Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Living within the Cloud

"Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in the camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses."  Numbers 9:22-23

As the years go by, the more I read about the Israelites in the Old Testament, the less my heart condemns them because "my sin is ever before me" and I am aware that, in my flesh, I would have been right there with them complaining, complaining, complaining. Yes, I pray that I might have had a "different spirit" like that of Caleb and the Spirit-filled courage of Joshua...but I find myself mourning alongside of Israel's sin as I mourn over mine.

And as I think this way, I find myself reading not as an innocent bystander...but walking in their shoes, imagining life in the midst of this great assembly. What was it like to gather manna and quail, to have shoes that never wore out, and to see the awesome power of the Lord on display around every turn?

But, mostly, I have been thinking about the Cloud.

The Cloud of the Lord...His presence in the midst of His people. When it lifted they were to move on and when it rested, they were to stay. Could be just overnight, a month, or even more. They did not know from day to day when it would be time to move on....they had to live, each day, with the Cloud in view....with a readiness to go and yet, at the same time, a willing heart to stay and wait. They could not make any long term plans for themselves...the only long term plan had to be that of eyes fixed on the Cloud...on the Lord.

Oh, the similarities to our own lives as believers today! We have a Cloud without and a Cloud within! The Holy Spirit lives inside of us...convicting, counseling, illuminating...and the Lord continues to be the Cloud of glory that we are to fix our eyes on: "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith". (Hebrews 12:2) And He bids us to daily deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him. (John 9:23)

He calls us to faithful living moment by moment though we know not what the day, the week, or even the next year holds. He calls us to walk by faith because without it, we cannot please Him. He calls us to trust Him with our whole hearts and lean not on our own understanding (or plans for the future). He promises to direct our paths, in HIS timing, as we fix our eyes on the Lord.

I have to remind myself of this so often because I love to be in the "know". I like control. I like to schedule and plan. If I were an Israelite, I would have been begging God for a schedule of when the cloud would rise and settle. I often want to walk by sight instead of faith.

"...remember the former things of old, 
for I am God, and there is no other; 
I am God, and there is none like me, 
declaring the end from the beginning 
and from ancient times things not yet done, 
saying, "My counsel shall stand, 
and I will accomplish all my purpose..."
Isaiah 46:9-10


The end from the beginning... all that was and is and is to come has passed through His sovereign hands. Not one moment of my life will catch Him by surprise or will accomplish a different purpose than the one He intended. My Redeemer is faithful and true....and merciful, kind, and good. I live with the Cloud....and at His command I stay, and when He calls I go. When it comes right down to it, that's all I need to know!





Saturday, February 14, 2015

More Love to Thee

On this Valentine's Day, my heart rejoices in the many "loves" that God has given me. I'm married to "the one my soul loves"... my best friend who also happens to be my favorite counselor and pastor! :) I have six "little" loves, who are soon to pass me up in height and who we continue to pray grow in "the grace and knowledge of God" way beyond their statures....and one, who went from my womb to Heaven and knows the Author of love in a way we have yet to experience!  I have family, friends and a church family that live out love in a way that testifies to the faithful love of God, encourages my own heart, and consistently points me, by their example, to the greatest love...that of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I think about all these precious people, I am reminded that the only way to truly love them, is with Christ's love flowing through me. And the only way to have Christ's love overflowing in my life is to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And the only way to love Him more is to know Him more through His revealed Word! I love how Jen Wilkin puts it in her book "Women of the Word":

"The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God. He is the only reference point that is reliable. So, when I read that God is longsuffering, I realize that I am not longsuffering. When I read that God is slow to anger, I realize that I am quick to anger. When I read that God is just, I realize that I am unjust. Seeing who He is shows me who I am in a true light. A vision of God high and lifted up reveals to me my sin and increases my love for Him. Grief and love lead to genuine repentance, and I begin to be conformed to the image of the One I behold."

More love to Thee, more love to Thee!









Monday, February 2, 2015

We all need to be adopted!

I just read an article that I had to post in full here, both because I think it's so worth the read and I want to have it fully documented on my own blog for future reading by my family! It was a little over 5 years ago that we, too, stood in a courthouse and celebrated the legal adoption of Samuel and Caleb. Much of what Mike wrote is a reflection of our own hearts in regards to adoption, both horizontally with the boys and vertically with the Lord....he articulated it beautifully! Another man who God has used to spread the message of adoption is Russell Moore in his book "Adopted for Life". A great book to read!


We left the courtroom that day and, as we stepped out into the crisp November air, one of our little ones said, "So, when will Samuel and Caleb turn white?" :) After the giggles faded and an explanation was given, we traipsed to the car as one family, one little tribe of people, one small example of the greatest of all adoptions taking place each and every day in the hearts of men as God calls them, justifies them, sanctifies them....adopts them! 

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...." Rev. 5:9


I love Mondays.  For the average person, that admission makes me worthy of a psychological examination!  Let me explain:  Mondays are my day off, so they are much more enjoyable for me than for most.  I’ll never forget a Monday morning in the spring of 2014.  We were off to a typical slow morning of sleeping in, coffee, and a little brunch when my phone rang.  I finished grinding my morning brew and answered the call identified as “DHS.”  I knew what this meant.  They were calling us for a foster care placement.  We’ve taken many of these calls, and the majority don’t work out. 
In 2013 we received a call, took a placement, but after 2 months had to surrender a baby girl who had become part of our family.  Foster care and adoption is something that more Christians should engage in, but there’s no denying the potential for heartache.  As the phone rang, memories of losing the little girl flashed through my mind.  Liz’s busy season at Drake University was gearing up.  Our church was in the midst of pulling off a capital campaign.  Between rings of the phone I was already talking myself out of taking another foster placement.  However, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s strong guidance, three hours later we were picking up a 3-day-old, drug affected baby boy from the hospital downtown.  
Looking back on the scenario, I’m not sure why we accepted the placement.  Although he was drug affected, DHS told us that both mom and dad would want to be part of his life.  We were gearing up for 4-5 days per week of visits between the two parents.  Typically, we like to take “safer” placements than this.  Thankfully, by God’s grace, none of the visits materialized. 
Soon we learned that dad was a vapor in the wind, and mom had legal troubles.  As the months passed “Baby” (as we called him) had wormed his way into our hearts.  He was our son regardless of what the legal system had to say.  For many people this process is like running a cross-country race:  obstacles, hindrances, rough terrain, and a lengthy journey.  In the case of this placement, the process became more like an Olympic 100 meter sprint!  Fast, expeditious, and obstacle- free.  Our adoption attorney thought we could probably adopt “Baby” soon after the required 6-month window expired.  Nearly 8 months after picking him up from the hospital, our adoption day was scheduled for November 6, 2014!  
If you’ve never been to an adoption hearing, add it to your bucket list.  It is worth it!  It is one of the few times that a courtroom is filled with joy and happy anticipation instead of sadness and grim apprehension.  Families and children are welcomed to attend adoption hearings; the court even provides toys to keep the kids entertained during the process!  Both Liz and I took the stand and “testified.”  I put it in quotes because all we did was answer “yes” to about 20 questions. 
There is no suspense at an adoption hearing because the ruling is a forgone conclusion. The hearing is simply a celebration of what is already true about this child:  he is our son!  On that day, “Baby” became Judah Michael Augsburger.  This was our second adoption hearing, but some of the phrases and statements hit home again.  Several times in the New Testament Paul uses “adoption” to describe our salvation.  Strangely, the terminology used by the lawyers and judges in these hearings sounds biblical.  Listen and reflect:

Freed from the damaging effects of generational sin:  At this point you’re thinking, “Wow, that really does sound like biblical language!”  Well, this is not an exact quote, I’m interpreting!  The lawyer actually welled up in tears as he said, “This case is rare.  Many of the children who pass through this courthouse have emotional and even physical scars.  They have been mistreated, abused, and have seen horrendous atrocities.  Not so with Judah.  He’s been with you from birth.  He has the unique advantage of being protected from what many children in the system are forced to endure.”  Wow, that’s sobering.  Sin’s consequences are never individually isolated.  Your sin impacts other people, especially your family!  Exodus 34:7 says, “…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”  Now, I don’t think children pay the penalty for parents’ sin.  I think this is talking about generational consequences.  Our lives are shaped by the choices—good or bad—of our ancestors.  In Judah’s case, however, he has been freed from many of those consequences.  The same is true in our spiritual adoption.  Though the gospel doesn’t erase our past choices or the choices of our ancestors, it does redeem us where we are and gives us the power to form a new identity based on our new family—God’s family!  No matter how you’ve been sinned against, no matter how your parents raised you or the abuse you experienced in your upbringing, you don’t have to let that define you.  You are now defined by a new Father and are part of a new family, and as far as God is concerned, the sins that were committed against you have been paid in full on the cross, giving you the newfound power to forgive!  You don’t have to hold onto the debt, it’s been cleared!
This courtroom rests its case:  At the end of the adoption hearing the judge declared that there would no longer be any judicial action in the life of this child.  The case was settled!  Friends, this mirrors a beautiful spiritual reality!  Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Because Jesus paid our sin-debt on the cross, the prosecuting attorney no longer has a case against us!  IN CHRIST we have committed no crime.  If we accept the truth of Christ’s payment for our sins and trust in his applied righteousness the Righteous Judge of the universe looks at our record and sees nothing but perfect righteousness applied to our account.
  
All the rights and inheritance of a natural born child:  When the judge makes the adoption decree, he carefully and intentionally informs the courtroom that in the eyes of the law, this adopted child has the exact same relationship to the family as a natural born child…even the right of inheritance!  On November 6, Judah became co-heirs with Elijah to our vast estate we’ve accumulated on a pastor’s salary! ☺  Although Judah didn’t strike it “rich” by being adopted into our family, the statement is significant, and has spiritual significance as well.  When we are saved, we become heirs to the vast riches of our heavenly father.  Romans 8:17 says, “…and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”  This goes far beyond a monetary inheritance!  Ephesians 1:11 says, “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”  When will receive this inheritance?  Romans 8:23 tells us that part of this inheritance is eternal life in a redeemed body.  This will happen after this life is over.  Because of our adoption we will live eternally, dwelling with our Father as co-owners of this planet.  Thank you Jesus!  
The issuing of a new birth certificate:  I have a copy of Judah’s former birth certificate.  It has his given name, date of birth, and his biological parents names and vital information.  I’m keeping it just to have for records.  Shortly after the adoption hearing we received his “real” birth certificate in the mail.  It lists his name, Judah Michael Augsburger.  It lists his birth date, time of birth, and lists Liz and I as his parents.  This is his REAL certificate.  Now, in the future he could dig up his old certificate and choose to associate with his former identity.  This would be tragic!  He’s been rescued from that past and been given a new identity, a new name and a new family.  When God saves us he likewise gives us a new name, a new identity, a new family and a new spiritual birth certificate.  According to heavenly records, we were “born of God” through the Word and the Spirit.  We do not have to be defined or identified by our past family or our past sins.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 lists many categories of sinners, and then it makes this stunning statement, “…and such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Too many Christians, however, choose to cling to their old birth certificates.  They cling to old habits and struggle to move past the scars of past sin.  In Christ and through our spiritual adoption we have a new birth certificate and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to live out that new identity and to be free from past sins.  You have a new family!  Enjoy it!  
In conclusion, we are eternally grateful for a Heavenly Father who graciously allowed us to adopt Judah into our family.  He is truly a blessing.  But we are also keenly aware that by adopting Judah we are simply imitating the glorious actions of our God and Savior who marvelously saved us, washed us, rescued us, and adopted us into His family.  If you’re reading this and you feel trapped by your past, or you are bitter at your parents or upbringing, I’m here to tell you today that there is victory in Christ and freedom through spiritual adoption.  If you feel trapped or bitter, maybe you haven’t truly been adopted by God!  Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  If you’ve never trusted Christ for salvation, I encouraged you to believe that Jesus died to take your penalty.  Accept the free gift of salvation.  Call on the Lord and ask him to save you.  At that moment—just like Judah’s adoption in the courthouse—God will declare you part of his family and give you a new name, new identity and a new family.  To God be the glory!  


Friday, December 26, 2014

Little, Bitsie Trinkets

I've been thinking a bit about Mary this past week and I've been thanking the Lord for her example.

This is a gal like any of us. Most likely, living days filled with ordinary routine. Of course, a wedding was in the near future and the anticipation of that must have brought lightness to her feet and pitter-patters to her heart. But her feet still walked down the humble streets of a small town, and her heart was the same as ours...in need of a Savior to wash it white as snow.

There is no question that Mary's plans did not include giving birth to the Son of God. I can't help but wonder if, in the days following Gabriel's announcement, she found herself looking at Proverbs 16:9 with new eyes, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps".

The news she was given sounded impossible and the question she asked was not asked in disbelief as much as it was wonder. I love how Russ Ramsey describes it in "Behold the Lamb of God":

"The angel explained that all the laws of nature are amendable by the One who wrote them. Mary lived in a world that was made, and the Maker of this world was the sole author of what could and would happen here. The Holy Spirit would overshadow her, and when he pulled that shadow back, this virgin would become a mother to a son. How this would happen was less important than the fact that it would. And God would be the one to do it....The angel's message was as much about the character of the God who favored Mary as it was about what he meant to do for his people through her."

Mary received this news, that would rock her whole world to the core, with words that testify to the grace of God in her life, with words that reflected her deep trust in and dependence on God and His character,  with words that should make our hearts yearn to have a "Mary's heart". She simply said, "I am your servant. Be it unto me according to Your word". She said yes. She humbly surrendered her own plans and desires for what God willed, because (as seen in her prayer of praise later on) her greatest desire was to please the Lord....to see Him exalted and glorified!

Hundreds of years later, Betty Stam, a missionary to China, was a wonderful testimony of one who had a "Mary's heart". She wrote:

"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Your will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all utterly to You to be Yours forever.  Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit.  Use me as You want, send me where You want, work out Your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever."

God's "whole will" for Betty's life was her early death when communists dragged Betty and her husband out of their home and away from their baby daughter, killing first her husband and then Betty herself.

And what did Betty think of her own plans and purposes anyway? She says:

"When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him, when really we are only letting go some little, bitsie trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasures." 

Her plans and purposes were like "some little, bitsie trinkets that (she had) been grabbing". MY plans and purposes are little, bitsie trinkets I try so hard to hold onto and yet...when my hands are truly empty of all I think I desire, then I am filled to the full with HIS treasures.

Mary knew this, Betty knew this...O Lord, help my heart to walk in their footsteps as they have followed Yours!



Saturday, December 13, 2014

God, I want another king.

As we draw nearer and nearer to the birthday of our Saviour...I am reminded that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our King, ruling in our hearts because of His life, death, resurrection and indwelling Spirit.

Yet, I can't help but wonder how much like the Israelites we can be when they cried out, "We must have a king over us. Then we'll be like all the other nations..." (I Samuel 8:20). God says, in that moment, they were rejecting HIM as their King...something they had been doing since they left Egypt.

My initial thoughts on reading I Samuel 8 were to be saddened by the Israelites foolishness and to think about how that would not have been my heart if I had been "beamed back" to that day. How could they think those thoughts, let alone, act on them?!

I'm thankful God didn't leave me in my self-righteousness for too long! The more I pondered...the more I realized how often I live in the likeness of Israel.

The Israelites had GOD as their King, yet they wanted more...they wanted to be like the other nations. God is my King...my Saviour...and yet, how often I live and act as if I need more. How often I look around me and want what others have.

God, you are enough....but I need to have more money in the bank. God, you are enough....but I need to go on a getaway for a few days like everyone else seems to be doing. God, you are enough....but I need an afternoon of quiet. God, you are enough....but I don't want to go through this trial anymore. God, you are enough....but why can't my life be more like _______. God, you are enough...but I'm tired of waiting. I could keep filling in the blanks of discontent that often well up in my heart...how about you?

What I am really saying each and every time discontentment wells up in my own heart is, "God, you are not enough...and if things were different, my life would be a lot better." What I'm really saying is, "God, I want another king." What I am really doing each and every time I desire more than what He has seen as best to give me is rejecting my King. I am guilty of the same foolish sin that Israel was guilty of.

I am thankful for the Israelites example, though it is often an example of what not to do, because there is more of "me" in them than I would care to admit...and I want to learn and grow from their mistakes. I am "prone to wander" but, by God's grace, it doesn't have to be for 40 years!

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Actual Reality

Any of you weepy out there? I'm going to blame it on not seeing the sun for the last two weeks and needing a bit more vitamin D. But this (hopefully) short season of "melancholy" has also caused me to be more reflective...to stop and think beyond the next hour or the hour gone by. I don't do that enough. I have a great tutor in thinking long, deep, and hard. Bryan is a constant source of encouragement and an example of the discernment and wisdom that comes out of being still, pondering, and filtering all of those thoughts in and through the Word of God. I am thankful beyond words for his leadership in my life in this way and many others!

With that said, I know that in my more weepy days, it's so easy to focus on me and on my sadness over this, that, and the other thing. This time, in God's great mercy, He has been so gracious to pull me up from the muck and mire of my own perceived reality and into the beauty of the actual reality that I live in. A reality that is so breathtakingly beautiful that I wonder how I can, so quickly, pull my eyes off of it and onto things that, in comparison, are nothing less than admiring a garbage dump.

My perceived reality is that life should go a certain way. That "way" looks different for each area of my life....husband, home, children, friends, money, time, etc...but all are within the framework of Phil 4:8 (whatever is true, noble, right, etc...). I mean, come on, if I can quote Bible verses to go with my desires...they have got to be good ones and worthy of being heard and answered, right?! :) But THAT is where the problem is. No matter how "good" my desires might be, the second I believe they should be answered in the way I see fit is the moment I place myself has sovereign and my precious Lord as my servant to do my bidding. It sounds so heinous when I put it like this....how could I ever live this way? Yet, I do it all the time. My perceived reality is horribly skewed...like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars!

Actual reality, Godward reality, truth living and speaking reality says something entirely different. It frees us from ourselves in a mighty way. Here it is:

"...everyone called by My name and created for My glory." Isaiah 43:7a

I was created for God's glory...PERIOD. Say that a few times to yourself. And then a couple more times. I was not created for comfort, ease, financial freedom, pain-free days, stressless living, or deep sleep. I was not created to be seen as wonderful, have my thoughts heard, win the mother-of-the-year award, or be loved by all.

I was created for God's glory....created to live the life that He planned out for me so that He might be glorified. I don't determine how He is best glorified, God does. He is the planner, sustainer, and perfector. He see's what reality really is, because He IS reality.

"God's wisdom means that He knows all things, first to last. He never discovers or learns. Every possible outcome has its conclusion in Him. He knows what is best and most beautiful in every situation, and causes all things to work infallibly for His glory (Job. 12:13)." 
                                                                    -"True Beauty" by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre


Hebrews 11 is an amazing chapter. In it, we find out who the "cloud of witnesses" are that surround us in chapter 12. We read of people who's examples encourage us and remind us to not grow weary and lose heart. I've been thinking about their lives...their realities...

Abraham: promised land and descendants more numerous than the stars, yet spent most of his life a fatherless wander.

Joseph: blessed greatly by his father, hated deeply by his brothers. Sold as a slave, falsely imprisoned, and long imprisoned because the good he had done to the cupbearer was forgotten about.

Moses: Went from the world's wealthiest kid to an outcast hiding and tending sheep in the wilderness for 40 years. Then he spend another 40 years dealing with a whining, complaining nation that did not grow up and move out of the house, if you know what I mean!

And I could keep writing....Daniel, Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, and countless others.

Their realities were hard. Their realities were what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 4:8 "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed".

But their realities, just like yours and mine, serves a magnificent purpose:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."    2 Corinthians 4:7

John MacArthur's commentary on this verse says: "By using frail and expendable people, God makes it clear that salvation is the result of his power and not any power his messengers could generate. The great power of God overcomes and transcends the clay pot. The messenger's weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential." 

WOW! "The messenger's weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential." That pierces through my perceived reality and drives home my actual reality. My life is for the glory of God, to be lived out in whatever way HE chooses, so that HIS saving power is magnified, amplified,  and glorified in all those hard things I would chose, in my flesh,  to see removed from my life.

My actual reality, the glory of God, is a reality of sweet rest and peace in the arms of a loving God. A God who sent His only Son down to earth...from the manger to the cross...."He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things"(Romans 8:32).

All that we need is found in all that He is.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
Romans 11:36

That's reality!





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Christ IN me!

Do you ever read a book or a chapter and feel like all you do is underline because it's THAT good! Well, chapter 10 of "Practical Theology for Women" by Wendy Alsup has been given much underlining. So has much of her book for that matter! Anyway, she shared a beautiful thought that I wanted to piggy back off of...here is what she says:

"If you belong to God, then you and Christ are supernaturally connected. (Col 1:17) However, instead of seeing ourselves as connected to Christ at all times, we tend to view our... relationship with God in the terms of intersecting moments during the day. We think that the more times our lives intersect with God, the more "spiritual" we are. In this paradigm, God goes on his way, and I go on my way until we intersect at another corner later that day, week, month, or year. Instead, we need to think of ourselves as walking with Jesus continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are a believer, Christ is with you, in you, holding you together at all times. The goal is for us to be aware of that reality and live in the light of it, for Christ warns us that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15)."


 I couldn't help but think that this truth of "Christ in us" is very similar to being pregnant. When I was pregnant, I was very much aware that there was a baby growing inside of me. Sure, there were times that I didn't "think about it", caught up in the busyness of the moment. But, on the whole, my thoughts often went to the precious life growing inside. All of my life was filtered through the reality that there was someone inside of me. Should I eat this? Should I rest right now? Would this be good for the baby? What kind of mom would I have been if I didn't live in the light of the reality that there was another little person growing inside my womb?!

Jesus is IN me! My days of pregnancy are but a dim illustration of the magnificent truth that Christ is "with me, in me, holding me together at all times"!! Yet, what kind of Christ follower am I really? How often do I truly walk in that reality? How often are my thoughts, affections, and actions filtered through God's Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit? How often do I abide in His presence and remain in His presence?

I am so thankful that it is CHRIST who is holding on to me! My grasp is often so weak, and my hold easily releases. But I am kept by His power and amazing grace! Truly, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!!!