Politics is a Blood Sport; and Words can Kill

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Dolls are fast becoming a leading seller in art galleries and shows around the world. The latest additions are spunky, funny, and like mini-sculptures with attitude.

Collectors of these dolls are growing in number, and the artists are being propelled into notoriety. But It was a recent article in the newspaper that got me thinking about dolls; especially my own as a child.

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(Here I am taking a photo through the glass. A mirror is on the other side)

Her name was Shirley, and I carried her around by the arm because she was fairly large for my toddler body. Made out of a celluloid material that looked like a cross between wood and papier-mâché’ her toes and fingers wore down into white scuffs and eventually holes.

The article in the paper told about a Jewish woman’s doll and the travels it made during World War II. She and her doll were separated many times, but they always managed with the help of others to be re-united. The dolls of these children were especially important to Holocaust victims and survivors.

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Sometimes mothers made simple dolls and toys for their children in the camps. Often a family would say that their daughters or sons were twins so they wouldn’t be separated. Unfortunately, these children were selected for tortuous medical experiments by Dr. Mengele and his staff.

Today, some of these dolls reside in Holocaust museums:

Two dolls taken away from Jewish sisters during the Holocaust found a home with a French family — for three generations.

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Denise and Micheline Levy, 10 and 9 at the time, were being lined up in the French village of Gemeaux, when a gendarme grabbed the dolls and threw them on the ground.  (The complete story and two endearing photos are on the reports. link.) A family in the village took the two dolls home, one in a pink dress, another in a blue.

“None of us ever played with the dolls. We knew the story,” Frederique Gilles, whose grandmother first found the dolls, said. “Our family tried to find out what happened to the two girls, but they never came back. We were unable to trace any relatives.”

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Gilles decided to turn the dolls over to the Shoah Memorial in Paris last week, saying she felt wrong passing them down to her four-year-old daughter. “It wasn’t easy to give them up but it was the best thing we could do for the memory of those little girls,” she said.

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The Holocaust was the systematic annihilation of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. In 1933 approximately nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be militarily occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed by the Nazis.

1.5 million children were murdered. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of handicapped children.

The Holocaust is a history of enduring horror and sorrow. It seems as though there is no spark of human concern, no act of humanity, to lighten that dark history.

– Louis Bülow
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There is a new book out that I want to read called “Mischling” a German word that means half-breed. The author, Affinity Konar, bases her book on actual Auschwitz survivors Eva and Miriam Mozes and the details they shared of infamous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele.

The haunting words of George Santayana remind us that the lessons of history are invaluable in determining the course of the future: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Sadly many Millennial’s and college students stick today’s politicians with the “Hitler” label without even studying the history and the horrors of what Hitler and his cohorts actually did. Politics is, indeed, a blood sport; and words can kill! Please be informed before you speak!

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https://youtu.be/saZcy4RAXIY   Dolls in Orlando’s Holocaust Museum.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005142 link for more info on children

Learning by the Seat of your Pants is Long Remembered

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Looks like my library as a kid.

Sometimes it seems that the only thing standing in your way is lack of money and opportunity. To say that we’re all created equal and have the same chance at success is to overlook the stark realities and conditions of our lives.

Where you are born and to whom, and what color your skin makes a significant difference. If your parents are poor and uneducated, it isn’t likely that you will be any different unless they and you are motivated enough to make the choices that will determine your future.

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This could have been me, and yes I was shy and introverted.

Even personality traits play into the mix. A shy introverted child is less apt to reach out for help or make the necessary connections without considerable coaching and encouragement. If you are part of a large family it is even more difficult to find the resources needed for education. Getting a job and helping the family in the here and now becomes more important than planning for the future. Gaining access becomes the result of privilege.

My own mother never graduated from high school and was married at age 16. My father was 18 and barely fulfilled the requirements. He did go on to become a welder, but was forced to travel away from home to obtain work. When money was tight, my mother did odd jobs like candle eggs and work in the school cafeteria. Both of my parents worked hard and lived largely in spirit and faith. It wasn’t until I grew up and moved away that I realized how little they really had.

images (4)Children never experience poverty if there is joy and kindness of spirit. It is only by comparison that they recognize the disparity.

Mother was a divine creator of nourishing eye-pleasing meals incorporating the fish that dad caught in the summer, and the fruits and vegetables that she canned in the fall. Their garden was productive and they both enjoyed working together to provide for their family.

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I made up for their lack of education by becoming a voracious reader. I spent hours at the Public Library in pursuit of education. Thirsty for knowledge, I read through many of the classics before I even knew how precious they were.

I taught myself how to write. I devoured plays and then moved on to writing them for non-profit groups. Except for a few classes at junior colleges and universities, I taught myself how to write articles and children’s stories. I learned how to oil paint and went through every available book at my fingertips on various fine art topics from portraiture to landscape. I hungered to learn.

Having a large family of my own, there was seldom extra money for my education and barely enough for theirs. Everybody worked. Five out of six of my children all received degrees and three out of six are teachers, one is a writer, and one in finance. They were non-complaining about their student loans and grateful that these funds were available to them. All have since paid off their financial obligations.

In spite of never obtaining a degree, I was able to work as a freelance writer and have some measure of success in children’s and adult education and training. My scripts, which were much like writing a play, were financed by corporations in conjunction with film companies. I studied film making and video/movie script writing, and I prayed a lot.

Many students get through college on their parent’s dime and still have difficulty finding a job afterward. They go through the motions, obtaining that degree, but failing to absorb the knowledge that someone else has paid for. When you pay your own way and struggle not only to understand, but you crave and hunger for knowledge and success, the learning is remembered.  Your efforts are rewarded.

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Blending Two Separate Families – there’s an App for That!

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There's no Business like Show Business

Wedding rehearsal begins with “There’s no Business like Show Business” my kid’s favorite song from childhood.

Just kidding! There isn’t an app.; but my son, a science teacher, used a chemical experiment to show the children that it is possible.

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Blending Family “practice run”

Chris was lucky enough to have his older sister Pam, a “Celebrant” officiate at his wedding. The input from the couple and the expertise of Pam made for a lovely ceremony. I have photos of the rehearsal on Friday, and the official wedding on Saturday, June 25.

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Pam Torres Officiater

The weather cooperated and we had clear skies both days. The backyard was in full bloom and the sunshine bathed us in glorious light. After the rehearsal, we binged on ham, macaroni and cheese, bread and green beans. Later we had croissant sandwiches and yummy desserts.

To avoid the heat, the wedding took place at 10 a.m. the next morning. Attendees each took a rose and placed it in a circle around the couple, symbolizing the love of family that surrounded them. Music was also performed by the groom’s younger sister, Holly; a duet with her daughter Amelia. Holly’s husband Mark played the trumpet after the couple were pronounced man and wife.

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Encircled in love and roses.

Friends and relatives congratulated the two families and then went inside for coffee, wedding cake, and conversation. Funny stories and experiences were shared and remembered. The photos speak for themselves.

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Holly & Amelia sing duet; Griffin wearing hat, and Pam on the right.

Hope and faith made the experience joyful. The future is unknown to all of us. We usually walk confidently into our lives knowing that much of what happens is in the hands of fate. For believers, trusting in God to walk with us gives us an additional edge over those who are skeptics.

Below, Tamara’s mom discovers she has cake on her shoe from cutting the wedding cake.

I hope time and shared experience will blossom in the lives of my son and his new family.

I now pronounce you man & wife

I now pronounce you man & wife

Who will keep your Children Safe in America’s Gun-free Zones?

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“Fuchsia Fantastic” 14 x 18 acrylic on canvas

I’ve always considered gardening to be as close to God as you can get. The miracle of planting a seed, caring for it, and then watching it grow is just short of creation. So many things can go wrong. If you forget to water, the seed will wither and die. A hungry caterpillar or rabbit may come along and chop off the blossoms or chew the plant into the ground. Lots of TLC is required in order to get your seedling to reach its full potential and produce.

Children are a lot like seeds. Sometimes their lives are snuffed out before they even begin. Genetic problems may hasten their demise or create a problem long after they’re born. The mother’s health can affect the baby’s well-being. The environment the infant is born into may be physically risky. The child may not receive the nourishment or love that it needs to grow. So much depends on circumstances as to whether the child will thrive and survive.

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“Hibiscus Glory” 16 x 20 Oil on acrylic canvas

Life is a precious gift and should be cherished and protected. Sometimes our priorities are topsy-turvy. We “worship and serve the creature more than the creator.” (Rom 1:21-25 KJV) A gorilla’s life may become more valuable to us than a small child’s; a human being who may one day discover a cure for cancer, or create a solution to eliminate genetic imperfections. The gorilla on the other hand has reached the full extent of its potential.

Have we come so far that we place animal life above that of humans? Has mankind become our next endangered species?

There’s much talk and angst between proponents of gun control and those who believe strongly in the 2nd amendment and the right of Americans to own a gun if they are of sound mind. I placed those words in italics because most of the school shootings have not only occurred in supposed “gun free” zones where there is no one equipped to protect the innocent, but the violence was imposed by those who were mentally disturbed and were still able to obtain a gun.

Until we make our schools and our environments safe, our children will continue to be exposed to unnecessary risk. Our laws must be enforced. There must never be gun-free areas where only criminals and predators are safe. The sale of illegal guns to criminals and the infirm must stop if the majority of our citizenry are to be kept safe.

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“Peaches ‘n Cream” 12 x 16 acrylic on wood panel

Although our pets and other animals bring joy into our lives, we must never place them above human life. They were created, after all, for our benefit. Even though I abhor animal cruelty, human life must not be relegated to a lower position of importance.

Taking care of our environment and being good stewards is commendable; so is having compassion on all living things, but not at the expense of human life. When we place human life secondary to “the planet, to “the world,” or to other forms of life, we make a mockery of God’s plan for human existence.

Before you become a champion for some other cause make sure that you’re not endangering your own life in the process. Study the issues on both sides. What are the long-term consequences? What does history reveal about this path? Have others made this same mistake before?

Don’t vote until you research the issues that face you. No matter what you decide, you will (along with others) face the consequences of your decision for many years to come.

Get Involved and Wipe Away that Generational Gap

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(My grandson, Andy, has a Korean mother who is musical. He also inherited his Danish great grandfather’s gift for the violin from his father)

My Danish grandfather made a habit of reading the dictionary every day. He wanted to improve his broken English and add new words to his vocabulary. Because of his example, I used the dictionary early on in my education, and I taught my own children to do the same. Through grandpa’s example, I always knew that if I didn’t know the answer, there was always a book or other information where I could find it.

When I discovered the Public Library, I had a fountain of information at my fingertips. I wanted my children to experience my thirst for knowledge, so we trucked home a new round of books each week.

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“An Open Book” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas (SOLD, prints available) (My granddaughter Amelia was my model)

It’s too bad that more people don’t have positive role models in their lives to help them recognize possibilities rather than roadblocks, and opportunities instead of closed doors. That’s what parents should do for their children.

I don’t think any of us intentionally set out to be bad parents. Most of us don’t want our children to grow up to become drug addicts, thieves and lawbreakers or worse. We would like to see them grow into contributing members of their community and church. Even though our goals and family values may not be the same, we can all agree that we’d like to see our children grow into happy healthy adults.

The adage “like father like son” often comes true. You can’t discount the importance of example and how it plays out in your child’s life.

I have fond memories of watching my Danish grandfather “slop” the hogs. I remember the distinct smell of the “mash” mixed in with scraps of leftover food. I can still recall the sound of them grunting in satisfaction as they slurped up what I considered a gross concoction of leftovers.

I remember still the satisfaction on grandpa’s face as he mimicked the pigs and watched the look on my face. I didn’t always understand what he said, but his voice and singsong words tumbled from his mouth like music.

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“Americana” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

After dinner one day, he was sitting quietly on the couch reading to rest his full stomach which he patted playfully. When he saw me he said “come give papa a smack.” I’d heard him use this term before, but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. He kept up this silly banter insisting that I give him a smack so I took a book, climbed up beside him and smacked him over the head.

The look of surprise on his face stunned us both into silence. The he laughed and mumbled some more Danish words before he taught me that a “smack” was another way of saying “give me a kiss.” He patted his cheek to emphasize where the smack was intended to land.

There were many things that “Pa” taught me that came more from just being who he was than from any intentional purpose. My sisters and I felt privileged to call my mother’s parents Ma and Pa, as she did, because we lived above them in an old two story house for many years.

Papa was a blacksmith by trade, and a musician from his internal joy and passion for life. He played the violin and he composed music. Through his playing of both piano and violin, I gained a love for the music of stringed instruments; especially the cello.

My mother had a musical family and one of my aunts would play the piano while the sisters sang together. Her brother and his family played the fiddle, the banjo and guitar and the whole family played and sang, entertaining throughout our whole community.

Family traditions can form a strong network of love that may help keep young people on track. The thought of disappointing my parents or grandparents in any way kept me from doing some of the wild and crazy things my friends did. Often called “the ties that bind” this network reminds us of family values and those we love. Some may look upon this support as restrictive, but I view it as a safety net that certainly kept me from trying many of the things that entice youth.

I’m grateful for my parents and both sets of grandparents. Their lives are still cherished long after they’re gone. The influence of my Danish grandpa’s music and his playful spirit still resonates through succeeding generations and will probably continue to do so.

I’m always surprised when my own children retell something I said when they were younger or recall an action that I’ve long since forgotten. You never know the affects of your love, your example or influence on the lives that go after you. Don’t diminish those moments. Make the most of them!

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(A memorable walk in a cave formed by Mt. St. Helen’s eruption) (I wasn’t cross-eyed, just blinded by the flash bulb. My oldest daughter and her boys)

Ordinary People – Who are they?

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“India Rising — Prince of Thieves” acrylic on canvas

A man watched his depressed wife murder their two children and then hand the gun over to him so he could fulfill his part in their suicide pact. He shot his wife and then could not pull the trigger to end his own life.

Afterward, when neighbors were asked to describe this husband and father, now accused of murder, they shrugged and said “he was just an ordinary man.”

Ordinary people sometimes commit egregious acts. The problem is that we only see the outside shell. It is what goes on inside the mind and the heart that triggers a horrible incident. What did that “ordinary” man do in his spare time when he wasn’t working or socializing with the neighbors? Was he drinking too much or getting hooked on something stronger?

Was he feeding the fires of revenge and hatred? Was he depressed? Did he spend his alone hours watching pornography and indulging in sexual fantasies or sadism. As Emerson once said “We are what we think.” We cannot know someone completely if their secret thoughts and acts are hidden.

When someone snaps, it’s usually the result of a gradual descent into depravity, pain, or grief; an accumulation of events that eventually reach a boiling point or explosion. The internal poison and pain build up until it must either find an outlet or an escape valve. Without this release, under pressure, acts of violence against self or others may occur.

There are no ordinary people. We are all subject to trauma, evil and sin. We all experience emotional and physical pain. It is simply an inescapable part of life. How can society prevent suicide or acts of violence from happening? How can we keep our family, friends and neighbors from acting out and, instead, reach out for help and assistance?

We need to pay attention. If you haven’t seen a neighbor in awhile and you know they are home, seek them out to see if they are all right. Don’t worry about being “nosy.” Assume a caring attitude and offer help. Sometimes a simple thing like taking the children for an afternoon to relieve an overwrought and over worked mom is all that is needed.

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My neighbor Alice hadn’t seen me or my children for awhile. One day she showed up on my doorstep with a shovel and a start of a plant from her yard that I had admired. “I think you need some sunshine,” she quipped. “Let’s plant this start together – do you remember this?” She displayed the green leaves with the lavender spray of flowers.

As we planted, we talked. The sunshine not only warmed my body but my soul. I never told her what was bothering me, although she suspected postpartum depression since I’d just given birth to my fourth child a few weeks before. It didn’t matter. Her presence gave me the support and caring I needed and probably prevented me from doing something foolish.

As Rivvy Neshama wrote in her book “Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a few Miracles,” if we would just “look around and ask ourselves what is wanted? What is needed?” We might be able to prevent a tragedy in our own family or neighborhood.

Ordinary people look like you and me. They may even act like you and me. But the fact is that there is no such person. Each individual is unique and unrepeatable. Instead of trying to lump them together into a common understandable and repeatable entity, we should seek out the traits that make them different. Not for the purpose of dividing us, but to recognize the special qualities that define each of us.

If a red flag goes up or your gut instincts tell you something is wrong, heed the warnings. Don’t give your trust to just anyone. Trust must be earned. Canned phrases like “Muslims are peaceful people,” or blacks can’t be trusted” only add to your internal confusion.

Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Even “ordinary” people may intend harm. Learn to trust yourself. I know I’ve done it. I’ve talked myself into disregarding my gut instincts by saying things like “that’s racist,” or thinking that “just because he or she is Arab doesn’t make them a terrorist.” But what if they are? What if those warning vibes going off in your head are right and there’s a reason why they’re going off?

“Love thy neighbor” but make sure your neighbor has good intentions. As Ronald Reagan once said “Trust, but verify.”

Ordinary people deserve your good will, but looks can be deceiving. In this distressful and confusing world, kindness and friendliness are needed more than ever, but don’t be a fool. You only have one life to live and perhaps one chance to save it.

Consider your surroundings. Proceed with caution. And trust your internal antennae. Don’t throw caution to the wind because you’re ashamed of feeling uneasy in someone else’s presence. Protect your instincts first and act before it’s too late.

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“Broken” 11×14 mixed media (SOLD); prints available.

“I Stand at the Door and Knock;” Every Salesman’s Nightmare

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When I was 10 years old, my friend and I were trying to shake a young pest named Ruthie. She was half our size and followed us everywhere; dragging a teddy bear behind her. In our attempts to shake her, we ran headlong into a field of scratchy hay stubble. Ruthie followed us, anyway.

Out of breath, we stopped beside a rotting shed on the verge of collapse. When Ruthie caught up with us, we shoved her inside. She pulled the teddy to her frightened face; her blonde ringlets cascading like a waterfall over the bear’s fuzzy body.

My friend banged the door shut, and we leaned against it, waiting for the screams of desperation from within. We felt powerful and sinister. At first, the silence from within startled us. Why wasn’t Ruthie yelling at us, pleading for us to open the door? Her silence seemed to grow like a dark menacing cloud ready to pounce. We flung the door wide.

The bright sunlight lit up Ruthie’s wet, tear-stained face making her squint. She seemed to shrink before our eyes; appearing smaller than we remembered. A second shaft of light fell on the floor beside her where a dead rat sprawled among soiled rags and rusting tools. Feeling our cruelty in the pit of our stomachs, we fled across the field, leaving Ruthie far behind us.

As a young mother, I sold cosmetics door to door. I never got used to being rebuffed, and dreaded ringing that bell or making that first knock. “What’s behind door number one?” I joked to myself, trying to turn trepidation into adventure?

In sales, you hear terms like the “door of opportunity,” or when “one door closes, another one opens.” Doors do play a significant role in our lives, whether in selling or working to provide a service or a product. In one of my crossword puzzles, the clue was: “Means of access.” The four letter answer was “door.” What is your current “means of access” to opportunity?

As a child, I tried to imagine what was behind each door in my neighborhood. Who lived there? What did they do? What were they like? When we locked our doors at night, our family felt safe and protected. The locked door gave us a superficial feeling, at least, that we were free from harm. We were the only ones who had a key. When we bolted the door at night, it was like shutting the world out with all of its violence and evil.

Thieves can and do break in “to steal and make afraid,” but they usually come in by some other way: a pried open window, a break in the glass, a basement well unguarded, or a place left unnoticed and unlatched through carelessness. Thieves usually can’t or don’t come in through a locked door.

Jesus likened himself to a shepherd and his followers (believers) as the sheep. “I am the door,” he said; “by me if any man enters in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

Jesus was talking about the doorway or entrance to heaven, and that through him alone we find entrance and rest…”I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:1-7, 9-10 KJV)

Throughout the Bible, God uses the word “door” as a metaphor for the “right way,” the “straight and narrow,” the “entrance” to the Kingdom of God. He told Cain “If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” (Gen. 4:7 KJV)

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. And every year at Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus while Jews celebrate the Passover. Ironically, a door is used as symbolism for both, reminding people that the blood of the Passover lamb (representing the Messiah) smeared on their doors would keep them safe. “For the Lord will pass through…; and when he sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.” (Ex 12:23 KJV)

Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament. He came to fulfill prophecy and to provide a way for us to come back into God’s presence. His coming and his atonement are foreshadowed throughout Old Testament scripture: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:9-10 KJV)

Many people think that they can get to God through “some other way,” as long as they believe in God; whether it’s the God of Buddha, Hindu, Islam, etc. But in the Bible Jesus clearly declares that “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6-7 KJV)

Jesus said: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Rev 3:20 KJV) He continually knocks on the door of our hearts. He is waiting for us to open up to him and know him: “This is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3 KJV)

He is a loving God. He wants us to come to him and be saved. He forgives sins and listens to us when we call on his name: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8 KJV)

There is no need to fear when we knock on Heaven’s door. Our faith is the key that unlocks the door of God’s heart and allows us to enter his Kingdom. We, in turn, can invite him into our lives by opening the door of our hearts and allowing him to reside there.

 

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