Cross

 

 







 



Devotionals for Women

 

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[Photo of a woman despair]


They Called Her “Much Afraid”

“When I am afraid, I will trust in
you. In God, whose word I praise, in
God I trust; I will not be afraid.”
—Psalm 56:3-4

In Hannah Hurnard’s classic allegory, Hinds’ Feet On High Places, the main character, little Much-Afraid, lives among her relatives, the Fearings, in the Valley of Humiliation. She knows the Good Shepherd and desires His fellowship. She learns that He wants her to leave this place and follow Him, rather than live forever with those who would have her marry Craven Fear, the fiercest of the Fearings.

Much-Afraid learns from the Shepherd how to climb to the High Places, the Kingdom of Love. This is the place where His love casts out all her fears, including all those kin who have plagued her throughout all of her life. Through the struggles of a very long and circuitous journey, she becomes Acceptance-With-Joy in the Kingdom of Love.

This journey from fear to acceptance, love, and peace cannot happen quickly. In our own lives, we seem to have to learn this lesson over and over. Some of us have a greater struggle than others, because we too live among Fearing relatives who constantly whisper their evil plans for us in our ears.

I am intrigued that God speaks the words “Be not afraid” more often than just about any other admonition in Scripture. He knows our weakness and the trials we come up against in this fallen world. After all, Jesus Himself lived with the terrors of sickness, storms, plots of hatred, sleepless nights, and even death. He most certainly understands fear.

Unfortunately, this life does not afford us a quick fix to our fears. But, I believe that God wants us who know Him to learn to trust Him, to look in His face, to arm ourselves with His promises through His word, and to seek His hope and encouragement. The path away from fear takes us through obstacles, sharp precipices, loneliness, and often dangers on every side.

If you are dogged by this constant companion Fear, hear Your Savior say to you in the words of Isaiah 41:9-10:

“You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

—Posted: Monday, September 18, 2017

 

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[Photo of a boy in braces]


Joy

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of
righteousness will rise with healing in
its wings. And you will go out and leap
like calves released from the stall.”
—Malachi 4:2

I could hear the squeals of delight as Jamie came down the hallway. In these first few days since he had learned to walk, he had the time of his life. Jamie had come to kindergarten in a wheelchair. Eventually, he learned to get beyond his ability to crawl, and, through much therapy, began to use a walker.

Another year had Jamie walking with braces and crutches. And, then came the time, somewhere in the middle of his second grade year, when he could walk on his own. He acted like an ecstatic baby who had just learned to walk. The same joy and laughter accompanied him everywhere he went.

I remember thinking that when God makes us new creatures in Christ, our first days of “walking in the Spirit” seem like that of an ecstatic toddler. We walk in joy for we have been healed from the bondage of sin. But, like Jamie, after we have walked in this new life for awhile, the novelty of it wears off, and we start to behave like all the others around us.

Human nature causes us to forget our early joys. In Revelation 2:1-7, God gave John the Apostle words to send to the Church in Ephesus. After telling them the good things about their church, God says this:

Yet, I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

I don’t think God intended for us to ever lose the joy of first love. He wants us to walk with Him every day, just as we did that first day, in delight and gratitude.

Take time today to reflect on your new life in Christ. Remember your first excitement in following Him, and the freedom that kind of joy brings. Others will notice the difference Christ has made in your life. As you traverse the hallways of your life, may laughter and gladness accompany you!

—Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017

 

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[Photo of Jesus' disciples on the Sea of Galilee]


Going Overboard

“Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the
Lord, he put on his outer garment
(for he
had removed it), and plunged into the sea.”
—John 21:7b

I love impetuous Peter. He couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm or his love for the Lord Jesus. Familiar around boats all his life, twice we read in the Gospels that he jumped overboard into the water.

The most familiar story we remember comes from Matthew 14:22-32. This passage tells the story of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, or Lake of Gennesaret, in which the disciples feared for their lives. Jesus came to them on the water, and Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on top of the water to meet Him. Here Peter exhibited enough faith to take a few steps toward Jesus before he had to call out for rescue.

A lot of time and experience had passed between that event and the one in which Peter again jumped out of the fishing boat to greet his Lord. Jesus had gone through the torturous death on the cross and come out of the grave alive. The disciples had seen Him a few times before He came to them on this morning after they had fished all night. Yet, Peter had haunting memories of his three denials of his Lord (recorded in John 18) and couldn’t let this moment pass to show his love and even shame over what he had done.

I like Peter. He always seemed to show his love to Jesus in obnoxious ways. He would say things and do things that appeared unorthodox and perhaps silly. No one could keep him and his wild passions for Christ from going overboard. In more ways than two!

Peter had zeal. We don’t often use that word anymore. But, it fits the description of this powerful disciple. God likes zealous people. In Numbers 25:10-13, God rewarded Phinehas for his courage in defending the honor of his God and his zeal. In John 2:17, the disciples watched Jesus overthrow the tables of the wicked in the temple and commented on His zeal for God.

In Romans 12:11, we read instructions to those who know Christ:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Can people see in us a definition of zeal for God, for Christ’s name, for His church? Do we dare go overboard for Him, even though others might scoff at us? Do we love Him with an eagerness that glorifies His greatness and causes those who don’t know Him to take notice? Does our fervor encourage others to display the same fervency? Does it keep us going even when all seems bleak?

Let us pray with the hymn writer who asks God for “one holy passion filling all my frame.”1 His love for us went overboard when God sent His only Son to us, and then allowed His death on the cross to pay for our guilt. He deserves nothing less than our passion for Him!

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1 Croly, George. Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart. Public Domain.

—Posted: Monday, September 4, 2017

 

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[Photo of a young woman sitting by the sea]


Lost in Wonder

“One generation will commend your works
to another; they will tell of your mighty
acts. They will speak of the glorious
splendor of your majesty, and I will
meditate on your wonderful works.”
—Psalm 145:4-5

My old Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word “wonder” as “ Rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.”

Children seem to catch the wonder of a moment more quickly than adults, probably because, to a child, everything presents itself as something new. However, if we take the time, adults can experience wonder, too.

Charles Wesley, the author of more than 6,000 hymns, occasionally would “borrow” phrases from the hymns of others. One such phrase he used, originated from the hymn, When All Thy Mercies, O My God, written by Joseph Addison in 1712.1

In this hymn, Joseph Addison looked back over his life and surveyed the way God had cared and guided him from infancy, through youth, in hidden dangers, sickness, sorrows, and “every period of my life.” He stated that, as he considered all the times and ways of God’s good providence over him, he got lost in wonder, love and praise.

As for Charles Wesley, he used this phrase in his well-known hymn, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling in 1747.2 Wesley wrote this as a corporate prayer, asking God to work in His church to make us, His people, like Him in His love. He asks for Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God Himself to invade the hearts and minds of God’s people with His awesome character. We find the “borrowed” phrase at the very end of the hymn, where He concludes, Till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.

Taken together we see that God fills our earthly life with the wonders of His grace. And yet, we look forward to even greater wonders when “in heaven we take our place.” What a wonderful meditation from two godly men of the 18th century.

Let me suggest you find the words to these two hymns, meditate on them, and use them as a means of worship and praise. Lose yourself in the wonder of our gracious and glorious God!

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1 Addison, Joseph. When All Thy Mercies, O My God. Public Domain.
2 Wesley, Charles. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. Public Domain.

—Posted: Monday, August 28, 2017

 

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[Photo of a renovated corridor]


Renovated

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect
the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into
his likeness with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
—2 Corinthians 3:18

No one was surprised that my elementary school, the oldest in town, needed renovation. No other option existed. We had to go through this process over the course of a school year and two summers. What a mess this made of our schedules, our classrooms, our special events, and our programs.

One winter day before Christmas we even had to take the entire student population on a “field trip” visiting other buildings in town for special programs. The students came to school in the morning, were sent onto another bus with their classes for the “field trip,” and at the end of the day came back to school and got on their buses for home.

We tolerated a long year of sacrifices. But, once renovations were finally completed, the building became the boast of the town. We had new windows, new heating and air conditioning, a new roof, new carpeting, new counters, and even new furniture. The changes ensured more comfort, safety, and productivity. We had a like-new, attractive place to teach and learn. What a fun school year opening it was once the renovations were completed!

At some point in our lives, maybe the Lord wants to take us through a renovation process. Be prepared for a messy job. We’ll probably find things in closets that we had forgotten we had stored there, and see “dust” that embarrasses us. We may find that our lives gets disrupted and uncomfortable. No longer will He accept the old sins we’ve lived with for so long.

The Lord needs us for more productive and even more attractive work for His Kingdom. Maybe He wants new windows from which we can view the world more like He does. He wants to clean up our inner persons and rebuild us to serve His purposes in the world. Trust ourselves into the wise and loving hands of the Master Builder. He does everything well! New usefulness and new joy will result.

Listen to the words God gave Isaiah to tell the city of Jerusalem, when He was about to do a major renovation of their hearts and their culture. From Isaiah 54:11-12:

O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.

Oh what a beautiful prospect for a ruined and torn down city. A renovation project indeed! God always sees the renovation project to its glorious end. We can count on Him.

—Posted: Monday, August 21, 2017

 

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[Photo of up-reached hands]


Adding Alleluias

“Glorify the Lord with me; let
us exalt his name together.”
—Psalm 34:3

If I asked you what contribution Charles Wesley made to Christian history, most of you would know he wrote hundreds of our beloved hymns. If I asked you the same question about Martin Madan, you probably would have no idea. But, if I asked you to sing the words to Christ the Lord is Risen Today, written by Charles Wesley, you would add the words he didn’t put in himself. The Alleluias were added later by Martin Madan.

Martin Madan added Alleluias to other hymns of Charles Wesley’s, through whom he came to the saving knowledge of Christ. Yet, virtually unknown today, Madan influenced others for Christ, and even became a preacher of the Gospel. Still, his most remembered legacy comes in this simple addition to Wesley’s hymns.1

This made me wonder. Do we add Alleluias to other people’s praises? Do we enhance the praise and testimony of others? Do we, together with them, exalt God’s name, as the Scripture verse at the beginning of this blog post suggests?

Surely, when God’s people meet and exalt Him, He sends His Holy Spirit to enliven, empower, and encourage them. We read in Acts 2:1 that:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Three times in the first two chapters of this Book of Acts, in giving the story of the first Church, the author uses the word “together.”

At first, they met together for prayer. (Acts 1:14). In Acts 2:1, the Holy Spirit came to them when they met together. In Acts 2:44 and 46, we read how they met together, as God formed through them His early Church.

It’s apparent that God brings His power to bear on believers when together they meet and praise Him.

We may not all have a gift for writing hymns, or preaching, or praying aloud. But, we can all add “Alleluias.” The power of the combination of our praise exalts our God and brings others to the wonder of His presence with us.

Alleluia to His name!

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1 Information for the opening of this blog post was gleaned from the following book: Brown, Robert K. and Mark R. Norton. The One Year Book of Hymns. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995. pp. May 25, May 27, August 8.

—Posted: August 14, 2017

 

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[Photo of a vase full of drooping flowwers]


Bowed Down and Lifted Up

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me;
my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”
—Psalm 3:3 KJV

I am amazed how quickly flowers start to droop. And, we know how unappealing and useless such a bouquet becomes. But, what a change in the structure of the flowers happens once we add fresh water to the vase!

Sometimes, we feel ourselves like a droopy flower, like a bowed attempt to look productive and useful on a banquet table. What makes us bow over like that and to keep our faces down? Sometimes we bow in shame over some past sinful practice. We hide our heads from God and those around us who know us well. We consider ourselves on the way to uselessness before Him.

Other times, our “bowing down” comes from some great sorrow, or from a long term trial. We feel like our heads bend with a heaviness we can’t get rid of, with a tiredness and joyless outlook on the future.

To us, the Psalmist David says in Psalm 145:14:

The Lord… lifts up all who are bowed down.

And again, in Psalm 146: 8, we read:

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

I think God cares specifically and kindly for those in the condition of feeling bowed down. His written Word tells us in 1 Peter 5:5 that:

He gives grace to the humble.

And what do we do for our droopy flowers whose heads bow toward the floor? We run and pour some fresh water in the container. We feed them with that which they need the most.

We can hear Christ say, in John 4:13-14:

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become to him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

If we drink the water Christ welcomes us to drink, we can be assured that our heads will face the sun again and our shame will be washed away. God will lift us up, give us His grace to stand. And, He will do this, not only for us, but also for all those who will catch the sweet scent of the Living Christ in our raised and shining faces.

—Posted: Monday, August 7, 2017

 

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[Photo of a woman looking under the hood of a vehicle]


Tight Spots and Wide Open Spaces

“You… knew the anguish [straits] of my soul.
You… have set my feet in a spacious place.”
—Psalm 31:7-8

If you’re like me, on occasion you’ve been in tight spots in your life.

I remember a day before cell phones when I sat in the middle of an intersection in rush hour traffic on my way to the garage with my horn blaring (out of my control) and the car refusing to start. Drivers behind me impatiently honked. When the police came, they pushed my broken down vehicle to the side of the street where I waited for help.

I remember other times, in that same car, with windows open, driving in the summer breezes through the countryside admiring the wide-open spaces, enjoying every moment of the ride.

God can put any of us in a tight spot when He sees we need the discipline, or the lesson to build our faith, that such a spot will teach us. Some tight spots keep us confined for a very long time and we begin to feel forgotten, like I did in traffic that long-ago day.

In those times, God seems far away, but He still hears us when we cry to Him. Psalm 18:6, 19 uses that same word that means “strait”:

In my distress [strait], I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears…He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Imagine God of the Universe delighting in us, waiting for our cry for help, and arranging a rescue for us.

God’s rescue may not come as soon as we’d like, like the wait we sometimes have for the towing service to show up on the scene. But, if we trust Him, we know He will come to us at the best possible time with our best possible interests in mind.

The Israelites felt as though they had stayed in the straits of Egypt far too long, but we know God had a great plan to rescue His people there. Deuteronomy 6:21-24 sums it up:

We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand… He brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive.

God always has our best in mind, even when we seem to live in the “straits.” When we find ourselves in the “straits,” we must learn to trust Him to come to our rescue in due time. And, we must not forget to praise Him for His kindness and generosity in providing everything we need!

—Posted: Monday, July 31, 2017

 

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[Photo of Paul Harvey]


The Rest of the Story

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the
Son of David, …Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of
Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.”
—Matthew 1:1, 5-6

Anyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s knows the name of the late radio announcer Paul Harvey. You could hear his daily syndicated broadcasts on many radio stations at noon. Typically, one of his stories shared at the end of a regular newscast would begin like this one:

When you’re a little boy and Dad calls you “good-for-nothing,” it’s just got to hurt! That’s just what Guiseppe’s Papa called him.1

Harvey goes on to relate the story of an immigrant family from Sicily who worked in the fishing industry after coming to America. Guiseppe became ill each time he helped out on the boat. The “rest of the story” began after Guiseppe decided to leave fishing and began working at other odd jobs before finally stumbling on the thing that most interested him. He entered the world of sports and turned that world upside down.

Paul Harvey dramatically ended the story with these words:

For if that young man hadn’t been too seasick to join the family business, he would have left a vacancy in baseball’s Hall of Fame too great to fill… Guiseppe… Joe… DiMaggio. And, that’s the rest of the story.2

One of the reasons I like the Old Testament stories so very much comes from the fact that the people in those stories didn’t possess our knowledge of how the story would end. They got caught up in tragedy, or intrigue, or adventures they didn’t understand. And, at that moment in time, God alone knew the rest of their stories.

I think of two women, Rahab and Ruth. Rahab, a former prostitute, simply allowed Hebrew spies safe haven in her Jericho home because she had heard the reports about the Hebrew God who did miracles for His people. You can read the beginning of the story in Joshua 2, but the rest of it comes centuries later in Matthew 1.

Ruth, the poor immigrant Moabitess, who followed her mother-in-law and her monther-in-law’s God back to Bethlehem to scrape together a living, had no idea, even when she married and had a baby boy, that he would also become part of the lineage of David and Jesus, the Christ. The beginning of her story happens in the Book of Ruth and also concludes in the first chapter of Matthew.

I reckon that all of us play a role in stories of which we don’t know the ending. The Sovereign God of the nations, of time, and of a plan which He hasn’t fully made known to us, works through our seemingly mundane experiences, many of which we might be tempted to call “coincidences,” in order to complete the rest of our stories.

We need to ask God to show us His fingerprints in our lives, as He leads us through circumstances and experiences we don’t understand. Perhaps, in His time, He will reveal His plan so that we can more fully trust Him and take encouragement. Perhaps we will not know the end of the story until we see Him in the next life.

Whichever way God chooses to work out our stories, we can be sure that we will praise and exalt His sovereign and loving plan for us, when we at last come to know the rest of the story!

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1 Aurandt, Paul. Paul Harvey’s the Rest of the Story. New York: Bantam Books, 1977, pp. 62-64.
2 Ibid

—Posted: July 24, 2017

 

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[Photo of Cinderella]


The Devil and Cinderella

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
—1 Peter 5:8

Cinderella, the beauty of her family, lived her life by the stories her stepsisters told her and in the mockery and servitude in which they made her live. She willingly allowed them to pile the dirty jobs on her and to intimidate her into believing she wasn’t fit to attend the ball she prepared them to attend.

In their book, The Sacred Romance, Brent Curtis and John Eldredge liken many of us to this poor housemaid. The authors suggest that we believe the lies that we may have heard all our lives, instigated by our real enemy, Satan himself.

This very trickery worked on Eve in the Garden of Eden when Satan questioned her—as recorded in Genesis 3—and asked “Did God really say?”

Unsuccessfully, Satan tried these same tactics on our Savior when He went into the wilderness of temptation before He began His public ministry. Satan tried to put doubts into Jesus’ mind over God’s plan, as well as doubts about His place in it, using such statements as “IF you are the Son of God…” found in Luke 4:3, 9.

Satan likes to tell false stories to us, as well. Sometimes he uses the voices of family members or classmates, causing us to believe the lies he tells us. If we allow him to convince us, our whole lives can feel useless and pointless, unaware of the Prince of Peace who has a new name, a new nature and a new ever-after for us.

Here’s how the authors of The Sacred Romance put it:

Fortunately for Cinderella, the prince is a romantic who will not give up searching the city until he has found her, and they live happily ever after. And so it will be with us who are the beloved of the great Prince who is Jesus. It is this destiny that so enrages our enemy and makes him determined to destroy the love affair that he can never have a part in.1

Have you been listening to the wrong voices? Let God’s written Word, His great Love Letter to us, fill your mind and heart. And, accept from Him the invitation to see yourself as the Child of the King with a royal purpose. Allow Him to invite you to the singing and praising of God’s people, where you will find a sense of belonging and true rejoicing.

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1 Curtis, Brent, and John Eldredge. The Sacred Romance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, p. 110.

—Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017

 

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[Photo of a wedding invitation]


The Pleasure of Your Company

“I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit
is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the
banquet hall and his banner over me is love.”
—Song of Songs 2:3-4

You can still read the lines, “The pleasure of your company is requested...” on formal wedding invitations. These words most often get overlooked when we keep reading to learn the details that follow.

Chances are that you enjoy the company of special people: those with whom you feel comfortable, those you know well, or those you would like to get to know better. As Christians, we learn to enjoy the pleasure of our Lord’s company through Bible study and prayer, most often in the privacy of our quiet time alone.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, which many believe summarizes the doctrine of the Bible, begins with the question: “What is the chief end of man?” And, the answer written there says simply: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Most often, when we consider these words, we think about our lives “glorifying” God. I wonder how often do we think about “enjoying” Him?

David, the man after God’s heart, says in Psalm 16:11:

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Another psalmist in Psalm 43:4 refers to God as his “joy and delight.”

And, God requires nothing of us to meet with us than our firm desire and our time. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

He knows the pleasure and rest we find coming into His presence. We do not have to wonder if this presence comes only at certain times. Yes, sometimes we can sense His nearness more than at other times. But, He has promised never to leave us alone.

In fact, the very last words Jesus spoke before He ascended into Heaven, recorded in Matthew 28:20, remind us:

“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

An old hymn1, written in the 18th century, captures the concept of joy in His presence:

O thou, in whose presence, my soul takes delight,
On whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all!

We can get started receiving this close fellowship with the Savior by beginning our prayer time as follows:

Oh, Lord, You who have invited us to know You, we request the pleasure of Your company during this prayer hour. Reveal Yourself through Your written Word as we draw near to You.

Thank You for Your promise to be with us always through our Lord Jesus. Amen.

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1 Swain, Joseph. Hymn: O Thou in Whose Presence, Public Domain.

—Posted: Monday, July 10, 2017