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Letting Go and Letting God

Letting GoDon’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect His will really is. ~Romans 12:2 NLT


It’s your baby. You birthed it, fed it, stayed up late at night with it, watched it grow. Then you sent it out into the world of publishing only to watch it slowly die. Now the decision is obvious: you have to let it go.

Letting go of ambition and letting God take control of our writing is difficult. After all, for most of us writing has become our identity—and who wants anyone, even God, to mess with that? But letting go and letting God is the very thing we must do if we wish to succeed in this business. I don’t mean “succeed” in the sense of financial gain or notoriety; what I’m referring to is success in the sense of becoming secure in the writer God made us to be—even if that means we don’t write the next bestseller or are never picked up by an agent or publishing house.

Is letting go easy? Heavens no! Take it from me, a control freak. Letting go is like pulling teeth without Novocain. But when all is said and done, when the “bad tooth” is out, letting go takes on a whole different meaning.

LORD, why is it so hard to let go? Why do we hang on to so many things You’ve tried to pry from our fingers? Whether it be our work in progress or something personal in our life, control sometimes feels like a safety net when it’s actually a pit of doom. Help us, LORD, as we write, to let go of our own desires and hang on to what’s precious in Your sight. Help us let go of our “baby” when you say it’s time to let go. And give us the discernment to know when what we’re writing is from our own selfish ambition or from You. I praise You, O LORD, for calling me to be a writer. May all glory be given to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Reading Levels Aren’t Just For Kids Anymore

I was inspired by the presentation of Chris Richards, editor at Written World Communications and president of Mile High Scribes (ACFW South Denver Chapter), at the August 12th HIS Writers (ACFW North Denver Chapter) monthly meeting, to delve deeper into the literacy problem in the U.S. today. As I did, it occurred to me why Young Adult (YA) fiction not only appeals to youth, but to older teens and adults as well.

scholastic-logoFor instance, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is ranked by Scholastic as having an Interest Level of 6th – 8th grade (MG), which is equivalent to an age level of 11-13 years, Lexile Framework of 810L, a Grade Level Equivalency of 7.0, a Guided Reading Level of Z, and a Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) of 7. (For more information on these terms, go to

In an article written by Doug Barry, Scholastic was quoted as saying,

…as of July 19, [Scholastic] had over 50 million copies of
Collins’ books (23 million copies of
The Hunger Games, 14 million of Catching Fire, and 13 million of Mockingjay) circulating around the U.S., having their covers folded back, their pages filled with beach sand, and their bindings generally abused by careless readers. (Barry)

But does that mean the popularity of this book series is limited to middle grade? Absolutely not! In fact, if you do a Google search you will find many parents feel the interest level of 6th – 8th grade (age level 11-13 years) is marked too low due to the graphic content of the series.

The popularity of The Hunger Games series is proof that a 7.0 reading level appeals to older teens and adults as well as middle graders. There are 2,400+ reviews for the series found on, which came from adults 18 and over, considering you must have a valid credit card to set up an Amazon account and only those who have valid Amazon accounts are allowed to post reviews. And according to another article written by The Atlantic Wire in their Entertainment section,

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins has amazon-logosurpassed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as the best-selling books of all time—print and e-books combined—on, and The Hunger Games is also the most-borrowed book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. (Doll)

So what’s my point in all this? My point is…


2000114154_0c2c82f176_oAs a writer of fiction, you need to be aware that understanding reading levels isn’t just for children’s books anymore. With illiteracy at an all time high, it is important to realize more than 20% of adults struggle with reading levels no higher than fifth grade (5.0), 14 percent (30 million) of adults in the U.S. are functioning at Below Basic (defined simply as “not having adequate reading skills for daily life”), and 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. This means they cannot:

  • Understand the instructions on a medicine container
  • Read stories to their children
  • Read a newspaper article or a map
  • Read correspondence from their bank or any government agency
  • Fill out an application for work
  • Read the safety instructions for operating machinery
  • Compete effectively for today’s jobs

Studies show that low literacy is not the problem of immigrants, the elderly, high-school oneoutoffivedropouts, or people whose first language is not English. Low literacy is a problem that knows no age, education, economic boundaries, or national origins. Most people with low literacy skills were born in this country or have English as their first language.

When people pick up something they cannot understand, they put it down. So it is your job, as a writer, to make sure you know your target market and their reading/comprehension level. 

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability is integrated into Microsoft Word, so there’s no excuse for a writer to be unaware of the readability level of their fiction piece. To turn this option on, do the following (you only need to do this once):

For Word 2003

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  2. Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
  3. Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  4. On the Standard toolbar, click Spelling and Grammar.

When Microsoft Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it displays
information about the reading level of the document.

For Word 2007 and 2010readability-statistics

  1. Select File > Options from the toolbar at the top of the screen.
  2. Click the Proofing tab from the list to the left.
  3. Check the box next to: Check grammar with spelling.
  4. Check the box next to: Show readability statistics.
  5. Click OK.

When you finish spell check (F7), the [Flesch-Kincaid ] readability level will now appear as well. NOTE: Word doesn’t score above grade 12. Any grade above 12 will be reported as Grade 12.

So how exactly is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability level determined? Here’s the formula:

  1. Calculate the average number of words used per sentence.
  2. Calculate the average number of syllables per word.
  3. Multiply the average number of words by 0.39 and add it to the average number of syllables per word multiplied by 11.8.
  4. Subtract 15.59 from the result.

The specific mathematical formula is:

readableFKRA = (0.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59


FKRA = Flesch-Kincaid Reading Age

ASL = Average Sentence Length (i.e., the number of words divided by the number
of sentences)

ASW = Average number of Syllable per Word (i.e., the number of syllables divided
by the number of words)

Analyzing the results is a simple exercise. For instance, a score of 5.3 indicates a fifth grader in their third month of that grade would be able to read the document. The score makes it easier for teachers, parents, librarians, and others to judge the readability level of various books and texts for the students.

shutterstock_69000412Other Readability Assessment Tools
Other readability assessment tools include Lexile Framework, Dale-Chall, Spache, Fry Graph, Raygor Graph, Gunning FOG, DRA, Powers-Sumner-Kearl, Coleman-Liau Index, and SMOG Index.

For more readability calculators and text tools, go to

If you don’t want to wait until after you’re done writing to discover the readability level of your fiction piece, a good book to have that references words introduced by grade level (K – 6) is Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogliner (Writer’s Digest Books). Another resource is the K12 Reader website at

Everyone's A Reader logo2Interested in writing a high-low book (high interest, low reading level)? ACFWs Colorado
Springs chapter, Worship Write Witness, is conducting an “Everyone’s A Reader” novella contest (15-25,000 word YA novella or a 25-35,000 word adult novella–YA needs to be written at a 2nd-3rd grade level; Adult needs to be at a 3rd-4th grade level) to help address this very issue. The winning novella will be submitted to Harpstring, an imprint of Written World Communications, with the possibility of a contract if accepted by their review board. For more information, go to

Barry, Doug. “The Hunger Games Trilogy Has Now Outsold All the Harry Potter Books.”Jezebel. N.p., 12 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. <>.

Doll, Jenn. “‘The Hunger Games’ Breaks the Potter Book Barrier on Amazon.” The Atlantic Wire. N.p., 17 Aug. 2012. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. <>.

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This Game Called “Life”

Game of Life

[Jesus speaking] Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. ~ Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

lifenoun ˈlīf  1. a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings 2. the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual 3. a board game created by Milton Bradley.

Decisions, decisions. Do I go to college or straight to a career? Buy a house? Stock? Insurance? And then there’s deciding on the color of that little plastic car which neatly houses a family of blue and/or pink pegs. Spin the wheel, move ahead, collect a paycheck, get married, have children, live happily-ever-after. Don’t know about you, but as a child that pretty much summed up my expectations of life. That and Barbie.

Funny how things change over the years. How reality sets in, how the challenges of balancing family and bills and health and God’s call changes our perspective on this game called “life.”

1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT says this about becoming an adult:

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

Putting away childish things can be good or bad. If it leads to irresponsibility and control, then it’s bad. But if it leads to maturity and growth, it’s good. If we’re honest we’ll admit there are times we don’t want to be mature and certainly don’t enjoy God stretching us into growth. Those are the times we ask the LORD a LOT of questions, most of which begin with “why” or “when.”  And, those are the times we usually wait (and wait and wait) for His answer.

Verse twelve of 1 Corinthians 11 goes a bit further into what putting away childish things encompasses:

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

It tells us that, for now, we see things imperfectly—as if looking into in a cloudy mirror, but that one day we’ll see with clarity. The Greek word for the NLT version of the word “cloudy” is ainigma(ah’-ee-nig-ma), which means something obscure or hard to understand or explain, and for the NLT version of the word “clarity” it’s prosopon (pros’-o-pon), which means faced forward to see our actual self [countenance/appearance].  So basically, one day God will show us the person He sees/created us to be, including the situations used to grow us to maturity—and it will all make sense.

In the meantime, we need to trust in and lean on God, and allow Him to place His “burden” of grace and rest upon our shoulders so that life doesn’t overwhelm us. Then, and only then, will we be able to capture glimpses of His perfect will for our lives.

LORD, I am tired. Life is as hard as it is beautiful and sometimes I just don’t think I can move—let alone be stretched into maturity by Your loving hand. It is during these times I realize life isn’t just a board game I played as a kid. It’s real and it’s tough, and sometimes the spin of the wheel sends me back 10 spaces instead of jetting me forward. I need you, LORD. I need Your guidance and Your yoke of rest—a yoke that will not weigh me down no matter how many spaces I have to go back. Lead me in Your way everlasting, and teach me what it’s like to completely trust in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Finding Your Way

Finding your wayLean on, trust in, [and] be confident in the Lord with all your heart [and] mind and do not rely on your own insight [or] understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, [and] acknowledge Him, and He will direct [and] make straight and plain your paths.~Proverbs 3:5-6, AMP



Writing is hard. It can be a love-hate journey one moment and a feel-good journey the next with the ups and downs, as well as beauty of, a rock-strewn, backcountry mountain road. It’s difficult to walk that road sometimes—and even more difficult to find people who will walk it with us. That’s where American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and HIS Writers (ACFW North Denver Chapter) come in.

Realizing we’re all in this together—regardless of where we are in our writing journey—the goal of HIS Writers is to walk that road with you. Not just for the short-haul, but for your entire journey.

As a writer’s adventure progresses, they pick up nuggets of information along the way: writing skills, marketing ideas, social networking nuances—things like that. And like a walking cane or road map, these nuggets help ease the journey along. But sometimes a walking cane or road map isn’t enough, especially when we feel crippled or lost. Sometimes we need the strength and prayers of others.

If you are serious about writing, becoming part of a healthy writing community is a must! No one understands writers like other writers. No one else “gets” how difficult it can be to write one simple sentence, or to find that pièce de résistance word or phrase, or to determine why one’s plot or POV is off kilter, except other writers. PLUS, trying to explain those strange “voices” in your head can seem pretty psychotic to someone who’s never dealt with creating story characters.

Like any other community that supports one another through life’s journey, healthy is the key operative. Make sure the writing community you belong to is gentle, yet direct. That they are more interested in helping you become the writer God created you to be than the one they want you to be. The atmosphere of the community should be one of building up, not tearing down. Critiques should be salted with love as well as expertise, and instruction should be sound.

Prior to running into ACFW seven years ago (actually, running into Kathy Kovach, who told me of a new ACFW writing group they were starting up north called HIS Writers), I was on the verge of giving up. The group I had been involved with had sucked the life out of me, and the call God placed on my life to write seemed hopeless. Earlier that year God had promised me new wineskins, and He kept that promise by providing me with a great group of ladies (Kathy Kovach, Paula Moldenhauer, Margie Vawter, and Bonnie Doran) as well as an awesome support community that has put up with my silly questions and insecurities, and taught me more than I ever could have imagined.

My prayer for you is that you find our community of writers an oasis in the desert. That like with me, HIS Writers can become your “new wineskin” as you walk the path God has laid before you as writer.

LORD, like I said earlier, writing is hard! I remember how many times I wanted to throw in the towel and walk away, but you kept bringing me back, providing me with amazing people who understood my struggles as a writer, and who patiently took me under wing and shared with me their knowledge and forbearance. Please be with those who are currently part of HIS Writers, LORD, as well as those You are drawing in. Help them to trust us with their writing journey, and keep us forever sensitive to their needs, struggles, hopes, and dreams. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Mr. Worry

mr-men-mr-worryThat is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  ~Matthew 6:25-27 NLT

…but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.  ~Philippians 4:6 AMP

How many of you remember the Mr. Men children’s book series by Roger Hargreaves? Adorable books that were easy to understand, filled with brightly colored illustrations, and had straight-forward messages conveying simple, moral lessons. We had quite a collection at home, and I don’t know who enjoyed their stories the most, my children or I. Some tales were silly and made us laugh, such as Mr. Tickle or Mr. Funny. Others, like Mr. Mean, Mr. Lazy, and Mr. Rude, dealt with more serious issues. But regardless of the topic, after each story my kids and I would spend time talking about the book and how we felt about Mr. Whomever.

Recently I came across the book, Mr. Worry. Mr. Worry worried about “everything and all things.” He worried about leaving things behind on the way home from the store, he worried about Mr. Bump getting hurt, and he worried that the roof of his house might leak when it rained. One day, Mr. Worry ran into a very wise wizard who told Mr. Worry to go home and write down everything he was worried about. So Mr. Worry did. The next day, the wizard dropped by to pick up Mr. Worry’s very long list. The wizard looked over the list, then told Mr. Worry he’d make sure none of these things happened. This made Mr. Worry very happy. So happy, in fact, that he enjoyed his day without worry. Not only did he enjoy that day, but he enjoyed the next and the next and the next. Unfortunately, come Monday, Mr. Worry woke up worried, so he went to see the wizard. When the wizard saw Mr. Worry he asked him what was wrong. Mr. Worry said, “I’m worried.” The wizard asked why. Mr. Worry replied, “Because I don’t have anything to worry about.”

When I read that, I laughed. How silly of Mr. Worry to worry about having nothing to worry about. But then I realized, Mr. Worry is very much like me. I worry about things I have no control over, even though my heavenly Father promises it’s all taken care of.

So why do I do it? Worry, that is? Why do I spend so much time focusing on things I have no control over? Is it because I don’t believe my heavenly Father desires the best for me? That although He is fully capable of taking care of me, He won’t? Or could it be that Mr. Worry sends his sidekick, Mr. Lie, to convince me my God would never really care for all my needs. And instead of ignoring Mr. Lie, I turn around, go home, and start to worry all over again.

Thank goodness I have a God whose provision does not depend on whether or not I worry–or even whether or not I believe He will take care of me. God’s promises go way beyond my shortcomings and are fulfilled simply because He is God and He loves me. And He loves you, too.

So next time you find Mr. Worry pounding at your door, tell him to go away. For you have a mighty and powerful God who promises that all is taken care of.

LORD, why do we worry? Especially when we know we have no control over tomorrow let alone today. Help us let go of anxiety and trouble, and instead rely on You, our provider. Hold us close when life falls apart, and keep our ears sealed from the murmurings of the liar. Show us how to trust in You and lean on You for strength, not only when life throws us the curve ball of worry, but when we have peace as well. Thank You for being there and for being God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Finding Your Center – Part I



“Who are you, Jack Frost? What is your center?” -North (from Rise of the Guardians, ©Dreamworks 2012


A few weeks ago my dear friend, Kathy Kovach, discussed the movie, Rise of the Guardians, on her Craft Cinema blog. As I read the blog (which is excellent, by the way) I started wondering about this center thing. So I bought the movie and watched it. By the time I was done, the word “center” had taken on a whole new meaning.

Center. It’s the “who” in who you are. It’s what God sees in you that caused Him to call you forth. It’s the deep, hidden part of your soul that, I believe, is what the LORD meant when He said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

Our center is very important because it’s the core of who we are. Thus, it’s usually the place the enemy attacks first. For instance, if your center is “hope,” despair might be the attack. If your center is “grace,” revenge might be the attack. If your center is “love,” a fear of being disliked might be the attack.

Over the next few weeks I challenge you to ask the LORD these questions:

  • What is my center?
  • Who is it that You say I am?
  • What is it that You knew about me that set me apart?

If you don’t get an answer right away, don’t panic. It can take an entire life journey for the fullness of your center to be revealed. In the meantime, when the enemy comes at you with his lies (and he will), stand strong in the LORD and in the power of His might and tell him this:

Before I was formed in the womb God knew ME,
before I was born He set ME apart!

For that, my friend, is the strength of your center and something the enemy can never erase.

LORD, finding our “center” can be so difficult–especially if we try to find it on our own. You’re the only one who truly knows the core of our being, for You are the only one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. You know our heart. You know our strength. You know our weakness. Show us, O LORD, what our center is. Not what we think it is, but what You say it is. In Jesus precious name we pray. Amen.











Douglas Adams on “Deadlines”

Douglas Adams“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

~Douglas Adams


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C.S. Lewis on “Words”

C. S. Lewis“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

~C. S. Lewis


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At All Times

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

These past fifteen months have been a challenge for my family. We’ve experienced death, divorce, family upheaval, and two engagements. Except for the latter, these aren’t experiences most people enjoy going through. Myself included.

With all the stress, I found myself shutting down from time to time. Daily household chores became difficult. Even putting together my children’s weddings was no longer fun. Writing monthly columns for The Inkwell, newsletters for HIS Writers, maintaining social media, was added to the long list of things I dreaded doing. And the joy I felt for the book series God called me to write ten years ago, flew out the window with everything else.

How did the LORD expect me to maintain life? How was I supposed to be there for my family—my adult children—during these difficult times? What about those outside my family who depended on me? Who leaned on me for strength? What if I let them down as well? My heart was crumbling as I watched myself become my own worst failure.

Then the LORD spoke to me in that still, small voice I’m so familiar with. He said, “Jill, this is not your burden to carry. It is Mine. Didn’t I say in this world you would have trouble? Didn’t I say I have overcome the world? And I overcame it to give you peace. Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that is burden-free. Peace that comes from trusting Me in ALL things. Jill, do you trust Me? Can you praise Me in this storm?”

The next few moments were sobering. God was right. He didn’t expect me to carry burdens that weren’t meant for me. And even during difficult times, the times He said there were no promises they’d go away, He vowed to be with me and give me peace.

To trust God when things are going good is easy. To praise Him in the storm, not so much. But even when life is difficult I know trusting Him, praising His name, is the only thing that will get me through.

LORD, I give my burdens to you. I lay them at the foot of the cross and give you permission to carry them. And if the troubles of this world don’t go away, then I give you permission to fill my heart with joy despite what my head says. Thank you for Your peace. Thank you for being there for me during good times and bad. Your ways are perfect, and although I don’t always understand them, I will trust them because you are God and You are good. Praise You, LORD, even in this storm. Amen.

1Casting Crowns. “Praise You In This Storm.” Mark Hall and Bernie Herms. LifesongBeach Street and Reunion Records. 2006

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Out On A Limb


Out on a limb

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

~ Philippians 4:8, NLT

The above saying by Mark Twain caught my attention the other day, as did the verse in Philippians. I was about to dismiss both as something nice to ponder when I felt the LORD say, “Write about them.”

“Together?” I asked. “Write about them together?”


So there I sat, trying to figure out what going out on a limb had in common with fixing your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. I mean, sure, a tree limb is where the fruit is. But in all honesty, at the end of a limb isn’t exactly where I’d normally fix my thoughts.

Then it occurred to me. Fruit. Not just any fruit, but fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit found in Galatians 5:22. The only fruit against such there is no law. That’s the fruit found at the end of the limb, and that’s where we’re to fix our thoughts.

As most of you already know, attaining fruit of the Spirit is no easy task. It would be great to wave a magic wand and say, “Fruit of the Spirit, appear!” But God doesn’t work that way. He wants to know if we’re willing to go out on limb to get it, and trust Him as we do.

Nobody wants to eat fruit that has gone unpicked and withered or, worse yet, rotted. So when we go out on that limb and take the fruit of God’s Spirit we are, in essence, harvesting, which is a necessary procedure if we expect more fruit to grow.

Of course, whether or not we’re willing to head out on that limb has no bearing on how much God loves us. He loves us no matter what. Nor does it affect our salvation. That part is sealed by Christ’s blood. However, what it does affect is our growth as a person in Christ.

So next time the LORD urges you to go out on a limb, instead of focusing on the ground below, or whether or not the limb will hold your weight, focus on Him–the only one who is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. For it is focusing on Him that will get you to the end of that branch and allow you to partake of the ripest, juiciest, best fruit on the tree: the fruit of the Spirit.

LORD, why is it so hard to trust You? Why is it when I find myself inching across an unsteady branch high above ground that I am always looking at the earth below instead of up at You? My heart knows that You are the one I’m to fix my eyes on but my head sometimes tells me otherwise. I see the fruit–and I want it. But trusting that You will safely get me to the end of the limb so I can partake of the fruit is another story. Therefore, help me, LORD. Help me to fix my eyes on You. To trust You so I can have all that You desire me to have: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The only fruit “against such there is no law.”

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