Why you don’t need to be afraid anymore…

the-sky-is-not-falling

Every year, I avoided a certain appointment. I wanted to know about it, but I didn’t want to be there for it.  I panicked and my heart did funny things.

My heart raced and I couldn’t sleep for weeks leading up to the appointment. It consumed my waking thoughts and disturbed my sleep. I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything except worry.

Psalm 112:7 snapped me out of my funk: “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” I feared bad news. My heart wanted to be steadfast and it wanted to trust, but it struggled.

I’ve been exploring the concept of security in Christ and Psalm 112:7 could fit in with the next three verses used to assure us of security in an insecure world.

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his sear of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 NIV

Psalm 112:7, along with these three verses, may have penetrated the hard shell of fear around my heart, but I still struggled with the cycle of worry and lack of sleep.

I laid wide awake, listening to the creaky bones of an old farmhouse. The furnace cycled on and then off trying heat the drafty rooms. The water softener’s recycle echoed through the register vents. I listened to the coyote’s song and watched the red numbers on the digital clock creep their way to morning night after night.

I treated this event with the same intensity as Chicken Little in the children’s story who decided the sky must be falling when a single acorn hit him on the head. I laughed at the foolishness of Chicken Little, but when I became Chicken Little, I didn’t laugh.  This appointment was an acorn, not the sky, but I treated it as though the sky was falling. It was completely and utterly ridiculous and I knew it.

I knew my angst over this situation and I knew the word of God, but the battle within my heart raged and rarely did the word of God win. I said I trusted God, but my actions and my words did not jive.

I felt the truth God’s word strike me in such a way that my ‘sky is falling’ perspective fell from the sky and lay shattered at my feet.

My security is not found in the outcome of appointments, good health, or financial freedom. It’s found in my one true King. Your security is found there as well. He is trustworthy. He is secure.

When he is our rock, we can trust that he is working things out. He views a much larger picture, and we don’t need to see the entire picture in order to trust him. He is our security.

My circumstances do not establish me. God establishes me. He takes this wretched fear-filled heart and fills me with anointing. He anoints you as well. He calls you beloved and he lays before you the task to trust him.  We need his anointing to do this well. It’s impossible to trust well without his love coursing over and through us. If I don’t have his anointing, then my fear, anxiety and worry overtakes the goodness he longs to do in me and through me.

Our failures do not adversely affect our security because I know that God will complete the good work he began. He is the one who saves. He is the one who sets our feet on the solid rock. He is the one who rescues, redeems and gives a purpose for this life. And if he is the one who does the beginning, then he will do the middle, and he will do the completing.

We need only to submit, surrender, and obey.  He is our everything. He is love. He is the beginning, the middle, and the end. This gives us the security we need to face those hard days when we are not trusting him well.  It’s the security we need when we’re overtaken by angst on the parts of our story yet to be.

The sky is not falling. I can never recover those sleepless nights because the worry didn’t change the outcome. The fear of what might be was greater than reality, but I couldn’t see it at the time. Irrational fear overtook me in the face of our annual tax appointment.  Yes, my friends, it was a measly tax appointment that was the acorn in my Chicken Little Story.

In my mind, this acorn held my hopes for security, but that’s not an acorn’s job. An acorn’s job is to grow a tree and God used this ‘acorn’ to grow faith in my heart as I transferred my security from a circumstance to him.

What is the acorn that has fallen that makes you cry out, ‘The sky is falling!’ Will you let God show you where your security lies and how he can turn your acorn into faith that your security is in him?

 

how to trade your insecurity for lasting security

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Who am I? Who are you? The easy answer can be found on the ID we each carry around in our wallets, but the deeper answer is more difficult to flesh out. I know at my core I struggle with my identity. I look at myself in the mirror and see a woman staring back at me, but what I see are the hurts and beliefs that I wrestle everyday with because my life–this life–is about God and how he wants me to live not about the effects of my youth that created this uneasy sense of wondering ‘who am I?’

For the last few weeks I’ve challenged my own self-perceptions, sense of belonging and confidence within the context of God’s word and I hope you’ve been challenged as well. Today begins a tackling of another subject–one I’d rather avoid if I’m being completely honest, but needing to address: Security.

My security is not found in my ability to perform because I’ve learned that performance and abilities can fail.  My security is not in my reputation even though my reputation is important.  My security is not in the type of family I come from, my heritage, or my pocketbook, which is a relief because I’m a melting pot of nationalities and my pocket book is usually empty.

The temptation to place my security in temporal things is strong because these are things I can see and gauge and prove to myself that I’m worth something. It’s the compare and contrast thing we do with each other: ‘How am I better than so and so and how am I worse than so and so?’ and so my security rises and lowers based on where the comparison needle lands.

But it’s exhausting, you know? When my security is placed in my own ability or in someone else’s ability, I weave and bob on a floating log in an uncertain river. I go under gasping for breath and come up soaked and shivering, but still clinging to the things that I think will provide my security: performance, people, and pocket money.

I’m learning through mistakes and moments of humility that security has nothing to do with me or with you, but God himself.

What he says about me is more important than how I feel about myself. He says that in Christ, I am chosen, adopted, rescued, complete, and given access to him. This doesn’t change based on the day when I have it all together and I’m rocking the day or the day when I have one giant fail after another.

He says I’m secure in him and this doesn’t change if I have a poor performance, disappoint people, or lost my pocket money. He is the ultimate in security. But how do we begin transferring our misplacement of security in ourselves, and other people to the King of kings and Lord of lords?

It’s allowing three key truths to take root in our heart and allowed to grow.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Satan loves nothing more than to throw my sin in my face and remind me of the shame of it. God says that since I am in Christ Jesus then I’m set free from my sin and I am free to live by him and for him. My security is in knowing that I’m free from the law of sin and death and set free in the law of the Spirit of life.

Life is hard. It just is. There’s pain, cancer, miscarriages, stillborns, death of a loved one, divorce, abuse, or addictions. And sometimes the hard is something we have to face every day and sometimes it’s a memory that lives as though it is our present. Somedays it’s hard to look past our pain to see the possibilities of what is.

And what is is this: you love God, respond to his call and he works things together for good. This concept only works when we frame it with our love and response to what God is wanting to do with our junk. My security lies in trusting God that he will turn my pain into beauty.  I have to look at pain or fear or whatever in the eye and trust God with it and as he works in my heart, my insecurity is traded for security.

To understand the depth of God’s love for us can be one of the greatest obstacles to our security in Christ. Our hearts are prone to cynicism. Our minds towards doubt. We want proof and too often life proves that love is expendable. So to wrap our minds around the concept that nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus can feel impossible.

 But what if we tried? What if you and I declared that no matter what happens tomorrow at that doctor’s appointment that we will still believe God loves us? What if you and I declared that no matter who wins the presidential election that we will not be separated from the love of God? What if you and I declared that no matter how much pain we are currently experiencing in our private lives that God’s love is still deep and wide?

What would our acceptance of God’s love look like if we separated our circumstances from God’s love for us? It would look a lot like security.

confidence or confident?

identity-acceptence-confidence

Acceptance.

It’s what I long for, and it’s what you long for. I also withhold it from others and myself and so do you.

I’ve been wrestling with my acceptance in Christ because there’s a part I play in it as well: I have to accept what God says.

I can read his truth and his words, but if I don’t believe them, I’m still lost. There’s a difference between knowing truth and believing truth and it’s hard to believe the truth about acceptance.

When I refuse to accept the truth that God says I am set free from darkness, I stumble and fall even though light is nearby. When I refuse to accept redemption, I abdicate my inheritance of forgiveness. When I refuse to accept completeness in Christ, I give up confidence.

I once confessed my insecurity to a close friend and she sat open-mouthed and dared me to deny my statement. I couldn’t and she couldn’t believe it.

I’m good at playing the confident woman, but I shake in my boots and hide behind a smile and a sparkle. I don’t see what my friend sees. I see a messy-haired, scared little girl hoping to be accepted, but believing she won’t be and so I pretend. I pretend I’m full of confidence.  I pretend I know what I’m doing. But inside? On the inside I’m afraid you will find out the truth and reject me.

God gives me opportunity after opportunity to strip my confident façade away and fully embrace his acceptance of me because it is only when I rest in his acceptance of me that I am truly confident.

Confident that I’ve been rescued, redeemed, chosen, and given access to the throne room of God. Confidence based in my own ability is shaky and will crumble. It has crumbled. Each time I’m publicly humbled–whether it’s through an editing mistake in a published piece, or my vocals cracking as I lead worship, or singing the wrong lyric at the wrong time–I’m given the opportunity to understand what it’s like to be confident in him.

This past Sunday, as I led worship, I cued the band and the tech team to section three of our opening song. They did their part, but I didn’t. I sang something entirely different. The smiles and laughter in the tech team cued me of my screw up. While the band played their way through my fumbling, I smiled my way through, course corrected, and kept the focus on God.

A few years ago, I would have spent the afternoon berating myself over my ineptness-turning the focus on myself-rather than rejoicing in the ability to learn a lesson in humility and glory.

God doesn’t want to embarrass me, but if I’m prideful in an area, I will be humbled. My confidence should never be placed in my abilities because my abilities are not because of me, but in spite of me. My abilities are gifts from God to be used for him for his people. They have nothing to do with me. They are for his glory.

My confidence is directly related to how well I accept that God accepts me. When I don’t feel accepted, when I feel I’ve disappointed God, either over something little or that thing, like perfect, that keeps cropping up in my life, I reject myself, assuming that God rejects me as well.

I couldn’t be more wrong. He doesn’t reject. He accepts.

Our confidence for living this God-life is directly related to our embracing God’s acceptance of us.

If we embraced this truth, we would confidently leave our old lives behind and embrace the new. We would truly understand amazing grace that’s set our hearts free. We would love without strings. We would confidently walk in the forgiveness God offers rather than in the condemnation we offer ourselves.

Could you imagine the effect you would have in your life if you walked confidently into every situation confident not in your ability to perform, but confident that no matter what others think of you or what you think of yourself that God calls you accepted?

There just might be a revolution.

There would be a revolution in our churches because it wouldn’t be about us, but it would be about following the Holy Spirit wherever he leads.

Our homes and society would revolutionize themselves because our love for each other would flow from the belief that we’re accepted fully and completely by God. We would give our best knowing that God is pleased when we accept and love each other.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 ESV

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Confidence is directly related to our belief in God’s acceptance of us. We might struggle with accepting ourselves with all our flaws and mistakes, but God doesn’t. He offers us rescue, redemption, forgiveness, completeness, and access to the throne of God because he accepts us. This is who you are in Christ: accepted beloved one.

why yearning to belong is a gift and what you can do with it

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Anyone who has played volleyball with me would agree: I spend more time ducking than I do spiking. They know I do not belong on any court involving a flying ball. I also don’t belong on a debate room floor as I stumble over my words and respond emotionally rather than logically. This is a type of belonging based on our strengths and interests and giftings, but there is another type of belonging. This other type of belonging resides in the heart of every man and woman and is the most difficult one to fulfill in our own strength and understanding.

I know what the unfulfilled yearning to belong feels like.  It feels like I’m gazing through a window at a party of people who belong, while I shiver, not just from the cold rain, but from a longing deep within to belong to something or someone where the warmth and love is evident.

In my vision, I see a smiling someone motioning me to come to the door and I see myself taking a few tentative steps towards the door, thinking ‘Could it be?’ ‘Is this the place for me?’ As I reach for the handle, I see my tattered sleeve and I halt. I’m ashamed of my state, the state that comes from the wear and tear of living life. I gaze into the window again and the welcoming glance turns into a questioning glance as I slowly back away, fighting tears, with heart breaking over the awareness that once again, I perceive I don’t belong.

This sense of not belonging haunts and taunts and I am not alone in experiencing this feeling. One mis-perception leads to another and so it is with the mis-perception of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Our faulty beliefs of ‘not enough’ feed the sense of ‘not belonging.’

This longing to belong is birthed by God in our spirit so that we will long to belong to him. This gift, left untended or rejected, produces an unhealthy search to find our sense of belonging in people, performance, and professions. 

The longing to be is a gift and the gift received is to belong.

“But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:17

When you respond to his call upon your hearts and say, ‘yes’ to his Lordship in your life you become unified with him. When all else falls apart and you are facing division in your personal life, you can know that your spirit is one with the Lord and be at peace. You belong to him.

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you have been bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (emphasis mine)

You were bought at a price. God demonstrates the value he places on you through the cost of his Son’s sacrifice. You could argue that you are not worth a life, especially the life of God’s son, but your arguments have no bearing on the simple, profound, life-altering truth that you are treasured beyond measure. You are valuable. You belong.

“You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

 There will be a place at the table, on the other side of the rain-splattered window, for you if you will say yes to the invitation and come in from the rain. As a member of the body of Christ, you are gifted with a purpose and this purpose is to encourage, love, serve, and pray for each other. It doesn’t take an extra-ordinary person to offer a smile, a hand, and a heart. It takes the extra-ordinary God whom you serve to work through you to fulfill his purpose in the body of Christ. You belong to the body of Christ and have a place in it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8

A longing to be loved is fulfilled when we read these words from Ephesians. In love he chooses us. In love he keeps us. In love he freely bestows the title of ‘Child.’ Adoption is the heart of God and just like any adoption there will be an adjustment period.  Because many of us have little experience with the depth and strength of a love so pure, a questioning about the truth of this kind of love wells up within us and we ask: “Will God still love me if I disappoint him? Will God stick by me when I’m at my worst? Will God be safe enough to reveal my deep, deep hurts to him?” You belong to God because he says you do. 

These verses assure us we are one with Christ in the Holy Spirit, we are valuable and priceless, we have purpose in the body of Christ, and we’re chosen in love by God.

The gift of longing to be is fulfilled when we find our unity, our value, our purpose, and our love in God who says we belong at his table of grace. He flings wide the door and pulls you in despite your worn and tattered coat and he takes that worn garment from you and gives you new clothes. Clothes that signify you belong to him. 

 

 

how to find your identity and how not to lose it

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I’ve shared my challenges with perfection in the last five weeks and the consequences of making an alliance with perfection has infected my identity.

I’m a wife, mother, daughter, friend, writer, homeschooler, worship leader, and in each of these roles I’ve fallen for perfect’s lies that acceptance, security, and significance is based on my performance in those roles.

Though I homeschool, I don’t find acceptance in all social circles. My role as ‘mom’ is significant in my daily life, but my significance is not found in my children.

Identity is much more than my name, occupation, heritage, personality, and roles, but the continual struggle with acceptance, security, and significance tells me that perhaps I’m basing my identity in the wrong things.

When I root my identity in what I do and how well I perform, I set myself up for insecurity because roles change, health can be taken away in an instant, relationships end, and I am left wondering who I am.

Perfect harmed my identity because it fed rejection, insecurity, and insignificance. These became daily struggles that threatened my peace of mind and fed my relationship with perfect.

Identity is something we search for and long to find, and often we think we find it in positive thinking, supporting worthy causes, or doing well in our calling. But there is a fault with each of these. It places the responsibility for our identity on ourselves or others, and this is a weak foundation to build on.

There is a much stronger foundation and when laid properly, it provides long-lasting immunity to the failures we’ll face or the rejection others will exhibit or the circumstances that change our roles. This foundation is guaranteed to provide us with acceptance, security, and significance.

We will explore these areas through God’s word and examine some of the reasons why we struggle with believing them.

Invisibility, inferiority, and insecurity are the weapons used against our identity and we will attempt to pick up weapons like perfection, pride, or posing to counter-attack them. The trouble with the counter-attacks is that they lend themselves to our enemy’s side because they take root in our hearts.

Removing them is possible, but it involves identifying which lies you’re listening to and replacing the recording in your mind with truth.

And this is truth:

You are accepted, secure and significant. And did I mention loved?

Love is the motivation behind knowing and accepting who we are in Christ. Knowing and embracing the love God lavishly pours out on us and loving him back unreservedly.

This is the beginning of our journey to rooting our identity in Christ.

 

 

 

 

breaking up is hard to do… part 1

breaking up pt.1

Last week I gave you a list of things I’m afraid you might not like about me. I listed my hair, snorting when I laugh, sassiness and sarcasm, but the nitty gritty truth of it is this: I have spent far too much time wondering if you like me or if I’ve offended you.

Sometimes I forget to speak before I think and most of the time it works out okay but other times it doesn’t. I’ll catch a twitch in your eye at something I spoke and will wonder  if I offended you. Then I roll the conversation over and over in my head and before long I’ve broken out in a sweat and spent the majority of my time thinking about the incident, taking my anxiety out on my loved ones. Picture a snapping turtle and an unsuspecting hand. That’s me and my lovelies when I am wrapped up in fear.

So with effort I redirect my thoughts and for a time sail through the day, but the conversation start to auto-play in my mind, and I would be twisted up inside wondering, wondering, always wondering how I could have said it differently and if you still like me.

Sad, isn’t it? It’s true though. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life knowing that I put way too much stock into being perfect for you while knowing that God has the one opinion that matters.

There’s a lot of information on how to navigate relationships from psychologists, personality specialists, and other writers who have journeyed through the choppy waters of relationships. I’ve benefited from this wisdom, and I’ve also consulted close friends whom I trust enough to keep the nitty gritty details of my failures and insecurities close to their hearts while giving me sound advice.

However, man’s wisdom is incomplete.

God’s wisdom is best and so I turn to his word to find the truth about my battle with perfection in relationships. I found a glimpse of this truth in Proverbs 29:25 which says that the fear of man is a snare. This, my friends, is true.

Fear of man and perfectionism in friendships became one and the same to me because the push to be perfect was rooted in the fear of rejection. It was like a noose slowly suffocating the life out of me and when I mixed perfectionism with friendships I discovered that my truest self was hardly recognizable behind the facade of perfection.

The plastic version of myself was suffocating the authentic version of myself and the self-recrimination of living up to someone else’s standard was drowning out the voice of the Lord. I was beginning to break under the weight of living up to perfect so perfection and I had to break up.

But it’s hard, you know? I catch myself falling into the habits of replaying conversations and causing myself to come up short every. single. time. I begin fearing my interactions with friends, family and strangers and forgetting that there is no fear in love.

1 John tells me that there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out all fear. So the key to breaking up with perfection lies in fully understand God’s love for me. When I’m secure in his love, I’m secure in my relationships and no longer seek to be perfect for others. Blessed freedom!

The hard part is when I feel alone in this battle. I can’t visibly see God cheering me on from the sidelines even though I know he’s there. I can’t see you struggling with the same things because maybe you’ve become a plastic version of yourself too. What I do see is you and I visiting and me trying hard not to look for that twitch in your eye that might indicate  I stepped on your toes or not lived up to your expectations when in reality that twitch could just be a twitch.

Breaking up with perfection is becoming a habit and the merry-go-round ride is getting shorter and the length between the rides is getting longer. Eventually, when that perfection merry-go-round stops to invite passengers on, I might not join the ride because I will finally be so secure in God’s love for me that I will care more about how I love the other person rather than if I’m being perfect for the other person.

I’ve kicked perfection to the curb. And you? In what ways have you let perfectionism drive your relationships? Can we learn from each other to push forward through the hard part of breaking up with perfection so we can live free in the perfect love of God?

Let’s love one another well. Free from perfection. Free from fear. Free to love.

breaking up is hard to do

perfection slayer

I’m a little afraid of what you might think. I’m afraid you won’t like my hair or the way I dress or the fact that I sometimes snort when I laugh. What if you don’t like my words or the way I express myself? I’m afraid you won’t like the way I can sometimes be sassy and blunt and sarcastic.

Actually, I’m a lot afraid, or at least I was until God showed up and revealed that your opinions were more important to me than his. I’ve been trying to live up to perfect and I’ve found that perfection is a hard task master whom I can never ever please.

So. Perfection? I’m breaking up with you.

Perfection, you’ve used my fear of rejection to sway me into a relationship with you.  It’s impossible to please you, and my heart has been twisted until it has little resemblance to my truest self. I keep breaking up with you because ours is a toxic relationship, but we get back together because you woo me with flattery and deceive me into thinking that you are the reason I’m accepted.  You use my fear of rejection against me, but perfection? I have a message for you:

Being perfect cripples and shames because perfection is impossible to attain and shame’s cousin is fear, which pulls me in tight and won’t let me go.

So I raise the white flag of surrender, not to my fears, but to my God. I bring my fears and shame to him and lay it at His feet because fear and shame keep me from receiving and being perfected in His love.

His perfect love means He is the one I fear, He is the one I please, and He is the one who holds me close when my world falls apart. So perfection? You and I are breaking up for good because His love is the key to overcoming my fear, not a relationship with you.  Sincerely, me. 

Breaking up with a habit, attitude or train of thought requires diligence in order not to re-form an alliance with that thing that holds us back from moving forward in our relationship with God. The ‘thing’ that cripples and stunts our growth is going to be different for each of us. It could be: jealously, religion, an inaccurate view of God, negative thinking or a lack of thanksgiving, but what if we stopped the crazy cycle and embraced the crazy, unfathomable love God has for us as individuals where our fears are gone and our perfection has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with his love. What if we let his love drive out our fears and submit to being perfected in his love?

Being perfected in His love is coming to a fuller, richer, and greater understanding of his love for us.  Perfection is this: to live so securely in His love that the crap of life doesn’t change our security in his love.

I’ve broken up with perfection and in its place is a brokenness which only God can fill, but it’s through the brokenness that I come to a fuller realization of this amazing grace that flows down and in and around and through me so that I only breathe in His love and breathe out His grace onto my brokenness and onto yours.

We’re all a broken mess and it’s only through God’s grace that we can break up with the toxic behaviors in our lives and be filled with his spirit so that we can run in the freedom he sets before us. 

A freedom to live securely in his love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

“I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:31-32 (NIV)