His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Awakening

Everything appeared normal and in focus, the low cubicle walls, cluttered offices and desks, fluorescent lights overhead, worn-out carpet below. All that stuff was unchanged. But the people, what happened to the people? They were gone.

He jumped up and scanned the field of cramped cubicles. In the places where all his co-workers usually sat, spheres of light hovered over the desk chairs, all about the same size, beach ball size. Most were a bit dim, a few were shades of gray, and one or two were brilliantly white. On some of the spheres, the light flickered and changed. But they all seemed to hum, as if filled with a pulsating energy. Yet the magnitude of that energy also varied from one sphere to the next. Were they alive; if alive is even the right word? They almost seemed alive. The brightest ones seemed the most alive, as if they were throbbing with excitement and anticipation. Well, that’s how it seemed to him.

But then he noticed his feelings for these possibly living spheres of light. They didn’t frighten nor mystify him, though he believed they should have. He felt close to them, related to them, as if he and they were somehow connected. Then he noticed the other emotions, the mix of compassion, sorrow, joy, and love that he felt. Compassion and sorrow for the dimmest spheres of light, joy for the brightest ones, and love for all of them. Oh, this just kept getting weirder. Why’d he feel that way? After all, they were just spheres of light, not people. Right?

Life below the surface - sphere of light 2Okay, this had to be a dream, like something he remembered from an old Star Trek episode. But, it didn’t feel like a dream, it felt like more than a dream, and somehow more than imagination. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate, tried to figure this out. But when he opened his eyes again, they were back, not the spheres but all the people, the people he knew so well, along with the office racket. That’s when he realized it had been peacefully quiet in his dream, or whatever it was.

Maybe it had been a hallucination. Or … hmm. He’s not sure why the thought slid into his mind, but maybe the dream was God showing him a side of people he’d never seen before, the inside. Maybe what he’d seen in those spheres of light was a vision of the life force, the entire life and essence of each person. Maybe what he’d seen in those spheres, the ones bright and thriving, and those dim, struggling, and barely alive, was … their souls.

Then he remembered the almost profound love he’d felt for all of those spheres. But, if they were really the souls of his co-workers, how could he feel such love for them, especially for the souls that hovered over the chairs of people he despised?

Then another memory slid in, something Philo of Alexandria—whoever he was—once said, something like, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” He now believed he’d seen it. The dim and weak spheres of light were souls struggling in their own great battle.

Suddenly he remembered something else, something Jesus had said, about loving others as Jesus loved him. Now why’d his mind go there? He’d always struggled with that one. Some people were so despicable, so unlovable, with their bigotry, selfishness, insensitiveness, and downright arrogance. He’d always figured it was impossible for him to love such people, even if they are fellow Christians.

He knew in his gut that he just couldn’t love others as Jesus loves him—impossible. But, as Jesus also said, what’s impossible for him is possible for God. He long believed the only way he could truly love others, especially the despicable ones, was for Jesus to love those people through him—the whole surrender to God and let the Holy Spirit live within and through him thing he’d often prayed about.

He sat back in his chair and smiled. He really liked the idea of loving the souls below the surface. That felt somehow more doable, even if his love for them would initially be his normal flawed love he gave to everyone else. The perfect stuff would just have to come from Jesus. But at least maybe he’d found a way to no longer despise the despicable. After all, in his vision he’d noticed that it was the most despicable people who had the dimmest spheres of light, the souls that struggled the most and looked the least alive.

For the rest of the day, these thoughts simmered in his mind. It’s not about loving the people you see on the surface, the sometimes ugly, mean, angry, arrogant surface. It’s about loving what’s below the surface, the soul below the all-to-human exterior. Also, it’s easier to love what he can see with his mind, than what he could see with his eyes.

One more thought slipped in. During the vision, that love he’d felt for all those spheres of light—was it from him, or from Jesus? Whichever, it sure felt good.


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Kindness to the Victims

Coffee in hand, looking out the window at the early morning sky grey and cloudy, I try to quiet my thoughts and look down at the devotional sitting in my lap. But I fail. My mind just can’t pry itself away from the world. New Covid-19 variant exploding. Case and death counts rising fast. And then just to distract us from all that, what looks like an attempted coup in the US capitol. An insurrection they call it.

As my coffee was brewing this morning, I read an account by one of the people who stormed into the capitol building. And I began to see their point of view, and the view of some of the people that person was with. I started to see them as victims.

Lots of people in the US are frustrated with the federal government. That’s a big reason why Trump won in 2016. And I suspect it’s a reason why so many people still support him. As long as the feds remain as they are, I also suspect such chaos may continue.

Look, I think at least some of the “insurrectionists” see themselves as victims of our failed, dysfunctional federal government, as we all are. We’ve all watched the fractured, broken, uncompromising, self-serving, arrogant government representatives for years, as they effectively fail to serve those who voted them into office. I guess some people just couldn’t take it any longer, and decided to make a statement by breaking into the capitol building, encouraged as they were by you-know-who. Well, statement clearly made—I hope. (By the way, I don’t support their methods for statement-making).

But, those statement-makers are also victims of lies, conspiracy theories, and fake news. And maybe that’s partly because those lies support their already-strong sense of a broken system.

Looking beyond what happened in Washington DC this week, I now see that we are all victims. It’s not just the federal government that’s broken. The entire world is broken, and we’re all victims of it. Victims of bad relationships, miserable jobs, no jobs at all, illness, depression, anxiety, fear, unfulfilled dreams, heartbreak, abuse. No point in me continuing with the list—you can do that on your own.

But thankfully, a new thought drifted into my mind while my coffee cup warmed my hands. You see, as the events of this week kept yanking at my thoughts, another part of my mind kept trying to get back to the devotional in my lap. And right there on that page was something Jesus had said that was influencing how I was looking at the insurrectionists: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13:34)

I think it’s easier to love one another when we realize that those other people, no matter how much they might irritate us or how much we disagree with them, are also victims of something. As Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Okay, I’m going to wrap this up with another thought that popped into my mind. Yes, our world is full of victims. We all suffer from something. But, there are NO victims in heaven. Think about that one for a bit.


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I Give You Love, I Hope

It’s not much, but it’s all I have to give you. And this Christmas, more than any other in my life, I think giving is more important than ever, much more important than receiving.

All I have to give you is an ebook—not much really. But I think the most important gifts anyone can give this year are more than books or anything else we can hold in our hands. The most important gifts are things like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love.

My hope is that my little gift of this book may blossom into a more intimate relationship with Jesus, where you truly feel His love. My hope is that I’m giving you love.

And for reasons maybe none of us can anticipate, I hope you have a Christmas that, though maybe stained with sorrow, is also filled with unexpected joy, a joy you can carry with you as we all stumble into the next year.

To receive the gift I give to you, please go to the Amazon page and download the Kindle book. It will remain free only through the end of today.

Click here to go to Amazon book page.

And maybe you too can give this book as a Christmas gift. To help, I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow until the end of December.

 

 

 


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How Does God Feel About You?

How does God feel about you? How does Jesus feel about you?

In my quiet time this morning, while trying to empty my chaotic mind of the usual crap that steals my thoughts, I found myself thinking of someone I dearly love, and imploring God to help them as they go through a tough time right now. My friend really needs Gods help, because they don’t know God or Jesus, and they’re trying to deal with life alone. Then I felt something. And I think it was God, showing me how He feels about the person I was praying for. I’ll try to show you.

How does a parent feel about their newborn baby? For me, it was a long time ago, but the memories remain vivid. My arms ached to hold my son, to gently squeeze him to my chest, and pour all the love I could muster into him, somehow filling him with my love. The words escape me still. I can’t find a good way to express the love I felt for my newborn son, and the magnitude of love I wanted to give to him. I never wanted to let him go.

I still don’t. Both my sons are now several years on their own, both leading their own lives. And my arms still ache for them. My love hasn’t diminished—only been calmed a bit by the years. But I miss the days when they were small enough to lay on my chest and drool onto my ever-smiling face, as my arms squeezed them close.

Can God love less? I don’t think so.

Maybe what I felt this morning is true. Maybe more than anything God wants to wrap His arms around you, protect you, care for you, and pour His love into you, with a love that words cannot express. And like any true-loving parent, Gods love for you does not depend on how you feel about Him. Try picturing that in your mind. How does it make you feel?


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Opening Our Eyes for Easter

He was accused a sinner, then judged guilty of sin, and not just any sin… ALL sin. He was then sentenced to death—the ultimate penalty for all the crimes of humanity. Then, He was executed.

But who accused, and judged, and sentenced, and executed? It was humanity who executed the Son of God for the crimes of all humanity. Some of those who committed the crimes were the ones who did the accusing, judging, sentencing, and executing.

And Jesus humbly took the place of those who carried out His punishment. He took our place too.

Oh I know it was His fate. I know the justice of God had to be carried out somehow. And I understand why the penalty had to be laid on Jesus. But in thinking of the irony that Jesus suffered at the hands of people He was sacrificing Himself to save—well, it magnifies my gratitude.

Easter approaches, and maybe that’s why my mind is questioning the circumstances of Jesus’ death. I think my prayer for this Easter is that God opens our hearts and minds a little more to see how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Jesus. I hope you have an eye-opening Easter.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)


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Looking at Love Through a Cardboard Tube

Under weird circumstances I stumbled across these verses in Ephesians: “I pray that you may grasp the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, abbreviated)

I found myself wondering about the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us. Why does His love “surpass knowledge?” Why is it hard to comprehend the truth and scope of Jesus’ love? This is what I believe:

First, Jesus loves like no other human. For example, my love (being solely human), is marred by my natural human flaws. My love is polluted by my pride and selfishness. Why do I love someone? Well, there is always a reason, such as they are funny, friendly, attractive in some other way, etc. I need a reason… it’s just how my emotions and mind work. It seems harsh to me, but my love is motivated by “what’s in it for me?”

Yet for Jesus, He needs no reason to love. He has no flaws to mar His love for others. He loves because He is the Son of God, and He can do no less than the same as His Father.

Also, Jesus’ love comes from a mixture of his humanity and his divinity. As God, He unconditionally loves. But as human, He loves us other humans with a human intimacy. He’s one of us, without the natural flaws that is. But He knows what it’s like to face our temptations, weaknesses, flaws and problems. He loves with a sympathy that comes from intimacy.

The final reason I can’t comprehend Jesus’ love is that I can only consider His love through the lens of my own humanity. I am only able to see love through my own pride and selfishness. It’s like I’m looking through a cardboard tube of gift wrapping paper at a broad panoramic scene. All I see is what comes through my pretend telescope. I miss everything else in the scene. I think it’s this way when I try to look at and comprehend Jesus’ love. I only see a small piece of a wide and long and high and deep vastness of love.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Maybe we can’t see the extensiveness of Jesus’ love for us, but I pray that we all can at least accept the truth of it.


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A Love in His Image

Painfully obvious fact: being a parent isn’t always easy. A parent’s love for their children can be so huge, it almost hurts. And as I think about it, this parent-child relationship is really unique.

Yesterday was my younger son’s 26th birthday, and I thought about our relationship a lot during the day. I thought about the bond we have. I believe this bond is partly rooted in the mundane fact that he is biologically made up of parts of his mom and me – his DNA comes from us. I think it’s that biological bond that feeds my emotional bond… somehow.

Whether it’s the DNA thing or something else that creates this bond, the feeling is real and often intense. I sometimes don’t know how to express the love I feel for my sons, a love that I think gets a lot of its strength from this bond we have.

But why does this kind of love sometimes hurt – where’s the pain come from? Well, for me the pain comes from this bond that craves closeness. And as my sons have grown into men and launched off into lives out on their own, we’re never close enough. My love wants my little boy back, where I can cradle him in my arms, toss him in the air, and delight in his infectious giggle.

Being a parent can be difficult and painful and weird… and absolutely fantastic!

Okay, now what about God… our spiritual Parent? Since we were made in His image, our love is an image of His love – a blurry and weak reflection of God’s true love. Imagine the strength of the bond He feels with us. Imagine the love He feels for His children, and the pain of that love. Imagine the magnitude of His craving for closeness.

How does that make you feel?


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It’s Love…

… His love for you, and your love for Him.

That’s what connects you to the Spirit of Jesus, living within you.

It’s not your mind… too many distractions in this life God gave you.

But where there’s love, true love… when you mind turns away from distractions and looks inside to Jesus, He’s always there, waiting for you, holding fast to your love.

And you will truly feel Him – no more doubts.

It’s love, true love, unconditional and humble love that surrenders you heart and life to Him.

Do you crave His presence?

Then look to your love.

With a dedicated and humble heart, love grows, and true love will blossom.

And you will never feel alone again.


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Time Travel… to the Very Beginning

What was the essence of humanity in the beginning? I mean way back, right after the creation, but before sin polluted our spirit.

Well, God created humanity in His image, and God is love. Therefore in the beginning, humanity was love. Love was the complete meaning of what it was to be human. The only emotion Adam and Eve felt was love… until selfishness took over, and the sin that spawns from it.

When you see two people truly in love – humble love – you are seeing back in time, to the beginning. In this way, love is a portal to the past, to the time before selfishness and sin, and to a time when humanity lived in the very presence of God. So maybe when you see true love, you are also seeing through that portal all the way to God. When you see love, you are seeing God.


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Love Is???

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

Love is… HARD!

Think about it. It’s hard to truly love when our natural human tendency is to be impatient and self-centered. But that’s okay. For true love doesn’t come from you or me. It comes from God. If you truly feel the love of God, then His love will inspire you to love Him, and others. God’s love overpowers our natural impatience and pride. Gods love demolishes the walls we build with our natural flaws, and replaces those human traits with a love that never fails.

Get to know Jesus, and you will come to truly feel His love for you. Read about Him in the Bible, and pray… look for His Spirit within you. And when you find Him there, you will feel His undeniable love for you. And His love for you will feed your love for Him and others.

As the Apostle John said of Jesus, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

And in speaking of the Holy Spirit, John also said, “If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:12-13)


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The Spirit Speaks – I Love You

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

Love of Jesus

Good morning. I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, just want to say I love you. Remember when I said that the most important thing for you to do is love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind? Well, this is how my Father and I love you. I so hope you can feel our love. My children expend much effort trying to express their love for me. Yet they sometimes forget to relax and soak in my lavish love for them.

Today, please make a quiet moment for yourself. Find a place to block out the noise of the world, close your eyes, and look inside yourself, to my Spirit within you. And then relax, open your heart and let my love flow through you. For I love you, with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind.


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God Loves Homosexuals

Supreme court gay marriage

The Bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality as a life style – God despises all sins, including homosexuality. Yet the Bible also makes it abundantly clear what God thinks of sinners. Though God despises sin, He loves sinners… as His children. Though God despises homosexuality as a life style, God loves homosexuals… as His children.

Look, I’m a sinner. I happen not to be homosexual, but I have plenty of other sins that I seem to daily re-visit. These sins are just part of who I am as a person. But my sinful personal nature does not affect God’s love for me. Even in the midst of my sinning, God loves me just as I am.

Are you homosexual? God loves you just as you are. The pain comes from too many of us focusing all our attention on the sin, and forgetting about the love. Let’s all hold onto God’s love, a love that heals all pain.

 

(First posted 4/1/15, but I felt like posting it again)


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Our Father’s Love

His child

I was a bit trouble-prone as a young boy. Like the time in my bedroom when I nailed my blankets and sheets to my dresser, the walls, and anything that would hold a nail. It was the most awesome tent ever. Then, several years later, there was the New Years Eve when I blew up the neighbor’s mailbox with a barrel bomb. It was so cool how all the rivets blew out, but the swollen shell still stood on the post. Though my mom was always disappointed and usually angry about my fun-filled pranks, I never doubted her love for me.

The most loving parents feel love for their child no matter what. Such is God’s love for His children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)


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There Is No Greater Love

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

love on cross

The night before Jesus was nailed to the cross, as he prepared himself for death, He looked to His disciples and… “He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” (Matthew 26:38)

While praying for strength, just moments before His arrest, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) There is a medical condition called Hematidrosis, where blood vessels can pop due to extreme stress, and the blood will mix with sweat. Jesus was in such stress.

Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human. It’s important for us to know that what Jesus did for us was not easy. Yet Jesus was overwhelmed by more than the anticipation of torturous pain and death. What was crushing Jesus was the promise of what waited on the other side of death.

Shortly before His death, while praying to His Father, Jesus prayed for us, saying, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21) Even as He prayed these words, Father and Son both knew that very soon, they would not be together. They would not be one.

The death penalty for sins includes separation from God – this is the definition of hell. For the first time in eternity, Father and Son would not be spiritually together. Following His mortal death, Jesus descended into hell.

The sins of humanity kidnapped the Son from His adoring Father. Picture a weeping mother handing over her baby to kidnappers. God and His Son endured this heart-wrenching pain voluntarily. The Father shared the sacrifice of the Son. There is no greater pain for a parent than to loose their child to death.

There is no greater love in all of history than the mutual love God and Jesus showed for us. As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added) God held out His Son, and sin ripped Jesus from His Fathers arms, and killed Him.

Once, when I was helping with our church youth group, one of the kids shared a saying he had heard: “Nails didn’t keep Jesus on the cross – love did.” We see the truth of the cross in the mutual love of God and Jesus, for us. That’s what kept Jesus on the cross.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16)


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God Loves Homosexuals

The Bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality as a life style – God despises all sins, including homosexuality. Yet the Bible also makes it abundantly clear what God thinks of sinners. Though God despises sin, He loves sinners… as His children. Though God despises homosexuality as a life style, God loves homosexuals… as His children.

Look, I’m a sinner. I happen not to be homosexual, but I have plenty of other sins that I seem to daily re-visit. These sins are just part of who I am as a person. But my sinful personal nature does not affect God’s love for me. Even in the midst of my sinning, God loves me just as I am.

Are you homosexual? God loves you just as you are. The pain comes from too many of us focusing all our attention on the sin, and forgetting about the love. Let’s all hold onto God’s love, a love that heals all pain.


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God Touches My Heart in My Prayers

Finger of God

Eyes closed, heart open, I try to quiet my mind.

My mind – it’s sometimes not my friend.

My mind – racing in circles, from one thought to the next.

Then God helps me pull in the reins and bring my mind to a trot, and finally a stop.

Eyes closed, heart open, and my mind quiet and focused on God.

That’s when He touches my heart.

That’s when God reaches into my soul and stirs up my emotions.

And I swell and melt with love and gratitude – for God and Jesus and their presence within me.

And there’s a tear, or two – physical evidence of my emotion.

Dear God. Dear Jesus. I’m so grateful for your love and presence within me.

Let’s do this day, together.


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Great is God’s Love

Gods love

I was a bit trouble-prone as a young boy. Like the time in my bedroom when I nailed my blankets and sheets to my dresser, the walls, and anything that would hold a nail. It was the most awesome tent ever. And then several years later, there was the New Years Eve when I blew up the neighbors mailbox with a barrel bomb. It was so cool how all the rivets blew out, but the swollen shell still stood on the post. Though my mom was always disappointed and usually angry about my fun-filled pranks, I never doubted her love for me.

The most loving parents feel love for their child no matter what. Such is God’s love for His children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)


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What is God’s purpose in His relationship with you?

I never understood the sadness until my own children were grown and out on their own. Yet my mom gave me a preview of coming emotions. She showed me how sad she could get every time I left her after a weekend visit. I thought she was being overly emotional. But I now share her feelings whenever my sons leave after a weekend home.

My purpose in my relationship with my sons has evolved as they’ve grown from babies into men. But one thing that never changes is my overwhelming desire to be with them and to show my love for them. God shares this desire in His relationship with you.

God’s’ singular purpose is unconditional love. Love is why He sent His Son to fulfill justice, while rescuing you from your own mistakes, yet forgiving you when you fall and helping you get back on your feet again. Love is why God helps you stand in the face of life’s storms. God’s purpose is to be your loving Father and for you to be His child. God’s purpose is to be your ultimate parent and to fill your hungry soul.


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Good Morning Dear Friend

close to God

Good morning dear Jesus. I’m so grateful to be your friend. You said that there is no greater love than that of a friend who sacrifices his life for another friend and, that we are your friends, if we do as you command. And later you said that your command is to love each other. You then sacrificed yourself, for us. Yet you didn’t wait for our love. Your love came first, without conditions.

I admit that I don’t truly understand the magnitude of your love. Maybe your love goes beyond human love, like a dimension of love that we cannot see. Yet you’ve spilled your love (and your blood), into our human lives. I’m so grateful you didn’t wait for my love to come first. Thank you dear Jesus.