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God’s Promises

“I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.” (Isaiah 44:3)

My daughter recently started leading worship at church. As you can probably guess, my momma heart is thrilled to see her experiencing God in such powerful ways. My little girl has grown up to be an inspiring, godly young woman. She listens to God and translates faith to her peers. Her life is blessed and I’m constantly reminded of God’s promises to honor those who honor Him. 

I remember driving with our four kids in the minivan, racing from school to activities, changing clothes in the car and inhaling a quick snack. We’d speed from soccer for one child to gymnastics for three; next, piano lessons with Grandma and then home to make dinner and do homework. The thought was always close by though, none of this will matter if they don’t know Jesus! Our children can be talented in sports, music, theater, whatever—but if they have not been nurtured in their friendship with Christ then we missed the mark! We could be busy doing urgent things but not the most important.   O Lord, please keep our lives centered in You!  

Faithful Mommas out there, take these scriptures as God’s promises to you:

“I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s; And another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to the Lord’” (Isaiah 44:3,5)

“Your children will be like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the one be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:3-4)

“Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned for a palace. How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:12,15)

If like me, you were not brought up as a Christian, there’s great interest in growing as a godly parent. I’ve looked at our home priorities and asked, do we have a heart for worship? Do we love and serve people? Do we know our worth and identity, not according to the world, but according to God?  Mentoring a generation to walk with God in our complex world doesn’t happen accidently. It is a beautiful, intentional process that I describe in my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. “Gracious parenting is a seed watered by emotional maturity—one that bears fruit for generations.” (Gracious Living, p 84)

Yes, the seeds I planted in my kids twenty years ago are bearing fruit today. Prayers I prayed, deposits I made in their hearts—and withdrawals as well, are bearing fruit today. God promises blessing and fruitfulness to those who walk with Him. If you are in the throes of raising little ones, be encouraged that God is faithful about His promises. Christian parenting is not about doing it perfectly; but rather loving our children as we follow and obey God’s voice.

God promised that He would pour out His Spirit on our offspring. Bless your kids today as you partner with Him, dreaming beautiful dreams and sowing seeds for their destiny. Get my book, Gracious Living as encouragement for your journey and please subscribe to my blog at http://www.MargaretAllen.org Encourage the moms you know by sharing this post!

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Endurance

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” Hebrews 12:1,2

I joined a running club when I lived in Tulsa years ago. I remember the feeling of starting a run all nervous and excited. I would invariably start out too fast but after a few minutes I would settle into my natural pace. And once I eased into that natural rhythm of running, breathing, and relaxing, man it felt like I could run for days. The road stretched in front of me, welcoming my arrival.

I don’t know about you, but as we head toward Christmas and New Year’s, I wonder if we all need to find our stride, our natural rhythm to finish well. Could we look at December like a marathon, choosing to ease into our run, steadying our breath, relaxing shoulders, and softening the gaze? Could we allow the path to stretch out in front of us in welcome, no matter what surprises or disappointments it holds? Unlike any other year, 2020 requires us to dig deep into our relationship with God to find sustaining grace to finish well.

How do we run? Three clues stand out as instructive from Hebrews 12:1-2. First off, we run with endurance. This life is a long haul not a sprint. Organize your life with the end in mind so you can run with endurance. Secondly, we run the race set before us. Don’t run someone else’s race- you don’t have the grace for it and you will never win! Thirdly, most importantly, we fix our eyes on Jesus. It is so stinking easy to fix our gaze on problems or pain. I can lock eyes on all the wrong things- fear, lies, conspiracies, doubt, confusion, boredom, shame, annoyance and 1000 other life-sucking issues. Every morning, and throughout the day, I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus because He is the author and the perfecter of faith. He is good, all the time.

I’ve read through the entire Bible every couple of years for the last 42 years. Yet I still sit down with my Bible every morning. Why? I’m not so much seeking information as I am connection. I am connecting with a living, loving God who longs to communicate with me through His word, through prayer, special revelation and so on. I have yet to plumb the depths of God’s word! I’m almost always surprised, comforted, corrected, or inspired by scripture. 

May you run with endurance the race set before you, my friend. I pray that you fix your eyes, yes set your mind, heart, and intention on Jesus Christ. May you discover fresh insight and joy in your journey with Him. 

*A personal note about my race: writing this blog sharpens me in so many ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity to process the spiritual life with you and to find the words to wrap around this wonderful journey in Christ. My book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion just went into a second printing. I’m so thankful for the ways God is using Gracious Living and I truly want to steward it well. I will be taking a break from writing for the remainder of December to focus on hearing God’s plan for next year. Please send any prayer requests or topic requests for the blog as I love to hear from you. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. See you in 2021!

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What is Faith?

I caught myself several times this week praying almost absentmindedly, O Lord, what is Your way in all of this? I want the eyes of my heart to be fixed on Jesus, which means I frequently have to turn my gaze from media and the ways of man. Years ago, I met a lovely woman from Ukraine at a party. I asked her what differences she saw between the U.S. and Russia. She said, “In Russia we all knew that the news was full of propaganda. But in the U.S. people don’t seem to understand that–they think their news is true!”

Curiosity is a core value in my life. I try to walk in a peaceful, loving posture. But I need faith to live this life, don’t you? We all want to live our lives from a position of peace, love, and godly wisdom. We don’t want to just swallow what we are told so we use critical thinking. But there are spiritual dimensions to this life that worldly wisdom cannot fathom.

So, when my prayer returns over and over to Lord strengthen my faith, I think of Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 and 12. These are wonderful chapters to study this week. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.

Faith looks like reward. When we diligently seek the face of the Lord, we are rewarded. We win His presence and peace, His instruction and revelation. Come on, it’s not even fair the inner reservoir we live from, because of Christ. All else pales in comparison to this.

Faith looks like rest. Faith trusts that even though we have no idea how it’s all gonna work out (fill in the blank here—pay our rent, fix our marriage, get healthy, heal our nation, and so on) we know that God sees and rewards with His goodness, favor, and most importantly His presence.

Faith looks like power. Hebrews describes the impact of faith in God’s people as,”…they through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of invaders.” Hebrews 11:33-34

Do we believe the goodness of God in our life? That is faith. We are exhorted to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2   If we can fix our eyes on Jesus and run with endurance no matter what is set before us, then we can experience the reward, the rest, and the power of life lived in Christ.

Be sure to check out www.MargaretAllen.org if you want to sign up to receive this blog each week in your email.  My book Gracious Living is available anywhere books are sold.

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Give God Praise

My worry list is long enough. I have to set it down and focus elsewhere. I started listing all the ways I could give God praise and I’ll tell you what, I had to shout!  Has God been good to you? Has He provided a way when there was no way? Has He repaired a breech, a broken place, that you thought would never get straight? Has He comforted you in your worry or fear?  Oh my goodness, let me just list a few ways I’ve seen His love displayed recently.

When I struggle with insecurity He answers with encouragement. I begin doubting the impact of my book and God graciously sends an encourager. Women I don’t even know have messaged me to say how my words inspired them. Just this week a young mom sent me this note (I share with her permission): “I’m on chapter 4 of your book and I can already say this is exactly what I needed to read at this time in my life.  I had been feeling the need to be a light and share more love and peace in this world and your book inspires me and shares all the ways I can do this.  It is a life changing way—a godly way—and I love it!” She concluded, “I thought I should share with you that your book moves me towards humanity and God.” Do you think God nudged her to share this on the very day I needed to hear it? He doesn’t have to encourage me this way; it is His goodness to do so.

My daughter has been looking for a job. She wasn’t certain about the direction to take with her career. She was prayerful in the process and sought out all kinds of good advice. Can I just give God praise right now? He didn’t have to, but I totally sense God’s hand in the direction she has taken. After a month of interviewing she got a great offer, and not for just a job but a career. He was watching over her entire process with kindness and provision.

Another daughter is working remotely. Her heart’s desire was to work from LA near her college friends while she could. It touched this mamma heart to see her pray about this hope and have opportunity after opportunity fall through. Just when she had pretty much given up on that dream, an email came inviting her to join a group of awesome Christian women in an apartment one block from the beach!

Even in our struggles, our lives are a showcase for God’s goodness! He loves to bless and encourage His children. We may battle doubts, insecurities, uncertainties, or just unmet dreams, but God is faithful to care. He is faithful to provide and protect. He makes a way where there is no way! God reassures us in scripture: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

These are just a few of the ways God has been good to me recently – how has God been good to you? If your immediate reaction is, well He hasn’t, I encourage you to look at your life with a different lens. Where has He helped you, protected you, provided for you? His goodness is waiting to be discovered.

Find my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold.

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God’s Thumbprint

In what feels like day 666 of this stupid year I am searching for hope and direction. I wonder how to reflect the love of God in this climate. I ask myself, am I truly changed by Christ; do I look like Him? Now I want to touch a deeper truth, so hang in with me! God showed me something so darn cool. 

 He brought to mind a seed. A seed contains the complete imprint of what it produces. In one tiny apple seed lies all the genetic and cellular information needed to produce an apple tree. Nothing needs to be added to that imprint of a seed other than favorable conditions of water, soil, and sunlight.

Now consider this:

1 Peter 1:23 “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” I am reeling from the implications of this truth. Add to it John’s words:

John 1:12,13 “He gave the right to become the children of God to those who believed in His name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” It’s like we carry the thumbprint of God in our heart!

We are born of imperishable seed. We are born again not by the will of flesh but by the will of God. When we said yes to Jesus Christ, we were born again to become a brand new being. In that seed contains the complete imprint of who God designed us to be! Our part is to partner with the process by choosing favorable conditions to life. We can choose to spend time in the Word, prayer, and service.  We can partner with honor, love, and compassion. His life has been planted in every believer. No matter our highs and lows, closeness or distance with God or people- we bear His image because we are born again, not of perishable or corruptible seed. God was actually delighted to bring us into this new relationship of being His children.  He is excited to lead us to fulfill our destiny, not of our own effort, but by partnering with the treasure He has already planted in us. This is great news.

My friend, do you wrestle with doubts about your spiritual growth? Do you question how you reflect His life? I would love to hear how this picture of being born of His seed is transforming for you. It may feel like day six-hundred of this year, but we can learn to rest in God’s goodness. We can trust His gracious design.

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Have you gotten your copy of Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion? Get it today on Amazon or http://www.MargaretAllen.org

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Faithfulness

Every now and then in life we get a glimpse of the broader picture that we are in: the people who shaped our lives as well as the ones we are pouring into now. This week I reconnected with influential people from my past and honestly, it humbled me. I visited with two of my mentors: Judy, my Sunday school teacher when I was a brand-new Christian in high school, and Jim, the pastor who fought against denominational precedents for women to secure my licensing as a minister. These two invested in me at a time in my development as a human being that would cause even the most hopeful to doubt. But they walked the walk; they demonstrated to me a powerfully grounded and guided life in Christ. The fruit from these two saints, walking faithfully with God into their 80’s, will never be fully known this side of heaven.

In the middle of our dinner, Judy’s iPhone alarm sounded. At eight o’clock every night her family stops to pray for our country. We all joined hands and prayed for a while and then seamlessly continued dinner. Judy delivers food and prayer each week to women she laughingly calls “old people” (she is just a few years younger). Every morning Jim prays over the phone and discusses scripture with his grandson in the military. Jim pastored a church until a stroke reduced his health this year. For both Judy and Jim, their lives are filled with serving the poor, sharing the good news of salvation in Christ, fighting injustice, and re-presenting Jesus in their daily life.

Faithfulness. Consistency. Serving. I know they aren’t very sexy concepts in a time where we are all looking for three easy steps to Zen. Showing up, matters. This walk with God is not a sprint. It is a lifetime of small and large choices. It’s choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus every day to listen and to learn. It’s setting an alarm to pray for our nation, our community, our family. It’s loving the person in front of you, no matter what their politics, orientation, or Covid compliancy. It’s turning away from all our media distractions and actually investing in the two things that are eternal: people and the presence of God.

Here’s my prayer this week, and it’s as raw and vulnerable as can be:

Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:4-7)

My friend, what decisions are you bringing before God today? Are you walking a faith-filled Christian life? May He show you His ways and teach you His paths. May God bless you and increase your influence. May He shine through your faithfulness and serving. May God bless you and give you peace.

Thank you for reading my blog! If you are looking for resources for yourself, or for a group study, check out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love and compassion. You can find it at www.MargaretAllen.org or Amazon.

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Unlikely Comfort

My college kids headed out in the boat for the last run of the day. Lake Shasta had not disappointed in a day filled with wakeboarding excitement and laughter.  As the sun was setting, my daughter Nicole took a hard fall after jumping the wake. She fell forward and her board popped up, hitting her in the back of her head.  She was able to climb onto the boat, unaware of the blood flowing down her neck.

The kids raced for the marina to get cell service to call 911 and to let us know what happened. As Nicole was lifted into the ambulance, she instantly had a feeling that she would be prayed for on the way to the hospital. Whether she was seeking distraction from her pain or just curious how prayer would happen, she asked Ashley, the EMT, how he handled seeing trauma every day.  He replied, “Honestly, it’s Jesus.” Nicole smiled and said, “Do you go to Bethel church?” He replied yes. They talked about their church and healing experiences.  As they pulled up to the hospital, Ashley prayed for her healing.

Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul: “We were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.  Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:5b-6) Where do you receive comfort when you are hurt or afraid? Who can you turn to when you need healing and help? God sends us comfort, sometimes in unlikely places. One minute you can be jamming on a wakeboard and the next you’re in an ambulance but God knows all about it. He sends encouragement and faith through a Titus, or in our case, an Ashley. Outside are conflicts, inside are fears, but God finds us.

In every difficult situation you encounter, God offers help. Maybe it’s a neighbor who is praying for you, a friend who pays your rent, a co-worker who reaches out. Maybe it’s a huge lit-up cross on the side of a hospital to remind you that God knows all about your pain. No matter how that comfort comes, take it as a wink from God. If you encounter opportunities this week to be that help, that unlikely prayer warrior, healer, encourager-BE the provision sent by God. You never know how God may use you to bring encouragement, healing, or transformation in someone’s life.

After an agonizing five hour wait outside the emergency room of (no joke) Mercy hospital, Nicole emerged stitched, bandaged, and cheerful. She told us about Ashley’s prayer, confidently assuring us she would not have a concussion.  The next morning Nicole was not concussed. She didn’t even have a headache. That was God’s wink for her. 

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I love witnessing the tender ways God encounters regular folks like you and me! I share these stories in my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. Get it today at www.MargaretAllen.org  

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Abiding in Christ

I finished my Peloton ride, proud that I worked out before breakfast. Sweating, I moved into my stretching routine still feeling pretty accomplished so early in the day. As I eased into a lunge, I suddenly and unexpectedly sensed God’s voice. He said to me, Margaret, I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I abide in you; you will bear much fruit.  Apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

And that’s when I began to weep. God, apart from You I am completely lost. I need You in my life. I need Your speaking voice. I need Your holy presence, God. Otherwise, it’s all a mess- my marriage, my kids, my home, my business, my health, thoughts, attitudes, and mindset. You ARE the vine God. I am a little branch living through You!

All week I’d tried connecting with God and came up empty. I read my Bible, prayed, listened to podcasts and so on. But the entire time I felt distant and distracted, like a cloud blocked my view. Until He spoke that one verse to me, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” In that moment it was all clear as day: apart from the Holy Spirit living dynamically through me, I can do nothing. Nada. Zero. But, actively connected with Christ, all things are possible!  

If our natural tendency is toward distraction, what did Jesus mean when He said we must abide in Him? To abide is to dwell, make our home, live in, pitch our tent, cohabit. Abide also means to linger, stick around, to remain. Jesus, our wise teacher, Prophet, king, instructed His friends how to maintain a deep and personal relationship. Gazing out over the vineyards, He said, think of Me as the vine and you are one of the branches. Those connected to Me, making their home in me and, I in return, dwelling, remaining in them, will bear great fruit. But of course, you understand if a branch breaks off the vine it will wither and dry up. It will not bear beautiful life-giving fruit. Hear me: a branch disconnected from the vine simply will not produce life.

What is needing a God infusion in your life right now? Has your distraction only produced withered results? We all need fresh encounters with God. In every area of life, Jesus wants to bring supernatural provisions and solutions.  But if we are not connected, abiding, dwelling IN Christ we miss those moments of counsel and comfort. We will not bear the fruit that is needed right now. 

I check in often with God to see if I’m truly sustained by Him. How about you, my friend?  If you struggle to know God deeply, get the book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. In Gracious Living, I’ve carefully described ways to understand what God is saying. I’ve included prayers that you can pray, along with Biblical declarations to proclaim aloud. The book and the declarations are on my website at www.MargaretAllen.org Join me in the Gracious Living journey; get connected to God!

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Beautiful Resilience

I am a proud survivor of this year’s family camping trip. You remember I mentioned a glorious trek into the Emigrant Wilderness last week. Perhaps I should have printed T-shirts with a giant mosquito on the front and the simple statement “I survived Wood Lake 2020.” I thought the hike to our campsite was twelve miles. I had water for about that much. Turns out it’s more like sixteen miles but who’s counting? (Uhh, me actually)

It was so 2020! This must be the year of doing hard things. I didn’t realize the altitude would affect me so greatly. My feet blistering wasn’t quite in my plan, either. I got worn out, honestly. Then the mosquitoes took it to a whole new level of uncomfortable. But maybe life is feeling that way for many of us: a whole new level of uncomfortable. The economy, marriage, parenting, working from home, feeling lonely have worn us down. Are you struggling my friend?  Maybe the road you are on has taken an unfortunate twist. But once you head into that wilderness there’s just no turning back now, is there? You may find in the strenuous journey that you emerge a different person: stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and flexible.

Here’s the scripture that carried me through that sixteen-mile hike: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persevering in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) I figure that if the apostle Paul can write this admonition as one who suffered much, surely it can nourish and support me with my daily struggles. Seriously, when your marriage aches with pain and baggage, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persevering in prayer.” Are medical issues weighing heavy on your heart, my friend? Are you wondering if anyone sees your life? Whatever struggle, whatever long ass journey you are on, be joyful in hope, don’t give up! Be patient in difficulty. Persevere in prayer. When this truth is your compass, the strength of God guides you. He will surely answer the cry of your heart. With each step, be joyful in hope, another step, patient in affliction, more steps, persevering in prayer, step by step. Joyful in hope. Patient in affliction. Persevering in prayer. As the trail grows steep so does your hopefulness. Resilience is invigorating. People will wonder at your patience and strength of character. Prayerfulness will steady your life and create a beautiful culture all around. The bottom line is love. When we are joyful, persevering, and prayerful we are actually loving ourselves, loving others, and even loving God.

On the journey, I had people cheering me on. I hope you do too. Either way, you are a proud survivor. Keep moving forward! Resilience feels great and it looks good on you too. Romans 12:12 is a guide; let it direct you no matter how long the journey. When you overcome difficulties this week, congratulate yourself on hanging in there! Appreciate what God is carefully crafting in your life.

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Do you need resources right now to come alongside your spiritual journey? Go to MargaretAllen.org to get Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion.

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Hopefulness

What do you see when you look at this picture? A young groom and a minister watch as the bride walked down the aisle. It was a lovely day in June. In spite of a pandemic the small group that gathered for this occasion was filled with joy.

A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it? I see prayers fulfilled. It turns out this precious groom, Gabriel Paxton Smith, is the young man I started praying for 24 years ago. I look back at the things I prayed for my daughter’s husband to be and Gabe is every bit of that and more! Given that their wedding occurred in the middle of a pandemic and racial crisis, I feel that their marriage will be used to bring healing and restoration in their generation. 

I see hope. The bride and groom are filled with hope when they dream about their future. They vowed to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

But I see prayer fulfilled in our minister, the Reverend Eriq K Truitt-Reed as well. I’ve prayed for greater inclusion in the diversity of our spiritual leaders. Eriq is a spirit-filled leader and minister to me. I look to him as a model of one who has suffered racism and yet lives from honor. I grew up hearing “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood” from MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech. My children grew up reading from “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport of how one day little black boys and black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I’ve been praying not only for our nation, but also our community and family to cherish people around us, honoring our differences and welcoming deep friendships. Eriq reminds me that my life is better because of that solid rock of brotherhood.

My friends, this is just one little picture from one little backyard, but it speaks hope to me. It speaks honor, love, and righteousness. I’ve heard testimony recently that pictures and articles telling beautiful stories of reconciliation are being suppressed from social media. Good and hopeful stories are buried so that you can’t see them. Share this story. More importantly, keep building a culture around you of honor, love, and compassion. Pray for the future you want to see—in future sons-in-law as well as a brotherhood and sisterhood filling our lives with beautiful diversity. Pray for justice in our country; love in our homes.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You.” Psalms 89:14

Go to MargaretAllen.org to sign up to receive this blog in your email each week or to purchase the book, Gracious Living, Creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion