LIVE. Because you should.

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This video is 22 minutes and 21 seconds. I urge you to take the time to watch it.

It will change your life.

It changed mine already.

This video introduces us to someone I believe is a true hero: Zach Sobiech.

He died on May 20, 2013 from a rare form of terminal cancer. At the age of 17, he changed the world.

Towards the end of this video, the guy with the production team comes out and says: “I just want you to know that we are not making this video because you’re dying, we are making this video because of the way that you’re living.”

Wow.

I had to pause this video several times and just cry. Cry, really, really hard.

Not because of the cancer, but because in the face of the cancer, this young man decided he was going to choose to wake up everyday and live.

During the entire video, Zach didn’t worry about how he would handle dying. He didn’t think about himself or the pain that he was going through.

He was most worried about how others would take the news that he was not going to physically be around much longer.

According to Zach, the best way to be happy in this life: Help plant a smile on another person’s face.

As I watched this video, I kept thinking, “Lord, THIS is how you want us to live.”

Without fear.

Joyful.

At peace with our circumstances, no matter what diagnosis that means for our life.

Focused on serving those around us.

You want us to live with a deep knowing that the gift of life that we have been given is absolutely beautiful.

It is not precious because it can be taken away; it is precious because we have it in the first place.

Lord, you want our lives to be FULL.

Full of laughter and picnics. Like Zach said, picnics are just awesome.

Full of thankfulness. There are so many things to be thankful for and so many people whom we should be appreciative of, we shouldn’t ever be complaining.

Full of adventure. Lots of adventures. Crazy stuff. Like renting an insanely fast car to drive around for a week because….ya want to!

But mostly, full of love.

Love for this life and the blessings that you have.

Love for those around you that care for you and support you.

Love for those that need love, even when they aren’t the best at giving it.

Love for serving and giving smiles to each person you come across.

Love for the big things and the small, for those small things often become the big.

Love for Jesus, because He is love and He is life, and because of Him, we can love, well, despite anything.

Zach, I hope I can live one day in my life as well as you lived everyday of yours.

Thank you for reminding us that life is BEAUTIFUL. We must see it that way in order to make a difference.

Thank you for being you.

As I think about my day and the news of everything going on in Oklahoma continues to pang my heart, I pray that we know, remember and live with the perspective that whether we are here for 14 minutes, 14 years or we have 14-year old children of our own, life is a blessing and we must choose to live it all we can.

As Dr Suess says, “Today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered.”

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Your Prescription: A Chill Pill

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For anyone that knows me, it is no surprise that I am not very good at remaining still.

I’m not even talking about just sitting down to watch a movie, I mean EVEN IF you get me to sit down, my brain is still running a million times per minute.

Want a sneak peak into my brain? It looks a little bit like this…

Did you ever send that email?

Your clothes might be done in the dryer. Go check.

It would be good to send that friend a birthday card since their birthday is next week.

I wonder if that prayer that I prayed recently will happen?

I LOVE this movie (my eyes are on the screen at this point)

You see what I mean? I am shocked that I ever fully understand a storyline.

But really, I decided that besides posting a blog tomorrow, I am going to take a “vow of silence”.

No cellphone. Aka no social media.

No TV.

No email/texting/g-chat/skype/whatever communication means we use these days.

I know my brain will be going crazy and my hands will be slightly fidgety (sadly enough) because we are so used to being connected 24/7.

But,  if you have some time in the next week or two where you can take a “vow of silence” with me, I encourage you to.

JESUS encourages you to! Hellurrrr- He created the Sabbath so that we may have a day of rest!

And just to clarify- a day of rest is not defined as: “A day where you do not have to clock into your physical workplace”.

Nope, that ain’t rest.

Hey- even a quarter of a day or half a day- whatever you can do- do it.

Take that time to dig into the Word without checking your phone every 20 minutes to see if someone has texted you.

Maybe take that time to journal and assess where you’re at during this phase of your life.

Are your priorities lining up with your goals? Are you on the road you were hoping you’d be on?

What are your dreams that you are scared to tackle? Why?

How can you put yourself in a place to push for those dreams and those goals?

Are you involved? Serving anywhere?

If not- pray about where you can serve.

Take some time to REST and just learn about Jesus.

When it comes down to it, our relationship with our Savior is all that matters.

It is all we need.

It is all that counts.

He is sovereign over this life and the only one capable of giving us eternal life.

So, don’t put Him on the back burner.

Don’t allot him to an area of your life or a cubby hole of your time.

He is supposed to be in EVERY area of our lives because HE IS LIFE.

Highly encourage you to take a vow of silence  and don’t cheat either!!!

It will refresh your soul, and despite what you think, no one will die without your instagram memes or pics of your Starbucks drink on your off day (Im not hatin’…I do it too).

Get some time with your daddy! YOU NEED IT!

So do I!

Go find you a good, comfy chair and just be. 

Take a chill pill. For real.

“Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” -1 Peter 3:4

You’re okay, Pedal Forward.

 

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Your past does not determine your future.

You are more than the mistakes you’ve made.

You have been forgiven.

You have been forgiven.

You have been FORGIVEN.

I know, at least from a personal standpoint, that when the devil really wants to get inside my head, he is good at making me feel as if my past is too bad, too dirty, too messy, too imperfect to work with.

So, my thoughts start to swirl around in my head and my once hopeful heart starts to sink.

You see, because if Satan can make us feel as if we aren’t good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or worth ENOUGH, he can keep us stagnant.

Because when you feel hopeless, you turn around.

You quit moving forward.

You forget how far you’ve come and think about how much longer you have to travel.

Can I let you in on something?

YOU ARE SO MESSED UP.

You have made a lot of mistakes.

Your imperfections are obvious.

BUT…

Jesus.

He is the perfect rescuer.

The author of our faith and the fixer of our messes.

He turns the bad into good and He delights in our weakness.

My friend, if your past was not messy, then I would say you have sat on your couch all day and not tried to go anywhere, do anything or try anything difficult.

Failure is an opportunity to try something again.

Satan likes to make you think it is defeat but you KNOW better!

Don’t let his mind games or manipulative tricks work your head into a web of lies and make you think that you are just too messed up to save.

But, Jesus.

The very person of grace, the exact definition of everything GOOD we don’t deserve all wrapped up into the fingers of the One who made you.

Let your past spur you forward, not make you stagnant.

Let your mistakes remind you of your dependence in Him, not make you feel defeated.

Listen- we all fall off of our bikes now and again.

We become a little cocky after doing a few tricks and we stop looking up at our teacher.

We think we are self-reliant and we bust it.

We mess up. Our knees are skinned and the pain is real.

But that is when our teacher loves to step in and say, “Hey, look at me. There you go, pedal slowly.

I got you.

I know you fell before but that was because you took your eyes off me.

Keep going.

TRUST me.

I will keep you safe.”

This is the thing:  Falling off doesn’t mean we get to settle for keeping the training wheels on for the rest of our lives.

Rough analogy, but you see what I mean.

Life was meant to live and live to the fullest.

And you simply can’t do that when you’re afraid to push the pedals.

Keep your eyes on your teacher.

We all have bloody knees. So take heart and pedal forward 🙂

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:18-19

Happy Late Mother’s Day to my Fashionably Late, Beautiful, Incredible Hero of a Mother.

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Dear Mom,

In honor of you, I decided I had to post this letter a little fashionably late, as it just did not feel right to post it on time 🙂

Seriously though, I know I was unable to be with you on Mother’s Day, so I just wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for being the woman that you are and the role model you are to me in my life.

It’s funny, as you get older, you start to see things from a different perspective and life has a way of making you realize what is truly important.  It has a way of stripping away the BS and showing you who will actually be around forever.

Mom, let me first say, thank you for always being there for me. It goes without saying that I have made many mistakes in the 22 years I have been living so far, and yet not one of them made you mad enough to ever walk away.

I believe your presence is something I have sometimes taken for granted. Now, as I live in your home state of Texas and more than just a “drive” away from the shores of Carolina, I realize how much I miss you.  Of course, I still talk to you ten times a day and feel the need to fill you in on the trivial details of my life, but it is just the unannounced peace that comes with you being in a room- I miss that dearly.

On that same note, thank you for always being willing to listen to the unnecessary, drawn-out stories I provide to you on a daily basis.

Thank you for always being there for me, for crying and laughing with me, and sometimes just sitting with me, as you always knew exactly what was needed.

You may not know this, but remember during my junior year of playing volleyball in highschool and I was not getting any playing time?  Remember how you still came to every single match, while owning your own business and tending to three other kids?

Looking up in the stands and seeing your smiling face as you gave me a thumbs up was the only thing that allowed me to remain confident in my talent. You will never know how much that meant to me.

Thank you for signing me up for Karate in fourth grade even though I said I HATED it. It taught me a great deal of discipline and I learned the value of hard work.

Thank you for re-doing practically every poster I made for any school project. I knew the information but let’s just say that displaying that information and making it look “pretty” was NOT my forte.

Thank you for allowing me to wear umbros every single day in middle school. And I wondered why I never had a boyfriend…  🙂

Thank you for listening to me “practice” my flute, even though it sounded absolutely horrible. Good thing I didn’t try out for the highschool band, you would’ve had to discourage me out of that one.

Thank you for letting me decorate my room however I wanted to and put glow-in-the-dark stars all over my closet ceiling. I guess then is when you realized interior decorating was not my strong suit? I now understand why y’all said my room resembled a Mexican restaurant, with tacky Christmas lights still hanging in July…my bad.

Thank you for laying in my bed and scratching my back after I thought I had lost the “love of my life.” I now see that even though you knew it was for the best, you allowed me to live in my reality and met me right where I was. You didn’t ask me to see my situation from your perspective because you knew I just needed a good cry.

Thank you for encouraging me to write for the longest time, because even though I didn’t listen, I started believing in my own gifts because you believed in them first.

Thank you for repeating the same advice over and over, even when I didn’t listen the first time. Your patience despite my stubbornness was a true display that you never held grudges.

Thank you for bracing dad and calming him before I had to talk to him about my (third?) speeding ticket. But hey, who’s counting right? Our insurance, I suppose. Oh, and thanks for letting me wear your hat so I didn’t have to look at him when I told him. I still laugh at this.

Thank you for always encouraging me to be myself in a world that tries desperately to make us all the same. You always said, “Be yourself because everybody else is taken”.

Thank you for forcing me to confront a few people in my life. You helped me realize that confrontation and transparency are both healthy and necessary. If we never stand up for ourselves, we shorthand the One who made us.

Thank you for sacrificing your time, your sleep, your peace of mind, your sanity, your money, your life- your everything- so that you could be the best mother you could to your four children.

You have absolutely no idea, nor will you ever be able to understand, how much you mean to me mom.

You have loved Jesus, daddy and those around you with an unconditional love that shows the tenacity and resilience that has always shined from the deepest parts of you.

Recently when we were around eachother, someone came up and told me, “You are getting more and more like your mama everyday.”

My first thought: I could never compare but I must be doing something right.

Thank you, mom, for being you.

Your precious heart, selfless spirit and steadfast, strong, stubborn mind will forever be an example to me.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I love you so very much.

Love,

Your Babygirl

P.S. I think you are now more beautiful than ever.

Feeling Alone? Join the Club!

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You know what I think is one of Satan’s greatest tools?

The ability to make us feel alone.

Isolated.

We can be in a crowd of people and feel this way or sitting alone on our couch.  You don’t have to be physically alone to feel that way.

I have allowed Satan to trick me into feeling this way many times before in my life and every single time I felt myself sinking into this vortex, there was only one cure: Jesus.

Cliché.

The response you were expecting me to say? Probably.

But I really, really mean this. And I want you to take it in, because chances are, you will feel alone again, at one point or another in your life.

When we start to feel alone, we put a higher price on temporary satisfaction, because it distracts us from our pain, even if only for a second.

Think about it: people usually chase after all the wrong things (ie: money, girls, boys, drugs, sex, alcohol, cheating, etc) because they feel alone.

This feeling of isolation paralyzes us; it stops us in our tracks and whispers insults in our ears, hoping we listen to them and forget the truth in our hearts.

It says things like:

“You have no friends. People only hang around you because they feel sorry for you.”

“If you were gone, people wouldn’t miss you. You don’t have a purpose.”

“You are weird. You are strange. You will never fit in. Get used to being alone.”

“Your friends like you because you have money. Don’t get it confused.”

“If you really needed something, no one would be around to help you. They don’t really love you.”

I have found that when I start feeling alone or isolated (which is an easy feeling to resort to when you live in an apartment alone and want to have a pity party) , I have to pour His truth into my spirit and take the time to focus on someone else.

I am not suggesting to have some magical way to never feel alone, because inevitably, our hearts are fragile and offensive, so we will feel that way a time or two.

But in my own personal experience, there are two things that always remind me I am never alone:

1.)  Read the Word.  Dig into His truth. Remind yourself that He knows every fiber of your being and you were made with a unique and important purpose. You are loved and He will never forsake you.

2.)  Spend some time serving someone else. Often times, our minds go into these deep vortexes because we spend so much time rehashing and thinking about ourselves. If we serve someone else, we are quickly reminded that this life is not about us. It’s about glorifying Him.

I am not sure why I felt called to write this today, but I hope it is helpful to someone out there!

Can I let you in on a secret?

EVERYONE feels like a “loser” or “unpopular” at some point in their lives.

I’d say it’s about time that you forget your pride and ask for some prayer from your brothers and sisters.

Intentionally go serve someone around you.

Dig into what Your Heavenly Father says about you.

 He promises to never leave you nor forsake you and He does NOT take His promises lightly!

Ever felt alone? Feeling alone now?

JOIN THE CLUB! 

See the irony 🙂 You are NEVER alone, my friend! 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6

No More Yellow Tape.

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In my conversations and writing recently, I have felt a strong push to be vulnerable.

This nudge or rather knowing of what I needed to do was further highlighted when I had the privilege to hear Dr. Brene Brown speak at the Catalyst conference recently.

She is a researcher who studies vulnerability and how our ability to be vulnerable, or lack there of, greatly affects our life.

You might be thinking, “Well, Cleere, isn’t that just an automatic thing everyone must do when we are talking with another person? We are being vulnerable then, right?”.

Or maybe you really know me, and you are thinking, “But you cry like twice a day over sweet commercials or when someone wins a knockout round on “The Voice”…you have NO issue being vulnerable!”

And to that I would say: Emotionally responding to someone else’s situation or circumstances is not where I lack vulnerability, but rather I struggle with letting other people completely in.

Dr. Brown said something utterly profound that really got me thinking: “Vulnerability is not weakness. That is a myth. Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.”

Wow.

The truth is, in our society, vulnerability is not seen as a form of strength.  Actually letting others see what is really going on in our lives would be far too dangerous.

It would be uncomfortable.

It could jeopardize our “perfect person” charicature that we were trying desperately to maintain.

It would make us ….real. Real people with real feelings and real hearts who perform real acts of bravery and experience real failure.

Something that Dr. Brown said that really challenged me was that she always said she would start really entering this “arena of vulnerability” when she was  bulletproof and perfect.

And THEN, she was gonna kick some you know what.

Immediately, I identified with that.

I guess it comes down to, I am willing to have the spotlight on me when I officially feel like there is nothing that could be exposed.

I will enter an arena and be open to failure when I am fully confident that failure is simply not a possibility.

I will allow myself to be afraid when my life is at a point where fear isn’t present.

In other words, I will enter the arena….NEVER.

And the weird part of all of this is, we usually admire most those that are willing to enter the arena and NOT have it all together.

We appreciate, identify, relate and celebrate those who are okay with showing their imperfections.

Vulnerability is beautiful.

It is also scary and usually uncomfortable.

But I am finding more and more that it is absolutely necessary to living a full and happy life.

Being vulnerable allows others to pray for us about things we actually need, allows us to have conversations that aren’t fake or contrived, allows us to live without constantly protecting ourselves from true exposure and most importantly, it reminds us that when we are weak, our Father is strong.

I would argue that those who are afraid to be vulnerable are actually the weak ones.

It takes courage to enter the arena.

I pray that you give yourself permission to be vulnerable with someone today.

I pray that you allow yourself to live openly without putting caution tape around certain parts of your life and that you are reminded being bulletproof never changes lives.

It is putting ourselves in a position to get shot and trusting God with the outcome and judgement- THAT changes lives. 

I challenge you to remove the yellow tape from your life and allow others, as well as yourself, to be okay with exposing your struggles, weaknesses and failures. 

It is okay to be afraid to be vulnerable, but do it anyway.

Pay Attention to the Marbles.

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My brain is bursting with thoughts from every which angle, so forgive me if this blog post sounds confusing/ scattered with ideas.

Today I had the privilege of attending the Catalyst Dallas Conference, where I was able to hear some incredibly fantastic speakers and worship with my man Matt Redman and the David Crowder Band.

Needless to say, it was an incredible day.

I just wanted to slightly de-brief with you guys what was on my heart as I reflected on the topics covered throughout the day and just sat with Jesus for a little while.

There was a theme that kept going through my head…

It was something along the lines of: Make right NOW count.

The theme of the conference is “Make” so many of the speakers have talked about how we can “make our mark” in this world.

Andy Stanley discussed the importance of embracing the current opportunity set before us, despite the unavoidable diversity we will face. He emphasized that leaders are made one response at a time.

So how do we best follow Jesus? By pursuing the current opportunity we are given and trusting Him with the next step.

Jon Acuff dived full-force into the message that completely hit home with me. He said “The biggest thing that stands in our way of doing what God asks of us: We want to be READY.”

WOAH.

I probably should’ve purposely sneezed when he said that or something so I wouldn’t have to be accountable to hearing that reminder 🙂

Just kidding! But really, he highlighted that we will never know the finish line in this life. It’s just not the way the story goes. BUT…we do know the starting line and that line is up to us.

What’s it gonna be?

Craig Groeschel hit the nail on the head when he discussed the three levels of effectiveness of a spiritual leader.  At the bottom of the pyramid is the time where we want to make a name for ourselves, in which we start thinking “I’m good” and believing it’s about us.

The second tier is making a difference, in which we realize how others and our team are key in the “difference-making” we do, and we start to thinking: “Wow! WE are good!”. We get caught up in what our Bible study is doing, or even our charity, and becomes about our actions.

The last tier is making HISTORY, in which we realize “God is good”. It’s always been about Him and it will always be. We don’t matter and He doesn’t need us. Period.  It is when we hit this level of effectiveness that we can see situations as they really are- impossible without Jesus and unstoppable with Him.

Reggie Joyner hit me with a truth grenade as soon as he started talking.

He opened with this: “There are two things everyone must know: You will die sooner than you want to and nobody is going to remember you.”

His point in saying this was to remind us that while our family may miss us when we pass, this life is not about storing up treasures or making a name for ourselves on this Earth.  It’s about leaving a legacy that points to the greatest name of all.

He included a fantastic illustration (just imagine this for a second) in which he put 936 marbles in a jar. Each marble represented a week, in which 936 weeks summed up the time a child is born until they are 18, which is when they usually move out of their parent’s house.

His reasoning behind this was to remind us that life is short. Our jar may seem full at first but as life takes us by surprise, half of our marbles are gone and our window of influence has greatly decreased.

I go through each of these examples from the speakers to show you and to remind myself that there is something we must remember as we start our day, each and everyday: Today only comes ONE time.

How you spend these moments determines the next ones that come. It determines the purpose that you believe for your life, the circle of influence you are able to have on those around you and the legacy that you leave.

Stanley was right: Sieze today’s opportunity. It is here, today, for a reason.

Acuff was on point: You don’t have to be ready for the next step because you have a ready God. Take that leap of faith and trust Him with the outcome.

Groeschel hit the nail on the head: History is made over time, so in order to make history, you must start now. You must pursue God now, in this moment and the next.

Joyner drives the point home: Life is short. We must make time count, over time. Invest in the people of tomorrow now by pointing to the maker of tomorrow’s and you will be remembered for pointing to the keeper of tomorrow’s. 

In other words: Your marbles will be gone in the blink of an eye. Don’t underestimate the influence Jesus can have through you when you remember the importance of your marble jar.

So maybe now you know why right now is on my mind… because truthfully, right now is all we know that we have.

It can not be replaced or remade.

It is here once and with specific purpose.

God is cautious and particular about His details so pay attention. Remember that time is a precious gift many are denied and for that: We must always be grateful for each and every marble that we have.

Make right now count.

Be careful! You might just make history 🙂 

Thankful for an Empty Tank.

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(I don’t have a child but I am slightly resembling this guy at the moment). 

Wow, it has been TOO long!

I’m sorry (not like it wrecked your life or anything) that I completely dropped off the face of the planet there for a while. And just so I can feel better about my absence, I must tell all my readers that I have been out of town for my sister’s wedding.

Previous to that, I was in San Diego for my best friend’s wedding.

And before THAT, I was in South Carolina for my sister’s bachelorette weekend.

Call me Dora the Explorer.

Seriously though, I am straight EXHAUSTED.

 I am kind of at that point where if someone walked into my apartment right now, I would probably mumble to ask them to please get out and if they didn’t listen, they could probably steal my TV and a few other items before I had the energy to do anything.

Have you ever felt that way?

Not just because of physical circumstances but you are just completely out of fuel- emotionally and mentally tired beyond belief?

Maybe a little spiritually depleted too?

And then when you are exhausted, you feel insecure? Or more vulnerable?

Things that wouldn’t necessarily bother you before are getting to you now because you are sensitive and you don’t even know it?

(For example: Someone tells you that you are using the napkin the wrong way and IT HURTS YOUR FEELINGS. True story. Happened to me. Ridiculousness.) 

You react to situations with a more defensive attitude, feeling impatient or angry or just annoyed easier?

I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND.

I think we all do.

Despite what we act like sometimes, we are only capable of traveling so far without needing to refuel.

I have been reminded of two very important things this morning:

I am weak.

He is strong.

Not only have I needed Jesus to help me get my mind and head right, but I truly needed him to insert an IV of energy in me this week!

AND HE HAS!

Being reminded of your weakness is not a bad thing. It is not a personal message that you are not good enough.

Rather, being reminded of your weakness is a call to be intimate with your Creator

It is a personal message that you were never good enough and you will never be good enough without Him but through His grace, you can continue to run the race of life.

Maybe we should stop seeing our times of tire and trial as rough patches that we just want to pass through.

Maybe we should relish those times; sit and dwell in the fact that DESPITE ourselves, despite our inabilities and inadequacies, our God makes us strong.

He gives us energy for the day.

He prepares our body for the ride.

He sustains our mind with peace.

He restores our soul with confidence.

He reminds our spirit of who we are in Him.

He prepares our heart and wraps it over and over in love.

He nourishes our entire being and makes what was dead come alive.

Are you tired?  Exhausted? Drained and just ready to take a nap and call it quits?

I encourage you to cherish this time! It is not one of defeat but rather surrender to your daddy who can completely refill your tank.

Crank open His word and remind yourself of His promises for your life. They stand true in both times of exhaustion and excitement and everything in between.

Praying for your day, friends!!!

Put one step in front of the other. He will renew you! 🙂 

I never thought I would say this, but I must say- I am thankful for an empty tank. It reminds me who refuels me. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” -Isaiah 40:28