Monthly Archives: April 2014

What I’m thinking…

1.  Maybe my purpose is to NOT settle on one sweet spot.  I have been reading “Cure for the Common Life” by Max Lucado.  In it, he talks about how the stream of life constantly “beaches” us on the same shores over and over again.  For me I am either beached on the shore of doing a creative endeavor — like working for Challenger Films, or doing something meaningful, like being a stay at home mom or doing mission work.  I keep thinking that only one of these is what I am meant to do.  But when I do one for awhile, then I want to the other.  I keep trying to do both and balance them.  Maybe I am meant to do both, or maybe I am meant to move from one to another at certain seasons of life.

2.  He is the one who shapes every human heart, and contemplates every work of man.  Ps 33:16  Just a cool scripture.  I love the thought that God carefully designs and creates our hearts, and is somehow involved in everything we do.

3.  Even though I am denying self, my job is to be MORE of myself, not less.  Lucado shared the story of Thomas Merton, who became a monk.  After 13 years his friend visited and was surprised that Merton was “still himself.”  Merton said that a monk’s duty is to be more of themselves, not less.  For me, sometimes I spend so much time denying self, and I sometimes feel that I lose sight of who I am.  What do I do with the bossy, controlling part of myself?  It’s good to remember that God created me in a certain way, and there are ways for me to be the FULLEST of who I am created to be, and THRIVE!

4.  Jesus is at home with me.  He is there, a constant companion in my inmost being.

  • I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ living in me. And the life that I live I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20
  • Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  John 14:23

5.  I am a LIFE COACH!  I have been watching “The Voice,” and thinking about the job the coaches have.  They encourage each individual on their team to work hard.  They bring out the best in that person.  I need to be more of a coach for others.  I am too passive, just letting each person do their own thing.  I need to go out there and spur each of my friends on, help them to find ways they can cross the finish line in victory!

6.  Do things because I want to give my HEART to God.  We have a special contribution coming up, and Mike did a lesson Wednesday night on giving to God because we LOVE to give to Him.  We should show our heart to God when no one else is around.  This is a great focus for ALL areas of my life.

  • People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  I Sam 16:7
  • Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  II Cor 9:7
  • Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, and in truth.  John 4
  • Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.  Ex 25:2
  • The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD.  I Chron 29:9

7.   It’s ALL GRACE!  I was listening to a class by Gary Roberson on Galatians.  He said it’s not grace on one side, and obedience on the other, like two wings of an airplane.  Our obedience is nothing!  It’s ALL by God’s grace — both wings!  God isn’t our “copilot.”  He is THE pilot, the One and Only.

  • For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Gal 2:16
  • God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.   Eph 2:8-9

 

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Filed under Balance, Grace, Having the Right Heart, Synchonicity, Things I Am Learning

Artistic Creation

MilkyWayFalling

I am an artistic creation, the poetry of the God who makes all things amazingly beautiful.

  • For we are God’s handiwork, his masterpiece. . . Eph 2:10

Me with my baby cousin

He put careful deliberate thought into all of the intricacies that would define me, both inside and out.

  • For you created my inmost being. Ps 139:13
  • He is the one who shapes every human heart, and contemplates every work of man. Ps 33:15
  • How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— Ps 139:17

cardiovascular system

I have strengths, characteristics and talents that are orchestrated to work together for maximum effect.  Just like the circulatory or  cardiovascular system, my soul is a complex system, specially designed by God to perform select purposes.

  • created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:10
  • he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.  Ps 33:15
  • all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Ps 139:16

flower

God is a hard worker, and all his deeds are excellent.  Thus, he put concerted effort into my creation, and I am excellent.

  • My Father is always at his work to this very day.  John 5:17
  • And God saw that it was good.  Genesis 1
  • I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. Ps 139:14

Me and Ken

As the object of so much thought and effort, God is invested in me.  He has watched over my life, guiding and shaping me.  He has made me into the most of who I am, who I was created to be.

  • The Lord is my shepherd . . . He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Ps 23:3
  • he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Phil 1:6
  • But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.  John 16:13

Jesus with lamb

And when I went astray and became a slave to vileness,  God sent Jesus to redeem the wonderful work he’d invested so much in — me!

  • While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  Matt 18:12-13
  • the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isa 53:5

reaching out

God redeemed me for a purpose.  I believe I know Him today because He intends for me to save others.  He equipped for this task in ways that are particular to me.  I have ways of reaching others, interacting with them and helping them that are my own tool set.

IMG_4428

God’s ultimate artistic creation is the church.  Just as God created an amazing ecosystem to make plants and animals thrive, he carefully and meticulously designed the church so we can thrive, for His glory.  His dream for the church is my creative dream as well.

  • From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  Eph 4:16
  • Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.  He did this to make the church holy. . . Then he could present it to himself as a glorious church.  Eph 5:25-27
  • For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. I Thes 3:8

 

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Things HAPPEN in the Context of a Relationship

Holding hands

Things HAPPEN in the context of a relationship.

I have been praying to have more of Christ. But somehow I thought that this was something God was going to bestow on me from above. He was going to open the eyes of my heart, infuse me with understanding, expand my head and heart so they can better contain all that is Him.

And all of that can happen.

But. . . then I realized that one of the best ways to experience more of Christ is to spend more time with him. You get closer to someone when you invest in the relationship. Duh.

Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15)

It’s a relationship with God. One of my favorite illustrations of this has always been, In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Ps 5:3) We talk to God, and we expect to hear back from Him. It’s reciprocal.

So I’ve started practicing this. I ask God what to do, and often an answer comes. It is very comforting in many situations where I am stuck and lost in my emotions to realize that I can ask God for a way out, and he will provide it.

Then I realized that this goes much deeper. A relationship is not just conversing, it involves an emotional connection. I need to talk to God, but more than that, I need to express my love to him.

My new goal is to tell God I love him many times during the day. As I’ve begun doing this, I feel so much different, so much better. I care about what God cares about. I want His will to be done. I want others to be freed from their miseries so they can be close to Him. My heart is engaged.

And it came to me that God’s heart is also engaged. If I pray, God doesn’t just sit there like a block. He is moved by me, because that is what love is. He is COMPASSIONATE.  If I am struggling, He hurts for me. If I am happy, He rejoices with me.   If I have faith, He smiles. In every interaction with God, every little conversation I have, there is a reaction from God.

When I am finally able to not merely focus on all my needs, all my burdens, all I want Him to do, I am in a position to receive from God. His love comes upon me like the shining of the sun. He whispers to me that I am treasured, that I’m doing a good job. He tells me he will take on my pain, that he took the lashes for me, that his wounds will heal me. Jesus reaches and takes me by the hand and tells me he gladly died for me, and as I walk, he will NOT let go of my hand, he will be by my side.

Let me bring my burdens and impossible situations into God’s unquenchable light, a power as vast as the universe, a love a thousand times more tender than my own, a sovereignty that cannot be challenged.   I don’t know what to do with them, but He, as my Father, my friend, and the One who cares more than anyone else, surely does.

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How does Satan Get In?

Just for something fun, I have been writing a fantasy book.  It’s about an epic battle between good and evil, and, of course, evil is a main character in the story.  Thus I wanted to study out how Satan enters people’s hearts and gets a foothold.

In my story, the power of evil enters through holes in the soul.

In my story, the power of evil enters through holes in the soul.

Here are some of the Bible characters I looked at, and what their character weakness was —

1. EVE: “I need more.”  In the garden of Eden Eve was not content that what she had was enough. She allowed herself to believe that she needed something else.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. Genesis 3

2. JUDAS:I need to serve my self interest.”  We can speculate a lot about what caused Judas to go to the “dark side,” but what we KNOW is that he helped himself to the money bag. He obviously put his self- interest before God.

he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”  John 13:29

3. ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA: “I want some of this for myself.”   This couple was willing to serve and give to God, but they didn’t desire to give everything to him. 

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?

4. SIMON THE SORCERER: “I need to exalt myself.”  I believe Simon was truly attracted by the gospel, and wanted to follow Jesus.  But on some level, he wanted it so people would think more highly of him, so he could think more highly of himself.

The scripture says Simon’s heart was not right.  He was FULL of bitterness.  Literally, he had the gall of bitterness — he was “bitterly bitter.” He craved the glory that should go to God alone. 

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. . . you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Acts 8:16-23

This passage on Simon shows us what is at the root of so much of our sin: bitterness. We are discontent. . . ungrateful, . . . insecure, and this leads to a bad taste in our mouth that we harbor and succor, because we are sure we NEED more.

See what the writer of Hebrews says about bitterness: See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Heb 12:15

Another wording of this is, “Look earnestly, to make sure that there is not any lack in you of the grace of God. “ When we forget how great and all sufficient the grace of God in our lives, we become bitter.

And here is what I realized: I have to be FILLED, sufficed, with Christ every day, or I will have a need that plays out in everything I do.

Only Christ can fill us.

Satan does the opposite. He keeps us empty, BURNING with a need that begins to consume us.  We keep stoking the flames that always need more and more fuel.

We get so angry that we have that emptiness, that gnawing pain that we keep trying to assuage.   It’s made worse as we look around and see others who seem to have it made, who seem to have it together, and have what they need, while we feel lacking.

The book of James describes this: each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. In our dead, empty lives, we are excited by that thing we think will make us feel vibrant and alive.

I can sum all of this up in two words:  GREED AND NEED.  We want more and think we have to have more.

For me, it’s so hard not to focus on what I think I need, instead of what I have in Christ.  My prayers can become about all the things I think need to change and happen, instead of thanking God for all I have.

Sometimes it helps me to realize that God doesn’t owe me anything.  He doesn’t owe me a comfortable life, a good job, a perfect family, and so on.  He loves me and He wants for me to have good things.  But it isn’t my right to have them.  I am not lacking — far from it.  I

Instead, my attitude should be, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  I Timothy 6:6-7

In closing, I want to share this story in Time Magazine called, “The Simple Thing that Makes the Happiest People So Happy.”  It’s about savoring the moments in life.  The writer of the article says,By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being.”  http://time.com/59684/the-simple-thing-that-makes-the-happiest-people-in-the-world-so-happy/

Isn’t this the definition of being content — the ability to satisfy ourselves with the positive?

How does Satan gain a foothold?  He tempts us to focus on the negative, to be discontent.  He makes us feel as if we have a hole in our life, a hole in our heart.  And that imagined hole actually becomes an entryway for Satan, like an opening in the wall of our house that lets vermin in.

Let us focus on what is good.  Let us be filled with Christ.  He is sufficient.  In Him we have every spiritual blessing.  Let us fight bitterness, insecurity and discontent.  Satan will be left out in the cold.

 

 

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Love and Peace in Peter

What is the book of Peter known for?  Sometimes I don’t remember how much Peter talked about love.  Consider the following verses:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly, fervently, from a pure heart  (I Peter 1:22)

  • Another way of saying this verse:  As we’ve obeyed the truth, our focus is finally not on self, and we’ve discovered how to have genuine brotherly love for one another.  Now love one another with the full extent of Godly love.
  • The first word for love in this verse is “phileo,” and the second word for love is “agape.”  I created this paraphrase above to highlight that it will be natural for us to have some love for our brothers and sisters, but we need to strive to have agape love.
  • Note that having a pure heart is so important to this. The heart must be washed clean of other motivations, selfishness.

Show proper respect to everyone,  love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

  • Note that the word used for love here is agape

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, practicing brotherly love, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;

  • Note that this verse goes on:  “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  I like that there is such an emphasis on giving to those who don’t seem to deserve it.  That is our purpose, why God saved us.  That is how God blesses us, when we are kind and giving to those who are ugly to us and others.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  (I Peter 4:8)

  • The word used for “earnestly” here, and in I Peter 1:22, actually means to extend, to stretch out.  It makes me think that as we love, we need to love others to the fullest extent we can.  We need to extend ourselves to love others who take more effort to love.  We need to push our hearts.  **We need to stretch ourselves to love as we know we are loved.  (John 13:34)
Extend yourself to love others as you are loved.

Extend yourself to love others as you are loved.

I love how Peter talks about PURSUING PEACE:

. . . let him seek peace and pursue it. (I Peter 3:11)

Paul and the writer of Hebrews also talk of pursuing peace.  Here are some other places in the Bible where the same Greek word for pursue, “dioxato,” is used.

  • Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Heb 12:14
  • See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. I Thes 5:15
  • So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.   Rom 14:19

Thus, we need to PURSUE, make it our goal, be intentional, to foster peace.

 

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Four Things that Count

What counts?  Often, it’s NOT what we expect.

Contrary to the messages we get from all around us, it’s not the American Dream lifestyle — money, prestige and possessions.

I just watched a video on a man nicknamed “Slomo” who had all those things and was miserable.  He had a successful career in neuroscience, but he gave that all up and pursued the one thing that was spiritual to him:  rollerblading by the beach.
slomo

Now I wouldn’t recommend skating as the ultimate spiritual pursuit, but Slomo did recognize that he had built his life around meaningless things, and reached for something better.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/slomo.html?_r=1)

Jesus loved to turn people’s expectations upside down in order to show them what really counts.  Mark 2 is full of examples of this.  People expected Jesus to heal a paralyzed man, and instead he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  He called a tax collector to follow him, and ate dinner with sinners.  He didn’t fast or keep the Sabbath as they thought he should.

Jesus showed that what is of genuine importance is being forgiven — being right with God.  It’s not just legalistically following the law, but having mercy, caring for others and meeting needs.

Paul also had his expectations turned upside down, and more than that. He went through major upheaval.  He was the most zealous of Jews, and he persecuted Christians with a passion, “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3)

Then, Paul had a wrecking ball kind of encounter with Jesus, and his entire perspective and life changed.

See what he wrote later in Galatians about what really matters:

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:14)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Gal 5:6)

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. (Gal 6:15)

So what counts?

  1. Love  I was just taking to my son, Max.  He has a free weekend coming up, and he decided to go see his grandfather in Florida.  There are many things he could have chosen to do with that free time, but he felt that this was most important.  He chose love.
  2. Prayer.   We are so excited that our new church leadership couple, Mike and Marge, are here.  Last night Mike said, “Whatever we do, it must be driven by prayer.”  He doesn’t plan to do anything on his own power.  He doesn’t plan to run after his own ideas.  He wants to pray so much that whatever he does, whatever direction he takes the church in, he knows that is God’s plan for it to go in that way.  Mike and Marge choose prayer.
  3. Being a New Creation.  Mike preached this past Sunday on  how each of us has a miracle story of what Jesus has done in our life — something we could not have done on our own.  He shared this quote by Ian Thomas: “The only explanation for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Jesus Christ.”  We all need to choose Christ.

Today, I am trying to make a decision about taking a part time job.  And the question of what is most meaningful plays a big part in my decision.  I haven’t had a job because I have been helping people discover what is truly important and meaningful in their lives.  And doing this is what is most important and meaningful to me.

Yet there is this very loud part of myself that wants to accomplish, wants to be recognized, wants to be validated, wants to use my talents.  As I am thinking about this, I am meditating on another quote by Ian Thomas:

“The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you — your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or you anything — then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.”

Can my life only be explained in terms of Jesus?  Do other people know the parts of my life than can only be explained in terms of Jesus?  Or do I want people to see the success, the personality, etc. that reflects ME, not God?  How much of my search for a job stems from my desire for validation, and is this desire legitimate?  How much of my desire to accomplish is just the way God made me, and something I should accept?

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions, but I have come to one conclusion:  What counts is being GOD-DRIVEN, not SELF-DRIVEN.  I only want my life to go in the direction God wants it to go.  I need to trust in God, as I lay everything at His feet in prayer, that He will be directing me as He wants me to go.  I am at peace.

God has been the driving power through all history.  Even the most powerful of men are at the mercy of the Lord. 

  • (The King of Greece) will consider himself to be great and destroy many people when they don’t expect it. He will oppose the Commander of Commanders, but he will be defeated, though not by any human power.  Daniel 8:26

Let me be humble before Him, not defined by my own accomplishments.

  • Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do. I’ve come to call sinners, not people who think they have God’s approval.  Mark 2:17
  • May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

In closing, I want to share a video about a young man who discovers what counts.  It’s actually a Thai life insurance commercial.  In it, everyone shakes their head at the young man who gives to others as he goes about his day — sharing his food with a dog, placing money in the cup of a beggar girl, helping an elderly woman push her vendor cart.    Why does he gain by doing that?  What will he receive?

The end of the commercial answers those questions: “What he does receive are emotions.  He witnesses happiness. Reaches a deeper understanding.  Feels the love.  Receives what money can’t buy. A world made more beautiful.”

 

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Through the Mountain

Tunnel

“The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!” Mark 1:27

Jesus amazed people because he taught like he had authority. This was not the way the other teachers taught. They mainly focused on rehashing existing teachings of respected rabbis like Hillel. But Jesus had completely NEW thoughts, and even more, he spoke directly and emphatically, as if speaking for God.

And we all know that Jesus DID have authority. He said in Matthew 28, “All authority has been given to me.”

But what I have been growing in lately, is realizing that I have a measure of authority too. Jesus said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:12-13)

  • “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matt 7:7
  • This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Acting with authority assumes that things WILL happen as a result of what we say and do. Having this attitude makes such a difference in how I approach my day. I don’t just throw something on to wear, I dress for success. I pray with strength and excitement. I approach each activity with anticipation.

And it brings into contrast that I haven’t been living my life this way, it’s been dull, self-indulgent and lackadaisical. I do a few good things, then I surf Facebook for a time. I drift about doing the tasks that I feel like doing at the moment, and put others off. Then I feel vaguely rotten – unproductive and squishy.

I realized that I need to exemplify this verse: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (I Cor 9:24-27)

I’ve been fighting like a man beating the air!  I’ve been way too aimless, spinning my wheels.  The thing I lack is strong focus and purpose behind my day, from start to finish.

And Satan wants this. Satan wants us to beat the air. He wants us to be distracted by self- indulgences, to float through life. Because then we lose our passion.

Satan will steal our life, not through catastrophe, but through making us dull.

So I need to act with authority, having focus and purpose.  I need to let my passion for God, the church, and helping others be my driving force.

I need to believe that I will be effective.

What was it Jesus said we can do?  We can move mountains!  “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20)

I don’t need to feel ineffective. I can feel strong and sure, because I am a child of God, and he wants to graciously give me all things, and because Jesus is interceding. (Romans 8:32,34)

Through prayer, in accordance with His will, I can direct God’s mighty and awesome power. “Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.” (James 5:17-18)

Recent storm in Texas: God's power!

Recent storm in Texas: God’s power!

It’s like I wrote in a song one time:

And my friends I pray,
Like a hose with a spray,
Directing grace your way,
Again and again.

And I may not see the mountain move, but I believe as I pray and God acts, a way is being chiseled through the mountain.

Let me not be distracted by self-indulgence.  Let me not beat the air.  Light is slowly advancing into darkness, like the encroachment of dawn.  I can bring people into the glorious presence of God, where anything is possible.  I am a fellow worker with God, and each step of life can be vibrant and meaningful.

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Faith, Relationship with God