more wilting to my countenance. Poor kid was even more confused when I said, “I’m just going to have to go home and figure out where my money went, and then come back once I can pay.” As we were walking out, he asked in near panic, “Mom, why aren’t you taking the food?”

From a mama’s standpoint, worse than having to explain to the cashier that I have insufficient funds is trying to explain to this innocent kid with the big blue eyes that we didn’t have any money for food. How do I tell him that the cereal supper he ate last night might be repeated tonight and for breakfast and for lunch and for…well…my heart ached as I told him that we just couldn’t afford groceries for the next week or two. He cried on the way home. I cried with him.

As I sit here typing words on a page, I realize that I am not the first person that has had this happen. I am not alone. I know the kind of shame it breeds to stand before the cashier as the customers in the line behind sneer. So many of us fight for daily provision and for food just to eat. It becomes exhausting to try to juggle bills and feed our families, keep gas in the car and shoes on growing feet. And in so many ways, we end up with insufficient funds.

It is in this daily battle that the good news of the gospel meets our insufficient funds. Every single one of us has a debt we can not pay; we have racked up a bill through our sins and stumblings that our best efforts can not compensate for.  No matter the size of the infraction, the sentence is the same: death. That little white lie that couldn’t have really hurt anyone; that red light that would have made me late, so I just ran it; that yelling at my husband when I thought he was too interested in the game and not interested enough in me; that shooting heroin into the veins or the taking an extra pain killer just to calm the nervous heart; that gossip that seemed so harmless have each earned the same sentence.  No matter how big or small we think our sin is, we all miss the mark of perfection God requires.

Thankfully, we stand not before a helpless cashier, but before a holy and righteous God who looks on us with compassion. He sees our sin, finds us guilty, and pronounces the penalty for our sin, which is death. Then God does something amazing, astounding, beyond our comprehension. He  willingly sends his Son Jesus to die in our place. He takes the wages of death that we have earned and settles the debt we have no  way to pay through the death of his Son.

Praise God! He pays when we can’t and in Christ, we are never left standing with a debt that we are insufficient to pay. We never have to guess or wonder if our feeble efforts will be enough to make us right with God. God made a way through Jesus for us to be right, for our penalty to be paid. Christ’s death and resurrection prove He is sufficient.  He marks our debt PAID IN FULL.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.     ~ Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   ~ Romans 6:23

Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…      ~2 Corinthians 3:4-6