Archive | faith

My Weird Childhood Faith Isn’t So Weird Anymore


received the gift of tongues when I was just eight years old. An older woman in our small charismatic church introduced us Friday night Bible study kids to the idea of a “prayer language.” I don’t remember how my teacher explained it, only how she gently placed her hands on our heads, one after another, while quietly praying in tongues herself. My mouth filled with syllables I didn’t know and didn’t understand; I lifted my skinny arms to the ceiling, and I spoke in tongues like a mystic.

I was raised in small charismatic churches in western Canada, long before the Internet made it easy to keep tabs on what other Christians were up to. I grew up believing that our experiences—speaking in tongues and then the interpretation, healing, miracles, prophecy, words of knowledge, and faith—were utterly unremarkable.

As I look back on my childhood, although the gifts of the Holy Spirit were dear to us and we deeply believed in their practice, the real difference was that we expected God. We wanted the wild and the untamed Spirit to disrupt us. We lived out of an assumption of God’s good gifts and overwhelming love. We yearned to see the Kingdom come on earth, right here, as it was or would be in heaven. We figured that was what God wanted, too. Believing power would come from on high to see the lost found and the sick healed and imprisoned set free, our church operated on a first-name basis with the Spirit.

Later, when I began to spend time with other Christians outside of my tradition, I discovered that we were considered fringe. A bit suspect amongst the establishment. People thought charismatics were dangerous, the weird ones, controversial. Who knew?

Over the years, I’d seen my share of damaging abuses done in the name of the Spirit. I’ve been on the receiving end of some weird practices. I look back on some of the things I used to believe and cringe a bit. Think of an over-realized eschatology, and I’ve probably heard it preached beautifully.

Anytime I get defensive about how charismatics are mocked or stereotyped, I am presented with something like this article from Charisma “news” referring to Donald Trump as “God’s Trumpet to America,” and I have renewed sympathy for cessasionists. In my upcoming book, Out of Sorts, I write about how I’ve learned to make peace with having an evolving faith, which means that, like most of us who grew up in some form of Christianity, I’ve had to sort through what I was taught and figure out what I want to carry with me and what I want to lay down. Being a charismatic provides a lot of material.

Read the rest of this article at Her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s Blog for Women….

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Continue Reading · faith, Guest Post, journey · 0

A Voice for the Voiceless

A tired trope, isn’t it? a voice for the voiceless. The problem with this is, of course, that so few people are actually voiceless. The problem isn’t their “voicelessness,” it is that we are not listening. We don’t value their voices and so we do not listen.

I have never liked the phrase. Few people need us to be a “voice for the voiceless,” instead I believe it’s more powerful to elevate and amplify the voices from the margins, from the ones we overlook and pass over, to say that everyone is worth listening to and that – regardless of race, socio-economic status, geography, ability, and so on – people get to own their own stories.

There is one notable exception though: the unborn, the babies still in the womb of their mother, they have no voice. These are truly the voiceless.

So I’ll use mine for them without apology.

I am a pro-life Christian feminist. Christians have a long history of valuing the undervalued, saving the discarded from society, and welcoming the differently abled as icons of Christ. Our Jesus came to bring us life and life more abundant. So to us, life is sacred, a gift from God, precious. Every person carries the breath of God. We are made in the image of God.

But there is also a long history of pro-life feminism. In the first wave of feminism, our foremothers believed women deserved better than abortion. They saw that abortion was violence against women by a society who did not value women.

Because of both my faith and my feminism together, I believe in advocating for life, more than ever.

“A voice for the voiceless”: well, this week the voiceless have cried out.

I have made myself watch the Planned Parenthood videos – now I owe the voiceless these small words at least. Not because of the possible sale of fetal tissue, horrifying as that is: but because it told the callous truth of what this medical act is for once and for all. Legal or not, that is not the issue. Telling the truth is an act of revolution. This week has revealed it. Here is the truth of it, here is the truth of what it is, here is the truth of what it means and what it meant and how it will always mean something.

As a woman, as a mother, as a Christian, as a feminist, my entire being revolts against abortion and the Orwellian language with which we excuse ourselves.

I carry no judgement, how could I? This is incredibly complex and I offer only my deep compassion to the women who find themselves here. I carry no easy solutions, there are none. I make no promises and I write no screeds or manifestos or declarations or accusations.

I want women to be safe and I want babies to be born. I want all of the reasons why women abort to cease, to be healed, to be legislated right out.

So I want equal pay and decent healthcare for low-income women that includes contraception and supportive partners and a wide availability of midwives and supportive birth environments and real material support for children who are differently abled in mind or body and at least a year of maternity leave and on and on and on.

Abortion is a sign that we have failed women somehow, I think.

I don’t have much hope of legislated change when it comes to this issue. So I encourage us, Church, to continue to speak out, absolutely, but also to put our money and our time and our compassion where our outrage has risen up. The best way to save babies is to support women well.

Our pro-life ethic has to outlast our outrage. It has to show up in our communities and churches and clinics.


This video is by Gungor. As they wrote on their release, “In 2014, a woman tweeted that she would be faced with “a real ethical dillema” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome. Richard Dawkins responed “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Also in 2014, we had a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome and two heart conditions. We named her Lucette, which means ‘light.” Lucie has taught us how much every life matters. This song is for her and all the beautiful people on this planet with special needs. We think that you make this world a better place.”

For more:

Feminists for Life

You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to be a Pro-Life Progressive by Benjamin Corey

Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion by Rachel Held Evans

On Planned Parenthood and the Language We Use Around Abortion by Hilary Yancey

I’m closing comments on this post. I don’t want careless words to wound any further.

Continue Reading · faith, social justice, women · 10

To the young women reading “Jesus Feminist”


To the young women reading “Jesus Feminist“:

I see you, little sister. I see you tagging #JesusFeminist on Instagram with that little yellow book wide open beside your coffee cup. I see your blog posts and your Facebook updates, I see you typing favourite quotes from the book on top of the beautiful photos you take on holidays, I see you in my mentions on Twitter, I see your names in my email inbox with your precious stories shared, I see you in the crowd when I preach.

I see you and I love you.

There are so many different people and age groups who read that book but I hear from you all most: the late-teens and twenty-something women, the ones in high school, university or college, sometimes you’re newly married, rarely do you have children yet. You write to me and ask me questions often or introduce yourselves or share your thoughts. I never do that with authors. I wonder if that is a generational thing? I read a book and that is the end of it. But for you, it is just the beginning of the conversation, just the start of a relationship, and I love that. What an unforeseen gift! I love that you hunt up my website and send me emails, friend me on Facebook, that you share your thoughts with your world through social media, you become part of my life somehow from all around the world. You see the book the way that I dreamed it: a gathering.

It makes my heart glad to think of someone starting their life with the message of freedom in their minds, hearts, and spirits already. You’re ahead of so many because you’re embarking on life as free. It gives me hope to think of the generation rising up in the wake of my generation because I am still rising, too, in the wake of the generation of women who came before me and so it goes. We are all running behind the ones who came before us and it’s my privilege to cut through the resistance for you just a little bit.

I want you to go further than we have gone, to be bolder than we have been, to be braver, to preach the Gospel of freedom and goodness and welcome to every corner of your influence. You will go where I cannot go and praise God for that.

You often ask me for advice – on relationships, on future plans, on how to talk to people who believe differently than you, on church, on calling, on leadership. I try to respond well to each of you. Being in this season of my life, I don’t always have the time to talk one-on-one as I’d like. But this weekend, I have been carrying you in my heart and so here is what I would say to you, my girls.

Remember the truth of who you are. You are loved and you are worthy. You are valuable. Not because of what you do or what you say or what you accomplish but simply because you were made in the image of God and you are here. You will have times in your life when you feel very effective and important. Then you will have times when you feel small and forgotten and inconsequential. How you feel does not change the truth of this: you are loved, loved, loved. You are free: “So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.” Paul said it this way: “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Romans 8:39)

Remember the truth of who God is. Almost all of our theology and so, therefore, the way we live our lives tracks back to what we believe about the nature and character of God. So settle in your bones this truth: Jesus is the exact representation of God. He came to reveal the Father to us, to show us all the ways that we have misrepresented and misunderstood God. And what did we learn from our Jesus? We are loved and we are redeemed. Study Jesus, yes, but open up to the way he is still alive, moving, speaking, and redeeming in the world.

Draw near to God, sisters. Draw near to God and watch God draw near to you. I have clung to John 15 in my lifetime, may it become a ballast for you, too: “when you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant….make yourselves at home in my love…I’ve named you friends…love one another.” You see?

Jesus is your Teacher and your Shepherd, don’t out-source the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. If you are thirsty, praise God – it means you will be satisfied. “Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me,” said our Jesus. The Spirit is real, let her infuse your waking up and walking around life.

There isn’t a false line between God-work and secular-work. Everything you do is spirit-filled if you intend it to be. There isn’t a hero in the kingdom, we are all beginners. Remember the ones who lead you are also on the ground, not on a pedestal. We will fail you in some way. I wish that weren’t true but it is: give us grace, please.

It is just as holy to serve God quietly in obscurity as it is to be on a stage. God may call you to a bit of both – a bit of big sexy attention-getting work and quiet thankless character-building life-transforming work. I’ll let you in on a secret: don’t try to live your life on the mountaintop all the time. It’s exhausting and narrow. There’s a lot of life to be found in the wilderness and in the valleys, in the kitchens and backroads, God speaks to us in those places and it will be the birthplace of intimacy with the Spirit and with yourself.

Love your Bibles. I know it’s hard sometimes – hard to understand, perhaps, or maybe it’s because your Bibles have been used against you. I get it. But when the time is right, remember that your soul can be aflame with the Spirit and your body can be furious for justice but your mind needs the words and teachings and richness of Scripture to be shaped. Start with the Gospels, perhaps, get to know our Jesus. I pray your mouth is filled with the promises of God, with the teachings of Jesus, and then your life will simply be an overflow of the Story – it will haunt you forever. Scripture will change your life, change your tongue, change your mind, and so it will change the world. Be ready to be wrong about a few things first.

The world will try to name you all sorts of things because you’re a woman. They’ll try to tell you that because you’re a woman that you’re insecure or jealous, that you’re emotional and illogical and a gossip, that you’re too fat or too quiet or too loud or too skinny or dangerous and untrustworthy. Don’t believe it. Don’t take the lies in. Remember that you were created right from the beginning to be a warrior – that’s the whole ezer kenegdo thing right there, remember that part of the book? – you were created to be a warrior and you are beloved. That is your identity. Don’t be afraid.

Find your people. This is so vital, so important – you need a home team. Be loyal. Show up. Love and support other women well. Learn how to champion and celebrate each other. Put others first. This is not time for pettiness and who-is-in-and-who-is-out. We’re all in. Make time for fun and for joy, be silly and go on adventures.

Go ahead and get angry at injustice; I think your calling is often hiding somewhere in your anger. Pay attention to what makes you angry. And then follow that anger all the way down to good hard and holy work. As our brother Paul wrote, “throw off the sin that so easily entangles you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. (Hebrews 12:1) Challenge who you think you are. Listen well to the marginalized and oppressed, theirs is the Kingdom of God, align yourself there.

Travel – I never did that as a young woman and I wish now that I had done so. It seems to me that travel, seeing the world and learning different cultures, brings a richness and perspective to your life that you have to read a lot of books to replace. If you can do it, please try.

Seek and create beauty – that is Kingdom work, too. Speak life. Take risks and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Fall in love with someone who will make you better at being yourself. Slow dance with that someone on the side of the road at night and kiss until you’re dizzy, it will do you good. Love someone well and yes, it will take equal parts grit and romance to make a lifelong love.

Whatever you do, bring your whole self to us. Read good books, books that challenge you. Sow your life into a place and into a people, remain there and watch how it slowly turns into the greatest harvest you could never have imagined. Don’t seek fame, seek to be faithful.

Patience and faith belong together. Remember that you have so much to learn and treat the people in your life as your teachers. Everything you do in your life can be a testimony to the goodness and freedom and openness of our God.

And here is my final piece of advice: stop waiting for permission. There are a lot of us out here waiting for you. We need you. We need your gifts and your words, we need your passion and your insight, your skill and your brain, your perspective and your history. It all matters, nothing in your life will be wasted in the economy of God. So get on with it. Don’t be held back. You’re free already, remember? Be brave. There is real evil in this world, you are a prophetic outpost for the Kingdom of God. Live into the abundance of God in your life and watch the resistance come but stand. Hold fast.

Jesus said it best, my little sisters: “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine. Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 MSG)

Thank you. Thank you for reading “Jesus Feminist” and getting it. Thank you for allowing the fire of the Spirit within you to be stirred.

If I could leave you with one final passage of Scripture, my little sisters, here is it: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out….Love from the centre of who you are: don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” (Romans 12:1-2, 9-10)

If I could, I’d stand in front of you and place my hands on your hair and pray The Commissioning from the last chapter of the book over each and every single one of you. I would.

Dear girls, I love you. I do. You are so precious to me. I am eager to be lead by you, I am cheering you on, I have so much to learn. I pray for you and over you often.

Love always,


image created by Taylor Rauschkolb, available here

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist · 46

I used to think God wanted a lot from me.

God is for us :: Sarah Bessey

God wants so much from me.

What should I give up? What should I lay down? What should I do more?

I need to read the Bible more. I need to pray more. I need to give away more of my money, more of my time, more of my home.

If I really loved, God wouldn’t I be more like so-and-so? That one really has it figured out.

I should really volunteer at church more, lead a Bible study, organize something for the homeless. I’m the worst at this Jesus stuff. I should really be doing more for God! It’s so demanding, it takes everything EVERYTHING. Jesus laid down his life for you, you should return the favour.

Don’t you just feel so much more holy when you’re sacrificing everything on the altar of doing more for God? We like to feel like we’ve earned something. Who wants a free gift – those come with strings attached, right?


I used to think God wanted a lot from me.

And I was happy to do it. I loved God, I wanted to please God, I wanted to be worth something to God. I thought I owed God something for all the saving-the-world thing. Of course this life in Christ will cost me something – everything!

That old God wanted so much from me: time, money, energy, focus, worship, passion, work. God wanted my best behaviour, a clean conscience. Work harder, do more, strive strive strive. People are going to hell if we don’t do our part, the stakes are high. Defend the faith!

God wanted my best; of course, it’s just too bad my best won’t ever be good enough.


If I saw my children entangled, oh, God, I would cut away every thicket to reach them with my bare hands, crying out that I was coming for them with every breath. I wouldn’t rest, God help anyone who would stand in my way.

I would tear away all of it until I had them in my arms, I would laugh and I would cry at the moment of rescue. I would snatch them up and kiss their sweaty and scratched necks, you’re safe now, I’m here, I’m here.


Here is what I think: Maybe God doesn’t so much want things from us.

Maybe God actually wants things for us.

After all, God imagined us for love and for beauty, for life and for wholeness, for goodness and for mercy. You were made in the image of God. The Holy Spirit stirred over the waters, deep calling to deep.

God yearns like a father, like a mother, for us to be free.

God is Love, yes, and so God wants to lavish friendship and meaning and abundant life upon us, to help us to see this old world like the new world God envisions.

God wants us to be truly human, the way Jesus walked for and with us. Even the wrath of God isn’t something to fear, but something to welcome – that wrath is coming against the very things in us that bring death and destruction.

You, dear one, you’re not being condemned. You’re being rescued.


God doesn’t want much from me: God wants so much for me.

See there? The difference?

Start there. Start with the Love and with the freedom, with the grace and the wisdom, with the abundance, and suddenly those other things are simply an overflow instead of a sacrifice.


Open your hands and surrender. Cut away the thickets. Hand over your apathy and your loneliness, your never-enough and your too-much. Lay down your sin and the things you do to numb yourself against feeling it all. Toss down your pride and your greed, your selfishness and your me-first, those things aren’t for you. What are they but fetters? Can anything hold up against the fury of a God who wants you free, wants you restored, wants you to see that you are loved loved loved.

God is for you, Love is for you. The only thing God wants from you are the chains that are holding you back. Hand them over, they’ve already been unlocked, you get to walk away free.


God is for us. Never against us.

I’m not working for God. I’m working with God. We’re on a rescue mission, we’re on a setting-things-right all-things-redeemed mission.

We’re not trying to wrestle paltry gifts from a reluctant deity, counting coins in the counting house, viewing our lives as a sheet of checks and balances. You’ve been caught in a war zone, not a bank.

The spreadsheets have been tossed out, there is only welcome now.

The counting house doesn’t exist, there is only the supper of the Lamb and there is room for everyone.

Run towards grace, towards shalom. As the Apostle Paul said, throw off everything that holds you  back – it is holding you back! Restoration Project: partners.

Add everything back, everything that has been stolen will be restored.

We are not serving gifts of stone or snake for the children who ask, there is only a Father of Lights handing out bread to the entire hillside, this is a party.

Open the gates.

image source: lightstock

Continue Reading · faith · 46

What’s your motivation?

what is your motivation? :: sarah bessey

Rewind 20 years or so – here is the quickest way to make me roll my eyes so hard they nearly fall out of my teenaged head: “What’s your motivation?”

This is the question that my parents asked us repeatedly when we were children and particularly when we were teenagers and young adults, learning to make our own decisions. If I was shirking responsibility, if I was allowing other things to take the place of studying, if I was ditching a friend, if we were disrespectful, if I was filling my mind and heart with things that they felt didn’t lined up with my values, whatever – instead of laying down the law and “because I said so!”-ing us, they opened the conversation with that one question. “What’s your motivation for that?”

And then, well, crap. Because now I had some responsibility for the decisions I was making, for the life I was leading. I had to explain myself and my reasons. Sometimes they were legit and once they understood why I was doing what I was doing, they were content to let me get on with it. Other times, that question illuminated my own heart to me and it caused me to make a change.

Even though my sister and I made fun of it, claimed to hate it, made it the butt of our jokes, or denied any motivation whatsoever at times, I’m not at all surprised that I now find myself asking myself often: “What’s your motivation?”


Motivation is a tricky thing. We can’t really assign it to one another, we never truly know what motivates someone else. We can’t truly understand each other’s reasons for doing what we do.

A good thing done with shoddy motivation is still a good thing after all; an imperfect thing done with a pure heart is often still worthy of censure.

Often our motives are mixed to our own selves. So of course motivation is opaque to a world that judges solely on results, a world that often values big more than small, loud over quiet, pretty over plain, big numbers over slow growth.

When Samuel sought out a king for Israel, God cautioned him in this way: Man looks on the outward appearance: God looks at the heart.


This question exposes my motives often – if I’m actually willing to be honest with myself. There’s the tricky part, right? We deceive our own selves just as much as we deceive one another sometimes.


I find myself asking this question a lot as we raise our children. I ask it of our tinies, absolutely. Because like my own parents, I want them to learn how to examine their lives, their hearts.

I am wary of children whose behaviour is immaculate but whose hearts are unknown to them – or to me. I want them to learn how to challenge their own selves instead of relying on outsiders to do that holy work. I want them to hold up their hearts and minds to the light of Scripture and the ways of our Jesus and then ask their own questions of themselves. Only they can answer as to their motives: I can only help them get in the practice of asking.

But I also ask it of myself as I parent them: am I motivated by what is best for them, for their hearts and minds and lives particularly for the long game?

You’d be surprised how often I wrestle with parenting for an unseen and non-existent audience of people judging how I parent, how often I can be deceived into feeling like their goodness will somehow make me good. Am I requiring this or that behaviour because it’s actually best for them? or because its best for me?


I think the Church as a whole would be better off if we asked ourselves a bit more about our motives. And if we were honest about them.

Imagine that.


I think there is truth, I do. I don’t think that having a “good motivation” somehow wipes away sin or deception or evil, never ever. Any kind of abuse or wrong-doing is still abhorrent. Claiming “I never meant to hurt anyone” means nothing or “my motives were pure” will not erase consequences.

It’s just that besides that obviousness, I think there is a lot more wiggle room in the faith than we realise. There isn’t one way to pray, one way to worship, one way to encounter God. There isn’t one way to raise good kids or one way to dress or one way to sing or one way to help the world or to work.

I have friends who do this faith-Jesus-church thing very differently than me. I know that they love me even though I jump their fence sometimes with my opinions, my ideas, my beliefs. They give me the benefit of knowing that I love Jesus and if I’m wrong, well, if I keep chasing after Jesus and they do the same, you’d be surprised how often we end up calling it all good.


Make room in your life for the ones who do things in a way you would consider “wrong” or even just differently. Their motivation before God may be pure as snow, as the night sky, as a mountain waterfall. And God is pleased with their heart. Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that freedom? Oh, what a relief. To the pure all things are pure.


I am not someone who believes that God has a blueprint for our lives. I think there is freedom and choice for us – this is the great gift and the great difficulty. And so whatever way we go, God is breathing in the path, love will redeem. There is wide open space in our lives and the answers we seek often aren’t “right” or “wrong” but instead, what is wise and what feels like the best choice and where is God leading me? If our motives are to love God and to love people, to not seek our own interests, then the path is wide open. Go with God.

So this way of thinking, this question, has become another way for me to feel my way through the sometimes twilight of this life. A guide perhaps even if it is not the final destination.


I think it’s a question we don’t ask of ourselves enough, we don’t examine our motives. Our fears hide within our motives, our insecurities and our hidden desires. Those aren’t necessarily wrong things, not at all. But isn’t it better to know? Isn’t it better to admit it? I want this because I am scared or because I feel unseen or because I feel neglected or because I want friends or because I want to feel important.


A minor and unimportant case in point: I wrote this post and I originally titled it in a regular sort of way, as I usually do. (I may have finally retired “In which…” as a title prefix but I still write rather boring titles, I think we can all admit that.) So I thought, well, I should try to get better at titling!

How about… “The One Question You Need To Be Asking”?

“This One Simple Question Will Change! Your! Life!!!!”


Sure, why not, right?  It feels a bit disingenuous but whatever, right? This is blogging, this is what we do! #ClickBait

What’s your motivation for that sort of a title? because I want people to read it. I want people to click on the post. I want to be popular and well-read and well-liked. I want to be noticed and have a lot of shares on Facebook. If I title things like that then people will read them. It’s basic marketing, folks. And if more people read it, then surely that will make me feel successful!


Okay then.

And I can admit that that motivation flies in the face of what I actually really believe: success is faithfulness, success is obedience, success is the fruit of the Spirit in operation in my life, success is not settling for manipulation or platform-building as a substitute for the organic movement and slow burn of the Spirit that lasts.

But to someone else, someone whose motives are more pure perhaps, it’s not a big deal. Add your exclamation points! and you won’t believe what happens next!

To the pure, all things are pure. This one is all on me and my motives for such things.

Back to boring titles.


And then once we know the truth about our motives for our actions – good or bad – can’t we then hold that up to the fresh air and ask for the wind of the Spirit to blow away the chaff, leaving us with the wheat kernels of goodness? And what remains after we is something pure and good and worthwhile, a seed worth planting, a path worth walking even if we walk alone.


This post is part of an ongoing series about the words and phrases my parents gave to me.

Series intro

Guard Your Gates

Have Your Own Truck

Continue Reading · faith, parenting · 13