Jul 22

My Embarrassing Confession

 

I have a confession to make. It’s kind of embarrassing and I’m reticent to admit it, but I want to be transparent so I’m going public.

I leak.

Seriously, I do. And I’m not talking about once in a blue moon or even occasionally. I’m talking basically everyday, especially for the last several months. I truly thought that after so many years, this problem would perhaps disappear, but it continues to plague me.

I’m sure you’re hoping I’ll share the details of my leakage, so here goes…

Every morning I start out my day on my backyard deck, brimming with beautiful blooms planted by my full-time gardener (a.k.a. my husband). The trees have leafed out, thereby obscuring the housing development behind us. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. So I pray, sing and read God’s Word. I feel wonderfully “full.”

But as the day progresses, I start “leaking.”

When someone irritates me, (for example, by wearing their public mask below their nose!) a little  of my patience drips away. When I read about yet-another person facing cancer (especially a child), I feel a tiny bit of hope dissipating. And when my unexplained physical pain intensifies (going on 11 weeks now), I definitely lose a measure of joy.

I’m tempted to think that after 48 years of following Christ, I shouldn’t still have this “problem.” I ought to be able to pray and read Scripture in the morning and be spiritually and emotionally prepared to face the entire day–maybe even a few days!

And yet I know that God created us for intimacy with Himself. And every time I “leak” some of the fruit of the Spirit, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to draw closer to Him and allow His Spirit to fill me again.

When the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:18 admonished believers to “be filled with the Spirit,” he used the passive voice, which means we are to “keep on being filled” with the Spirit.

I might get away with brushing my hair and putting on my make-up only once a day, but I need continual refilling throughout the day with the power of His Spirit.

Jesus taught this truth in a parable in Luke 11:11-13:

“You fathers–if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts  to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Author Jennifer Kennedy Dean adds: “I find it interesting that Jesus summed up good gifts as the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit, we have direct access to all the resources of God, the presence of God, and the wisdom of God. The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.”

How about you? Has the pandemic punctured holes in your spiritual/emotional tank causing some leakage? Are  financial or marital struggles taking their toll? Or like me are you or your loved one experiencing a physical ordeal that keeps stealing your peace?

We might be leaking, but God is continually providing. I don’t have to sit on my beautiful deck to be renewed and refreshed–He will meet me wherever I am. As the song below says: “I’m not enough unless You come. Will You meet me here again?”
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(Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video “Here Again” by Elevation Worship.)

Jul 01

30 Years of Lessons Learned as a Cancer Survivor

 

Tomorrow, July 2, is the 30th anniversary of my surgery for stage 3 colon cancer. So it seemed like a good time to reflect on important truths God has taught me in these past three decades. Whether you’re living in cancer’s shadow or some other life struggle, my prayer is that your heart will be encouraged today.

30. Life is often unfair, but God always is faithful. 
29. We may be given more than we can handle, but it’s never more than God can handle.
28. Your trial has not taken God by surprise; He is in control and knows exactly what you need.
27. The family of God is a gift from God especially for times like these.
26. Nothing about your situation can separate you from God—keep looking for Him in unexpected places.
25. Anyone can beat cancer (or any disease) because being victorious is not only about being cured.
24. God loves your loved ones even more than you do.

23. You can take all your questions to the Lord…He will either give you the answers you seek or the peace to live without them.
22. Remember the ABCs of life’s struggles: Accept you don’t have the whole picture. Believe a loving God does. Continue on by faith and not by sight.
21. Wounded healers make wonderful comforters–let Him comfort others through you.
20. God can create beauty from ashes, turn mourning into dancing and change weeping into joy.
19. Cancer—or any life struggle—can be a very deep pit, but the love of God is deeper still.
18. You are not waiting for test results; you are learning to depend more on God.
17. Sometimes we need to hear people’s hearts and not just their words.

16. We find peace when we fill our minds with absolute truth and not simply information.
15. People cope differently with illness/trials and we need to appreciate those differences.
14. You’re either a funny friend or you need one.
13. Waiting goes against our nature, but draws us closer to the Lord better than just about anything else.
12. You positively don’t have to stay positive all the time.
11. God doesn’t need “good odds” to heal.
10. We find peace when we share laughter, troubles and blessings with an understanding group of friends.
9. We need to accept the diagnosis, try to defy the verdict and leave the outcome up to God.
8. Tears are a gift from God and we shouldn’t be afraid to let them fall.

7. God wants to bring blessing through trials…you just have to let Him decide the blessing.
6. Courage is not living without fear…it’s living in spite of the fear.
5. You are a lot stronger than you think…and God is a lot greater than you think.
4. Ask God to somehow, some way use your pain for His glory.
3. Today is another day the Lord has made and that is reason enough to rejoice.
2. God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.

And No. 1. Let God simply be God.

Let Him be the mighty, awesome God, powerful enough to heal any and every person, body, mind and spirit.

Let Him be the absolute sovereign God, wise enough to know how and when to answer any and every prayer.

Let Him be the unfalteringly faithful God, willing to strengthen us for any and every circumstance.

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Make sure to open this blog in your browser to hear a song I want sung at my memorial service someday!

 

Jun 17

Do You Like to Be Prepared?

 

I hate being unprepared. My mother always said I shouldn’t say “hate,” but rather “dislike intently.” So, let me rephrase: I intently dislike being unprepared.

I always check the weather report each morning so I can prepare to dress accordingly. Every day I make a list so I’m prepared to accomplish what needs to be done. And this pandemic has taken my preparedness to new levels. Both our cars are prepared with supplies: hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, masks and disposable gloves. I’m constantly checking our freezer and canned goods so I can be prepared for our weekly grocery curbside pickups. I regularly read the news to be prepared with the latest safety advice.

Are you wondering how I’m doing? …I’m exhausted. It’s exhausting trying to be prepared for who-knows-what-to- happen who-knows-when.

So I started thinking about one of my favorite Bible verses, possibly because it has the word “prepared” in it.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
 or those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

I’ve decided it’s the perfect verse to remember as I face another day. I’m repeating it when I climb out of bed in the morning and when I crawl back in at night. I’m recalling it at mealtimes or anytime the dread rises in my aching heart.

We may feel unprepared (especially me), but God is prepared and He is preparing things for us—good things—things that we can’t even imagine. Hear His promise through Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 31:8.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.
He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” 

Authors Henry and Richard Blackaby explain God’s promise this way:

God never sends you into a situation alone. He always goes before His children as He did with the children of Israel when He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night…He always precedes you in any situation you encounter. God is never caught by surprise by your experience; He has already been there. He is prepared to meet your every need because He has gone before you and knows exactly what you will need for your pilgrimage.”[1]

And the really good news is that He doesn’t just go on ahead of us, He stays with us, too, ensuring we never are alone.

“Not only does God go before you, but He also stands beside you and behind you, to provide protection and comfort,” the Blackabys add. “If you are going through a difficult or confusing time, know that the Lord has gone before you and He is present with you. He is fully aware of what you are facing, and He is actively responding to your need.[2]

No doubt, I’ll keep making my lists and checking my supplies, but I’m believing that the God of the Universe is prepared to supply me everyday with all the things that truly matter.

[1] Experiencing God Day by Day: Devotional by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, 1998 B&H Publishing Group, pg. 94. The story of the Israelites being led by God with a cloud and a fire pillar is found in Exodus 13:21.

[2] Ibid.
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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear “Christ Be All Around Me” by All Sons & Daughters

 

Jun 03

Are you flying by the seat of your pants?

 

My cousin Jim knows  from his years of soaring into hurricanes and typhoons that flying into a storm is extremely dangerous. But as part of a U.S. Air Force weather reconnaissance team, it was his job to help gather weather data so forecasters could better predict a storm’s strength.

It was critical, Jim says, that team members trusted the “artificial horizon”— a line on the plane’s instrument panel which always corresponds to the earth’s horizon, no matter in which direction the plane is flying.

“When you’re in the clouds and in storms and you can’t see the horizon—the earth, the ground, good old terra firma—you have to rely on the artificial horizon,” Jim explains. “You have to trust that it is representing the horizon. You have to trust that it represents something you can’t see.”

In the early days of aviation when aircraft had few navigational aids, a successful flight was accomplished mainly by the pilot’s judgment and instincts; that is “flying by the seat of your pants.”

“All you could do was fly by your sensations,” Jim explains. “If you were coming out of your seat, you must be upside down. If you were pressed down into your seat, you must be flying higher.

“The problem is that [our perceptions] are not always accurate. You can feel like you’re flying normal and perfectly fine, but it’s just that the airplane is falling at just the right speed to feel normal. You have to look at your instruments and believe them.”

All of us are in at least one life-storm right now. The pandemic for sure, with perhaps a health crisis, financial burden, raw grief, or relationship struggle thrown in as well.

My question is: Are you and I flying by the seat of our pants?

If so, our feelings can be overpowering and paralyzing. We can become so disoriented in a storm that we don’t know whether we’re headed up or down.

Just like a pilot needs an artificial horizon line, we all need something to keep us heading in the right direction. I believe God’s Word is the always reliable compass on our instrument panel. Every day we need to turn to it and find truth regarding our life-storms. And then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to trust those truths no matter what’re feeling.

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation. Proverbs 10:25

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. Psalm 37:34

I love author Max Lucado’s perspective: “Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see…Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow.”

(FYI My cousin, retired Major James Perkins flew with the U.S. Air Force 53rd WRS Hurricane Hunters from 1975-79 and with the 54th WRS Typhoon Chasers from 1984-86. And yes, he is VERY smart!)
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Be sure to open in your browser to enjoy the music video below, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fall) by Hillsong United.

May 20

Are you fearless because you fear less?

 

Any fears flooding your thoughts these days? Reading on-line obituaries to see who died from COVID-19? Scrolling Facebook to read the latest thing to worry about?

After my cancer diagnosis in 1990, every night I’d look in the local paper to see if someone I had treatment with had died or how many people listed had died from cancer. It was a depressing ritual, but one I found hard to break. I guess it was part of those early days when I let cancer consume my thoughts.

And thank goodness I had cancer “in the olden days” as I like to call them when I didn’t have Internet access in my home or at my fingertips on a mobile device. I’m pretty sure that vast amount of Web information would have made me feel even more overwhelmed. (I just Googled “colon cancer” and got 174 MILLION hits!)

Don’t misunderstand, I’m thrilled at all the information—and encouragement—that is available on the Web, but a good question to ask yourself after your on-line time is: Do I feel better or worse after what I’ve just read? If information makes you feel more equipped to fight cancer or the pandemic or whatever trial you’re facing these days, then search away! But if reading makes you feel overwhelmed or depressed or fearful, please don’t keep putting such stuff into your head–especially since not all of it is entirely accurate.

Instead, I would encourage you to fill your mind with the truth that the God who began creation by simply speaking words is a lot more powerful than any possible misguided cells within our bodies. He’s a lot more trustworthy than any statistics in a medical journal and way more knowledgable than anyone’s dire predictions.

So stop feeding your mind with a voice of fear and instead allow a strengthening fear to fill your being. I’m talking about the fear of the Lord.

It’s not a “fall down and shake because you’re afraid of getting zapped” kind of fear. It’s a Wow! kind, where you’re in awe and amazement and wonder and reverence of God because of what He has done and still can do.

It’s this “fear” that I have discovered reduces all the other fears.

I love how Psalm 112 describes us “fear-filled” people:

Happy are those who fear the Lord.
Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what he commands. . . .
When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in.
They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. . . .
They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless
and can face foes triumphantly. Psalm 112:1,4,7-8

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah explained how he, too, learned to have the right kind of fear after God warned him that his country was going to be invaded.

The Lord has said to me in the strongest terms: “Do not think like everyone else does. Do not be afraid that some plan conceived behind closed doors will be the end of you. Do not fear anything except the Lord Almighty. He alone is the Holy One. If you fear him, you need fear nothing else. He will keep you safe.” Isaiah 8:11-14

I don’t know about you, but that’s one voice of fear I always want to hear because it makes me fearless and able to fear less.

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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns

 

May 06

When your world is crashing down…

 

My prayer for you today, my friend, is that no matter what life hands you–when your world or even the whole world is crashing  down–you will trust the Lord’s unending love for you.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see will last forever
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2 Corinthians 4:18

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Be sure to open this email in your browser to hear the music video below “Trust in You” by Jeremy Camp.

Apr 22

5 Ways a Pandemic Is Like Having Cancer

 

When this novel coronavirus invaded our globe, it was such a stark reminder of my long-ago cancer diagnosis that I actually said to myself: Now everyone will see how it feels to have your world fall apart right before your eyes.

For the past thirty years, my life has been divided into B.C. (Before Cancer) and A.C. (After Cancer) and now yours is too: Before COVID-19 and After COVID-19.

In 1990 when my 36-year-old world was rocked with stage 3 cancer, my pastor-husband was nearly paralyzed with fear that he would bury yet-another wife. Our little girls, ages 8, 10 and 12, tried to adjust to a bunch of babysitters and a mommy who either was lying on the couch or puking in the bathroom. I took a leave of absence from my newspaper reporter job and got replacements for my many volunteer church positions.

All the busyness of our happy home came to a screeching halt as we focused on defeating this unwelcome intruder.

 So here are 5 ways today’s pandemic reminds me of that cancer diagnosis (and don’t miss the last and most important one!)

NO GUARANTEES—I remember thinking that it would be much easier to go through the pain and anxiety of weekly chemo treatments for a year if I knew they definitely would cure me. But there was no such guarantee—only the sobering fact that I had about a 40-percent chance of surviving. (Wouldn’t you like some guarantees regarding all your virus precautions?)

NO PLANS—Friends would ask if I wanted to go somewhere or do something on a certain day, but I couldn’t make definite plans because I couldn’t predict how I would be feeling. People tried to encourage me by saying things like “Just take it one day at a time.” Honestly, there were days when I was just trying to get through the next hour or even the next five minutes. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have definite dates to travel, go out to dinner, get a hair cut?)

NO PEACE—Thoughts of cancer, my uncertain future and plenty of what-ifs filled my mind each day (and night!) I knew it wasn’t good to worry, so I worried that I worried too much! (Don’t you wish you didn’t think about COVID-19 every single day?)

NO NORMALCY—How I longed for life to return to normal. I just wanted my happy B.C. life back. And deep down inside I wondered if that ever would really happen. (Don’t you yearn to turn back the clock on social distancing and disinfecting everything?)

But there is one more “NO” which links these trying circumstances and it is the most important one:

NO DENYING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS—Because my life felt out-of-control, it brought me to my knees. And as I lifted to God my empty hands, my tear-filled eyes and my aching heart, He poured His promises, His power, and His peace into my life.

In 1995 on the fifth anniversary of my cancer surgery, I wrote a poem which is just as relevant today:

When your world is crashing down around you, trust Him.
When what is unfolding doesn’t make sense, trust Him.
When you see no light at the end of the tunnel, trust Him.
When your silent tears spill down, trust Him.
When the pain refuses to subside, trust Him.
When your heart screams, “Why?” trust Him.
When you have more questions than answers, trust Him.
When the devil tells you otherwise, trust Him.
When it’s the last thing you feel like doing, trust Him.
When there’s simply nothing else to do, trust Him.

Copyright 2002 by Lynn Eib.
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View this blog in your browser to play the music video below, “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle.

 

 

Apr 09

What do you need today?

 

Why do you have needs? Why do you need shelter or food? Why do you need emotional connections with other people? Why do you need to feel a sense of purpose?

You have needs because God created you with needs. He could have made you so that your shelter is on your back, as He did the turtle. He could have made you so that you could live a solitary, isolated life. But instead, He made you with needs. The reason is so that your needs could be His entry points. Your needs will point you to His supply.

The Father wants to meet your needs. He encourages you to look to Him to supply every need that arises. He takes pleasure in supplying you with everything you need.

Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

“Meet today’s needs,” Jesus taught us to pray. “Whatever arises today, Father I look to you for provision.”

I hear the Father whisper to me, “Nothing will come into your life today for which I have not already put provision in place. Just be alert and watchful. Look to Me first, I will point you to the supply.”

What an adventure it is to live this way! How it frees me from anxiety and frustration! I am learning that everything, from the major to the mundane, has been provided for by my Father. As needs arise from day to day, instead of asking, “Father, do something!” I just say, “Father, what have You already done? Where will I discover the answer You have provided?”

Please understand, God does not meet every need in the way that seems convenient to me. If that were my measuring stick, then I would often be frustrated. But if I have given myself to Him as a living offering, then I am open for Him to meet my needs in ways that will further my understanding of Him or advance His kingdom. You will only live in a state of blessedness when you have aligned yourself  with His will, so that your desire is to know Him at deeper and deeper levels.

If your motivating force is to get God to perform for you–to see Him bring about your agenda–you will not find the blessedness that Jesus offers. Often, what seems an inconvenience to me puts me on the path to an encounter the Lord has arranged for me. Or, something that throws off my schedule actually provides me with information I needed–sometimes before I know I needed it.

Sometimes God waits for you to ask, because until you see your need, you will not recognize His supply. He waits until you have come to the end of your own resources. He waits for you to turn to Him as the one and only source.

Blessedness comes in trusting His love for you and His wisdom. Peace is yours when you know that He will never withhold from you something that would truly make your life more complete.

Today’s blog is an excerpt from Set Apart: a 6-week study of the beatitudes by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, pp. 160-162. Copyright (c) 201. New Hope Publishers. Used with permission.

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Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below, “The Lord’s Prayer” by then 13-year-old Jackie Evancho https://youtu.be/qayluuujauM

 

Mar 25

Shaking Things Up

Don’t wait. Not a minute. Not a second. Instead, praise God now. If you and I wait to praise God until after something earthshaking and amazing happens, we’ve got the wrong order. Praise comes first. Doubt that?

Consider the classic praise story in the Bible–this scenario (in Acts 16) where Paul and Silas, bound in chains in the dungeon of a jail, their bodies bruised and bloodied by their jailers, still lifted their voices  to praise God.

And what an odd sound. Praise in a jail. Sung by two beaten, bloodied prisoners. It’s not logical. But as the book of Acts records, as they praised God, the earth shook. “And the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” Praise is power, indeed. But praise comes first.

When we’re bound up by some situation, in the midst of that mess, it’s hard to remember that we should praise God first. Not after it’s all cleaned up. But, while it’s happening. That is the proper order of praise.

In fact, the word praise (which in Latin means “prize”) shares a root with the Latin word for preposition. As we recall from grammar lessons at school, a preposition is the word that comes before the main thing. Such words hold the “before” position–the preposition–setting up the main topic. In our spiritual lives, praise sits in the same place. It holds the preposition, setting up God’s power so it can follow, moving in our hearts and lives.

And no prison chains can tie down that power. So don’t wait for your chains to fall or your prison walls to crumble. Praise God first. Right now. Despite your circumstances. Praise Him for being God. For His mercy. For His deliverance. For His hope. For His blessing. For His empowering Spirit. Then stand back. Your prison walls are coming down! (Content taken from One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional by Patricia Raybon. Copyright © 2011. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.)
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Today’s blog was written by Patricia Raybon, my friend and an award-winning, bestselling author. I love her writing, her teachings and that fact we both got our journalism degrees from THE Ohio State University (we even had the same favorite prof, “Mad Martha”!) You can connect with Patricia  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patricia.raybon or on her website https://www.patriciaraybon.com. And if you love daily inspiration, check out her One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional–one of my favorites!

When you have about 15 minutes to praise God, please listen to the music video below of our church’s worship pastor Eric Sumpter and the worship band. There are three songs with the words on the screen so you can sing along. I promise both God –and you–will be blessed. https://www.facebook.com/christschurchofthevalley/videos/508513459834041/

Mar 18

Where’s God when I really need Him?

Why doesn’t God keep little children from getting cancer?

Why didn’t God protect that family from the drunk driver?

Why did my friend have to bury yet-another spouse?

Why did God allow……………..you fill in the blanks.

We sometimes struggle with not sensing God’s nearness, not feeling His presence or not seeing His power in the way we had hoped. If you’ve ever agonizingly cried out “Where are you, God?” you know exactly what I mean.

I certainly would never attempt to explain all God’s actions (or perceived inactions), but I do believe there are spiritual truths which can help in those desperation times.

One of these truths is gleaned from Joshua 3* as the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River into the land God promised them:

“So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them.  It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge,  the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.”

Can you picture the one- to two- million people biblical scholars estimate stood at the river’s edge? As they watched the river overflow its banks, I can only only imagine their desperate thoughts: OK, God, where are you? We’re all going to die here!

But God didn’t push back the water right in front of His people. Instead He was working upstream at a town called Adam (estimated by scholars to be almost 20 miles away). That’s where the water backed up and allowed all those millions to walk across downstream on dry land.

I love how my pastor Brian Jones discusses this “upstream” phenomena in his book Second Guessing God:  Hanging on When You Can’t See His Plan:

“Where’s God? Whenever we face a problem in our lives—sickness, job loss, depression, tragedy, or discouragement—God is at work upstream in those situations, beyond our line of sight. The only thing the Israelites could see was the problem right in front of them. They could have concluded that since the raging river was there, God wasn’t actively involved in their situation, but they would have been wrong. He was there; they just couldn’t see him at work.”

Are you having trouble seeing God at work in your life or in the life of someone you love? Those are the times we all need to trust that our heavenly Father hears, cares and is at work……..upstream.
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*This insight about God working upstream is not original as I have read several authors/speakers who have shared it.

Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below, “Way Maker” with Michael W. Smith.