Give What You Got #2

Hey Friends,

I’m on mission to become a grateful man, a generous giver, and a better steward of my God-given gifts. In this quest I have repeatedly heard God say this,” If you want to get better at these things, you must use what you already have”.

This is my attempt to step in this realm. I have the ability to use my words in a powerful way. This what I have to say.

Give What you Got #2:

1. If you are feeling depressed right now, ask yourself these questions:

a. Have I exercised today?
b. Have I done an act of service? (thanks Ryan Dahlstrom for a and b)
c. Have I done something that I am passionate about today?
2. Go find the nearest mirror. Set a timer for 1 minute. Repeat out loud, “I like you”.

3. Run into your fears, not away from them.

4. Consider this. We ALL need you to be your true self. Our world benefits the most when you are not hiding underneath insecurities and coping mechanisms.

5. You are worth fighting for!

6. You are incredibly loved.

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Who Am I Challenge

The “Who AM I Challenge”

Challenge:

  1. Ask God, Who am I?
  2. Set a timer for either 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes.
  3. Write down all the things that He tells you.
  4. In a week go back to what you wrote.
  5. Take 30 minutes to make edits.
  6. Share what you wrote with at least three people.
  7. Place what you wrote in an area that you can see it every day. (A rough draft is perfectly fine. No perfectionism!)
  8. Remind yourself of these truths every day.
  9. Live the things that you wrote.
  10. Revisit this challenge every three months.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you write your “Who I AM” Challenge:

  • Who does God say that you are? This can be directly from God, the Bible, or what you know of yourself.
  • What is true about your character and nature, regardless of circumstances or experience(s)?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • How do others describe you? What is true about those comments? (Just worry about the true statements)

Who am I Challenge: Gary Lloyd Francis

In each person resides immutable and irreplaceable truths. They are words, statements, virtues, marks of character, and composites of personality that are buried deep within one’s being. They are actions birth from beliefs. Beliefs that come from one source.

These beliefs are granted to us from Our Creator- The Great I AM. They are shaped in the milieu of one’s life and illuminated within the interactions of other people. They are seated in the core of who we are. They are essentially who we are irrespective of circumstances or how we may feel.

And although they do not change, new truths are revealed to us every day. Our job is to live in these virtues and allow Our God to unearth new truths- glorious revelations- day by day. In the midst of living we must fight, remain, and remind ourselves of these “I am” statements.

We fight. We fight because we are actively in a war for our lives. We are threaten by an evil one who desires to hold our hearts and glory hostage. He desires to destroy us before the beauty of who we are is fully revealed.

We remain. We remain in God’s love because this is where truth and reality live. This is our home and where we come from. This is the beacon that sheds light on eternity’s shores.

We remind. We remind ourselves because quiet simply- we forget. As humans, Christ-followers, people created from God, we are prone to spiritual amnesia. We often fall into fog and forget who we are. This may be one of the reasons why the Bible was created- to help us remember who we are.

Today I want to do an exercise in who I am. Today I want to hold fast to the truths about who I am. I fight, remain, and remind myself.  I boldly declare them through my writing and through my living. I want to remind myself, those who I am connected to, and those I will know in near and distant future of who I am. And I want to live accordingly.

I am Gary Lloyd Francis

I am loved. I was created by Love and for love. The most essential part of who I am is love. Although various storylines of my life may try to dictate otherwise, I know this to be true about me. I say this first because it is the most obvious, conspicuous, and vital in my life.

Obvious.

Inconspicuous.

Vital. This has been the greatest attacks of the enemy on my heart.

I am son.

I am a bridge. A mediator between worlds. I am foundation, asphalt, gravel, cobble . I lay my life down like my Father. I connect people who otherwise would not be connected. I am man who is fond of the hybrid. I love marrying worlds. I love the poor become friends with the rich. And verse vica. Vice Versa.

I am …

I am a Son. I am a father in the making. Since the precipice of my conception I have been warring these truths. This a battle that I fight every day. The absence of my father in my life hurts me unending and strengthens me like no other. I am weakly strong in believing these truths about myself- I am a son and father to be.

I am a child of God

I am loved

I am funny. God has given me a laugh like no other. He has given me the gift of laugh. He has peeled my eyelids and ear drums to see and hear things that are humorous. Peculiar, weird, ridiculous, and obnoxiously humorous.

I am intelligent. Specifically emotional intelligent.

I am wise.

I am humble. This sounds like a counterintuitive statement but not as one would seem to think it. He has graced me to fall senselessly into the most humbling of moments. I am ever falling into, entertaining, sharing, and living my life embracing the most humbling experiences. Whether it is

I am very creative. This falls directly and indirectly in line with the nature of my God. He is a creator and therefore I do the same.

I am an usher. Papa has gifted me with an inexplicable means to draw people into the presence of God.

I am intuitive

I am athletic.

I am a dancer. I like drop it, spin it, slide it, and jump like it’s hot.

I am discerning

I am powerful

I am a writer

I am watchman

I am prophetic

I am a prophet. This one is hard to say sometimes. Especially when I am concerned about the thoughts of others around me. But it is true.

I am a seer

I am a visionary

I am joyful. This may very well be the chief attribute of my existence.

I am a healer

I am loving

I am a lover

I am intentional

I am a seeker of Truth

I am intense waters

I am a fire starter

I am a pioneer

I am an initiator

I am an encourager. This maybe my favorite way to exist. This is one of the places that the enemy works against me the most.

I am an advocate to the friendless and marginalized

I am listener. My ears are on the inside. I hear the best from my heart and not from my physical appendages.

I am a prayerful man

I am a man

I am man of God

I am a Father

I am a husband

I am Christ-follower

I am passionate

I am a tennis and volleyball enthusiast and player

I am an expression of God’s desires

I am God’s banner of love

I embody and imbue joy

I am One with the One

I am a part of the family of God

I am a part of the Body of Christ

I am a bride

I am lead by the Spirit

I am fearfully, carefully, and wonderfully made

I am bold

I am curious

I am gentle

I am adventurous

I am fighter

I am might warrior

I am a carrier of the spear (Gary)

I am holy

I am a freeman. This is what Francis means.

I am one who lives with beautiful tension and has overcome

I am teacher. More expressly I am an experiential teacher. I love teaching as one who teaches an apprentice. I love working side by side with others.

I am forgiving, merciful, and gracious

I am generous

Tag. You are it… Who are you?

Friar Francis

Give What You Got!

Give what you got

Here’s what I have today my friends:

1. I love you.
2. You are greatly loved.
3. Our Father loves you! Jesus loves you (not in the cheesy phrase way).
4. Your life is worth it!
5. Fear not! Do not be afraid of what others think. You have an audience of One!
6. You are looking pretty fly today!
7. Smile… from the inside first.
8. It’s ok if are crumbling right now.
9. Let’s lean on each other. We need each other.
10. Take 7 Deep Breaths.
11. Take a Step of Faith.
12. Give. Start with what you have and what you know best. Give what you got!

Road Trip Letters #5

Dear Family,

You hurt me more than any other people I have ever known. Every time I press in to know you better, and love you with an intentional love, you shut me out. You kick me, gauge my eyes, rip my ears, and slit my throat. You relegate me to a lesser me. I enter in your company as a strong and confident man. But I have many a time left you a voiceless, deafened and visionless boy with crushed bones.

I am intent in loving you. I will always love you. But I will make this clear. I will not make my home with you if the conditions of our current engagement remains the same.

I do not want to live complacently in an atmosphere of dishonesty and shame-driven secrets.

I want to speak honestly and openly to you. I want us to embrace forgiveness and learn to be understanding. I want us to talk through things instead of ignoring and stuffing them.

I don’ want to shout and scream unless we are willingly, and readily, open to admit and forgive.

I do not want to live in fear. I want to be unafraid to say what’s on my heart. And I want to be humble enough hear what is on your heart too.   

I am restless in trying.

I cannot do the “he said-she said” bit. Let us speak face to face and heart to heart.

I yield my right to be independent of you. But I won’t sacrifice myself to overt abuse.

Please don’t shut me out. My intentions to clear the air are only to draw us closer. Let us mend the frayed stiches.

Here is my outstretched hand. I am extending an invitation for reconciliation.

Honesty is akin to be nakedness. Nakedness is akin to vulnerability. Vulnerability is akin to intimacy.

I am willing to bare all to receive the all- whatever that may be.

I long to be close to you- all of you. Me being truly who I am. And you being truly who you are.

I love you,

Friar   

Road Trip Letters #4

To Sharon,

I am pretty sure you do not remember who I am but I want to thank you.  Thank you for being yourself. You are a beautiful human being.

I am the guy that drove off with the gas pump yesterday. Maybe now you remember?

Yeah I was laughing awkwardly the whole time. This is my default mode. Almost everything has a tinge of humor to me. So instead of despairing, worrying, or getting worked up I laugh in between my sentences.  

Well anyways, I just wanted to thank you for the way you handled the situation. You were courteous, kind, and graciously understanding. You turned the situation into a pleasant one by your demeanor and attitude. You and your coworkers displayed a wonderful representation of Iowa. You made a dark-skinned man like me feel at ease in a sea of white skin and cornfields. I am truly grateful for meeting you, albeit, a brief encounter.  

You are greatly loved,

Friar

Road Trip Letters #3

Dear Father,

I am embracing distraction. In both direct and indirect ways I have numbed myself. I am avoiding the inevitable.

I am avoiding the reality that at the end of this road trip I will be with my family. The end of this journey means the beginning of being with them. And being with my family is like everything else in life. It is both exuberantly wonderful and woefully painful.  

I rather skip out on the latter of the two experiences, but it always seems unavoidable to some degree.

Instead of numbing my heart Father, I will sit here and be still with You.

What beautiful gift do you have to give my family on this short stint? What gorgeous deposit of light would You like to offer to our bloodline?

Response: Give yourself. Give who you truly are.

My Response: So be it Lovely One.   

Give me the courage to love. Give me a pure and honest heart. Protect me and each person that I come in contact with. May blessings, instead of poison, flow from our lips and souls. May our hearts connect and may healing and life abound.

I love You fiercely. Have great pleasure with our family,  

Friar 

Road Trip Letters #2

To: My Little Brother

First I gotta say I am so incredibly proud of you. Second, I love you a whole lot! Third, enjoy every moment of this summer.

I trust that this letter is reaching you while you are on your “Solo”. I hope that you are reading this in the midst of nature and that you are enjoying the beauty therein. I hope that your companions are God, an incredible view, and a gentle crisp breeze.

I want to encourage you in this way while you are on your journey. Here are a few Words of Wisdom as you Walk through the Wilderness:

Embrace silence. Silence is more than golden. Silence will lead you to be attune with the Spirit of God like no other. Silence is where Our Father speaks most clearly. Learn to savor the sheer elegance of stillness. Know that when you stop speaking and start listening (solely for the sake of listening) you will meet God and others in the most intimate and noteworthy way.

Look for God in the most unexpected places and through the most unexpected people. God delights Himself and others by revealing Himself  with and in the seemingly improbable people and places. The adage is true in many ways, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. There are people you are meant to meet in the near future who have words of life and wisdom that you need. Don’t be fooled by appearance.

Fight for the things you love. What I mean by this, is that you should take life from a more offensive position than a passive position. Join God in being faithful and committed to people. Choose people before they choose you. Fight for them like the way God fights for you.

Be unafraid to love your God and narrow your audience. Do not be dissuaded or persuaded by the masses. Let God and God alone be your sole focus. Love Him first and then let your love for people and other things flow from that source.

Ask God the hard questions. Ask God the deep things of your heart. He is powerful and able enough to handle them. He’s been waiting to hear and respond.

Pray and Keep Praying. And while you are at it, pray about everything- this is how we connect to Our Father. God wants to journey with you in every aspect of your life. It’s what has He intended for us from the very beginning. He desires to walk closely with us, experiencing all facets of our lives.

These are the words I felt lead to share with you. Please ask the Lord to highlight what specific words you need for this time. Some may be for now. Some may be for later.

I am beyond excited for this leg of your journey. You are on the cusp of soaring over some high terrain. Do not be afraid of the heights that God will take you. You have always been designed to fly high with the Spirit of God. God will guide you through every facet of your life. Just lean on Him and trust Him.

I love you little brother. Let’s chat when you get back from this summer expedition and when I get back from my road trip (We’ll talk about that later as well).

May his peace be with you,

Friar

Looking for Love?

Looking for Love?

There is an itch in my soul that I cannot seem to scratch.

There is a hollow within me that needs to be filled.

Spirit won’t you come and fill me with Your Wind?

 

And then He said to me:

Son, what you are seeking is Love.

 

And then I spoke back to Him:

Here am I. Here I am. I come with an insistent heart.

 

Teach me how to love.

 

Teach me how to love and be loved.

Teach me how to You and be loved by You.

Teach me how to love others and be loved others.

Teach me how to love myself and be loved myself.

 

He then said to me:

You know love.

You know how to love.

Start with the person in front of you.

 

Love the poor.

Love those who hate you.

Love those who do not love you.

Love those whose spirits are broken.

Lay down your life again and again and you will find life and love unspeakable.

Give yourself for the sake of Love, and in return you and without fail, Love will find you.

Be a Leader By Being a Courageous Follower

Pure Brilliance

The first time I saw this video, I knew it under a different title. I think it was called the Sasquash Dance party. In that video it showed this charismatic leader dancing and the resulting movement he created. I thought it was incredible back then.

But this new analysis, doh(though)! It was brilliant!

I couldn’t resist sharing this video. There were too many great things emanating from it. I could not stop smiling and laughing. The hilarity and simplicity of its content was so striking. There were two things I wanted us to gain from the video: The first is the  lessons we could learn from it. The second is the encouragement to be courageous followers.

Lessons we can learn

Whether this was done in pure jest or entertainment, there were many lessons that could be extracted from it. Here are but a few:

1. Leaders lead by leading.
2. Leaders also lead by following.
3. Leaders are gutsy. They step out in faith.
3. Leaders embrace simplicity.
4. Leaders are easy to follow
5. Leaders know how to follow.
6. Leaders are willing to follow.
7. Leaders teach others how to follow.
8. Leaders are the first to follow.
9. Leaders make sure outsiders see more than just the leader.
10. Leaders embrace others as their equals.
11. Leaders make everything about the movement.
12. Leaders embrace humility.

Be a Courageous Follower

The phrase that stuck out to me in this clip was , ” Be a courageous follower”. It is because of this phrase that I felt compelled to blog. I want to encourage us tonight/today to embrace the quality of following.

We all want to be a part of something big. Something that is larger than life. We want to be a part of a movement. A movement of significance that transforms our world and brings much needed peace into our lives.

I want to commission us, you and I, to be courageous followers. Let us be the type of leaders that follow the most unlikely people. Let us follow the people that society has forgotten, neglected, mistreated, and marginalized. Let the poor teach us the ways of wisdom. Let the brokenhearted teach us the ways of love and forgiveness. Let those with disabilities teach us what it means to be whole. Let us try a new path to revolution and transformation. Let’s make the least of these ,the lowly in the eyes of society, be the ones who show us the way freedom.

Uganda Reflection: I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!

Uganda Reflection:

(The Picture of above is with Pastor Joel Bukenya, a man a greatly admire and respect!)

Uganda Reflection: I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!

Uganda had a wonderful way of surprising me continuously. One of the most pleasant surprises that I experienced was the healing of my skin condition. The condition of being black in the States. The condition of having dark-skin in America.

Now, when I say healing, I simply mean that I can say this with confidence “I love being a dark-skinned, brown, black man!” Being dark is an incredible blessing!

You see, while in Uganda, I was afforded the opportunity to step away from the negative imagery of blackness in the States. And I was granted the gift of embracing the loveliness of being dark-skinned.

My experience in Uganda shed light on an inner conflict.

In the States

In the States, at the subconscious level, there is always a war going on within me about my darkness- my blackness. It is not a war that overtly hampers my daily life but nonetheless it is a struggle.

In the States I fight against falling prey to the negative stereotypes. The ones that our media portrays of black people- especially of black men. All around me there are tokens of expression that say black equals less than, ignorant, threatening, and dangerous. I know, of course this is not true, but the messages are relentless.

In the States I fight myself about my own skin color. The question I sometimes ask is this: Am I black enough?

There are often times where I have not felt black enough for other black people. In particular, among those who are of my own skin color, I have been cited as too white. Or better yet, “You sound white.” What does that mean? And what does that mean about what makes a black person black?

Does it go beyond the skin color?

Conversely, among white people, sometimes I am too black. This is rare, though. In some cases my blackness comes as a liability, a threat, and an unwelcomed feature. Seeing past my character, there have been some who have made judgments solely on my skin color.

But in the same breath, some white people, also don’t think I am black enough. They quote me as not, “being like other black people”, or, “You are not really black”. They relegate me to having the Oreo Syndrome. You know, black on the outside, white on the inside. As an “Oreo” I wouldn’t be classified as one “those” black people- the ones that we see on television or hear on the radio. This further perpetuates the negative image.

To make it a little more complicated, let’s throw in one more thing.  In the States there is also an awkwardness I have because of my ethnic heritage as well. I am a Jamaica-born man who was raised in South Florida. Due to this complexity I have also run into multiple issues because of the cultural differences of my blackness.

But, like I said, these issues are not detrimental to my daily life. It is mostly an inward conflict. The damage this inner angst has caused has primarily affected my identity. The chief problem is that I cannot fully appreciate my dark skin as I would like to.

However, Uganda, changed a lot of that. Being in Africa was a freeing experience! There, my blackness was honored, appreciated, and normal. I loved that!

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In Uganda

In Uganda, from my first step, I entered into a whole new worldview of my darkness.

For starters, it was the most incredible feeling to be engulfed in sea of dark-skinned people. It was the first time in a very long time where I was a part of the majority. And I don’t mean Atlanta majority- I mean er’ body was black. Like 99.79 percent.

Everywhere we went there were all shades of dark skin.  Consequently, I quickly became comfortable in my own skin. In fact it made me wonder, is this how white people feel on a daily to basis in the States? Comfortable? Relaxed? At home?

I’m not gonna lie. It was kind of nice to just melt away in the crowd for a few minutes, hours, days, weeks. Just to be one of the many black people. Normal. Not a minority. Not an aberration.

Although I did like that feeling, the real healing came from living and doing life with my Ugandan brothers and sisters.

In Uganda I experienced almost the complete opposite of my inner battle in the States.

In Uganda my brothers and sisters took my blackness as an automatic commonality. It was a positive thing. Right away they said, “Welcome home”. There was so much meaning in that. I cannot begin to tell you how much that meant.

There is a holistic wave of peace and wholeness that a black person feels when they return to Africa. Especially when they return home for the first time.

Coming home feels good.

I was at home. I felt at home. I truly belonged.

I did not have to work for it. I did not have to prove anything. I was dark-skinned and that was good enough.

What made this even more delightful was that my Ugandan family gave me a Ugandan name. In fact they gave me two names- there will be more about that in another post. It was more than just an expression of mere kindness. It was a reminder that I was a part of something bigger and grander.

In Uganda I was floored by the character of black people everywhere I went. This place did not follow the protocol of Western media. Everywhere I went, both in the Christian community and other communities, I was greeted by people who dismantled the American stereotype of black people- in particular black men.

In Ugandan I experienced hospitality so wonderful that I could cry. There were black angels everywhere. Almost everywhere we went people were so kind, so open, so giving and so loving.

People were incredibly welcoming. And they were so gracious and loving to foreigners- those who looked different than themselves. My teammates on my trip were all white but they were treated so well. People gave them their babies to hold, their homes to live in, and their hearts share, even without knowing them.

I’m sure if we looked further in to the fabric of Ugandan culture we would see some of the negatives but I was too overwhelmed by the goodness to notice it.

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In particular, the black men that I met in Kampala and Jinja were of full of utmost integrity and humility. They had such incredible character. The men I met were men who thought way beyond themselves. In their hearts and in their actions they were concerned about generations. Their minds were on the well-being and prosperity of their nation and their children’s children’s children. Their hands, work, and actions matched what they believed. They lived far above and greater than the pettiness of today!

These men were true fathers. Not only were they fathers to their own biological children but they were fathers to the fatherless. Their scope of family and togetherness was unrivaled. And the wisdom that the possessed was akin to the lineage of Solomon.

As a man who grew up without my father, my heart was beyond filled with joy and admiration. These men are my heroes.

Day after day I grew to love my skin color more and more because these men and women were living a life that I aspired to live.

All in all I left Uganda proud! I was proud to be black. I was proud to be a Christ-follower. Although my primary identity is a son of God and Christ-follower, it was definitely a nice bonus to enjoy my skin color too!

It was such a blessing to be around great people. In general it was great to know that there are men and women of God doing great things across the seas. But it was extra special, in this particular time of my life, to see that these people were ones with dark skin. They were people, people with my skin color, that were peeling away the stereotypes, prejudices, and misconceptions that pervade throughout many societies.

There is so much more I can say on the subject but I will stop here for now. I am very grateful for this healing and blessing. It was so simple and yet so profound.

Questions of the Day

Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do like all the features that God gave you?

Let me know your thoughts. Let share our experiences.

I love you friends. Thanks for taking the time to hear my thoughts.

Friar Francis

He Hears and Responds to Every Prayer

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Take a moment to meditate on these words:

There’s not a prayer I’ve prayed
That You haven’t heard
Not a tear I’ve shed
That You didn’t feel
You’re the God who comes to raise the dead
I know You’ll raise me up again
Who can praise You from the grave
to see the life you gave
Every fear in me You’ve put to rest
It’s the song sing I bring
Of Your faithfulness
And every tear has led my feet to stand
Where the ocean meets the land
Sink or swim I’m diving in
Where the river starts rushing
Where my heart starts beating
For the rhythms of the testing
And the songs of the trials
I will lift a cry up to You
Sung with hope inside my eyes
To the passion of Your heart
Where love starts
I lift my hands if my hands fail me
I’ll bend my knees if my knees grow weak
I’ll raise my voice and sing
I know that You love me
Give me a song to sing
And I will sing it to You God

– Give Me A Song to Sing, Will Reagan & United Pursuit Band

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Three Little Words

A few word can make a difference

My soul is arrested and held captive by three little words- You are loved. More specifically, Jesus loves me. I know this to be true, but why do I continually wrestle with this?

That is a question, I cannot and will not answer in this moment. However, I do know and believe this to be true. And I agree there is power in hearing, giving, receiving, and experiencing these words…

About a week ago I had a soul-haunting scene speak volumes on this dilemma of my inner man. While spending time in Lakeland, I got the pleasure to stroll around Lake Hollingsworth almost every morning and evening. It was a special time that I spent alone with God meant for prayer, silence, relaxation, detoxing, and for taking pictures of the beautiful scenery.

With these objectives in mind, I ambered my way around the lake in a contemplative fashion. Each step was an attempt to get closer to God and free from myself from stress. On one of these strolls, in the evening, while utterly stressed, and distressed, I had an encounter. I don’t know if my face showed it, but a man passing the opposite direction arrested me with the aforementioned three words.  He passed me and delivered these words in a way that has shaken me for days. He looked directly in my eyes and said in a very quiet and meek tone, “Jesus loves you”.

The words alone had power. But it was the delivery. The delivery really reached me.

I have heard those words before so many times. And I have said them countless times as well. But for some reason in that moment I was hearing them afresh.

To sweeten this moment even more was the fact that I ran into the same man again. You see the lake that I walked around is about 3 miles long. So, this afforded me another opportunity to run into this man. This is exactly what happened.

It was so funny too! I had the same reaction. I was taken aback and unprepared. The second encounter was as intense, and yet mild, as the first. Again this unknown man spoke past my exterior into the core of my being.

Sometimes I have to yield my heart to this crazy truth. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you.

And sometimes He goes out of the way in small, still, and unexpected moments to stop us dead in tracks. He calms the storm and allows the dust to settle. Or he meets us in the fire and fury. He finds us and takes us aside and says, “I love You”. Or he speaks through his sons and daughters and tells us, “Jesus loves You”.

Maybe under further inspection I might find that Jesus is doing this sort of thing to us all the time. We may just be blind to it. And maybe, just maybe, there are other people that are sharing this sentiment of love with us constantly. We might be too shrouded with business to see it clearly.

Well if that’s the case..

I have three words to give you this morning, noon, and evening …

Jesus Loves You.

Friar Francis