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Soul Courage  0

 

In the midst of travel for meetings, my mother-in-law’s sweet memorial service, family reunions and distance discussions & decisions, my recent journey group managed to finish our sessions.  It was an intimate and moving time together.  Cecile was a delight to get to know.

 

Guest post by Cecile Sanders

 

This year marked my 3rd attempt at working through a book by Josh McDowell called ‘See yourself as God sees you’. As I wrestled through the first few chapters, a challenging question he poses, kept bouncing back to my heart: “where in your life are you chained because of a memory from the past?” As much as I desired to explore the question, courage just eluded me. But then God intervened, as so often in my life, by means of His perfect timing and creative acts of love.

 

I was honoured by an invite to be part of a journey group with three precious ladies from all over the globe. As we shared our lives with each other, literally and painfully walking through our journey lines together, God enabled me to be brave enough to face some of the dark spaces I have been avoiding for years. It was no spectacular event or weird and wonderful visions, just a deep sense of God whispering His unconditional love and acceptance to me that dispelled some lies I have come to believe. He transformed my cycle of fear, frustration, and fury into a new childlike confidence in Him as a good Father, One who is more than willing to help, forgive and just be with me. God gave me the courage deep down in my soul to step out and take on something I believe He has laid on my heart for years. Instead of finding excuses or fearing failure, I am excited to tackle writing my first book.

 

God provided time away from my life responsibilities, a place where I could truly connect with others who get my life and understand me – even though they didn’t know me – but mostly I discovered a deliberate space in His presence with His truth pouring into my heart and mind.

 

 

 

Soul Launch  0

 

I wrote the poem below to my 91 year old mother-in-law 2 days before she was launched into eternity.  She departed on Mother’s Day.  Perhaps there was a celebration they wanted her there for!  As my husband wrote:

Yes, she is fully alive now with the Lord. 

As I heard Dad whisper to her at the viewing… “I’m coming”.  We’ll be together again… joy and hope in sorrow. In loss we have felt the priceless embrace of the community we have in Christ.

 

Her laugh, her wit, her honesty

Don’t even come close to what you see

As her ruling passion and lived-out love

That showed in her steadfast serving the Above

Her mind set to please Him with all her energy

She delighted so many with her capacity

To handle with joy her family of nine

So rare does that kind of holy light shine

And it’s shining still from her arrows shot out

Infiltrating our world all about

Finding in their own darkness, that same light

To lift and guide and bring new life

As we stand on her shoulders peering into a new day

May her faithfulness and God-seeking launch us in a thousand ways!

 

We will miss her sharp wit and joyful way.  Thank you mom for your dedicated life.

 

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind…”  Ecc. 7:2  

 

We can learn a lot there.  What do you learn from looking at someone else’s life?

 

Soul Warrior  4

I’m resonating with this post, so wanted to share.wowarrior

Beth Moore on spiritual warfare:

“The enemy comes for you. Of course, some of you aren’t calling it spiritual warfare yet because that’s what the older generation called it and you want to be cooler than that. [:)] You had sort-of become convinced that the devil was not that real. Not that specific. Not that personal. Not that aware. And surely God would not allow him to mess with your kids.

And it’s not just the enemy. Your own vulnerabilities erupt into liabilities. Life’s taking a crowbar to every crack in your armor. You are tempted to things you swore you’d never do. That you judged _____________ for doing. Your past comes calling. If you’re married, your marriage, which you’d boasted about publicly, looks like it could go humiliatingly belly-up. Your kids are going nuts. Or maybe it’s you losing your mind. Half the time, you think you are going crazy. You’re getting criticized. You’re getting a lot of opposition. You daydream sometimes that you quit and moved to a remote island with your family, wore loin cloths and drank milk out of coconuts and swam with dolphins. You night-dream that you hung in there in your calling and it slaughtered you.

You have come of age.

What you’re going through is how it goes. I don’t know why on earth we older ones are not telling you more often and with more volume. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to discourage you but it’s so ridiculous because you’re already discouraged. Or maybe it’s that you won’t listen to us anyway. [I don’t agree with her here; I have found open ears among this group.]

But this is my shot at it today. You have come of age. You have come of notice to the devil. At the same time, your very faithful God who loves you has made a covenant through the cross of Christ not only to save you but to conform you to the image of His Son. His obligation out of His wonderful grace is to grow you up. And there is suffering in growing up. Among other things, you are forced to face the deceiver and pretender in your mirror.

I’m here to say to you today that it will not always be this hellacious. Oh, trust me. It will ALWAYS be hard. It will at times be horrific. But this season of eyeball-bulging nobody-ever-said-it would-be-like-this coming of age will not last forever. Mine lasted about seven years. Yours could last one. Or ten. That’s all up to God. Well, and you. Your cooperation is required.

It’s all about whether or not you’ll quit. Or whether or not you’ll get sloppy. Whether or not you’ll hang onto the first things that so drove you in the beginning. Jesus. The Scriptures. Holy passion. Holiness. And not just hang onto them but press further and further and further into them. Or will you slip into the black hole of busy-ness and business, of name-making, marketing, position, notoriety, self-importance, celebrity and Instacrap? Now that you are no longer naïve, what will you do with all of this? Will you fight for a pure heart that the world and your own flesh have so polluted that you think you no longer have what it takes or will you just go with it and figure this is how it happens?

And, in the words of Galatians 3:3, what you’d begun in the Spirit, you’ll just do from now on mostly in the flesh. You’ll  get prayer warriors to pray for you instead of also scrapping it out yourself on the floor, fighting with everything you’ve got in the heavenlies, hacking it through, bloody and bruised, defending the ground God entrusted to you.

You’re at the most critical place in your calling. The place of slaughter. The place where either the devil’s going to all but kill you, your flesh is going to destroy you or God is going to crucify with Christ that ego and fear and, truth-told, laziness and raise you MIGHTY.

Fight it out. Do not quit. If you’ve gotten sloppy, stop it. If you’re messing around in sin, repent. Go back to your face. Get that Bible open and plant your nose in it. Memorize Scripture. Learn how to fast and pray. Quit talking about Jesus more than you actually talk to Him. Quit letting your mouth overshoot your character. Become that person you’ve made fun of for taking it too seriously and being so dramatic about it.

You have what it takes. Do it. And I’m going to tell you something. What it will get you is Jesus. JESUS HIMSELF. Pre-eminent in all things. He is the joy. He is the prize in the fight. He is what makes getting hit by the debris in the hurricane worth it. Jesus Himself. He is everything.

I’m writing you today because I’m so proud of you. You’re out there doing the thing. And I don’t want you to quit. Pay the price.”

What is your next step in training your soul to be a warrior?

 

Humbled Soul  0

Rough synopsis of the story of Joseph:

  • a_moment_of_despair_by_fantaasiatoidab-d6jmhk3Joseph of Genesis, Jacob’s 11th son is a fascinating story / young man literally thrown into desperate, seemingly hopeless situation. He was about 17 years old.
  • His family -quite a dysfunctional state. Joseph- managed to bring out intense hatred from his bros & they were about to be done with him. His dreams lifted him up and he was a bit too verbal/cocky about them/ only b/c of his older bros Reuben&Judah that he didn’t die that day. Instead he was ‘only’ thrown into a pit then sold as a slave…
  • He had no cross-cultural orientation, no member care or face book…he was left and forgotten and thrown into an entirely different world/language/ way of thinking, he became a ‘third-culture-kid’. His Dad wept for days when the bros said a wild animal got him. Family life got worse…
  • Meanwhile Joseph was up against some major odds. Imagine the temptation to bitterness, hatred and ignoring God?! We don’t know how much he struggled, cried & begged God to get him out / somehow he came to grips with the fact that God let this happen …he chose to believe God was in it and was with him. ..the amazing thing about the rest of the story is what God does in his situation.
  • After Joseph is bought, he is noticed / succeeds enough to be put in charge of his master’s house… then b/c of his integrity, resisting temptation, he is falsely accused & is stripped of his position again, thrown in prison /stays there a long time….years.  Instead of pouting he sweeps the floors & after awhile is again put in charge.
  • Since it really was somehow, ordained by God, the story of Joseph has profound things to say to us about God’s sovereignty in our personal lives. As you struggle with knowing your God, consider Joseph’s response to the arrows: abuse, loss, humiliation and harm done to him in his life.
  • If we could learn one thing from him let’s learn that God allows stuff into our lives because it is his specific training plan for us. He is our personal trainer. If we can cooperate with God in every aspect of our lives we’ll move a lot farther, a lot faster toward what we were made to be.
  • Joseph responded to God in the mess of his life and even in prison people took notice! He handled repeated temptation, loss, loneliness and success by connecting with God and fearing Him more than anything. That didn’t make it easy, but you know the rest….

 

To get a better picture of this heart-wrenching and triumphant story – Read (maybe over a few days of devos…)

Genesis 37:2-28

39:1-23

40:7-23

41:9-16, 46

42:5-25

43:26-32

44:14-30

45:1-8

50:15 (this gives a hint to a stronghold in Jacob’s heart)

Observations:

 

  1. Name some “issues” in this dysfunctional family.

 

  1. What “arrows” were shot at Joseph? (ex. rejection….)

 

  1. Though he may have lived in the pain of the arrows for a time, somehow he overcame. What was the key to that?

 

  1. It is remarkable after years in prison, the difference in what comes out of Joseph’s mouth compared to his youthful claims. The first thing he says out of prison before Pharoah is verse 41:16. What quality had God worked into him?

 

5.  What quality is God working on in me with the circumstances of my life?

 

 

Susceptible Soul  0

Trying to make The Almighty God bow to our plans…

disillusion

I love walking with Jesus into the drama of the gospels…to hear what he’s saying and picture the impact it had on those he was with; to listen and imagine the thoughts of his followers; and to wonder what he might be saying to me.

The day after the feeding of the 5000…when “Jesus perceived they were going to take him by force and make him king” (John 6:15), he was not living up to what they thought and hoped; he was not cooperating with the idea the people had for him. They wanted to make him king and, well…he should have been honored.

Have you ever felt that? That God should be honored that you had such a good idea for him; but then he doesn’t cooperate and come through like you thought he would? Are our hearts tempted to wander from following God when he doesn’t get on board with our plans?

So Jesus had just fed the 5000. People were in awe. They were also disillusioned with their current leaders and ready for something new. Surely this amazing man, humble and caring, who spoke with authority and even defied the arrogant leaders, surely he should be their king.   This had to be God’s plan. Everything was leading to it. They just needed to insist that he become their king. Or so they thought…

We have ideas, vision for the future, great plans and can be convinced it is the right course. But where do we get off course?

When we insist that God get on board with our vision, or timing… or when our vision is so boxed up we can’t see his vision. The disciples had a vision for Jesus… and it seems they had a quorum… maybe even consensus. But it was entirely counter to Jesus’ vision and he had to denounce it as satanic! (Mark 8:33)

Wow, that was harsh.   So Jesus had to escape from a crowd that was going to try to make him (the Almighty) king by force!

The audacity.

I don’t want to squelch vision. We know we need it. We have to realize any vision he shares with us is still his, not ours to box up.

I know I’m susceptible to missing that. I want my vision to play out the way I see it. Our hearts can be hard. I’m susceptible to making God be what I want him to be.   Part of our transforming is letting God be who he is and letting him show us that.

How do we do that?

By beholding him….looking closely at his life, his words. Reflecting on and drinking in who he is…a lot.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”   2 Cor. 3:18

Are you beholding him?

Fragile Soul  0

My friend Heather Evans, whose life is a gift to many, has shared some of her soul-wrenching experiences as a counselor. I applaud her courageous walk with her Lord into dark places of the soul to find His redemption.

3walking

She writes:

The Gift of Darkness:

 Every client is a gift. Every client comes into my life for a specific reason. Hopefully their lives will be shaped and changed by our encounter, but God has designed it that each individual, whether meeting for a brief occurrence or working together for a period of time has something to teach me. My greatest influence, Diane Langberg, says that therapy is part of God’s resurrecting work. There is always a resurrection—and sometimes that resurrection is in me, the counselor. Every client teaches me—but some impact me more than others. What makes some extraordinary? Why do some get in, my soul, my mind and my bones in a way that I cannot shake?

Among them are countless survivors of sexual abuse. I don’t remember the first, but I know that slowly, over the course of 14 years in practice, the Lord has brought more and more lives to me who have been broken and shaped by the evil and darkness of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. They each have something to teach me, about the fragility of the soul, and about the hope and restoration of our God. They humble me, as they invite me in to places of shame, terror, avoidance, and falsehood.

Among those is Hillary, who taught me about resilience in coping with the sexual abuse by her stepbrother and the tragic death of her father. She taught me about the pure gift of faith, wisdom and insight that the Lord bestows to those He calls to Himself. Her depth and maturity amidst the layers of disorder in her family come only from her Heavenly Father.

There is Mikala, who has taught me about the long, slow process of healing. I am repeatedly reminded of the patience, grace, mercy of our God and how I am lacking in these qualities without His enabling power.   I have needed His perseverance and staying power as I walk with her in the layers of brokenness of her mind and soul.

There is Kathryn, who teaches me about the courage that God provides to key individuals. In response to a family environment that did not protect, that does not value time for healing and works to protect an image, she has been gifted with astute judgment, advocacy, perception again that only come from her God.

There is Janelle. Janelle who has a smile that is striking, contagious and beautiful. A smile, that at one time masked deep pain, confusion, turmoil and entrapment caused by a male role model who deceived her and used her for his own selfish gain. First meeting her, she struggled with confusion and she resented weakness and vulnerability. She wanted to rebel against it. Even this determined resistance reveals her character and her beauty. She will always stand out to me because she is greatly gifted by God. She has walked through the pain, rather than avoiding it. She articulates herself in a way that reflects knowledge, depth and wisdom only given to her by God. She absorbs every resource or education provided to her. She maximizes her relationships with her support system. She embraces truth rather than rejecting it.

Janelle is endowed with wisdom and she wants to use it. She will leave an impression on the judge who reads her impact statement. It reflects not just pain and turmoil. It reflects hope and restoration. It reflects survival and healing that ultimately bring glory to our God. In six short months, she has come to a place of empowerment, ready to share her story to bring help, protection to others while glorifying her heavenly father. She asks questions that few others will consider because of her unique, sharp way of approaching life. Her smile now radiates healing, freedom, growth, true joy and hope.

In reflection, it seems that sexual abuse survivors have been greatly gifted by God. Of course they have experienced the curse of sin in one of the most painful, vulnerable ways. Yet, it is no coincidence that each has character, strength, resilience that stand out profoundly. Isaiah 45:3 tells us that there are treasures in darkness. What are these treasures? What thing of value can come from darkness? Perhaps an example of this is the life and light that shine forth in a life that has once been touched by unspeakable atrocities.

More than one sexual abuse survivor or sex trafficking survivor can recount for me specific memories of visions or revelations of the presence of God amidst their trauma. While sexual trauma leaves one with many questions, answered and unanswered, about God’s character, promises and presence in spite of their sufferings, many also can attribute their healing and their survival to Him. You see, God came near through His Son Jesus Christ. John 1 tells us that He came and dwelled among us. He left His throne and eternal fellowship with His father and entered in to our sin-filled world. He took on darkness as He hung on the cross and took the punishment and payment that the sin of His people deserved. He is there. He is present in the darkness. He is the treasure of the darkness. He rose out of that darkness when He conquered death through Resurrection. As He fulfills His promise to consider and respond to victims and the helpless (Psalm 10), they then join Him; they share and fellowship in His sufferings. They become treasures of the darkness.

In turn, I am privileged with witnessing this resurrecting, redeeming work and with meeting individuals that will forever shape me and change me.

*names changed to protect identity.

Repurposed Soul!  2

I love the word floating around – repurpose –

 Merriam‑Webster’s definition: to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose; to give a new purpose.

There’s hope, newness and innovation in the word.  I found this picture of an old bed frame turned into an inviting bench a charming portrayal of it.  Something discarded, no longer useful or wanted, unattractive is transformed into useful, pleasant, desired – repurposed!

bedframetobench

My husband and I are doing a lot of repurposing of things as we move into a studio apt. (rebuilt with lots of help and repurposed from a shed!) in Central Asia.  He’s a master handyman repurposing old throw-away wood into useful storage shelves, old pipes fitted together for a new drain, etc.

makingbackhouse97 makingbackhouse97 2

domchik

Repurposing takes some innovative thought, good planning and expertise.   Well,

God is the expert on you…and He’s very innovative!   Does your soul/life need some repurposing?  With so many transitions or life stages catching up with us, our souls can get dusty, feel discarded, useless and yellowed.

What new purpose might God be drawing you into?  He’s constantly drawing us to Himself, to growth, to transformation.  Could you be holding something in the recesses of your heart so he’s not free to shower you, to inspire the purposes he means for you now?  Could there be fear of what He would take away or allow, if you gave it all over?  And what misconception of God does that show you?

We are direct expressions of our Creator.  He has so much good for us.  We veer off His path so easily but He is a faithful Father bringing us back to center, continually repurposing us.  Are we aware that He waits for our willingness?!  He wants our cooperation…

 “The Lord waits on high to have compassion on you…” Is. 30:18

“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it but my people would not listen…”  Is. 81:10,11

I remember realizing I was holding onto our kids in my heart as I was trying to embrace our calling to live in a hard place.  I wasn’t entrusting them to God’s purposes.  As the Lord convicted me, I slowly saw the subtly and thanked him for showing me how this could really hinder them; thinking I knew better than God what was best for them.  I was in danger of taking their safety and welfare into my own hands!

“In His kindness he brings us to repentance”!  Rom. 2:4

 He did some major work in me and I have learned to let him repurpose my heart for our kids.  It’s quite a freeing thing and revealed some wrong beliefs I had about God.  And he has done beautiful work in their lives through struggle and delight…

 Soul WOW (workout of the week):

 Take time to stop and ask yourself & God where does your soul need repurposing?

Soul Survival  1

spinning

Life is not always a flurry but in the last month we travelled to 5 different states, had 4 sweet days around graduations with all of our kids together, bought a house, moved our basement of stuff there and are now overdue for closing having given them minute details of our financial picture, also looking for renters and heading back overseas in mid June, landing with a full schedule there.  Phew…do you feel tired?

How can our souls survive the craziness of our lives and the busy-ness of this world?!

Take a good nap!!  🙂 Ahhh… yes, I do that occasionally!

…and then embrace the training in the midst of the flurry.

Here are some exercises that I practice in moments when I realize I’m stressing over too much to do and be.

  1. Breathe.  Deep breaths to increase O2 to brain and to symbolize taking in God – His care, His ability to totally change the situation – or my heart.  I often repeat, “Lord, You can do more in one hour than I can do in years!!!”  (Think water to fine wine!)  That’s is a dauntingly freeing truth!  If I walk with Him through the crazy busy day, it’s much nicer than me rushing through trying just to “get everything done”.
  2. Sing.  (or listen to songs deeply) There are loads of good songs.  Our kids often point new ones out to us; the latest was a friend of ours, with a soothing, easy listening voice: check out Cameron Cole on iTunes!
  3. Give it up.  Realize that I am dispensable.  God can do with my life and time what he wants.  He’s kept me from so much harm but what if he allowed for his purposes a major interruption?  Would that be ok?  What would that do to my perspective on today’s stress? Could it bring it down to reality and help me face it more reasonably, even joyfully?  Could it lift me above it so I hold the situation more loosely?
  4. See.  See the good, when everything in me wants to point out the bad.  For example, a painstaking delay means I have more time for something else.  A failed plan may mean a better outcome or new options.
  5. Walk.  Take a walk.  Clear my heart and slow down the spinning head.  Complain to God/pour out my heart.  Ps. 64:1

These are just a few of my little strategies.  I need a lot of them.  So I’m practicing some today as we await the clear for closing on our house.

How are you doing with your busy-ness today?!  What strategies do you have?

Rouse yourself!  0

wakeup

Rouse yourself!                        

 End of summer confessions…

Ever Feel like:

  • You’re fading like a leaf…?
  • God is hiding…?
  • You’ve lost strength…?
  • You’re melting in the hand of sin…?

I’ve had differing levels of each of these throughout the most whirlwindish of summers I’ve had in a while.  And though I knew this summer would be like that and I gave myself  “permission” to be ok with not being as up on things, I still fight the condemnation… and I am ready to dive back into a semblance of healthy routine.

So I’m “rousing myself to take hold of God”!  (Isaiah 64:7)

Few people were rousing themselves to take hold of God around 700 BC.  In this passage the people of Judah figured they were set.  They had seen God crush Assyria when they were right on the verge of being conquered.  The Assyrian king had demanded surrender, the king of Judah was at the end of his devises when he laid it all out before God and the miraculous happened: a plague took out the Assyrian army that was at their doorstep.  (Isaiah 37:36)

“This event gave rise to the belief in Judah that Jerusalem was inviolable, a belief that lasted until the city fell to the Babylonians a century later.” Encyclopedia Britannica

So they stopped seeking God.  They thought they didn’t need to anymore.  They saw Him come to their rescue and considered themselves entitled to His favor.  They were not deserving of the rescue and took God’s mercy for granted.  That’s a dangerous place!  Yet how easily we go there…

“See what ruin sin brings upon a people; and an outward profession of holiness will be no defense against it.”   Matthew Henry

Here the people are bewailing their sin, realizing how steeped they were in it, and calling on God’s mercy.

” We have all become like one who is unclean,and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leafand our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt inc the hand of our iniquities.”

Is. 64:5-7

A good soul exercise:  Rouse yourself to take hold of God!

(i.e. wake up your soul, tend to soul things, take a half hour, at least, to sit before God, letting him speak to you, taking in His truth, bathing your soul in prayer, acknowledging His creation, etc.)

 Is it on your calendar?!

Release…  2

Releasebreathe

     Of bad air,

              of control,

                     of good things no longer ours….

Breathing in the physical realm is pretty important.  We have to get rid of bad air and take in good air for life to happen.  We can get more out of our breathing though!  In fact, one of the stress reducers I use is slow, deep breathing…

We need to be reminded to breathe when exerting energy since we tend to hold our breath or breathe too fast, too slow, too deep or too shallow.

And we supposedly use only 10%-15% of our actual lung capacity…when our working muscles demand greater amounts of oxygen, we create more carbon dioxide waste as a result.  So good breathing makes a difference.  It can help you prevent complications (like dizziness or fainting) and get more benefit like reversing stress responses which could lead to chronic stress.   Breathing exercises have been successful in treatment of many ailments including: Feelings of tension, Hyperventillation, Burnout, Headache, Chronic fatigue, Sleeping problems, Concentration problems, Anxiety and phobia, Panic disorder, Depression, etc.

I remember a moment when the learned breathing I’d acquired came in quite handy.  We were on the bottom of the sea, 30 feet down in our third day of scuba instruction.  (something we got to do on some days off in Thailand).  The instructor removed my mask and I had to get it back on and use air to clear it of water. When my first attempt failed I panicked and held my breath, making it worse. My instinct was to get to the top asap.  I felt the hand of my instructor take mine and then I remembered the mouth breathing we learned, I inhaled deep from the tank, then calmed down and finished the technique.  A panic moment transformed by a breath!

I remember another moment about 20 years ago…I was leaving our house in Bolivia and my 2 little boys were begrudging the fact that I was leaving…as I closed the door they were both crying…and I stopped…and looked at them and knew today would come…  Today, when it’s me watching them leave, begrudging, yet amazed…and crying.  One just got married, and one flew back to the other side of the world.  I am releasing what is no longer mine.  Taking in what I need now.  I have to release them often…into His hands…I have to receive from Him today’s “soul air”  for real life.

Our pastor reminded us this week of our need to “develop instincts”.  I think “soul breathing” is one of these…

Here’s how I sum it up.  In reading With Christ in the School of Prayer, I came across these thoughts:

Just as we need to exhale air with toxic carbon dioxide and inhale fresh air that gives life, so we need to

Release (exhale) our sins AND our needs & desires,

Actively giving them into God’s hands…  (take time to do this!) and then

Receive (inhale) the promises of love, forgiveness, life and His Spirit, i.e.,

the Breath of God for today!!

Maybe some of our panic or depressed moments can be transformed by this kind of breathing!

Wow…that is so refreshing to do…I hope you take time to do it!

 WOW (workout of the week)

Soul breathing

 “…he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive…”  John 20:22