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Finding Your Center – Part II

Pittch confronting Jack Frost with his identity_reducedPitch: Don’t be afraid, Jack. I’m not going to hurt you.

Jack: Afraid? I’m not afraid of you.

Pitch: Maybe not. But you are afraid of something.

Jack: You think so, huh?

Pitch: I know so. It’s the one thing I always know. People’s greatest fears. Yours is that no one will ever believe in you. And worst of all, you’re afraid you’ll never know why. Why you, why were you chosen to be like this? Well, fear not, for the answer to that is right here. [Pitch shows Jack the container that houses Jack’s memories] Do you want them, Jack? Your memories? Everything you wanted to know in this little box. Why did you end up like this–unseen, unable to reach out to anyone? You want the answer so badly. You want to grab them and fly off with them. But you are afraid of what the Guardians will think. You’re afraid of disappointing them. Well, let me ease your mind about one thing–they’ll never accept you. Not really.

Jack: Stop it! Stop it!

Pitch: After all, you’re not one of them.

Jack: You don’t know what I am.

Pitch: Of course I do. You’re Jack Frost. You make a mess wherever you go.

(from Rise of the Guardians, Dreamworks, 2012)

 

The lie. It accuses and bears false witness, it murders, and is the catalyst that caused man’s fall in the beginning.

While working on my last blog, Finding Your Center – Part I, I mentioned how the LORD showed me the importance of our “center.” It is the “who” in who we are. It is what God sees in us that calls us forth. It’s the deep hidden part of our soul that 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).

Your center, or core, is like the nucleus of a cell—a place that houses the DNA which makes you who you are. Except this center is your spiritual DNA and is the one thing the enemy cannot take from you. Therefore, he lies–telling you you’re something you’re not. It’s the only weapon the he has in his arsenal that can destroy you.

When Jesus faced Satan in the desert, the first thing the enemy did was try to get Jesus to question His center, His identity. And he did this by lying.

And when [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”… Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.” ~Matthew 4:2-3,5-6 NKJV (emphasis mine)

However, notice how Jesus responded. He didn’t argue with Satan about the identity issue because Christ knew His center. And He knew the lie. Instead, He used the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, the Truth. (Ephesians 6:17)

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”…Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”…Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
~Matt 4:4, 7, 10-1 NKJV

The lie. So little yet so powerful. All Pitch Black had to do was plant one little seed of falsehood in Jack Frost’s mind to get Jack to question his center.  And that’s all he needs to do to us today.

Thanks be to God, who sent us the Truth in the form of His only son, Christ Jesus, so we could battle the enemy’s lies and be reunited to a place of grace! It is through God’s Truth—and God’s Truth alone—that we are reminded of the fact: there is no lie the enemy can throw at us which can take away our spiritual DNA!

LORD, thank you for my “center.” Thank you for you giving me a spiritual DNA—the true nucleus of who I am. Help me remember to not believe the enemy’s lies about my makeup. Remind me I’m to fight him with the sword of Your word and not give in to arguments and lies. For You, O LORD, are the only Way, Truth, and Life, and no one has the right to the blueprint of my soul except You. I lift this up to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

___________________________

[1] ~ From NLM, .Cells and dNA. Web. 13 May 2013. <http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics?show=all>.

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The Long and Winding Road

The light of morning on the forest paths - Olympic Nat'l Park

The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

The wild and windy night that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day
Why leave me standing here, let me know the way

Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried
Anyway you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried
And still they lead me back to the long, winding road
You left me standing here a long, long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here, lead me to you door

But still they lead me back to the long and winding road
You left me standing here a long, long time ago
Don’t keep me waiting here, lead me to you door
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

(McCartney, Paul. The Beatles. “The Long and Winding Road.” Let It Be. Apple Records. 1970.)

Everyone has a long and winding road. My most recent one began in the fall of 2012, when I started planning two weddings: the first for my only son, who was married September 22, 2013, the second for my middle daughter, who was married May 31, 2014. Although delighted with my growing family, I’m glad the stress is over.

But there’s more to that road than just the weddings. You see, somewhere along the way I lost my writing and I can’t quite remember where. It could have been that first meandering curve where I found myself gazing into the anticipated beauty of my children getting married, or that last sharp turn where all I cared about was putting my feet up and sleeping in the day after it was over. All I know is, scattered here and there along that path are bits and pieces of a story God called me to write over 11 years ago.

The Beatles song, “The Long and Winding Road,” is my cry to my LORD, begging Him to return me to that place which was lost before “the wild and windy night that the rain washed away.” It was a time when I felt joy in the project He gave me, joy in my writing, joy in His promise of my book. Then the wind and rains of life came, and the road became long and winding. It was not till afterwards—when I tried to regain the momentum I had prior to the fall of 2012—did I realize what I had lost.

I know I’m not alone in this discovery. Almost every writer walks down a long and winding road at least once in their life. They feel the rain splash like tears against their face and wonder why they were left standing alone. The funny thing is, they really weren’t. For all they really had to do was continue down the road because, as the song tells us, it always leads us to His door.

My prayer is you, like me, can rediscover that which was lost, that God gives you grace and stamina to continue onward to His door, and that the joy He gave you when you were first called to write is rejuvenated.

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. ~Psalm 143:8 NLT

Giving Thanks

man-praying-on-one-knee2

Always be full of joy in the Lord…don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4,6-7 TLB


Throughout Scripture you find verse after verse about giving thanks to God, both in times of blessing and adversity. But how do you give thanks when your world is falling apart? And how can you thank Him, I mean truly thank Him, if the answers are not what you want to hear?

Everyone knows someone who is going through adversity. That “someone” might even be you. So how can God expect us to rejoice, let alone give thanks, when our life is unraveling?

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison. As you read his account, you can feel the tug of war between pain and victory. Part of him wants to go home to be with the LORD, the other part wants to continue his work so that Christ may be glorified. Did Paul enjoy imprisonment? No. But if going through adversity meant he could “shine like stars in the universe as [he held] out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16 NIV), then knowing he had not run or labored in vain was worth the sacrifice.

Rejoicing in adversity does not mean we rejoice because of hardship. It means we rejoice in the knowledge that God is walking with us the entire way, that He does not and will not leave us alone. Giving thanks in adversity means we put our trust in God to know the big picture, and that we have complete faith His will for our life is grander than our own. It does not mean we have to be thankful for the problems, only that we are thankful to have a God big enough to hold us up and walk with us as we face the impossible.

God wants to hear our prayers. His desire is to have the same relationship with us any loving parent would want to have with their child. Life issues? Talk to Him! Heartbreak? Talk to Him! Bad day? Talk to Him! Don’t try to take on burdens, don’t try to solve all of life’s dilemmas because if you do, you’ll be crushed under their weight. Instead, rejoice and give thanks that you have a God whose shoulders are strong and broad enough to carry your burdens, and whose love for you is so great that His desire is to do so. Then, as Paul concluded in Philippians 4:7, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

LORD, November is traditionally a month of giving thanks. But sometimes giving thanks is hard. Life throws us curve balls, some of which hit us smack dab in our middle, knocking the air out of us. We fall to the ground and don’t want to get up. During these times, hear our cries, O LORD. Lift us up. Carry us. Show us that in times like these we not need rejoice because of the hardship, but because we have a God who can and will carry us through it. Give us peace, O LORD, when there is no peace to humanly be found. And help us to rest in You. In Jesus’ beautiful name we rejoice and give thanks. Amen.

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Practically Perfect in Every Way

Mary Poppins

As I expected: ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’ ~Mary Poppins
(from the movie “Mary Poppins,” Walt Disney Studios, 1964)


As a child, Mary Poppins was one of my favorite movies. I remember my parents taking me to see it at the Cooper Theater on South Colorado Blvd., in Denver, when the movie came out in 1964. The theater had 814 seats and a 146-degree panoramic screen known as Cinerama, measuring a massive 105 feet by 35 feet.

When the movie’s introductory music began and the curtain parted (yes, this theater actually had a curtain in front of the screen), a sensation of excitement passed over me equaled only to the anticipation I used to have on Christmas morning. I squirmed waiting for the story to build, then squealed in delight (along with hundreds of other children) as I watched Mary Poppins float down from the sky in her wonderful, perfect glory.

When the show was over, I left the theater determined to be like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way.

As time went on I grew up. Mary Poppins became Julie Andrews, and practically perfect in every way was a balloon that exploded in my face. It didn’t take long for me to realize life wasn’t perfect. Thus, I laid aside perfectionism for practicality.

Or so I thought.

Enter the me of today. Here I am at 3:00 a.m. working on the HIS Writers newsletter, proofing it over and over to make sure it’s “perfect.” Sleep, what’s that? As long as whatever I’m working on is not done to the standards I’ve set for myself, the standards of “perfectionism,” I will work on them again and again and again until those standards are met.

So what’s wrong with perfectionism? Isn’t it a quality we should strive for? Especially as writers, we want our work to be the best it can be. We dot our i‘s, cross our t‘s, draft and redraft, then double check every rule we’ve learned from every seminar we’ve attended to make sure our work is as perfect as possible. But what happens when it’s not? If you’re a perfectionist like me, you pull yourself back together and do what you can do to make it as perfect as possible. Or you quit.

Sometimes I shake my head in wonder at God’s sense of humor. Why in the world would He even consider asking a perfectionist to become a writer? But the Bible says in our weakness Christ is made strong. How well I know this verse! It is etched into my mind like writing on a stone tablet. But knowing and KNOWING are two different things. Yes, I know I’m not perfect nor ever will be. And yes, I know there is only ONE who is perfect, and He is my LORD. Yet I so easily fall into the enemy’s trap and listen to his lies that perfectionism, not failure, is what really makes God happy. And so, like a hamster knowing nothing different, I climb back onto my wheel and run till I’m exhausted.

If not perfectionism, what do you struggle with? What lies do you allow the enemy to whisper in your ear? What untruths of his, stop or slow you down from becoming the man or woman of God you’ve been called to be?

Praise be to God, our heavenly Father, who stands in the gap for us and gives us grace! Who brings us out of the wilderness of our own failings and into a land flowing with milk and honey. Who places a robe on our back and puts His ring on our finger, calling us into an inheritance greater than we will (or can) ever know or understand.

My prayer for you is that God brings you out of whatever wilderness you are in. That He refreshes you with the water of His Holy Spirit and gives you strength to move forward. That He lifts you up on the wings of eagles and, once again, gives you faith, hope, and vision. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

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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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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

What_is_your_center

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

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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

[Chorus]
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
1

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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