What to do when they don’t understand

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At the onset of salvation God had me in a place where the word of God took preeminence in the decisions of the church, our conversations, basically life in general. We talked about the Word of God over breakfast, lunch or dinner and when sermons were preached the message was very, very personal to me. Sometimes too personal. It was as if someone had whispered in that preacher’s ear the very words I needed to hear. Over time I learned that it was spiritual discernment and that God had not actually told the preacher my sins in detail but that God would lay a message upon his heart that was needful in my life for that place in time. There were occasions that I also allowed the flesh to read more into it than necessary. God’s pretty basic with His conversations. Now, He could be far more intellectual than the brightest of men, after all He created conversation. But usually God speaks to the souls of men in a manner befitting a kindergartner. You cannot say that you do not understand what He meant. He broke it down. You can ignore it, but you can’t un-hear it.

God still works like that with me. The word of God takes preeminence in my life be it in the spoken, written or sung word. There’s a message for my soul specifically. I look for it and I long for it because I need to feel the presence of God in my life.  When I miss it, it frustrates me. So this morning I set out to determine a circumstance in my life that has me more than a little frustrated. And as always, God is faithful.

At this time in my life, I’m feeling very misunderstood. And for a person who wears her heart on her sleeve and communicates through the spoken and written word, being misunderstood hurts my heart. Because I feel that I am an oracle of God. (1 Peter 4:11)

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

So I determined in myself this morning to get to the bottom of this with God, and so I awoke and began to search scripture for what God’s message to me would be concerning the matter at hand. By that search I ended up in the book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, the wisest of all men, and who certainly had his share of life illustrations.

Because I’m of a passionate nature when it comes to personal and spiritual matters, frustration can run a close second to anger. I can get in the flesh and allow Satan to fill my mind full of notions that have no bearing in truth, but they sound good. Notions in respect to opinions. So I want to get anger out of the way first and foremost and so I landed on Ecclesiastes 7:9

Be Not Hasty

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

And so I stopped there. Obviously that was it. I just need to stop jumping to conclusions. Perhaps I was reading more into the situation than was there. And as I was about to shut the book on it, I heard God say… “I’m not through, keep reading.” I think God likes a three point sermon too. And so I continued on.

Be not High-minded

I don’t know what would ever give me the idea that I’ve arrived when it comes to understanding God’s ways, but for some reason I always think that I should. I’m just silly enough to think that God and I are so tight that He’ll let me in on what He’s doing in life, mine and everyone else’s. I know… that’s ridiculous. But in reality I’m clueless. And its why I turn to His word, looking for the “in” that lets me be in the “know” with God. So I continued to read.

10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

God’s so funny. I had been focusing a lot recently on what I considered to be better days. And God reminded me it’s not good to rest on my laurels. Yes, those were amazing times, but wouldn’t it be sad if that was it. God still has so much more to do, and though wisdom from the past is a great inheritance to have, there’s profit in looking to the future. That’s a good word for anyone!

And so I thought I’d better continue to see what else God had to say to me this morning concerning the hurt in my heart.

Be Not Heavy Hearted

21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:

22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.

And there it was. My conclusion to God’s three point sermon to me this morning. It only matters what God thinks. All the words that are spoken about me or to me are of naught, if God’s blessing isn’t on them. People hurt people. That’s life. Mine and everyone else’s.

So Praise God! I will continue being the “me” God created me to be. If King Solomon the wisest of all couldn’t figure out men, I’d be pretty foolish to think that I could. And though I’m no one in the eyes of the world, in God’s world I was appreciated enough to die for. That’s a reason to shout, and to praise and think outside the box that the world loves to put God in. Amen? I think so. Amen!

3 things that can change the way you worship

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Nehushtan (pronounced Nekh – oosh – tawn)

A brazen serpent created by Moses, no doubt a reminder of their wilderness excursion with the snakes and God’s deliverance. But not rather than a reminder of God’s salvation, it was an object of worship.

But then along comes Hezekiah, and at 25 years old he began to reign as written in the book of 2 Kings 18; and unlike his father Ahaz, he did what was right in the sight of God:

  • He removed the high places
  • He cut down the groves and last but not least
  • He broke the brazen serpent

It was said of him in verses 5-6 that “He trusted the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments which the Lord commanded Moses.

3 things made a notable difference in his leadership than any other leader before or after him:

He Removed the High Places

It’s not hard to look around and see the high places of the world, but looking inwardly is a discovery of my own high places of things that I have elevated above God in my life.

  • Technology consumes my time
  • Troubles consume my thoughts rather than trusting them to God
  • And that list could no doubt go on…

You too likely have high places that need torn down.

He Removed the Images

Theirs were literal handmade images of idolatry, but mine are more images: the way I view myself, others and above all God. Imagery is a powerful tool. Satan can contrive images in my head of who I or the world perceives me to be causing me to doubt who I am and God’s purpose and calling. It doesn’t take much talking to have me looking in the mirror saying “why on earth would God choose or use you. There’s no way He can move you past this failure.” And that image grows and grows to giant proportion until I can’t see God around it. Shari the failure. I too have some images I need to remove.

He Broke the Brazen Serpent

Israel was worshipping what was meant to draw people to the Creator rather than the Creator Himself. It was all about the serpent not the Savior.

We may not have a brazen serpent in our church to take our eyes off God, but many churches have lost sight of what it is we come to church for. There is a misconception of worship. Satan (the old serpent himself) has turned the altar into an object not to be worshipped but rather ignored. He knows that there is power in the altar, not from the location but from the Lord. And the one thing that will bring that power into a God glorifying moment is when people come with a worship frame of mind. Moses’ fiery serpent upon the pole that was written in Numbers 21:9 gave the people an object that they could look to for a reminder of salvation. We have that in the cross. Just above our altar is large wooden cross in the sanctuary. We don’t come to worship the cross… but the cross should serve as a reminder of the price God paid and cause our hearts to be lifted in praise and draw us to the altar to thank Him… Worship Him… Love Him.

Hezekiah was a great leader because he got rid of what was obstructing their relationship with God. We need some leaders to tear down some man made images of what God wants in church and worship God in the manner He deserves?

I’m headed to church! I pray you are too!

Just Shy of What God Desires

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2 Kings 17:38-39

And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.

It’s the early morning hours of the 2nd day of camp and all my campers are fast asleep in their beds and I’m alone in the lobby with nothing but the sound of the air conditioner kicking in and out and an occasional ba-ding from my computer from a missed command on the keyboard. I’ve read a few chapters in 2 Kings and again and again I read words like “and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.” Again and again God’s people suffer, and then they’d get a king who would semi live right but he would usually fail to take away the high places.

We’re always just shy of what God desires. And generation after generation we continue to pass that character trait along because very few, if any are sold out to God. And so this weekend we teach the byproduct of flawed thinking. American youth.

We’re just a little bit captive but we’re a lot creative about it. The high places for which the children of God worshipped idols were literally “high” places. Pieces of ground that were elevated with stone pillars, shrines or various shapes which were objects of worship. We no longer travel to higher ground to do our extra-curricular worshipping, we do that right at the house by elevating the importance of all things “not God.” God takes a close second for even the serious minded saint.

Worshipping God has been brought down to the level of common things and praise and shout worthy events like sports, music, etc. are placed upon the hill.

The word continues in the book of 2 Kings 17:40-41

 Howbeit they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner.  So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.

Generation after generation continued in captivity because they refused to completely destroy the high places. They feared the LORD, but they served the images. Today’s church is no different. We fear God… we fear judgment, wrath, disappointment. We genuinely want to live right. Much like children we truly want to please our Father, but… we have this image to protect. The image in the high places. It’s kind of silly in perspective to the Heavenly Father, but the world says our image is important so we hold on tight and refuse to let go. The world says it’s okay to scream and holler at a ballgame or other event until you’re so hoarse you can’t speak, but Heaven forbid we lift a voice of Amen in a service. We’ll send kids to camp because it’s fun and wonderful, but we won’t send them to church on Sunday because it’s too early and it’s the world’s day off. We spend hundreds and thousands on the latest and greatest to make us happy but can’t figure out why those doggone kids won’t put up their iPhone in a service and listen to the preacher. The high places take priority.

When Satan took Jesus to the exceeding high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world saying “All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Jesus told him to Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And then the Devil left. ~ Matthew 4:8-9

No images. No high places. Just God. We need to stop worrying about “our image” and just worship…

Can We Get Back to the Altar?

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It was a mistake turned into a moment of clarity. I was listening to a sermon where in the preacher mentioned a song he’d been listening to and got a sermon from. It turned out not to be a Christian song, or a Christian artist. Not that a preacher can’t listen to any genre of music but it was early morning and I wanted to hear from God and this snafu bothered me and sent my mind wandering. So in order to get me reigned back in I typed “Christian music” into the search bar of my apple music. The first song in a long list of the “A” list music was a song called “The Gospel” by Ryan Stevenson, a contemporary artist. He had me hooked in the first line of the chorus:

“Can we get back to the altar?”

My friend Anne and I had spent much of the evening at our Bible Journaling class last night talking about the altar. Or to clarify, the emptiness of the altar.

More of the lyrics to Ryan’s song are:

To the captive, it looks like freedom
To the orphan it looks like home
To the skeptic, it might sound crazy
To believe in a God Who loves
In a world where hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light, in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the Gospel that makes a way

Aren’t those amazing lyrics, and how true! The Gospel is the only things that makes a way through this ever so consuming world we live in. And the altar… oh…. it’s that place of refuge for me. It’s where I go every Sunday, not out of religious piety, but because every Sunday or service I still feel as though I’m the captive, the orphan, the skeptic. I need to feel the love of God and it’s in that place that I feel it. So to see and empty altar breaks my heart for God.

So why doesn’t’ the church get back to the altar? Why is it so taboo to go there? I once heard it said that there are two reasons you should go to the altar.

  1. Because you think you need it or
  2. Because you think you don’t.

I know I need it. I have issues. My family has issues. My world has issues. There’s always something I can talk to God about. And I know out of the many people sitting in the pews behind me there are others that feel the same. So why aren’t they meeting me there?

It’s purely speculation but a few possible reasons may be:

  1. Because we fear Judgement

I told Anne last night that one of the hardest hits and the greatest pains I’ve ever received was the feeling or witnessing of the judgement of fellow believers. Not accepted in my weirdness that I call Shari. Or, seeing someone else looked down upon because they didn’t quite measure up to standards of humanity. And I believe that many don’t go to the altar because they don’t want the eyes in the back of their heads wondering why they’re there. I’ll tell you in advance… I’m a sinner. That’s why I’m there. And for many other reasons, but I got there by not caring who stared at the back of my head, because inside my head, at that altar, is where I’m not judged. Not one time when I’ve gone to the altar have I felt judged by God. Only loved.

2. Because we’re Jaded

The world is such a wicked trickster. It wears us out and wears us down to when we finally make our way into church we hear… “it’s hopeless, there’s no point, it won’t fix it.” And we buy the lie. Or we hear “Nobody else is going, why should I?” It’s almost as if we feel that going to the altar is making us the sacrifice. And the skeptic in us believes that the altar is no longer a necessity in life. It’s an Old Testament ritualistic notion, and that’s the biggest lie of all.

3. Because We’re Sitting Jake

Meaning: everything’s awesome! The altar is for people who need Jesus to help them out of trouble, right? You could better stop that sentence at “the altar is for people who need Jesus.” And everyone needs Jesus. Sitting jake one day may find you sitting in puddle of tears and despair the next day. Life can turn on a dime.

The altar can certainly be anywhere you are but I’ m speaking of the lack of time spent at the altar of our churches. It used to be when we’d go into a service, we’d start at the altar. And I can tell you first hand it made a difference in the service and ushered in the presence of God that could be physically felt. But that practice is long since forgotten. It perhaps takes up precious time and someone might miss 10 minutes of their favorite show, or Sunday pregame conversation.

God honors the altar. And we’re missing out on one of the greatest blessings by not making it a priority in life. One of the seeds missing from the harvest of our church is the seeds not sown in prayer. We could reap so much more of the goodness and the glory of God if we’d sow on our knees the seeds of a grateful, repentent  and humble heart.

Broken Arrows or Broken Dreams

broken dreamsI have had a few close friends in my life, that upon their death, I knew there would be a void that would be hard to fill. They were people who had spoken the Word of God into my life and been significant in my spiritual journey. Some I had closure with, some I won’t be afforded closure until we meet in glory; on the other side of this tarnished world. For King Joash, Elisha had been a powerful source of encouragement in the battles he had lead. His death no doubt brought great anxiety into his life with the thought of not having a connection to God like that of Elisha. Elisha was a faithful, profitable prophet for the king and before he departed for Heaven he gave the King one last prophetic illustration that spoke to my heart this morning.

2 Kings 13

14Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. 15 And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. 16 And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands. 17 And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them.18 And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed.19 And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.

The man of God wasn’t giving King Joash a lesson in archery, he was giving him a lesson in life. The arrow that was shot from the bow of Joash, was directed toward an enemy that the Lord had already written the end to their story. Joash would launch the attack, but the battle was clearly in God’s control. For too much of my life I’ve looked for victory in the strength of my own hands. Rather than taking a shot with clear direction I will randomly take my bow in hand and hope that I’d hit a target. I’m not even sure I’m shooting in the right direction. As Joash, a skilled warrior, allowed Elisha’s hand to guide his, he was humbling himself to the God’s divine course of path for the arrow. He shot, God directed.

There has to be some aim and effort on the part of God’s children for His purpose to be met. Oh, there have been times in my life when God clearly did it all from start to finish. Perhaps I was too weak, or merely too to incompetent to get it done. But for the most part, God has always had an expectation of some work on my part and then He gave me the skills to get it done and often times the mentors to walk me through.

After Elisha’s bow shooting lesson he ask the King to strike the arrows on the ground. Now… this is where I fail to understand God’s logic. That’s because He is so much wiser than I. Joash struck the arrow on the ground three times, and because of that he would only defeat the Syrians three times. Had he known that victories of war were at stake he would have likely beat the arrow until it was in pieces. But he didn’t know that and so he would suffer the cost. My first thought was, “I’m sure glad God doesn’t work that way today.” And then I reconsidered. Perhaps God does work that way today.

1 Corinthians 1:24-27

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

The world (and I) love to make God “understandable.” In that we can have faith when He asks us to do things outside our comfort zone. Like speak, sing and teach. Like King Joash, when God asked me to do part A, I stepped right up and humbled myself down to obedience. But then… He lays part B on me and perhaps a C or D. It was at those times that I began doing what God ask mediocrely. Because it just didn’t make sense and sometimes I just didn’t because it was too hard. When King Joash was ask to shoot the arrow that seemed so valiant! But striking an arrow on the ground… what would possibly be the purpose in that?

When my friend Dewey messages me on Sunday morning and asks me to pray as he drives five hours, one way to preach, Sunday after Sunday, then returns five hours back the same day, I think … “that’s crazy.” That’s hitting arrows on the ground crazy. Surely there is somebody else closer to Reserve, New Mexico that can preach that sermon. But who am I to question the blessing God for the people of Reserve who get to hear Dewey. Perhaps my ministry opportunities are not opening because I’m not striking arrows on the ground. Perhaps you have yet to realize your potential in whatever it is that God has called you to do because part B has yet to be fulfilled. It’s a point for me to ponder today…

Today I’m praying that God will open doors for me to sing or speak in Anytown, USA. I want broken arrows, not broken dreams.  I covet your prayers, and God’s will only.

Finding a Place Called Peace

psalm 23Psalm 23 has forever been a favorite, even long before salvation. Its words would speak sweet peace to my soul, even though I had no clue what the spiritual implications of the text meant. When my Dad died in 2003, and I and my siblings stood round his bed as he took his last labored breath on this side of Heaven, my family sobbed in grief and I longed to bring them the peace I knew Heaven afforded. So I grabbed my Mom’s bible off the window sill of the hospital room, opened to Psalm 23, and read. I can’t define the sweet peace that enveloped the room. God had honored His children.

I had felt the power of God’s word before, but not like that. You could almost hear the Holy Spirit’s wind drive out the demons that desired heartache to consume us. I grieved, I miss him, but as King David said of his son, can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me?” (2 Samuel 12:23b)

It’s not only death that brings me to Psalm 23. No, it’s more living that drives me there. Or perhaps it could be said that the Shepherd  leads me there…

There’s so much goodness in Psalm 23 but for brevity sake I’ll focus on only one thought “He maketh me lie down in green pastures.”

He didn’t suggest it, He “made” me lie down. Why does rest come so hard for me? Likely most women in general. God usually has to knock me off my feet before I actually take the time to seek genuine rest. And what does “genuine rest” look like you might ask.

Even in the hullabaloo of life when it’s at its worst there is a still place in Christ Jesus. I imagine it to be somewhat like the field in my bible journaling picture. Without ticks, fleas and gnats of course! I imagine the scent would be that of honeysuckle or lavender and the temperature would be mid 70’s. Not too hot, nor too cold.

Genuine rest isn’t a physical space. It’s a spiritual place. It’s where righteousness is found not in our mediocre attempts to make things right, but in the realization that Christ’s blood makes things right. A little reflection can go a long way if it’s spent in His presence. Those still waters didn’t just happen… I can hear His words “Peace be still,” spoken over the turmoil in my life. My soul is restored through His righteousness, not mine. Else I’d still be in trouble waters.

God didn’t say the trouble was gone… the valley of the shadow of death, those dark times will come again. But every time it comes I can be rest assured that peace is just a pasture field away.


 

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Faith isn’t Blind

No automatic alt text available.For most of my days I’ve heard the saying “blind faith,” and truthfully didn’t give it much thought, accepting the colloquialism of the day as an accurate description of faith in an undeniable yet invisible God. Until a statement from a Vacation Bible School adult class instructor who said, “The Bible never called for blind devotion.” It was one of the hmmmm….. moments. Why then, do they call it blind faith? Which triggered the concept, faith isn’t blind. And why hadn’t I “seen” it before.

There are a million illustrations for every day faith. We sit in chairs that we have faith will hold us up, we flip switches of lights and mechanical instruments believing they’ll work. We get into vehicles and aircrafts that, though we don’t understand the concept of how they work, we have a point “a” to point “b” faith. We have faith the sun and moon will be in the sky each day. But somehow or another when it comes to God, many fail to believe because they cannot see Him, therefore it is considered “blind faith” and impossible to prove.

But au contraire my French friends would say. Faith in God is not blind.

In Matthew 15:7-15 , Jesus speaking to the Jewish leadership says “ Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

And then to the congregation of listeners:

And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the –[mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

The Jewish leaders were following a works  and results based religion that even they didn’t keep, yet condemning the congregation of believers for their short comings. Jesus pointed out that those who didn’t understand faith were blind, not those who had faith. Those who each doctrine contrary to the faith are the blind leading the blind. How can someone who does not have faith in Christ teach you Who Christ is and what our faith in Him means? Yet the world stands in line to buy it. All the while our faith is mocked and ridiculed as if we have no evidence of what we have faith in. And as Christians we’re often at a loss to explain what exactly that is.

Faith in Hand

The Word of God. The Bible is a piece of evidence a believer can hand to someone wanting tangible evidence. There is no other book that literally comes to life when read. Now, much of it doesn’t come to life for the person who does not know Christ as their Savior because it takes a spiritual mind to grasp it, and pre-salvation, you don’t have it. But saved or not the Bible will speak to every man who reads it with a willing heart to hear. It doesn’t just speak random thoughts to the heart, but responds with purpose and instruction for the reader.

Faith in Heart

Romans 10:10 ~ For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

A heart knowledge may be unseen as well, but it’s not without evidence. A changed heart has an outward indication to anyone who knew that heart before Christ changed it. Before salvation I was a fairly good person. A wife, mom, daughter, random church going Shari. I was respected for being a woman of passion about community causes. But then… I ask Jesus to come into my heart, and the Holy Spirit changed everything. My passion changed 180 degrees for the cause of Christ. Church wasn’t a place, it was who I was. I became a part of the church, literally speaking. Yes I was a member in the books of Victory Baptist Church, but I was a member of the body of Christ in that place. The direction of the church was the direction I went in. If the church rejoiced, so did I, if the church hurt… so did I. I physically felt what that body of believers did. I still do. It’s how I know I’m in the right church.

Faith in Holiness

Pre-salvation I wanted to be good, but if I wasn’t I chalked it up to being human and I was more upset with getting realized than getting real about what I had done. Post salvation changed my perspective; I not only wanted to be good, if I wasn’t, I knew being human wasn’t an excuse. Christ became human, and He didn’t sin. Holiness is something the world shuns and neglects to even attempt to understand because it’s where the rubber meets the road on how good we are.

For the Pharisees in Jesus day, holiness was a matter of appearance. To which Jesus responded by calling them hypocrites!  And saying that they indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27

For the child of God it’s a matter of awareness. We can never be as holy as God and He knew that, which is why He came in the form of a baby, to live the same life we have lived, yet sinless and became the sacrifice for the sins of man so that we could be in the presence of a Holy God. I still don’t understand it all. But I don’t understand electricity either, and yet I see the evidence of it when I flip the switch. I also see the evidence of the switch that God flipped in me when I got saved. I love God. I hate sin. I love people, I hate what people do. I have compassion because I need compassion. The evidence amasses daily in my life.


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