Category Archives: Beauty of God

The Beauty of Sitting Down

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “Here is a boy with five barley loaves and two small fish. But what difference will these make among so many?”

“Have the people sit down,” Jesus said. Now there was plenty of grass in that place, so the men sat down, about five thousand of them.

Then Jesus took the loaves and the fish, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. (John 6:8-11)

Did you ever wonder why Jesus had the 5,000 men sit down? Surely it made it easier for the disciples to hand out the bread and fish.  But I love thinking about what it would have felt like to be one of those people following Jesus that day. They were foot-weary, and so famished that it was hard to ignore the gnawing in their bellies.  Yet they were totally excited about Jesus.  They’d seen him do miracles.  His words fed their spiritual hunger.  He made them feel hope, something they hadn’t experienced in a long time.

They probably would have been glad to do something to help produce the bread.  If there were resources, and Jesus had said, “Some of you go pick the wheat, and some of you grind the grain, and some make it into loaves, and some can make a fire and cook it,” they would have gotten right to work.  Or, in their current situation, they would have been happy to help hand out the bread. 

But Jesus told them to sit down.  He was like, “Be still.  Let me do the miracle.  Let me take care of you.”  He didn’t even tell them what he was going to do.  He just got them in a quiet position.

This is a good thing for me to think about, because I would have been looking around for ways to help fix the situation.  Even just a few moments ago, I caught myself trying to micromanage, seeing what might be needed here, making a suggestion there. “But I want to help God move his plan along,” I tell myself.

And, of course, God needs me to be active for him.  But sometimes, he wants me to be still.

So, when Jesus said, “Have them sit down,”  I think he was saying, “You’ve been walking everywhere, following me to this remote place.  You’ve been listening all day to my teaching.  Now it’s time to stop.”

You know, if the men had been standing up, they would have been pressing close to the disciples, trying to be first in line, worrying that the bread might run out.  In sitting down, they had to wait and trust. 

Stop. Wait. Trust. Doesn’t that speak to all of us?

The account of the feeding of the 5,000 is one of the few stories that’s in all four gospels.  It’s widely known.  One thing that makes it so compelling is the way the seekers are described.  We see men with a deep hunger in their souls, making a reckless decision to run after someone into the wilderness.  There’s a sense of desperation, like all their lives they’ve chased after one thing or another, and they’ve finally found what they’re looking for. 

And Jesus has compassion on them and says, “You don’t have to run anymore.  Stop.  Sit down.  I’ll feed you.”  The scope of what Jesus provides is so huge.  The contrast is so dramatic. They go from desperation, to more than enough.   

And we can relate to what those people must have been thinking as they sat on the ground, resting their aching feet, and watched the bread and fish being passed.  They took a portion, ate it and felt some better.  But then more was circulated, and they had another helping.  Now they were feeling good.  But the food kept coming.  So they allowed themselves the luxury of having as much as they wanted.  Ah, their bellies were tight.  They were stuffed.  What loveliness.   It was like being at a king’s table, a feast!

This past Thanksgiving was a first for me.  Usually I cook and entertain.  This year, my son and daughter in law had us over to their house, and they did all of the cooking.  I kept asking my son, “What can I bring?”  And he’d say, “You don’t have to bring anything, Mom.”  He finally let me bring a pie.

It felt like my son was communicating that I’d served him and the family all their lives, and now he wanted to serve me.  It felt like an expression of his love. 

I think that was part of what was going on when Jesus was feeding the 5,000.  It wasn’t just an effort to meet their needs.  It was an expression of love.  If heaven will be like a banquet (Rev. 19:9), then this was a foretaste.  Surely Jesus’s heart swelled when he looked around and saw all of those who were following him.  I think he said to himself, just as he said in Luke 8:21, “These are my brothers, this is my family.”

No wonder he wanted them to sit down and enjoy a feast. That’s what you do with those you love.   

How can today’s red letter verse inspire us?  Let’s be like the 5,000 men, and expend ourselves greatly to follow Jesus.  But then, let’s sit down, and let him take care of us, and do what we can’t.

Here’s one final thought.  It’s in the sitting down that we are able to be present with God.  When I stop for a minute, and connect to God, I picture him like the father in the story of the prodigal son, wrapping his arms around me, so delighted to meet me. 

Now I have an image to add to this — Jesus being ready to feed me.  I’ve been listening to BEMA podcasts on the Old Testament, and one thing I’ve learned is how the Old Testament characters displayed an extravagant generosity, reflecting middle eastern standards of hospitality.   When the angels come to Abraham’s tent, he ran to prepare a huge meal for them, slaughtering a young calf and having Sarah make an estimated 30+ loaves of bread. (Gen. 18)  When Rebekkah offered to draw water for Abraham’s servant’s camels, she ran back to the well as many as 100 times.  (Camels are thirsty!) (Gen. 24)

This is the heritage of extravagant generosity that Jesus lived out with the loaves and the fishes.  He was so eager to give abundantly then.  He still is.  

There’s beauty in sitting down.  It allows us to be still, look to Christ, experience his love and heart for us, and learn to trust. 

It allows us to be filled, inside and out.

Give us today our daily bread.  (Matt 6:11)

He makes me lie down in green pastures.  (Ps 23:2a)

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Filed under Beauty of God, Compassion, John, Love, Peace, Prayer, Red Letter

The Sweet Connection

“God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:24

God is Spirit.  That says it all.  He’s a powerful, invisible entity.  He’s characteristics like love, goodness, wisdom and holiness.  He can’t be contained by space or time.

Jesus says that the way we must worship God is with the part of us that is spirit.  It makes perfect sense.  That inner thing we have that is intangible and dynamic must reach out to connect with like.  It’s what our spirit was made for, and longs for.

And when our spirit connects with God the Spirit, that’s when the magic happens. You know, for so long I’ve felt discouraged in my ability to be like Christ.  I’ve been sure he wants to call me out for a hypocrite.  I’m sure he thinks, “I did it, so you can do it.”  But often I can’t do it, or I don’t want to.  It is very obvious to me that I don’t have Christ’s heart or stamina.

But lately I’ve singing and praising God more.  As as I have, I’ve felt that sweet connection with the Spirit more.  It’s so positive and good.

And it makes me want the sweetness more.  I find myself wanting to read the Bible more, just to be in the spiritual, not to get something out of it.  Because that’s usually how I approach my Bible study, like I’m going to dig and find treasures.  This is great, but it’s different than just being with the Spirit.

I also find that I can take the blissful connection I feel in singing, and extend it into my daily walk.  I can come back to it when I start to feel troubled.

This reminds me that our daily life is to be a constant worship to the Lord.

  • Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 
  • “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name.” Hebrews 13:15

I’m only scratching the surface, but I’m seeing real changes in my heart.  Before, I really wanted to watch television or read books in my free time.  I knew it was an escape for me, a way to get away from the stress of the world.  I knew it would be better to go to God with my stress.  But I often couldn’t figure out how to want to make this happen.  The next time I was tired and used up, I would go to television again.

But now, I’ve found that sweet place of both rest and inspiration, and it’s something I want to do instead.  My desire to watch television has actually decreased.  Now, as I cook dinner, I put on praise music and pray for all kinds of things.  It’s one of my happy times, instead of one of my times of just pushing through.

I say all of this to say that I am feeling now like it is possible to be more like Jesus.  He not only meditated on the Word, he not only prayed, but he worshipped in spirit and truth.  When he went to a quiet place to pray, I think he deepened his sweet connection with God.  And then he stayed in that zone throughout the day.  He didn’t just think of the truth and do right.  He spent time with the Spirit, and that helped him to want to do right.

You know, in my marriage, I can be all about what my husband should be doing for me.  He should help around the house more.  He should pay more attention to me and my needs.  And so on.  But when I think of how much I love him, and just give to him out of that love, it’s so much better.  The other concerns melt away.

That’s the same way I think it is with our relationship with God.  We can pray all the time out of our needs and what we think we need from God.  And, of course, he does want us to come to him with our needs.  But our relationship also needs to be spent in loving him and giving to him.  That’s when it all comes together for us.  That’s when our heart feels full.

Our love needs to connect to his love, our spirit with his.

So let’s work on worshipping in spirit and truth.  Let’s find ways of deepening the sweet connection.  It’s not going to be easy.  Each of us probably has something different that creates the magic for us.  Music may work, but one person likes one song, and another person relates to a different one.  (I’ll put some of my favorite songs below.)  Some of us connect when we’re out in nature.

The point is that we want to be honest and vulnerable with our inner selves, and let that part of us reach out for God.  And then, we want to focus on giving to him, praising him, instead of our needs.

Because God doesn’t just want our obedience.

He wants the sweet fellowship with us.  He wants our hearts and our devotion.

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Filed under Beauty of God, John, Praise, Red Letter

Go On A Date With God!


When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”  John 4:7

The thing that I love about Jesus is that he was always ready.  If I were tired, and sitting there at the well, I might have zoned out.  I might have made excuses to myself why I shouldn’t talk to the woman who came.  Even if I was thirsty, I might have had this negativity, like, “Here I am thirsty, and there’s only a Samaritan woman, so I’m just going to have to suffer.”

But Jesus sees this woman like, “Here is who God brought to me today.  Let me ask her for water and see what happens next.”

Two days ago, I decided to go on a date with God all day long.  I love doing this!!  So I’m doing it every day.  Yesterday,  I went to the grocery story, and since God and I were on a date together, it was a whole different experience.  I remarked to one woman how pretty the sunflowers were that she was buying. She agreed, in delight, and we shared a laugh.  Another woman started talking to me about what was on the shelf, and we chatted for a minute.  I bought some shrimp at the seafood department, and because of my friendly interest, the man behind the counter gave me some cooking tips for it.  I joked with the check out clerk and ended up inviting her to church.

I don’t know when I’ve had so many interactions in the grocery store!  And it all felt so natural.  If I had gone in there with the intent to share, it would have been different. I would have been focused on performing.

But in this case, I was like, “God, let’s just enjoy interacting with whoever is in our path today.”

Maybe that’s how Jesus was when he met the Samaritan woman.

He certainly believed that God was with him.  He knew that God was working.  And he was ready to work with God on whatever God was doing.

Paul said in I Cor. 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers.”  This is a great picture!!  We don’t just work alone for God, we work with him.  And since we love him so much, it’s a sweet adventure to work together.

Let’s have a sweet adventure today.  And if it’s not so sweet, if we face trials, battling them together with God is a good fight.

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Filed under Beauty of God, God With Us, John, Red Letter

When God’s Heart Sings

The Lord takes his place in court;

he rises to judge the people.

The Lord enters into judgment

against the elders and leaders of his people:

“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;

the plunder from the poor is in your houses.

What do you mean by crushing my people

and grinding the faces of the poor?”  (Isa 3:13-15)

In life coaching, we talk about finding and doing the things that make your “heart sing.”  These are the things we’re wired to do, and when we do them, we feel alive and on purpose.  For me, this includes being in nature, discovering insights in the Bible, singing spiritual songs, coming up with ideas, dancing, engaging in the arts.

But I started thinking this week, “What makes God’s heart sing?”

Surely his heart sings as he watches the amazing and everchanging dance of his creation on earth.  As Genesis says, “And God saw that it was good.”

But I think his heart also sings when people are devoted to him and they subsequently flourish, and become all they were designed to be.

Sadly, this is not often the case.

We’re going to come to Isaiah 5 later, but  I want to refer to it now because it lets us know so well what God’s heart is.  God says, “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard.”  He goes on to describe Judah as a field that he planted with careful work and great anticipation, and then asks, “When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”  The passage concludes, “And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”

So that’s why God is angry and promises judgement in Isaiah 3.  The individuals who comprise his dream are harming one another.  His beloved planting is bearing bitter fruit instead of flourishing.

Will there ever be a happy song for God’s heart?  In Zehpaniah 3, God promises,

“Then I will purify the lips of the peoples,

that all of them may call on the name of the Lord 

and serve him shoulder to shoulder. . . .

 I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. . .

But I will leave within you the meek and humble. 

The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord . . .

The Lord your God is with you,

the Mighty Warrior who saves

He will take great delight in you;

in his love he will no longer rebuke you,

but will rejoice over you with singing.

Isn’t this incredible?

There are two things we can learn from this passage.

First, that God intended to purify his people so they would become what they were created to be.  I believe that Christians today are these purified people.  I love this description in Ephesians, 5:26b- 27  “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  What a picture of tender adoration!  Surely, when we are purified through Christ and live holy lives, God’s heart is singing!

Second, that humility is so key.  God’s plan is set in motion when we are humble and trusting. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you.” I Peter 5:6

So I want to remember, and keep this as my goal — to be pure and holy, to be humble.

Surely I want to be the fulfillment of all God’s dreams.  I want to know that I make his heart sing.  I want to think of him smiling as he looks at me.

And know that as I fulfill all I am designed to be, I can fulfill God’s dreams as well.

They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.  Isa 60:21

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  John 15:8

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:10

But I must also face that I too often fall short.  So I remember this picture of God taking his place in court.

Some of the judgment will take place at the last day.  But we also experience a judgment in the form of consequences for our actions every day.

Two nights ago, my neighbor died.  She had a heart attack.  There were five emergency vehicles parked on the street, with lights flashing, as it poured down rain and the EMTs worked to save her life.

And I thought about how I have lived across the street from this woman for nine years, and never built much of a relationship with her.

Sure, she kept to herself.  The time or two I did talk to her she didn’t seem interested in pursuing a friendship.

But now I regret that I didn’t reach out a little more.  If there is anyone I should love as myself, it is my neighbor.  But I let the selfishness and preoccupation of my heart win out.  And the consequence is that I didn’t build a connection that I could have.  God’s love wasn’t spread.  I didn’t really give his field a chance to be developed.

I have a new chance today to live better.

May I seek to make God smile.

May I become a part of his song.

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Filed under Beauty of God, Delighting in God, Isaiah, Make Every Effort, Synchonicity

Lasting Moments

Yesterday I saw my son and daughter in law’s professional wedding pictures for the first time. They were shot as glimpses — clasped hands, a stolen kiss, a playful moment – in an effort to not only capture the event, but the emotions evoked by the moments.

Wedding site

We all want to hold onto the moments. You see it every day on the social media. It’s as if, in our posts and selfies and Instagrams and tweets, we’re proving our significance, that our days have meaning, that we’re not just spinning our wheels here on earth.

Because we feel time slipping so quickly through our fingers.   And there’s this lurking fear that this is all we have.

I read a passage from “Gifts from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that states what so many people feel. Lindbergh writes that we all want to be “loved alone,” to be the “one and only” in someone’s life.  But, she soberly reminds us, “there is no one and only, there are only one and only moments.”

Ecclesiastes seems to say the same thing.  Solomon wrote, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecc 3:11) That describes so perfectly the melancholy we feel in the transience of our poignant experiences.

Ecclesiastes goes on to say, “He has set eternity in the hearts of man.” We are created to long for something that will last. And Solomon wrote in Proverbs, “What a person desires is unfailing love.” (Prov 19:22)

The amazing thing is that God doesn’t leave us bereft in our longing.  In glorious, heart-warming prose He asserts that we are ALWAYS the one and only in His eyes —

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. Hos 2:19

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. Isa 63:7

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isa 54:10

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

God’s love is constant. It isn’t like snapshots or video clips. It’s one long continuous take. We don’t have to feel anxious, like we’re not enough, like we somehow have to hold onto the moments as proof that our life is meaningful.  God’s steadfast love illuminates our moments and makes them extraordinary ones.

Here are some moments from my day. Some of them felt good. Some felt flat. All of them feel better when I remember God’s love.

Somehow, I believe that our connection with Him connects our moments and gives them meaning. They become a part of His pattern, the beautiful design He is weaving through space and time.  They each somehow seem almost as special as the moments from the wedding.

Every day we can chronicle our lives anew, just like this, and feel like our mundane doings are part of something graceful and significant.


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Filed under Beauty of God, Synchonicity

Faithful in Relationships Part 4 — Utterly Awesome!

. . . if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  II Tim 2:13

God is faithful.  Nothing we do can change that.

We will ALWAYS be on His heart.

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.
 Jer 31:20

His love is boundless, endless, measureless.  The more we realize it, the deeper it goes.

Every day we can discover new dimensions of God’s love and righteousness, and be in awe.

God is committed to us.  The question is: Will we be fully committed to Him?

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. II Chron. 16:9

Will we be committed to others?

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Prov 18:24

For this is what our soul craves.  This is what matters.

A God who has our back, who is our everything, who is our delight.

Friends who are partners.

And as we see more and more that we have this, WE ARE faithful, because it is our greatest joy.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you. . . Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live . . . Ps 63

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.  Ps 16:3

We SING and CELEBRATE, just as God celebrates us!

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. Ps 63:7

And when the world seems like dust around us, when chaos rules, when failure is palpable,when we are overwhelmed, the perfection of God that includes faithfulness is a lifeline.

As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Ps 18:30

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.  Deut 32:4

Until finally, we are ready to commit to Him in intimacy our very spirit.  Trembling and vulnerable, we bring it out and lay it into His hands.

Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.  Ps 31:5

As our Savior did, we entrust our lives completely, because He is completely for us.

And when we do, in our Savior, faithfulness is multiplied.

We have the Spirit, an intercessor, forgiveness, freedom from sin, answers to our impossible prayers.  We are thoroughly equipped for every good work.

There is grace upon grace, and every spiritual blessing.

There is faithfulness so deep, so high, so all encompassing, so strong, how can we but walk in peace and fullness of heart?

For as the ultimate act of faithfulness, He gives us His righteousness as our own.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  II Cor 5:21

I will find joy in the LORD. I will delight in my God. He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation. He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness like a bridegroom with a priest’s turban, like a bride with her jewels.  Isa 61:10

tia wedding

tia and Karl


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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Beauty of God, Righteousness

Producing Organic Fruit


The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.  Mark 11

Like Jesus, I REALLY want to see fruit.

I love productivity.  I love accomplishing things.

And I hate feeling like I am spinning my wheels.  The boon and bane of not having a paid job is being able to be “flexible,” which, for me, really means distractable. (Ok, spell check says that’s not a word, but it needs to be.)   I live a life of getting sidetracked.  And when I’m feeling tired, it’s even worse.  I’m sucked into a vortex of puttering.  Ack!

So after vacation, I wanted a new start.  Time to be more productive!  I became more intentional about scheduling my time.

And it worked.  I had d times, coffee with friends, a hospital visit, a Bible study, lunch in Montgomery, someone over for dinner. I wrote the newsletter, wrote an article, did the books, ran errands, organized kingdom kids, oh, and got my toes done.

But later in the week, as I prayed during my quiet time, I was reminded that all of this is nothing if it isn’t accompanied by the sweet soft voice of the Spirit.

It’s like Paul asserts in I Cor 13:1 — “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

We can do great things, but if we don’t do them out of love, they’re just empty efforts.  Love is what turns the cacophonous notes of our actions into music.

And love is only one of the fruits of the Spirit.  This is true for them all.  When we work without the Spirit, it’s like laboring in a garden all day without planting anything.   It’s like running around in a silent movie.  The vibrancy is missing.

Because God created life to be more than empty actions.  It’s a dance.  God plays the music and our souls respond.  Life is the personal experience of God’s art taking shape.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Eph 2:10

For the ground that has soaked up the rain that frequently falls on it and yields useful vegetation for those who tend it receives a blessing from God.  Heb 6:7

There’s a beauty in soaking up the grace God gives us and producing a crop.


And perhaps the best grace He gives is His Spirit.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!  Luke 11:13

This, I believe, is the fruit that Jesus looks for — not just good deeds, but actions that well up from the fruit of the Spirit in us.

“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.”  John 15:5

Today we live in an age where we can live in Christ, and he can live in us.  THAT is the source of fruit.

And back then, even though Jesus’ followers didn’t all have the indwelling of the Spirit, they had the Word, and they still could act out of a heart of love, reverence and gratitude.  That is fruitful.

Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.  Ps 1:1-3

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  Hos 6:6

But we have more.  When we walk in the Spirit, we have this amazing power of life within us.

. . . life is at work in you.  II Cor 4:12b

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,  Eph 3:20

And with this power we can GENERATE.  The fruits of the Spirit do not come back empty.

Love never ends.  I Cor 13:1

We’re productive.

And it’s not this burdensome labor.  It flows.  It’s organic.

To me it’s the most beautiful thing.  God’s glory shining here on earth.

Campus weekend at AU



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Filed under Beauty of God, Having the Right Heart, Mark