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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Wall

Once a time….a little Princess lived in a garden of beautiful flowers, shade trees and butterflies. The garden had a white stone wall all around it, but the Princess didn’t notice the wall, for she was content and felt secure. The Princess loved listening to the song birds and chased the butterflies that flitted from flower to flower. She laughed and pirouetted on her toes in delight every day. The Master Gardner visited the Princess every day. She loved to lift her arms in joy when she saw Him. He picked her up in His strong arms and taught her. He taught her about each flower and each bush and each tree.

He showed her the exquisite white Faith flower. He let her climb up into the sturdy strong limbs of the Truth Tree. The lilac blooms of the Repentance and Confession bush were beautiful. Yet her favorite flower was the brilliant red of the Forgiveness flower.

One day as she pirouetted the Princess, now a teenager, noticed the white stone wall. “What is beyond the wall?” she asked the Master Gardner.

The Master Gardner was quiet and did not answer, for He knew the Princess had to make her own choice.

The next day she ran to the stone wall and tried to climb to the top. Just as she neared the top, she heard a whisper, “Come and see the world, Princess!”

The Princess drew back, afraid. She did not know the voice. “Who are you?” she asked.

“A friend who wants to give you a lovely adventure.”

The Princess quivered with excitement. An adventure? No, he said a “lovely adventure”. Surely that would be more fun than staying in the garden where she knew every bush and every flower and every creature. She was filled with curiosity and longing for something new.

How could she get out of the garden? Days passed, and one day she heard a beautiful song beyond the walls. The song floated in the air across the white stone wall.

The Princess looked at the wall where the song seemed the loudest. “I see how I can go over the wall, the Golden Bell tree’s branches grow over the white stone wall.”

With that, the Princess raced to the tree and began climbing. When she reached the branch she stopped and looked back at the garden where she grew up. “Maybe I shouldn’t do this, but the song is so beautiful, I will just look over the white stone wall. That will be enough.”

The Princess peered over the wall and she could see green fields and purple mountains. “I wonder where the flowers are? I don’t see any flowers. That is odd.”

Day after day the Princess climbed the Golden Bell tree just to look over the white stone wall. She loved the sound of the bell-like blooms in the slight breeze. Day after day she listened to the song that beckoned her to explore the world beyond the Beautiful Garden.

One day the song sounded so clear that the Princess couldn’t resist any more. She climbed the Golden Bell Tree and crawled to the limb that hung over the wall. The limb began to bend, and soon the Princess dropped to the ground over the wall. She shrieked a little ‘princess’ shriek as she landed. She stood up and brushed off the dirt. A Princess can not be dirty. Everyone knows that.

She looked all around. There were hills and valleys. The sun didn’t shine as brightly as it did inside the The Garden. There was a huge tree, larger than any tree in the Beautiful Garden, in the distance like none that the Princess ever saw before. She walked toward it and as she did, she saw a movement behind the tree. “I wonder what is hiding behind the tree. Maybe it is a deer.”

But it wasn’t a deer, it wasn’t a rabbit, it wasn’t an animal at all. It was an Evil One that spoke in growls and snarls. Before the Princess could run away, the Evil One grabbed the Princess and held her tight. “Now I have you, my pretty one,” he snarled.

The Evil One took her away to a place far away and put her feet in chains that held her fast. He placed her inside a dark dungeon with black walls. The Princess shuddered and shivered. She heard rats running on the floor, but could not see them. She heard groaning and crying around her. She was terrified.

* She remembered the Beautiful Garden and how bright and light it was. She had enjoyed plenty to eat, freedom, and beauty all about her. Why had she listened to the song and chose to explore the world beyond the wall?

Now she knew that the world held nothing for her but terror and fear. The Princess wanted to return to the Beautiful Garden where she had found such peace and joy. But how would she be able to be free of the chains and find her way back? The chains held her tight and dug into her ankles.

She felt tears she could not stop, running down her cheeks in rivers of sorrow. A Princess never cried, and now – perhaps she was no longer a princess. Her dress was torn and dirty. Her face was scratched and smudged with dirt.

She remembered the Master Gardener who kept the beautiful Garden. “Oh, Master, I am so sorry I climbed that Golden Bell Tree and left You. I was so wrong to try to leave and taste of the world. I can’t live here. I want to come home.”

The Princess fell the chains fall from her ankles as a bright light came into the dark room. It was the Master Gardener. “I have come to take you back to the Beautiful Garden. I heard you confess that you were wrong to try worldly ways. I will take you home.”

With that, the Master Gardener swooped the Princess into His Arms and wrapped His love around her. When the Princess looked about her again, she was Home again. She was really Home!

She ran to the Bush of the Spirit and smelled deeply of each flower that bloomed there -- Faith, Love, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Goodness and Self Control. She loved the scent of the flower of Self-Control – it reminded her to remain in the Beautiful Garden and not listen to exotic songs from beyond the wall.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, LORD, know it completely.

5 You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:4-6

* Thomas Kinkade painting

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Else Is There?

The most over-used question heard is – “What do you want to ‘be’ when you grow up?” As a senior in high school and in college the question is, “What are you going majori in?” The word ‘be” could be the physical world, or it could be the spiritual essence of one’s inner self.

It is an easier question to answer when you are young, because your life isn’t set in cement! It is scary to choose. What if a person chooses the wrong thing, is there a ‘do-over’? I always played it safe – for me it was multiple choice. An opera singer, a missionary, or a secretary. Children always have an answer. I watched a five year old boy gazing with rapture as a bass player strummed his guitar. I asked the ‘be’ question. The young man looked at me with large sky-blue eyes and without a hesitation said, “I’m going to be a cop!”

Never did I imagine my life as it turned out, yet I can see that God led me all the way.I know that my life could have been very different at different points if I had made decisions.

As I read about Moses, I was amused, wondering how Moses would have answered the ‘be question at different points of his life. I could hear him saying, “There I was in my cradle, and suddenly I am in a basket taken to live in Pharaoh’s House – didn’t see that coming. Why was I compelled to kill the man who was beating on one of my own people? Was there a purpose for running away and talking to a burning bush in the wilderness? Oh, yes. Then I returned to Egypt on purpose where I could have been killed? Did I realize I would soon be taking a long walk in the wilderness with a stiff-necked people whose favorite occupation is’ grumping up’ life? That is not the life I envisioned.” Moses was a man of incredible faith, spiritual strength and courage.

How many of us know what God has in mind for us or what is just around the corner in our lives? How can we make our decisions God’s will and not just our own? All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. Psalm 25;10

Would I have made different choices? It seems that as time passes, I learn more and more and see the choices I could have made. But there is one more longing that I have. It isn’t a goal with how-to steps to achieve. It is a deeper relationship and a closer walk with God.

God made us individuals – each different – like snowflakes and finger prints – from the inside out. Our personality is our driving force, and analytic thoughtful person, an amiable go-with-the- flow person, or an expressive person who never stops or sees the need to stop talking. Why are we so different? What purpose is there in the different-nesses?

It comes back to the fact that we are God’s plan. He wants us to tell others about Him. He wants a relationship with us. What avenues to know God has He given us change our hearts? He has given us His Word to read, He has given us the promise of listening to our prayers. He has promised to be our Father, and in return we are God’s children. He ‘fathers’ us and we ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ Him. (The quotes denote that fathers, son and daughter are verbs – not a static understanding but heart-felt faith awareness. Taken from Walking in Heaven by Mike Mason)

We go through times when wrong seems right, when evil is honor and when dark is light. When our lives have no balance – no stability, we become hard hearted and turn our back on God. Yet God still loves us. He has told us Who He is…Isaiah 43:11 - I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.

Have you ever had a close relationship with someone? You long to talk, you long to know the person, you long to be with them every moment of the day. The presence of God – that is what we all yearn for, whether we know it or not. A few weeks before my Mom died, she asked me, “Do you see Jesus sitting in the corner by my bed?” I attributed her question to pain medication. And as I remember this, I know that she did see Jesus.

Recently I read from the notes from Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God, who was born in 1610. He was injured and suffered pain throughout his life, and yet his desire was to practice the presence of God by continually conversing with Him. He gave himself up to trusting in God in faithfulness. Brother Lawrence experienced a relationship with God that was constant. He spoke to God in simplicity, plainly, as a Child of God to His Abba Father. Brother Lawrence said, “The shortest way straight to God is by continued exercise (active) of love and doing all things for His sake!

Colossians 3:16 - Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Colossians 2:6-7 - So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Philippians 4:1 - Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Daniel 12:3 - Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Psalm 9:9 - The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Isaiah 48:17-18 - This is what the LORD says your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: 
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, 
who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, 
your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Luke 6:31,35 - Do to others as you would have them do to you. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


When I was small, I did not know the word, imagine. For me the word was “play-like”. That was all one word to me – pronounced “pl’like”. My parents were astonished when I brought home a report card that said, “She daydreams…” How else would I, could I, imagine unless I daydreamed?

One day, while walking, I looked at the blue sky and imagined it to be green, and the green grass along the way to be blue? Why did God choose those colors? Therein is the secret of creativity or imagining. The day I saw a grove of trees and identified 4 different shades of green, I was awed by the ability of God through his creation of light and shadow to cause such glorious colors.

What color is imagination? What is its texture or shape? Where does it come from? How can a person stimulate imagination? One way is by asking questions such as “How can I….” “What can I

do to…” “What if…” “What is another way to look at this….” “How can I learn….” “Where can I find the information I need…” The foremost question is searching for God’s will in my life.

During the 1930’s, chicken feed was a necessity and so were dresses for little girls. Soon the chicken feed sacks took on a field of daisies, bright checks, and many other bright colors. This is what my Mom used to make my dresses. One day Mom completed a dress and noticed a hole in the skirt of the dress. She exclaimed, “I know, that dress needs a pocket right there!”

Mom was creative and could picture a project completed just as she wanted it. She was equally adept at using wood to build my bed, a dresser, a desk, bookshelves and even bunk beds for m

y brothers. Then she learned that words were tools to paint verbal-pictures. Her writing inspired others and testified of her faith in the Lord. Her ability to substitute and create in the kitchen was tasty to say the least. She made each recipe HERS and always gave thanks. She was 81 years old when she took classes in art, a life-time dream. She learned calligraphy at that age, too.

When I look at a painting that captures my attention because of its shapes and colors, I realize that the artist chooses from the colors that are available on his palette. When a sculpture chooses shapes, he chooses from the shapes that he knows exist. When a new fabric is made, it is from the fabric materials that exist.

When God created He imagined with no pattern – no substance that existed – for God created heaven and earth in all its complexity from nothing. An interdependency exists between His creations. Can you imagine the ocean’s tide being controlled by the moon?

In reading Exodus, my mind is overwhelmed with God’s detailed instructions to His people in the preparation of the Tabernacle in which He would be worshipped. The colors, the metals, fabric and wood, the length and the width were all specified. How could this be? There was no pattern but God’s spoken word. And then I learn the secret – from Exodus 31:1-5 - Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skill to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts

As I read these words, I am reminded of the details of our God’s work. He leaves nothing undone in His creation and in the lives of those He ‘knit together’. The complexity of His reasoning knows no bounds. For this reason, I can trust my Lord with my life every day. My faith grows daily as I see

Yesterday evening I looked through the west window and caught my breath. The riot of clouds traced in the western sky by a brilliant red/orange/gold. Each time I looked out, the intensity of the beauty increased. I reached for the camera and saw the message – memory card full. I continued to watch and memorize the darkening sky and realized that without the clouds – without the sun, the sky would be its usual blue. God loves color. It gives Him pleasure. Each time I see his glorious display of the wonders of creation, I give Him Thanks.

Psalm 65:7-9 - who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. 
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.

Many books have been written about the art of creativity and the joy of imagining. Can you imagine every aspect of a day, a night, a place, a dream, a world? Only in Him can our world be filled with the imagination that gives hope and wonder.

Ephesians 3;19-21-- and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The writer of these lyrics touches my heart – for I can only imagine!

I can only imagine What my eyes will see

When your face Is before me

I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel

Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still

Will I stand in your presence

or to my knees will I fall

Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine

Mercy Me -


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Perfectly Present

Activity was at a feverish pitch at the ‘brown house’ in Clinton, Oklahoma. We were preparing for the presence of our beloved Grandpa and Grandma Suderman. Dusting, vacuuming, putting away, cooking and cleaning was the order of the day. I heaved a sigh of relief as the last of the sweepings reached the back door of our house. . (It was always a temptation to whip the last dirt out the backdoor instead of the dustpan!)

Did they know that an hour before they came that we took showers and dressed in clean clothes? Did they know all the preparations that we made for their visit? Did they know that toys were put away? Did they know we were on our best behavior when they came?

We didn’t argue, we minded Mom and Dad instantly while they were present. We took our cues from our parents. Grandpa and Grandma received the ‘red carpet treatment’ before we ever knew what Red Carpet Treatment was. We could hide who we really were for the few days that Grandpa and Grandma visited.

Grandma Suderman came to visit when our own children were small. Grandpa Suderman had gone to the presence of the Lord. The years when our children’s Grandparents came for visits, we prepared for their visits with a more ‘green carpet’ treatment. They loved knowing our children for who they were…and loved them for who they were just as our LORD loves us unconditionally.

As time goes on, and we are the grandparents and great grandparents, we look to another Presence as did our parents and grandparents before us. That Presence is God, the LORD. The Great I Am. The Peace-Giver, Our Refuge and Strength. His Presence has been with us and has been all along. His Presence is with all who call on His Name.

His Presence is so perfectly present that He is with each of us as verse 13 of Psalm 139 tells us - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. The beginning verses (1-7) reveal the extent to which His Presence is present in our lives and hearts: You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

Our LORD doesn’t lose track of us, we lose track of Him. Satan doesn’t miss a beat trying to deflect our joy and peace in our Creator. It is one thing to say sanctimoniously that everyone has the same amount of time – but it is another side of the story to busy ourselves in ways that side-track us from God. Something about our culture values ‘back to back’ appointments and ‘wall to wall’ busy-ness. Do we do this intentionally to try to escape the Presence of the Great I Am? This is delusion of the first order.

As I write this, I see so many things about me that I want to do. Busy-ness beckons me on every hand. I know I cannot hide from the Lord. I know the blessing of being His Child. I know the sweetness of His Presence. Yet circumstances and situations in the world call me with an ever-increasing pull. It is a choice to love, to forgive and to pray.

This week the importance of the veil of the world that lessens spiritual sight came through the verses of II Corinthians 3:15-18. In Jesus Christ we live an unveiled life. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

“The longer I live in Christ, the stronger His Presence is in my Life and the clearer that Presence is to me. His Creation is complexity within complexity and our relationship with The LORD is equally complex.” A dear friend of mine said this to me this week. We can never fathom the depths of God. It is my prayer that the Presence of the Great I Am becomes ever more clear in my life through the years God has given me.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3,7

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; 
he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,

Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,

And I realize just how beautiful You are,

And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so

Oh how He loves us,

How He loves us so

Lyrics by John Mark McMillan


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What Did You Say?

In 1939, Dad asked me to go to the phone and ask the operator what time it was. What a responsibility I had. As the oldest sibling, I was asked to pick up the phone in the hallway and speak to the operator. Gently I lifted down the receiver, and put it to my ear, and spoke clearly and distinctly, “What time do you have now, Ma’m?” Her answer has haunted me to this day. I reported succinctly to my Dad, “She said that it is 6:66 pm.” Everyone stared at me, and then my two younger brothers laughed long and loud. That laughter continues to this day when someone recalls …. “6:66 pm.”

I learned then that you don’t always hear what you thought you heard. And as time went on, I learned that I didn’t always say what I thought I said. Communication is fraught with the pitfalls of misunderstanding. Often the body language betrays the meaning of the spoken words.

My Dad was a master storyteller. Once you heard a Bible Story from Dad you never forgot it. His whole countenance mirrored the message of the story as we three children sat wide-eyed afraid to breathe. The living room disappeared as the details he told in a breathless voice painted a picture more vivid than a master painter could paint in oils. Indeed, his muscular arms aided in clarifying the master story-painting.

We grew up listening to a Bosch Radio, 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. We listened, but later I realized that we ‘watched’ the radio as Fibber McGee and Molly, Charley McCarthy, The Shadow Knows, Jack Armstrong-the All-American Boy poured their lives in our living room.

Then I became a Mother to four adorable children, now terrific adults. I learned that as they flew out the back door was not the time to holler, “Don’t slam the door!” The ‘slam’ echoed through my head. Then I amended my instruction, “OK, slam the door, but mind me!” I don’t think they heard!) We had other times of sharing chores. I know our second son would deny it or smile sheepishly, but he often told his siblings that if they washed the dishes for him, they would get a surprise from Mom. They learned a lesson about mis-communication.

Then came the time when our three sons learned the wonders of ‘dit-dah’ communication from their Dad. The four male family members went on triangulating ham radio adventures. Our oldest son took this challenge to heart, taking the ham radio licence test in Kansas City. But that is another story. In 2008, Paul wrote a communiqué that described his experiences learning ham radio when he was on the threshold of puberty. No, it doesn’t begin with, "It was dark stormy night…!"

My favorite contact was made on the 2-meter band. I used to listen to Dad talk to the guys from the Boothill Club (Dodge City) talk on Sunday nights. One Sunday night I was feeling extra confident and Dad wasn’t around so I CQ’d and this guy answered me. We were talking for awhile and he said his daughter was listening and wanted to know how old I was. I told him, and he said she was the same age, but had to sign off because she was beating him up for telling me about her. I don’t think I ever went on the 2-meter band again after that. But it was fun to sit with my Dad and brothers and practice code and learn radio theory. I still remember the practice question on my novice test. What does FM stand for? Fading Motorboat or Frequency Modulation? I got that right and passed. I really don’t remember the rest of the theory; I just could never resist breaking Ohm’s law.

While teaching a group of elementary students the art of participating in a discussion, I learned the danger of mis-perception. I emphasized with the small group sitting in a circle that there was no need to raise their hands, just watch the other person. When he is finished, then you may speak. Suddenly I realized that 4 or 5 of the more verbal students were leaning forward in their chairs in such a way to be in danger of falling. Their eyes were intently watching the speaker, waiting to pounce on a second of silence to enter the fray of words.

There are two sides to the Coin of Communication – there is the speaking and there is the listening. In between those two sides lies the murkiness of perception. When I compare the tedious written communication that has progressed just in my lifetime, I am astonished. In just 82 years we have gone from writing with a pencil on a tablet to speaking into a computer to make the words turn somersaults and land on the page. We have the ability to take classes from a university ‘through the air’ and capture learning on our various technological marvels of communication. We learn the terms Wi-fi, G-4 and wireless. Sometimes I feel like my Grandmother Suderman after the landing on the moon. If God had intended for us to the moon, He would have…” Always wondered what Grandmother envisioned.

How did this all come about? I read this… The Chappe brothers, in France, in 1791, were in their teens and were going to schools some distance apart but visible to each other. They obtained permission to set up a signaling system so they could send messages to each other. Their semaphore system consisted of movable arms on a pole whose positions denoted letters of the alphabet. Napoleon liked the idea, and soon semaphore system was set up in many places. (

Before that time, there were signal fires that announced the arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588 AD. The native Indians of this country used smoke signals to communicate. My question is – how did they avoid typos? Misunderstandings created by a mis-wave of an arm or flag – or a misplaced smoke signal? What if the wind wafted away a stray puff? Who was the ‘spell-checker’’?

According to a timeline, I noted that in 1791 there were wars throughout Europe and United States. Obviously communication then did not circumvent bloodshed. And still doesn’t. And I wonder about communication since the world began and God as the Great Communicator.

There is no question as to what God conveyed in Genesis 1:31a - God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. As I read Exodus and read all the commandments that God gave his people, I realized several things. God knew exactly what he wanted his people to do and gave explicit instructions. His people listened to His words with their whole being. When God spoke, they were not multi-tasking!

The more I read the Bible, the more I understand the intent of God’s heart, beyond the words. God speaks to His Children. As I read various verses that God spoke to His Children, I am awed beyond measure. To hear God speak…to hear God communicate with me; it is too wondrous to comprehend. What would it be like to hear God speak audibly to me?

If God spoke to me, would I have faulty perception? Would I be too busy texting to hear God speak? Would I try to apprise God of my own supposed wisdom? Or would I listen?

Meanwhile, I read God’s Word – word for word – savoring His majesty, his power and his omniscience. My heart hears his Words.

Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart. Job 22:22

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”” Hebrews 13:5

Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. Isaiah 28:23