Covid & Casseroles

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I have been the recipient of many yummy meals during my battle with Covid. The casserole brigade was on it. Do you have any casserole friends? A few of my “casseroles” were Door Dash. Some meals were homemade. Several friends delivered supplies from the grocery store and pharmacy. When someone is sick, grieving, caring for a loved one, or just having a bad day, a “casserole” makes all the difference.

I’m not a traditional casserole person. I am a “casserole” person. Which means, these days I rarely make a true casserole from home. When I was in MOPS (mother’s of preschoolers), we had a meal train when someone had a baby. I would usually bring a homemade casserole. It stressed me out every time. What I realized, I’m not a casserole person. I love to cook. Just not double. So, I will bring a rotisserie chicken, rolls, salad, and dessert to a friend in need. With the rise in companies like Door Dash, that works now too. Whether you are a casserole person or a “casserole” person, providing a meal to those in need makes all the difference.

If you friend has a bad day, what do you do? Call? Text? Send a card? Drop off flowers? Send a gift on Amazon? Nothing? I hope you do something. If you do, you are a “casserole” person. Providing a meal is just one way to meet a need.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

~Hebrews 13:16 ESV

Think of the last time you were a recipient of a “cassserole.” I shared a few weeks ago about food, water, flowers, and friends checking on me when I had Covid. All were such a lift in my spirit. Even a text asking how I was doing, lifted me up. Before you discount what you have to offer, remember, you don’t have to cook. Think smaller. I sent a friend a stuffed animal when she didn’t feel good. I know we are in our 50s but who doesn’t like to snuggle a stuffed animal when sick. Text a picture from the past to relive a fun memory. Send a Bible verse – through text or in an image with a pretty scene or in a card sent through the mail. Call and leave a message of support. I have a friend who used to leave heart-shaped helium balloons on Valentine’s day. Leave a balloon on your friend’s porch. Think random – outside the box – fun – encouraging. Whatever would bring a smile or a tear of remembrance.

Be a “casserole” friend this week to someone.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Covid & Quiet Times

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Tea with God! If you follow me on Facebook, you have seen my regular postings of my tea time with God. I wish my table looked like the picture I found. Wow! However, my view is phenomenal – the foothills, blue skies or puffy clouds, birds flying around, and the blossoms on the surrounding plants and trees. If you have noticed, I haven’t posted too many “Tea with God!” pictures lately. Mostly because Covid changed my routine.

The first few days of sickness was filled with body aches, headache, and fatigue. I stayed in bed. No energy to read anything. I did however have Christian music playing in my room. I couldn’t have my normal routine with God. I was praying a lot for healing and comfort. I was letting His spirit fill my room through the beauty of music. So grateful for Christian artists who give us a tool to worship and connect with God.

Once I could sit at a table, sitting on the porch wasn’t comfortable. Also, when I lost my sense of smell, tea didn’t taste so good for a while. (Smell is mostly back and so is my tea time.) I found that watching Bible Study videos worked best for me for this time. I watched some Lifeway videos, church online, and Beth Moore on TBN. I could still hear His word, be encouraged, and grow with this new format.

I also dusted of my real Bible and started reading from it again. I almost always use my phone Bible. I must confess, I couldn’t find my Bible for a few days. One morning I woke up and God led me to it. I was so grateful. I am reading in Hebrews and Psalms. I love having a real book in my hand. I may just have to switch back permanently. There is something precious about holding your Bible in your hand not scrolling on your phone. I do both but I’m loving going “old school” again.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

How are you spending time with God in your season of life? It all counts. We need to be in His word daily. Daily. Daily. Not weekly. Not on Sunday only. Not when others are watching. Daily in His word. A verse a day works. A chapter a day works. Whatever your season, embrace it. If you can sit for an hour and study – do it. If you have 5 minutes, take that. How do we survive the constant beating of this world without Him and His strength in us? How do we get that? Be with Him daily.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

~ Matthew 6:33 ESV

My “Tea with God!” has taken a new form. I will return to the porch at some point. For now, it’s video and paper Bible. Everyday, it’s time with Him.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ~Matthew 6:6 ESV

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Covid & Chamomile

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I have been MIA the past few weeks. I got Covid. I am doing much better but still battling the fatigue and some congestion. I am grateful for the support of friends and family during this difficult illness. I learned so much the past several weeks. I have lessons I am still learning too. While I have much to share, today I am going to focus on God’s provision during this season of Covid.

The first few days were filled with fever, body aches, headache, and congestion. While medicine helped a bit, I was still very uncomfortable. One night, I couldn’t sleep due to the extreme body aches. I cried out to God. Literally. I said aloud, “God please help me!” I laid on the couch, miserable. In my mind, the word chamomile came to me. Yes! Chamomile tea is a natural relaxer. I got up and made some tea. Within 30 minutes, I had less aches and was able to sleep. God showed up through tea.

The day I was to leave on my vacation, which we had to cancel, I was devastated. This is our yearly beach trip. Many of you have seen our annual boogie board pictures from this vacation. This was our 10th year to go. I can’t begin to explain the grief that overwhelmed me at missing this trip. Mid-morning on that day, there was a doorbell ring. It was a delivery of the most beautiful flowers. My friend had sent them knowing I was home, due to Covid, as a belated birthday gift. Little did she know how desperately I needed them that day. Being seen by a friend, loved by a friend, and known by a friend (I love purple) made all the difference in my heart. I immediately called her to let her know how God used her to provide me with a lift that day. God prompted her in order to uplift and comfort me.

Another incredible God moment was when I was at the ER. Long story short, Covid went after my kidneys and I had a UTI and kidney stone in the midst of Covid. Our ER didn’t have a place for Covid patients to be separate from the rest of the ER patients so they literally made us sit outside. It was over 90 degrees during the time I was sitting outside on a stone bench battling Covid and seeking help for my kidney issues. While I had brought water, as the day went on, it has lost its chill. I was miserable. I had just laid down on my stone bench when I saw a familiar face. One of my dear friends from my church was walking up. She came near and said, “God told me to bring you cold water.” I was moved to tears. She handed me cold water and a LaCroix. She reached her hand over me and prayed for my healing and comfort. Then she left. A 5 minute exchange. A lifetime memory. God once again provided.

Friends, if you aren’t seeing God in your life, you aren’t looking hard enough. Obviously in a season of distress, like Covid, I will be looking for Him and comfort. However, every single day, He does this. He shows up. He provides an idea, a solution, a friend, a thing of beauty. Look for Him. God is a God of comfort. He is in your day to day.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10

Dream Big! Pray Big!

The Real World

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Father Stu, the movie and the man, touched my heart. I will say up front that it is rated R and there is a ton of language – especially the F word. What I loved about this movie, based on a real person (the man on the left in the picture above) played by Mark Wahlberg (the man on the right), is it’s authenticity. I am not going to give away plot points except the one that is in the trailer – Father Stu was a boxer who lived a hard life with alcohol, sex, and a lot of wounds (internal and external). He finds Jesus through a woman he’s attracted to and pursues becoming a priest.

Friends, Jesus didn’t come to save the “pretty people.” He came to save ALL people. The ones you walk by and judge. The ones you roll your eyes at. The ones who make you so mad at their flamboyant lifestyle. Everyone. He came to save everyone. Guess what – you are the same in God’s eyes as the drunk who got a DUI. You are a sinner. He is a sinner. This movie draws home the fact that the “pretty people” are just as in need of Jesus as anyone.

I love authenticity in faith. Someone who isn’t afraid to say “I f’d up and God still loves me.” Be real. Be honest. Don’t be perfect because you will fail. Father Stu touched so many lives while he was on this earth. He understood the “language” of the alcoholic, prisoner, and wounded. He knew how to reach the one who had no hope. We need men like Father Stu in our faith community. They challenge us to see outside of our bubble and reach out to all , not just the ones we are comfortable with. In the movie, the “perfect” priest didn’t engage the prisoners but Father Stu could. We need everyone in God’s kingdom. God wants everyone in His kingdom.

This isn’t a new concept. The world was so mad at Jesus for talking to tax collectors, prostitutes, women in general, and other “low” members of society. He came for all of us.

 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

~Matthew 9:10-13 NIV

We are the sinners. Not just the prisoner. Not just the unethical lawyer. Not just the addict. Not just the adulterer. Not just the thief. Us. We are the sinners He came to save – along with the ones we judge as sinners. It’s all of us. I know many of you won’t like the amount of cursing in this movie. Good. We shouldn’t like it. We shouldn’t partake in it (I unfortunately still do). We need to be willing to interact with those who do. We will see God work in amazing ways. We will give hope to someone who is hopeless.

Friends, our world is lost. We need to be a Father Stu. We need to bring Jesus to the people we relate to. And we need to walk out of our comfort zone and bring Jesus to people we can’t relate to. We need to be so convinced that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Because if we live that out, others will be drawn to Him.

Watch the movie. Share your thoughts in the comments (I rented it on Amazon Prime for like $6). I pre-warned you, it’s got language. Also, Mel Gibson is in it – a man who has made mistakes on the public stage but knows and loves Jesus and is a work in progress. This movie was Mark Wahlberg’s way of getting God’s message to the masses. In my opinion, every believer should see this. It changed me. It can change you. God is in the messy. God is in the uncomfortable. God wants to be known. Let’s bring Him to our world today. It needs it.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

America the Beautiful

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I sang this hymn in worship yesterday. I encourage you to read the words. Pray for America. Enjoy the freedom we have this July 4. We have more than most other countries. Thank God for that. America is far from perfect but we are still allowed to worship God in a church and sing His praises. One freedom I will always be grateful for. Happy 4th of July.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Lyrics: Katharine Lee Bates, 1895
Music: Samuel A. Ward, 1883
Published: 1910 by Oliver Ditson & Co.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Car Communion

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I had communion in my car yesterday. I spent Sunday morning with my daughter and our dog at the beach, so listened to the sermon from Sunday while driving to work on Monday. Communion happened. I ate a goldfish from my lunch bag and drank water (I had no juice with me.) It was a powerful time even though I was driving. I understand for some denominations, communion has a lot of rules and order to it. I respect that fully. For my church, communion is about remembering what God did for us. It’s a time to be still, reflect, and be thankful.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. ~Luke 22:19-20 NIV

Communion can be with any element representing bread and any liquid representing the wine/fruit of the vine. Do this in remembrance of me – Jesus says this at the Last Supper with His disciples during the Passover meal. He also clarifies that there is a new covenant. The old ways, following the law of the Torah and the required sacrifices, are replaced with His shed blood, His death and resurrection, and we are free to approach God in confidence.

As a youth, communion scared me. I felt that I was “unworthy” to take it because I had cussed too much or had kissed a boy too long. I was always afraid if I took communion and had any sin in my life, I would get sick or bad things would happen. Not true and not Biblical. This is the verse that tripped me up.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. ~ I Corinthians 11:17-32 NIV

I’m not a theologian but the key is, examine your life before taking communion. The scripture says “if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves.” Ask forgiveness for the sin in your life. You have sin in your life. Communion is a time to reflect on your life and on God’s gift of His son. Reflection should lead to conviction, repentance, forgiveness, and reconnection with God through remembrance. I know I am simplifying a very complicated, and dividing, issue in Christianity – communion. The reality is this, God wants to be remembered. Communion is one way to do that. When done “right”, in a spirit of reflection and remembrance, it deepens your walk and draws you into His presence. When done with no regard, no reflection, and no remembrance, it is a sin.

During Covid, our church did drive through communion. It was awesome. We were given the elements through our car window. They were all individually sealed. As we wore our masks, a member of the church staff prayed and led us in communion. Powerful. In my car yesterday, my pastor led me through communion with goldfish and water. Whether you wafer, bread or goldfish – it doesn’t matter. If you wine, grape juice, or water – it doesn’t matter. It’s a heart posture. Reflect. Repent. Remember. That is communion.

Oxford Dictionary defines communion 2 ways:

  1. the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.
  2. the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared.

Partaking in the bread and wine allows us to engage in definition #1 – sharing and exchanging our intimate thoughts and feelings with God. Communion strips off the sin that has weighed us down and restores us in right relationship with God. Take communion to restore your communion with God. In church. With your small group. With your family. In your car.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

The Weekend

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I know it’s Tuesday. We just finished a 3 day weekend though and I had some reflections.

I had Monday off of work . Our company observed Juneteenth on Monday, June 20 since June 19 was a Sunday. If you aren’t aware of this new federal holiday, take some time to educate yourself on it. It has been celebrated for many years by the black community. June 19 was the day slavery ended. The Emancipation Proclamation had been signed but it wasn’t until 2 years after that, on June 19, that the slaves and slave owners in Texas got the memo. The significance of this holiday is now honored as a federal holiday. However, I don’t see much knowledge of it yet. I think it will take some time and education to get our communities to understand the significance of this day. Summer school still started, business was as usual at most places, and other than my church, I didn’t see many public celebrations. I am grateful for my new understanding of this day and my coworkers who threw a Juneteenth party at work.

Sunday not only was Juneteenth but it was Father’s Day as well. I spent the morning with my dad. We had breakfast burritos, good conversation, and some cookie cake. It was lovely. I hope you had time to honor your dad, or father figures, in your life this weekend. Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, often is a complicated day for many. Missing a dad who passed away, grieving the dad who was absent in your life, celebrating a dad who was present and still is, or maybe being a single mom and being alone that day. Regardless, the one true Father we can celebrate every day is God. He is our father, daddy, Abba. I had the pleasure of leading worship on Sunday. We sang a hymn called This is my Father’s World. It speaks of everyone and everything giving praise back to Him. The birds’ song is praise. The morning light is praise. The flowers blooming is praise. If you don’t have an earthly father to celebrate, celebrate the One True Father – God. He will never leave you, disappoint you, or harm you. He will hold you, comfort you, guide you, lovingly correct you, and always be there.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

~ Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV

My weekend had set plans. Walking the Rose Bowl with friends. Time with my dad on Father’s Day. Leading worship on Sunday. Monday hanging with my kids. However, 2 unexpected plans came up for me. We often plan our days and most likely, our weekends, to be how we want them to be. Sometimes other things invade those plans. Some good and some bad. I had the pleasure of making my weekend even more full by spending time with my college roommate Friday night. I knew she was in town but we hadn’t solidified our time together. It was Friday night. As always, we pick up in the middle of a conversation. Our friendship just deepens with time and distance doesn’t harm it. Grateful to have added Friday night plans. Saturday had an unplanned event too. My dear friend lost her father a week ago and pulled together a funeral service that happened on Saturday an hour from my home. Of course, I made it fit into my full weekend. It’s what we do. We are there for those we love. A beautiful service and wonderful time of connection with her and her family, who I have known since Junior High. God’s presence invaded the day. I got a front row seat to a father who raised a family to love Jesus and His legacy continues in the faith of his children and grandchildren.

I had a lot to juggle for my weekend. I usually don’t fill my weekends because I need down time. I need my tea with God. Yet, God showed up in the events of the weekend. He sat with me and my college roommate on her mom’s patio while we chatted. He walked the Rose Bowl with me. He definitely moved mightily at Saturday afternoon’s funeral and dinner afterwards. Sunday, He enjoyed time with my dad and me and spoke to the congregation through hymns. Monday, He enjoyed the laughter and pleasure of my kids and I enjoying one another.

When your weekend, or your day, becomes more full than planned, regroup and invite God. See Him in the “unplanned” parts of your day. It was no surprise to Him how my weekend would be. He provided exactly what I needed when I needed it. He gave me words to speak to encourage and comfort friends. He gave my friends words to return the favor. He is in the weekends of our lives – planned or unplanned. I hope you met Him this weekend. If not, invite Him next weekend. It will fill your time with joy.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Into the Light

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The light shines in the darkness , and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5 NIV

It’s time to shed light on all things. Things hidden bring shame. Freedom comes when we release hidden things. This past year our church has emphasized the importance of confession. What have you kept in the dark that needs light shed on it?

I am part of a life group – a group of women who gather weekly to share life. We confess, pray, encourage, and love each other. When u step into confession, it needs to be done with safe people who live in God’s grace and know how to extend it to others. Facebook is not a place for confession. Who are your safe, grace-filled confidants?

Scripture tells us, if we confess, we no longer need to feel shame or accuse ourselves of being “bad.” We are forgiven and receive God’s gift of grace.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~I John 1:9 NIV

Sometimes confession is just revealing more of who you are, not just an admission of sin. Today I want to reveal a part of me some of you don’t know. I know for a fact that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am fully loved by God. I have hesitated sharing this part of me because people have strong views on the topic. If you read my blog, you know me, my heart and my desire to seek God and His way. So, I confess I am divorced. I am not going into details here, but am happy to talk privately with any of you who want to. I felt such shame my marriage failed that it kept me in a marriage that needed to end a long time ago. Once I brought it into the light, I found support, grace, and understanding. I also was met with judgement and loss of some friendships. From this day forward, I come to you as I am – a woman of God, single mom, and lover of truth and His way.

Find your safe place of friends to confess. Don’t allow those things that shame you stay in the dark any longer. Bring them into the light. You are loved right where you are.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

This is Us

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I promise – no spoilers!!!

If you are a fan of this show, you know the series finale happened last week. I absolutely loved this show. It gave us permission to feel our feelings, share our truth, be messy, and be real. The only thing missing in this show was faith. If they had Jesus, it would have been a perfect show. This show allowed the viewers to see humanity played out in a fictional family. The writers are incredible. I hope they write another show or movie soon. If you haven’t ever watched, or maybe stopped halfway through, join in. You will cry a lot, laugh some, but most of all, you will think.

“A Really Lovely Show About Flawed But Lovely People at a Time When the World Needed a Little Bit of It.” – Dan Fogelman- the creator of This is Us

I know TV is just TV but sometimes it strikes a chord in our nation. This show did. I believe it allowed those who truly investing in watching it and loving the characters, a chance to grow. One of my favorite scenes is when Rebecca shares the most honest mom feeling in the world in a counseling session with her kids. The next day on Facebook, I read several posts from my mom friends sharing how relieved they felt that they weren’t alone in having those same feelings.

I love stories. I invest in good stories. If I’m reading an incredible book, I don’t put it down. When my kids were little, I didn’t read a lot of fiction because once I’m invested, I can’t stop reading. This is Us did that for me, but only for 42 minutes at a time. A good story can be an escape. A good story can also be a teaching tool. When you identify with the storyline of a character or the feelings of a character, you can see alternate paths and choices for yourself. We saw Rebecca as a tired mom of babies. She was a woman who put dreams on hold to care for her kids full-time. We saw her struggle in her marriage and enjoy her marriage. We got to see 3 adult siblings face life too. I didn’t identify with each character’s crisis. I did relate as a person who had to be there while someone they loved went through a crisis.

This is Us is over. I am sad. I tear up when I think of various scenes throughout the years. I loved the story. I loved the free therapy. I loved an opportunity to cry. Now, I have the chance to apply what I have learned. I can embrace all the moments of family – big, small, intense, funny, and best of all, loving.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

3 times

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Do you remember Jesus predicting that Peter would deny Him three times?

Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. ~ Matthew 26:34 NIV

If you want to relive Peter’s actions, you can find that incident in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18.

Do you think that every time Peter heard a rooster crow, he felt shame, disgrace, self hatred, and more? I googled “how many times a day does a rooster crow?” The answer: 15. Wow. 15 times a day, Peter beat himself up. He felt terrible. He was reminded of his actions of turning his back on Jesus.

What is your trigger to feel shame, disgrace, self hatred and more? We usually have at least one. For me, when I hear certain songs from my past. I am reminded of behaviors I engaged in that I am not proud of. I remember the incident, then feel regret and shame. In John 21, we find a model of letting go of these triggers.

Peter and his friends are out fishing at night, not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They were probably feeling lost and confused. Fishing would lift their mood. However, after a whole night of fishing, they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. ~ John 21:4-6 NIV

Peter jumps in the water and swims to shore while his friends pull in the haul of fish (153 to be exact). He couldn’t wait to be reunited with Jesus.

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times to care for His sheep. I recently learned the significance of Jesus asking three times. Peter denied three times so Jesus asked three times. Jesus was demonstrating that no matter how many times you blow it, you will be forgiven and restored. That’s awesome. No matter how many times. If you let that sink in, truly sink it, those triggers that bring shame and regret back to you, can be released. Peter no longer needed to allow the rooster’s crow to drag him into despair. The rooster’s crow could now be a reminder that he is restored. Let’s do the same.

Dream Big! Pray Big!