Family Wisdom: Part Seven (Final songs and blessings)

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centred

Forgive them anyway

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway

If you are successful you will win some false friends and some true enemies.

be successful anyway

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you

Be honest and frank anyway

What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, people may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. But give the world the best you have anyway.

You see in the final analysis, it is all between you and God: it was never between you and them anyway.

(attributed to Mother Teresa)

Blessing:

Deep peace of the running wave to you.

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the Son of peace to you

Amen

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Family Wisdom: Part Six (Prayers of Intercession)

I led this service at the beginning of July, the start of the Summer holidays. Now it is November and we have just finished the Autumn half term holiday for schools in this area.  I had thought I might change the prayers to make them more relevant to my life now, a few months later. And then I read them again before posting them, Yes some things have moved on slightly. Yet, on the whole, the same issues and the same people need prayer. Therefore I will keep the prayers I wrote at the time. I think it is worth saying them again. 

 

As this is as service about wise sayings; once again, my Prayer of Intercession is based on the words of wisdom of Mother Julian of Norwich.

In you Father Almighty, we have our preservation and our bliss;

In you Christ, we have our restoring and our saving

You are our Mother, Brother and our Saviour.

In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit is marvelous and plenteous Grace.

You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.

You are our Maker, our Lover and our keeper.

Teach us to believe that by your Grace

All shall be well;

And all shall be well;

And all manner of things shall be well.

Amen.

 

Heavenly Father (and everyone) 

 

Work is still an issue for others and for myself. At last I am receiving outside support. Yet as I finish my phased return I am conscious that I am still stepping into a minefield with my managers. I need to tread so carefully. I know there are others too who continue to be challenged in the workplace. Protect each one of us in our work situation. May we know that we have your shield of protection.

 

All shall be well; and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

 

Last time I mentioned attending physiotherapy. Yesterday Todmorden town Council held the disability focus group. We invited wheelchair users, and other people with longterm medical problems or disabilities to discuss barriers, issues and doing things differently in regards Todmorden Neighbourhood plan.

There were seventeen of us in total and the consultants led a lively discussion. Let it not just be a talking shop. Let it build momentum and make a difference to Todmorden and to change attitudes and the town environment and make Todmorden accessible and inclusive to all.

 

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

 

In the meeting yesterday, I wanted to make sure that we didn’t just focus on mobility problems, but also talking about other issues such as visual loss and hearing impairments. Difficulty with hearing especially can isolate you and can be largely unseen and unrecognized. I was grateful that when I spoke about it, it produced echoes of recognition and the attention it deserved. Thank you for that.  Let us educate ourselves about how noisy environments can be altered to make it easier and less stressful for all.

 

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well

 

Last week I was thrown because Florence wasn’t here, so faithful in organising the Bible readers. That is why it has mainly been my voice today. Let us pray for people known to us who are unwell. Florence and Sandra …. let us also give thanks that Betty’s Maurice is  healing from hospital admission; and that Christine, our Minister, has a date for her operation. And also pray for Betty. Please hold them close to your heart in the palm of your hand.

 

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

 

We are at the start of the school summer holidays. Sometimes we hear of accidents and tragedies that occur on holiday. It somehow seems worse when people are relaxing and are far from home. Already there has been disruption and death in Cos due to the earthquake. In this hectic world we all need a break from the everyday tasks. Please pray for those just starting their holidays; and let us pray for a peaceful summer for all of us and some breathing space until September when it all starts again.

 

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

 

I have already mentioned Todmorden Town council and our attempts to plan for and design an inclusive neighbourhood plan. I was grateful yesterday for the support of two fellow councillors at the focus group. They did most of the catering, serving coffee and tea and washing up afterwards. I was too busy greeting people and making sure everyone was alright. Thank you for their support and our working together to make it all go smoothly.

 

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

 

A few weeks ago I had an unexpected answer to prayer. I was elected onto the Development Board sub group to discuss Todmorden centre. After a difficult email exchange last week, I am making my voice heard and attempting to disagree well. To disagree well, I need to listen carefully and speak slowly. Please Lord, nudge us into positive action and an excellent solution to bring back the vitality of a vibrant, safe and relaxing town centre. Please help us bring back some civic pride.

 

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

In you Father Almighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you Christ we have our restoring and our saving; you are our mother, brother and saviour. In you, our Lord the holy spirit is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover and our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace, all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

 

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Family Wisdom: Part Five (My personal reflections)

O storyteller

you sit me down

you fill me with tears

and love

and laughter.

 

come into my life,

and tell your story

through me.

Amen

 

My reflections on the theme of family wisdom:

What have our readings got in common and today?

Proverbs is about listening to wisdom. I made a mistake to use Proverbs, as that was not intended as the lectionary reading. And yet, it seemed to fit. I remember someone telling me, God uses our mistakes. She said –it is a good thing when a service is not perfect. It shows how gracious God is in wanting to work with us humans and our many mistakes.

It states in Proverbs; wise people take advice; the wise watch what they say; the wise shrug off insults; the wise are truthful, the wise use words that heal and the wise have words that last. Wise people can tell the difference between gossip about people, and genuine kindness.

How often do I need to hear those messages!

Psalm 86 mentions thugs and bullies out to get us; our enemies. When we are not at war, do we have enemies? Who might our enemies be? Are enemies the people we don’t get on with? People who don’t see things in the same way that we do? For me, in local politics for the first time, are my enemies people in a different political party?

Perhaps they are unseen enemies in the invisible spiritual world; in and around us.

Sometimes it seems there are lots of little gremlins in the system, determined to stop us, tripping us up, getting in the way, discouraging us. During my preparation for this service had lots of ideas. I wanted to use the technology and music. It became a major personal battle with technology. Nothing worked. I tried to brush it off, think of something else. Yet it did cause its mark and delayed my thinking and reflections about the essence of the service. It also caused hassle to those trying to help me.

 

The reading in Romans talks about as being part of God’s family. We are children of God the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. We share in his suffering now. Yet it is not a futile suffering. It is like birth pangs. There is hope of something better. Not just for us; for the whole of creation.

I used to hate being told that we might need to suffer as Christ’s followers. I remember talking to Mum about the Methodist Covenant service always held at the beginning of January. We both felt the same; especially if we were suffering anyway and when going through difficult year. In the Covenant Service, there is one phrase where it says: Put me to suffering.

Why on earth would I ask for that?

(NB: Explanation for non-Methodists. The Covenant Service is where you re-new your Covenant with God, and say that I will do what God wants of me in the coming year and that might include suffering)

When I tripped up on holiday in March and broke my finger, there were points in that experience where I was saying to God with a whine: Why me? What is all this about? Where are you, Heavenly One, in this frustrating experience?

I  reflected on this: Why had a simple trip over a tree root, become complicated, need surgery and end up with nails put into my hand to hold the bone straight. I wrote on my blog:

It was on Good Friday it struck me. Of course, God is here in this. Jesus knows exactly how I am feeling; and so much more. I can feel the heaviness of a nail in my left hand -a nail to promote healing. The nail in the left hand of Jesus, a hand that was pierced for me, was to promote death. Jesus, perhaps you are inviting me to imagine a tiny fraction of your physical suffering. Maybe that is all that is needed from me at present; just to feel this experience. The real aim for me is to feel things that God feels.

 

Finally, the Gospel reading;Matthew talks about wheat and weeds (chaff) growing together.

I have one or two reflections about wheat and weeds.

The weeds and the good grain look the same when immature. You can only tell the difference when fully grown. (unlike my picture)

A story: When I was 29 single and lonely living on my own in Bradford, I went on a Christian holiday and met a young man. I will call him H to protect his identity. He was a black West Indian. Although born in the Caribbean, his family moved to London when he was a toddler. He was very much a Londoner. He worshipped in a Pentecostal church; and was a missionary; during the time we were together he went to America with Youth with a Mission. He was enthusiastic about faith in a straightforward and ordinary way, both talking about it and listening to others. I was deeply in love and thought this relationship would last. I was also amazed that he was interested in me. At that time, I felt inferior to charismatic Christians, people who could talk or pray in tongues and who were given words of wisdom or see pictures or visions. I thought I had a feeble faith compared to them and was second-class, not possessing these supernatural gifts. So likewise I was in awe of H and his spirituality. He was a gifted spiritual leader. Sadly with me, in an intimate personal and emotional relationship, he treated me badly. I finished the relationship when he messed me about once too often and the emotional pain was too great. It took me 5 years to get over him. What had seemed so good and right; a beautiful wholesome piece of wheat, why had it turned out so wrong? How could God, support him in his spiritual leadership when he was being cruel to me? I remember reading the story about David and Bathsheba, in which David fell in love with her, slept with her and then killed her husband into the bargain. I was appalled too at that.

Fortunately I met another leader from a charismatic church who gave me this illustration. He talked not about grain and grass, but sheep and goats. In the Middle-East they can look the same.  In the Bible there is reference too to the sheep and the goats and who will be separated out at a time of judgement. The sheep who behave with pure motives, the goats with more evil intent.

The minister advised me:

  • In life and in Church there are goats that behave like goats. You know who they are-they are naughty through and through and they are easy to spot.
  • Then there are sheep that behave like sheep. Again they are easy to spot. They are goodness through and through.
  • However there are also goats that sometimes behave like sheep. They appear good and to have pure motives, but in their hearts, they are wicked.
  • Finally there are sheep that are good at heart, but sometimes behave like goats and do naughty things.

Now, after time has gone by, I like to think that H was one of those sheep who sometimes behaved like a goat; I learnt so many good things from him, especially about faith. Also I began to realise my feeling of inferiority, as a Christian had not helped the situation.

I work as a community Occupational Therapist. Sometimes I think I learn as much from my clients as I manage to help them. As one of my clients once told me: There is no one better than me and I am no better than anyone-else. We are each a beloved child of God. 

 I feel no hatred or bitterness against H. I felt extreme sadness at the time. Perhaps we were just too different and it could not work out. I am something of a country yokel after all and not a city person.

Second Reflection: A piece of grass is a piece of grass and a piece of grain is a piece of grain –a piece of grass is completely different to a piece of grain. Or is good and evil so different?

When I lived in Bradford I attended a prayer group. Sometimes I felt uncomfortable. I had met Kevin by then. He didn’t like the group. He felt excluded. I remember on one occasion there had been a lot of talk about one of our friends who was suffering from depression. There was a lot of talk about her, I am not sure if we were actually talking with her. Were we indulging in gossip or genuine concern? Sometimes I think there can be a fine line between the two.

Another reflection: the grain is sewn in a field. We need several pieces of grain to have a decent harvest. We need each other to become a splendid piece of bread. I could not have done this service without the invisible support and prayers surrounding me; and the words of wisdom I have received over the years.

Reflection four:It is the angels who are the harvesters, not us. We just need to keep growing. It is not our role to point the finger and judge others. Leave it the angels and to God.

This may seem contradictory, we need to be able to recognise bad behaviour both in ourselves and in others. Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. I have been having difficulties at work. It is a recurring theme. Constantly I seem to be in trouble with my Managers. I felt bullied. When I reported this, it made it ten times worse. It was all in my head, past history, my managers told me. I crumpled and took back my complaint. I couldn’t explain it. I thought they were trying to make me do things against my conscience, criticizing me for being too kind in my dealing with people. I thought that by saying this, it was a slur on my professionalism.

My good friend R, who is a close confident and follower of Jesus, advised me to take legal advice. She also said that in her mind’s eye she had a picture for me: a picture of a shield strengthened with protective and soft yet effective material. She said she thought I needed a heavy shield to protect me and defend myself; something that would make them back off. As a bystander and listening to my description of the situation she said to me that they were being unjust. ( I asked her as I was too close to it and found it difficult to tell whether it was me at fault or my Managers)

I have just had two weeks holiday, but this week was back at work, finishing my phased return due to my broken finger. I had several reminders about this shield. On the daily service I listen to on radio 4, the subject was all about putting on the armour of God. It mentioned the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith and other defensive armour. Even more astonishing when I visited Mum on Monday, my day off and before the start of my week back at work, the thought for the day on her calendar was about God ‘s help in David’s psalms being like that of a shield, standing side by side with him as in a time of war.

On Tuesday, my first day back, I met my boss  for a short supervision. One to one, it felt  better. (Prior to this I had to meet two managers at a time.) She was more circumspect; not quite as gung-ho as she had been. It felt easier to talk to her and have an adult conversation. I felt as if I had a shield of protection.

I think perhaps the psalm was right, in my case my enemies were my own fears and lack of confidence and my Managers being able to exploit these and bully me.

With regards evil, the chaff perhaps, I heard on radio 4 a discussion about Hannah Arendt a Jewish practical philosopher, who reflected on the elements that caused the Holocaust. She coined the phrase the banality of evil. I think she meant not that evil is particularly common- place; but that evil is incredibly mundane. Like someone just doing their job without thought; allowing people to become economic numbers and worthless if not producing anything.

I do not want to become like that in my job, for the sake of efficiency and getting through the numbers of those seeking help.

Andrent suggested that  the holocaust was a perfect storm where lots of factors came into play. One aspect was the nature of evil itself. She described evil as not deep-rooted, but more like fungi, that has shallow roots and sticks to everything. In that way it spreads. One top Nazi was Goebbels. He basically was a highly efficient civil servant, who did his job particularly well and efficiently and effectively. Her advice was live thoughtfully; don’t just do things efficiently and as an automaton.

Finally, there is part of the Gospel reading that I have not yet mentioned. It is difficult to hear, especially when you want everyone to be rescued and restored to living in harmony with our three-in-one God.

Matthew 13:36-43Good News Translation (GNT)

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds

36 When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, his disciples came to him and said, “Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means.”

37 Jesus answered, “The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; 39 and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: 41 the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather up out of his Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all others who do evil things, 42 and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth. 43 [a]Then God’s people will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!

 Nothing is wasted. The grass is thrown on the fire. Even the grass can be used. As a child I used to be fascinated about the expression grinding of teeth. It made me think of Gnasher, the dog belonging to Dennis the Menace who had a lot of big teeth.(From: The  Beano)

I am not sure if the expression is exaggeration for effect, Jesus’s sense of humour, or his pent-up frustration with those who refused to listen to understand.  Some of the religious people preferred to listen to refute.

I reckon we don’t go far wrong if we keep our focus on Jesus, keep close to him, and not worry about the rest.

 

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Family Wisdom: Part Four

At this point in our morning service I took the collection and said this prayer.

let us pray:

 

Today, may I give and receive love

today, may I work for justice and peace

today may I listen and pray

today may I sing God’s praises

today may I delight in God’s beauty

Today and every day. Amen

Then came the height of the service: the reading from the Gospel:

The Gospel reading is from Matthew chapter 13.

This parable is told among other parables in Matthew about the kingdom of heaven. It is written in context of Jesus facing sad and difficult events personally, being rejected in his home town of Nazareth, the killing of John the Baptist, his need to go alone to a lonely place to pray only to be followed by crowds. Despite his own need he had compassion on the crowd and spoke to them. This led to the feeding of 5000.

The Parable of the Weeds 

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man sowed good seed in his field. 25 One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the plants grew and the heads of grain began to form, then the weeds showed up. 27 The man’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘It was some enemy who did this,’ he answered. ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ they asked him. 29 ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. 30 Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.’”

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Family Wisdom: Part Three

Romans 8 verses 12 to 25;

Translation by Alan T Dale

New World: the Heart of the New Testament in Plain English.

I have chosen this translation from one of the books I kept from my Dad’s library.

Alan Dale introduces Romans as follows:

This letter Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome is different from his other letters other letters; as these were Christians Paul had heard about but not yet met. He wrote to them wanting them to welcome him there on his way to Spain. He wanted them to help him in his work in the West. He knew these Christians would have heard stories about him, many of them untruthful.

In this letter, he wrote with care and honesty about what he believed and where he stood with regards important aspects of this new faith.

Jewish Christians had attacked him on three important questions:

  • What Christianity is about
  • What is important in Jewish religion in the history of mankind
  • How Christians need to behave towards one another and others not part of the faith.

To Paul, Jesus is the clue to understanding what God is like.

We pick up the letter where Paul begins to talk about life in the spirit and where he talks about us being children of God and seeing Jesus as our elder brother.

Those who, with God’s help, try to live in Gods way are true members of God’s family.

You know what it was like before you became friends with Jesus. You didn’t know what God was really like. You felt you were slaves, as you were always afraid. This will never happen again. God’s spirit does not make as slaves but members of his family. When we pray, we speak to God just as Jesus did; we say, “Father!” God himself makes us quite sure in our hearts that we are his children. Children, as you know, inherit their father’s wealth. If, then, we are God’s children, we share his wealth as his heirs along with Jesus. But note; we must remember what Jesus went through before he became what he is; we must be ready to face what he faced, as well as share in his splendor.

We look at everything differently now-the hard time we are going through and the very earth we live on. We see it all in the light of the glorious future, which God will give us.

The earth itself is being spoilt by the way we live; it is, as it were, waiting for the time when the people who live on it will live, not as they do now, but as members of God’s family, with mercy and gentleness, sharing it together.

We know that the story of the whole world has been a story of much suffering. Animals know what suffering is; men and women know what it means, too. But it is not hopeless suffering; it is like the suffering of the mother when she has her baby –something is being born. Even we, who are the friends of Jesus and who have begun the new life, also know what suffering means, all too well. But we look forward in hope to the time when we shall be fully members of God’s family and our whole personalities set free.

All this, of course, is only hope now; we don’t live, as we ought to do. But this hope has made us new people. And we are going to hold on to that hope until the day comes when we can see the glory with our own eyes.

We shall now sing the hymn:

Hymn: Hills of the North rejoice. 237

 

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Family Wisdom: Part Two

When I am looking at the bite-size piece that I am posting tonight, it seems timely that I am posting it on All Hallows (Halloween) or another word for it is All Souls Day. When I first wrote this part of the service and said the prayers, I was thinking of loved ones who have died and the horror of our world.

My prayers started with the readings from proverbs, then the psalm and finally a lament:The words from proverbs: from the Message translation of the Bible.

The title of the passage is: Wise people take advice

The gossip of bad people gets them into trouble;

The conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;

The prudent quietly shrug off insults.

Truthful witness by a good person clears the air,

But liars lay down a smokescreen of deceit.

Rash language cuts and mains,

But there is healing in the words of the wise.

Truth lasts

Lies are here today, gone tomorrow.

 

PSALM 86; a prayer for help:

 

Let us pray:

 

Train me God to walk straight;

Then I’ll follow your true path.

Put me together, one heart and mind;

Then, undivided, I will worship in joyful fear.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear lord

I have never kept secret what you’re up to.

You have always been great towards me– What love!

You snatched me from the brink of disaster!

God, those boys have reared their heads!

A gang of thugs is after me–

And they don’t care a thing about you.

But you, O God are both tender and kind,

Not easily angered, immense in love,

And you never, never quit.

So look me in the eye and show kindness,

Give your servant the strength to go on,

Save your dear, dear child!

Make a show of how much you love me

So that the bullies who hate me

Will stand there slack-jawed,

As you, God, gently and powerfully

Put me back on my feet.

Amen.

The Message Psalm 86 11-17

 

And my own lament for children of the world today:

Father,

we pray for the children of the world. Why are innocent children suffering?

How long Lord. how long?

We pray for children everywhere harmed by conflict and war?and sometimes complicated and made more horrifying by disease?

How long Lord? How long?

The children in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, in the Palestinian territories and Israel?

How long Lord, how long?

We pray for children harmed by traumatic events.

How long Lord? How Long?

The children who escaped Grenfall Tower’s fire, in Kensington, London and saw friends unable to escape?

How long Lord ? How long?

The children who are hurt or killed by the hand of those who are looking after them? the little boy killed in a park by his step father for losing a shoe?

How long Lord? how long?

And children in our own town, Todmorden, affected by the Manchester terrorist attack, and still upset by what they saw.

How long Lord? How long?

How long must the innocent children suffer? Please hear our prayer for them

Amen.

 

Hymn: Lord of all hopefulness. 552

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A Morning Service: Family Wisdom Part One

Hello, on my blog I am going to show the theme and the structure of the service I led during the summer. This is how it began:

Family Wisdom: Part One

Let us start our service with a short prayer.

Wise and gentle God

You revealed yourself in time and space and gave us a path to follow.

You sent your son, Jesus Christ, to show us your love and truth. We ask you to guide us. Each new day help us discern your will in the depths of our hearts, and to see your spirit in our lives. Amen

 

The theme of this morning service is family wisdom.

When I was asked to do this own arrangement service, I jumped at the chance, goody I thought, they have a let me loose.

That was my first mistake.

I looked at what was on the lectionary today. Something from the Book of Wisdom; Psalm 86; Romans 8 and Matthew 13.

Wisdom. mmmh. I wasn’t sure where the book of wisdom is to be found. Is it in the Apocrypha? I looked it up on Bible Gateway on the Internet; no luck of course, the Apocrypha is not on Bible Gateway.

Instead I decided to look at Proverbs. The chapter was entitled: Wise people take advice.

That seems to fit. That will do, I thought.

That was my second mistake.

I reflected on the words of wisdom I have received throughout my life.

I am a lover of quotes and family sayings.

In case there are any latecomers, like me usually, for a few moments I want us to look at the sayings and pieces of advice I have collected over the years.  While we look at them, M, please play a verse of the first verse of the first hymn on the organ. Thanks

At this point I handed around a few sheets of paper to the congregation with the quotes or advice from my family and M played a verse of the first hymn.

My sister Cas said that no-one is completely good nor completely bad. There is light and dark within each of us. Equally there is light and dark in our institutions-governments, our schools and our churches.

When I offended my best friend at school, she stopped speaking to me, for several weeks. I didn’t know what to do. My dad advised me to ignore, the fact she is not speaking to me. Just start to talk to her as if she is behaving as normal. I did. To my surprise after a few moments she started to chat back.

Fix the problem, not the blame.
Japanese Proverb

 

When criticised by someone, consider whether there is truth in the criticism.  If it is true and if you can, act on it. If untrue, ignore the criticism. Mum.

An act of love is never wasted. My eldest sister, Cas.

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