Not Even One Christmas Card

It’s funny

and I little bit creepy, when, out of now where, I can hear Diana Ross singing in my head:

“Do You Know

Where you’re going to?

Do you like the things?

That life is showing you

Where are you going to?

Do you know?”

(Diana Ross – 1975)

Normally, I do not ever think about Diana Ross, yet as I sat down to write this New Year letter and pondered what I might say, this song played strong in my mind – a throw-back to radio pop music when I was just thirteen.  Thirty-eight years later, this portion of her melody resonates in my mind; Scary what the mind retains!

I must also confess that this is probably the first year of my life that I could not muster up the usual Christmas spirit.  Almost none of the usual build-up-to-the-season by way of children-pleasing traditions were played out – partially due to the fact that most my children are not young anymore and not around to embark on the usual preparations – and partially due to the fact that my home had been in such a turmoil of disruption for the previous 5 months that climaxed with a great flurry of workers as last minute details fell into place just thirteen days before the time of celebration: Christmas.

Nonetheless, the tree was put up, decorations set out, gifts shopped for, and food preparation done. We ate, we gave and received gifts, we delighted in the visual pretties.  I admit though, not even one Christmas card was sent by me.

Feeling a bit like George Bailey, I sat alone and watched, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this past Saturday night. Part of my pondering included a slump.

Five days later, everything is put away except the manger scene figures that sit on my kitchen window sill.  Life is a whirlwind here at my house.

All I wanted for Christmas was Peace. My kids asked me, and so that is what I posted on my refrigerator on a sticky note: “I want Peace for Christmas – Mom.”

My son, Samuel, in all his charm and wit gave me a pillow with the letters  P-E-A-C-E  stitched across it.  So, in a sense, I got what asked for.

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Coincidentally or divinely arranged, our pastor preached on peace this Christmas Eve; fitting, as it was what I had been pondering all the season since Thanksgiving.  Peace.  Not the kind of peace in the quiet moment.  Not the kind of peace that comes with calm scenery or well loved music.  I am talking about the peace that fills the soul with total satisfaction and a knowing that all is well.

I believe in my heart there is no peace found on this earth….and there never will be.

You see,  no “things” or people bring me peace.

Truly, I say to you my dear friends and family, peace only comes when we abide in Him and with Him.

Loving Jesus brings me peace.  And it seems only when I keep my focus on Him, do I have peace in my heart.

And still, Diana Ross’ lyrics repeat in my mind.

Do I know where I am going to?

Do I like the things that life is showing me?

Where am I going to?

These are all great questions to ponder as a New Year approaches.

Put another way, I might re-word the inquisitions:

What are my goals?

What is life showing me?

Where am I headed?

There will be no New Year resolutions for me tomorrow evening; no temporary intentions to fix myself.   But I will be pondering and striving with resolves all the year through; decisions and answers to hold close.

Resolve #1:

My goals are to serve my King – the One who was born in the stable and laid in the manger.

Resolve #2:

Life is showing me that there is no peace or comfort found in it.  Only struggles and challenges and hard things that need seeing and hard things that need doing.   Life also shows me that with a right set of eyes, there is beauty and joy in the seeing and doing.

Resolve #3:

I am headed toward a Kingdom – where the whole of my salvation sits at the right hand of His father.

Herein lays my Christmas spirit.

It is an ongoing everyday way of being. I just may keep those manger scene figures out on my new window sill all year long…

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It is my prayer that each one of you may be able to answer those impertinent yet important questions that Ms. Ross sang so many years ago: what are your goals, what is life showing you, where are you headed?  I hope you can answer in a way that brings you true peace this New Year of 2015.

I hope you each had a merry Christmas with your loved ones, as I did.   ‘Tis the season for remembering what is important – family and special people are near the top of my list.  At the very top, is the One most important.

Do you know Him?

 

Give Hope: Dump an Omelet in the Trash!

The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways and sometimes

may call you to do the most unexpected thing!

Several months into my journey of treatments and surgeries related to my cancer, I found myself suffering and unable to eat for days – yes – days, not hours.  The phone rang  and then this happened:

” He said, ‘I just have to tell you…’ ”

“He said he heard the Holy Spirit prompt him to stop, not eat his omelet (which he had just labored to make), and throw it away……with confidence, this brother declared, ‘The Holy Spirit wanted me to share in your suffering today.’ ”

“I only share this with you to encourage you…to let you know the Holy Spirit is working and that you are prayed for.”  Excerpts from; Towdah, A Cancer Survivor’s Song of Hope — p. 110 – 111

End of phone call.

I was speechless.  I was stunned.  

I was filled with an immediate sense of the fullness of God himself!

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Intercessory prayer is powerful.  

The second way you can help ease the pain and suffering of a loved one this holiday season

is to pray for them.  

Deeply.

Pray for them deeply and with compassion.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the saints.”  Ephesians 6:18

Peer into the space your loved one occupies in his suffering and listen to how the Spirit directs you to pray.  You may not have to dump an omelet in the trash…yet, the Spirit may call you to do something else equally as stunning as is fitting to your loved one in need!

Deliver HOPE by telling the one who suffers that you are praying for them.  

Bless them with that moment of knowing they are loved immensely.

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Be the first to comment on my blog today and I will send you a free autographed copy of my book and  a letter of encouragement to your friend or loved one who is suffering this Christmas season.  Message me on FB with your address & details – just click on my name below:

Sheryl

Merry Christmas!

Mother of many children talks to a Stranger

Can’t you hear it ringing in your head?

Don’t talk to strangers!

My mother told me. Emphatically she told me because I am sure her mother told her.

And so I told my children. Emphatically as well, of course.

Yet, there I was….

Talking to a stranger.

Headline news, as you just read…

Mother of many children talks to a Stranger!

 Late afternoon errands are the worst because I am always in such a rush. Aren’t you? The air was heavy and the traffic sounds passed back and forth as I stood propped up by my car as I pumped the gas into it.

Again. I was stopped from my rushing. Looking, I saw an elderly man in the bay adjacent to me.  He was also pumping gas.

The fragrance over powered and delighted at the same time.  Wild Concord grapes.  So out of place. So unexpected. I almost felt guilty in the sniffing!  Feeling almost drunk on the sweet earthy smell, I couldn’t resist.  I just had to comment to the stranger in the next bay over.

I leaned a bit forward and exclaimed, “Can  you smell it?”

The old man was a bit caught off guard.  Then he lifted his chin, turned his nose toward the scent and took in a big sniff. And he smiled in wonderment. “What is it?  I thought I smelled something…” he said.

“Wild Concord grapes…see the vines over there?” I said, as I pointed into the wooded area. Clearly, I was too excited.

He grinned.

And the Holy Spirit began the prompting and the telling.

“This sweet fragrance is the visual I want for you to see today. These Wild Concord grapes are the picture of the sweetness of relationship that God desires to have with you, today and everyday.  Come close and lean in,….See? God delights in you even more than you delight in the wild fruits! Come close and lean in and offer up praise to your Father.” 

Visibly I saw God as a loving Father who delights in his children.

“For the LORD takes delight in his people; ” Psalm 149:4

Giddy, I delayed getting back in my car, lingering in the fragrance….

Girls Weeping after Tryouts

It had been three days of running, drilling, sweating, and playing the game.  Tryouts for the fall team had begun and tension was in the air.  The time had come and the names were called. Those who made the team were directed to a side room down the hall.  Those who did not make the cut were pointed toward the door.  They were to go outside the building and go home with their parents.

We, parents, were waiting outside the school doors wondering. Stopped from the hustle and bustle of our day. Waiting. And looking to see if our daughter would be coming through the doors.

Time passed slowly. Then one by one in straggling fashion, girls exited the building. Some walked by seemingly un-phased by the whole ordeal. Apparently, making the team was not hugely important to them. Some however were devastated and there were many girls weeping after tryouts.  I wondered how each girl had prepared for this day.  I wondered at the stipulation of the coaches and what they were looking for in a selected player.

“They are cutting all the freshman! No one is going to make it! It’s not fair!” was one girls loud exclamation.

“What am I going to do…” she wailed.

Forty girls tried out. Twenty two slots were available to be filled. Eighteen girls were not able to be let in.

Even in this scene, the Holy Spirit spoke to me.

“This is a tame glimpse of what it will be like when Jesus returns.  Those with expectation to enter the kingdom, may not make it.  There will be weeping alongside indignation and dumbfounded-ness.”

I was reminded of the story of the ten virgins in Matthew 25: 1- 13.

Ten women waited. Five were prepared. Five were not. The five prepared made the cut; they made the team entering the kingdom of heaven.

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This is how it will be.

This is no perfect illustration. But I was struck by the weeping and dashed dreams all attached to making a sport team.  How much more devastating it will be if people find themselves cut from entering the kingdom of heaven!

Where is the hope in this message?

God, as Holy and Righteous, was visible to me in that moment. Yet, God, as Patience and Compassion, was visible to me also.  He has given us instruction through his Word; it is the secret playbook of life.  He has given us his Son; He is the trainer alongside, the go-between who will plead our case and show us to be worthy of entering the kingdom. God, as mercy, will be standing at the door calling the names of those who have put their hope in Him and in Him alone.

I want to be among the names called. Don’t you?

Before it is too late and to spare your wailing, “What am I going to do…?” like the girl who was cut….here is my message of hope for you today:

Read the playbook.

Commit your life to the trainer.  

Believe Him and follow Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Females Caught Drinking!

The grass was full with dew

which completely soaked through my mesh shoe and made my feet squishy wet.

I hate when that happens! 

Early morning warmth promised a scorcher of a day.

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We had four ducks until the handsome red fox visited while we were away. Now we have three.

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The hose was heavy and lugging it across the yard was never my favorite thing to do. Grumbles flowed out under my breath.  I yanked. I trudged. And then I stopped.

My finger pulled the trigger and the spray flowed with full force out from the nozzle of the hose and through the chicken wire, arching towards the kiddy-pool. Mesmerized by the gushing sound I looked upon the three ducks.  The male hung back while the two females stepped boldly forward.

 

This has nothing to do with males or females.

But, this has everything to do with two females caught drinking!

 

You see….these two female ducks stepped out boldly into the line of water spray, face on!  Guzzling, with mouths held open, their heads bobbed just slightly as their beaks caught the water with rhythmic certainty.

Have you ever witnessed this?

For me, it was a new sight to behold.  And the Holy Spirit began to tell the story. This is where I began to listen.

He said, “This is how you should be Sheryl.  Step out and face the water head on and guzzle it.”

No. I did not turn the hose on myself…

I listened to the beautiful story and received the reminder to turn and face Jesus; the One who fills us and satisfies us with living water.  Water that refreshes, restores, and refuels us to be used by Him.  Daily filling of the Holy Spirit, the living water, keeps us and enables us.

This was a moment of seeing the unseen God in the everyday things around me. Ducks and a garden hose made the graciousness of God visible.  God, as provider of my deepest need was visible to me.

Likewise, I encourage you to do like the two female ducks did and get caught drinking!  Drink the everlasting water and you will thirst no more.

“whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

3 Secret Directives to Seeing the Unseen God

 

If I said, “Stop. Look. And  listen.”  What is your first thought?

You might recall that these are the three simple directives when teaching a child how to cross the street.

Stop.

Pay attention and be present in the moment. Wait.

The child ceases to walk, stumbles just slightly with emphasis so as to impress the action of stopping.  Tips of the sneaker are just in line with the edge of the sidewalk curb. He has stopped.

Look.

Open your eyes and keep on task. Focus.

The teaching tells the child to look to the right. Look to the left and then back again quick to the right. The telling says, “Do you see anything?”  The child’s eyes are usually widened as he looks to see and he is focused.

Listen.

Ready and tune your ears to hear the distant sound. Block out distraction.

The child’s head is now craned in case the angle of the head can catch the sound any better.  Straining, he checks for the rumble of an engine and the only way he can do this is to block out all other sounds around him.

Stop. Look. And listen.  When all done successfully, the crossing is safe.

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This summer,

it occurred to me…

that these are also the 3 secret directives to see the unseen God.  

Today. And everyday.

Stop. Look. And listen.

1. If you want to see the unseen God, you need to stop.  Like the child, the walking has to cease. The busy and the haste has to subside. Halt! For just a moment and wait.

2. If you want to see the unseen God, you need to open your eyes and with purpose, LOOK.  The glazed sight of auto-pilot living cannot continue. Snap out of it and look to see; focus!

3. If you want to see the unseen God, you need to listen.  The Holy Spirit brings to mind reminders and messages and memory.  The blend is a beautiful speaking.  But, in order to hear, the din of your surroundings needs blocking; distractions of the urgently mundane need to be put on the back burner in order to hear this story.

It’s easy to remember.

Just 3 secret directives.

Stop. Look. And listen.

When all is done successfully, the unseen God is visible.

I am not talking flesh.  I am not talking man-like features standing before me. Scripture is clear that no one can see God and live; “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Ex. 33:20

I am talking about the multifaceted essence and character of God telling me the story that gives me daily hope.  Come back tomorrow to read:

Two Females Caught Drinking !

 

Tears in the hearing.

Bill day.

It always begins with bill day.  But it has been getting worse and worse.  Like many, there is just not enough money at the end of the payday to make good on all the debts incurred over the past several years.

Debt is like a snowball; it starts out small and it is relatively easy to push around, but the more and more it is rolled, the bigger and bigger it gets until it is no longer able to be pushed because of its size and weight. Well, here I am, nearly crushed by the weight and size of my debts.  And I panic at the thought that I am unable to write a full tithe. I am sick to my stomach.

Guilty.

I am sick to my stomach with guilt. I feel the weight of my sinful actions upon me. I feel unworthy of His blessings.

That was Friday past.

Fast forward  to Sunday morning.

The songs were sung and the offering collected and the Scripture reading was read, in order, as usual. But unusual was my hearing. Unusual was my response. Never before in my twenty four years of listening to the Word being read, did this happen to me!

Welling up inside, my mind raced, whaaaat is this?  Warm trickles overflowed and I could not stop them.  I had tears in the hearing of God’s Word.  There was no new speaker emoting with fevered preaching.  There was no moving testimony reaching into the memory core of like experience.  It was just the familiar voice of our assistant pastor quietly and evenly reading. The Word alone triggered my tears.

Tears in the hearing.  God was speaking to me.

God’s Word is powerful.

God’s Word is alive.

The Holy Spirit filled me to overflowing and I was saturated in the love of the Father; enveloped in the arms of Grace. My Guilt was absorbed by the Word and I found myself being forgiven. Accepted. Loved absolutely.

In the very moment!

Since Friday, I had been carrying the weight and since Friday I had been desiring forgiveness for my failing. Loving the LORD, I hoped.

And the Words were read and received:

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.” Luke 7:47

The welling up began with the woman standing behind Jesus weeping (Luke 7:38).  That was me, in my imagination, I related. Since Friday I had been weeping in my heart over my sin; the sin of not trusting God for so many things.  The sin of thinking I could do it all on my own; of pride.

Broken and repaired simultaneously, the tears rolled and fell.

The unusual is that in the innermost depths of my heart, I came seeking.  Days before I had been consciously seeking. Loving, and with hope, I entered the sanctuary.

God knew that.  And He met me with open arms and spoke right into my very soul.

What an awesome Father is He!

Praise His Holy Name!

You and Me, We are the Cookies

It takes just a few moments…

I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to us all the time.  It isn’t always a mystery.  Profound things are revealed, no doubt — for the Word of God is often too big for our feebly and finite minds.  Wisdom and revelation comes to us when we are in need.

And yet, sometimes it is just a simple word picture…

A concept….

A metaphor to remind us.

To remind us of WHO God is.

The Holy Spirit uses our everyday common and speaks into the things that are familiar.A Saturday passing of time….and I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me.

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You and me, we are the cookies.

We are similarly formed, plain, and naked.  Some of us are smooth edged, some of us have dust on our feet, some of us are broken and repaired, and some of us are burned a bit…all of us similar and all of us different.

GOD is the Creator; He made us.

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Blessings are the specials and sweets added onto our lives.  Carefully placed, thoughtfully sprinkled, always given in just the right amount as each of us uniquely needs.

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GOD knows; He knows what we need and He blesses to make our lives beautiful…and yummy! GOD is the one who blesses.

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Why?  Why does God bless us?

Psalm 67 tells us why:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face shine on us, so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”

 May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
 May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

 The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
 May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.”

Yes. So we can shine, so we can praise, so that His work and plans and gift are known…..and so all will fear him.

We are blessed to be enabled to be a blessing to others.

You and me, we are the cookies. 

Have you heard the Holy Spirit recently? Can you hear Him in your everyday common and familiar? Bend an ear and listen…..

And await the blessings!

My Bucket List: Dance Naked

People have lots of interesting and unexpected things on their bucket list.

My Bucket List: dance naked.

Now, before you go getting the wrong idea about me, let me assure you I mean this in the purest sense. Nakedness is alluring. It calls with primal intrigue. There is nothing like nakedness.

Nakedness calls from deep and long ago. Rightly made, it was the suit intended for us; each one of us fits our naked perfectly. The beginning and at our beginning

Remember the giggles?  We twisted and squirmed from our mothers grip. We escaped naked, running across the green grassy yard squealing?  Maybe we were sixteen months or so…. remember the delight?

Of course not.  Our minds do not recollect, yet our body memory does.  It is the burst of innocence striving to be free; the joy of being as we were intended.

No bondage. No concerns that weigh us down.  No shame. No hesitation to express.

Yes.  I long to know it.

 So far, the only thing on my bucket list is to dance naked. But I am not talking about the physical naked.

Like I said, I am talking about naked in the purest sense.

Spiritual nakedness is my desire.

Keeping it real. Raw. Authentic before my God.

Base.

David, the one called a friend of God.  The David who killed Goliath and then much later became a King.  That David kept it real.  He Stood. Fought. Hid. Wrestled. Whined. Shouted. Cried. Fell. Served. Sinned. Sang. Pleaded. Praised.

And Worshiped God….

as if naked….he danced before the Lord.

He was naked of pride. Naked of self.  Naked of distraction.   But clothed in humble.

Stripped and uninhibited before God, he danced in worship, offering himself completely to the LORD in praise.  “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might.” (2 Samuel 6:14)

Yes. This is my bucket list.

To keep it real before God.

To be naked of pride. Naked of myself.  Naked of distraction.  But clothed in humble.

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Forgiveness, cleansing, and filling precedes the naked place:

Forgiveness of our sin;

cleansing of our hearts;

and filling with the Holy Spirit.

Pick a Psalm, any Psalm, Psalm 51 seems clear….I love the Psalms!

Loving the LORD with all my might, I too hope to be caught dancing, as if naked before my LORD….

One day, I HOPE to cross it off my bucket list.

…A Peacock Vow?

Water aerobics is my choice exercise program.  While breathlessly working out in the deep water, my gaze focused upon the white board trivia fact of the day:

“The first New Year’s Resolutions began with the Ancient Babylonians making promises to their gods to pay their debts and returned borrowed objects!”

Later, at home I googled Wikipedia I learned that the Romans made promises to the god Janus, and in the Medieval era, knights took the “Peacock Vow.”  Whaaaat?!

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Yup – a vow to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry!  What that has to do with Peacocks I am sure I do not know!

The most popular Resolution of modern day, is……You guessed it! …. to lose weight…go on a diet and join a gym in the process.

As I struggled to keep my legs kicking to the beat of the music – water resistance fighting me….I wondered.  Even in Babylonian times, I wondered how long New Year Resolutions lasted.  All of us have good intentions, but most Resolutions do not last but a few weeks. A few months if one is lucky.

More thought.

And the “If you Give  A Mouse a Cookie” story line came to mind.

I think I would title a new book called, “If you give a Resolution a Name”  And it would go like this:

If you give a Resolution a Name, you will surely fail.  You will try real hard and have every good intention to fulfill your resolve.  But, most likely you will fall short. Lose impetus. Be distracted from it.  And quite simply, you will fail.

Why?  Because we all lack perfect self control.  No matter what your Resolution is: be it to lose weight, go to the gym, master a new instrument, be more generous, stop eating sugar, pay off all your debt, or be more chivalrous (!)….it ALL takes an enormous amount of self control in order to follow through.  And, to be frank, we all lack self control.  Self Control is a supernatural gift.  Scripture says it is a fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 – 23

So IF you want to be true to your Resolution, you need self control.  And to gain self control, you need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s fruit.

Now, the Holy Spirit cannot be bought.  It cannot be ordered.  It can only be given.

And so, I began to think:  Thank you LORD for leaving us the Holy Spirit.  Because the only way we even have access to the Holy Spirit is because Jesus left the earth.  It was His gracious giving that He gave us the Holy Spirit in his stead. (John 16:5 – 7)

And so, I began to think some more:  Thank You Jesus for leaving.  For dying on the cross. For coming.  For being born.  Christmas.  Here we are, just days after that celebration.

Ab work began with the “rowing the boat” motion and water was splashing everywhere….and my mind kept on.

Why did Jesus come anyway?

Because we lacked.  We failed.  We fell short.  Right from the very beginning of history, mankind lacked self control.  Eve ate what she was forbidden to eat.  She lacked self control to do what was right.  Adam lacked in watching over her. (Genesis 3:6)

BUT, God had a plan. Jesus. Only Jesus could fill the void, cover the lack, and redeem our failure.  Our sin nature – our weakness to give in to temptation – our bent toward failing to fulfill even what we know and desire to do as right.

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3:14

So…. If you want to give a Resolution a Name….

You need to acknowledge God as Almighty Creator, Sovereign Master.

You then need to understand your condition and your need for a Savior; His name is Jesus. Forgiveness is for everyone.

You need to believe, confess your sin, and ask Jesus into your heart.  When you do this, the Holy Spirit will fill you full.

Having access to the Holy Spirit, you need to ask for help with self control.  The power of the Holy Spirit will give it to you.  Lasting Self Control is a supernatural gift.

So, if you have self control powered not by your own will and fortitude…..but powered by the Holy Spirit, your New Year’s Resolution has a chance to be fulfilled.

If you give your Resolution a Name, then you must turn to God.  Turn to Jesus. And pray for the Holy Spirit’s gifting of self control.

So, what is your New Year Resolution?  Did you give it a name?  Was it a Peacock Vow?

Whatever it is, may you be blessed with a deeper understanding of God and all that He has for you in this New Year, 2014.

Be filled.

Be Filled with the Holy Spirit, dear friend.

“… Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18