The Astonishingly Amazing Thing I Know About You

Stacey 2015

This world has been given only one chance to experience the irreplaceable beauty you bring to it. Place the fingerprint of your presence on every life you touch: your family, your friends, the stranger whose heart was lifted when you said hello to them; the hug you gave to the person who hadn’t gotten one in weeks. The world spins 7 billion+ people around, yet nobody in the universe has your fingerprint. Not. One.

Think of the ears that heard your voice sing, the eyes that smiled at the painting you did, the heart that felt the touch of your hand and the music of your laughter ringing in the atmosphere. Remember the smile only you can smile; the hurting and broken souls you led to the foot of the cross and into the arms of their Savior because of the power of your testimony.

Give everyone you touch something beautiful and warm to reflect upon when they sit and watch every sunrise. Give them something to be thankful for when they think of you after the world releases its sad and deep sigh when it has to say goodbye. Pause and remember your great worth. Remember who you are, for there is One who wouldn’t trade you for treasures untold.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. -Luke 12:7

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet. -Hebrews 2:6-8

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Trust me? ;)

So you know that exercise that’s often done to demonstrate trust for a partner or friend where you fall back and (hopefully) they catch you? It’s sometimes called a “trust fall.” It’s pretty unnerving facing the other direction feeling nothing behind you, yet allowing yourself to tip backwards into emptiness. The anticipation of the feeling of their arms grabbing you out of the air is insane! In those couple of moments, all I can think about is how much it’s gonna totally stink if they step to the side and let me plummet to the earth!

As a kid, I remember my friends and I would ask each other, “do ya trust me?” before making each other prove it by doing this exercise. I had my share of being the prankster and moving out of the way as well as being the one picking myself up off the ground to chase the person who dropped me!  But I think those brief moments of doubt are the point of the exercise. When they catch you and you’re safe in their arms, you remember why you should never have doubted they’d be there for you.

Okay, so what if your trusted partner misses? I mean, not on purpose. What if they genuinely tried to catch you and lost their balance or misjudged how far away you were? What if you came crashing down almost as hard as their spirit as they watched helplessly? Even though they didn’t mean to let you go (hopefully!), it could certainly happen. We are only human, right?

I want to fall. Not to the ground like the scenario above, obviously! But I want to feel that I can fall so hard, so far, so freely, eyes closed and arms way too wide to catch myself as even the air swiftly moves out of my way to let me go. The freedom of spreading my arms wide in surrender with no worries or concerns of what could happen next is precisely what I need when the pressure of life closes in. That pressure that can be so overwhelmingly intense that it squeezes until it crushes – those are the times we most desperately need to be able to fall.

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.                         Psalm 46:5

Most of us have at least one or maybe even two people in our lives who we’re pretty confident would be there with open arms should we fall. That’s a wonderful thing if we have that, and they should be cherished for the loyalty they’ve shown to us. As sincere as they are, not a single one of them could guarantee without a shadow of a doubt that they’d never, ever drop us.

Obviously that usually has nothing to do with their devotion to us but, instead, has everything to do with the inevitable destiny of man to just fail sometimes. It can be so sad and painful when we do, too. But thank God for a Savior who didn’t fail. Thank God for the One who never will.

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.   Psalm 118:13

Thank God that we can free fall knowing that He is behind us standing strong. We can free fall deeply in love with Him with never a hint of fear of rejection and lean on Him in trouble with no worries of being judged. We can free fall so far knowing that before we ever reach the bottom, He already has a perfect plan to lift us up again. How does the saying go? “The bigger the giant, the harder the fall” or some variation of that, right? In our world as followers of Christ, we can rest assured that the harder we fall, the bigger He is as we spread our arms wide and surrender to His power to be made perfect in our weakness.

…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”        2 Corinthians 12:9

 The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.               Psalm 145:14

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.         Isaiah 42:3

Peripheral Vision – Those Times We Lose Focus

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23

I’m not that fond of eye exams. Well they’re far better than being at the dentist, but I definitely don’t look forward to them. The regular vision test where you just cover one eye and read the letters is okay, but when we get to the part where you have to wait in agonizing silence for that annoying puff of air to be shot into your eye for the glaucoma test – now THAT is not my cup of tea. (And why does it scare me EVERY. TIME? I mean, I know it’s coming. Yet I still jump. Why IS that?)

Anyway, I’m thankful for the smart machines and doctors who help ensure the health of my natural eyes and vision. You know, I’ve discovered that it’s also extremely important to ensure our spiritual vision health. Odd maybe…well let me explain.

So Random House dictionary defines peripheral vision as “all that is visible to the eye outside the central area of focus.” Naturally, that is the way we see out of “the corner of our eye” as we sometimes say. It helps us see more than what’s directly in front of us, assists us with sensing danger and helps us maintain our balance.

Now, come back with me to the optometrist’s office. Another test they do is the one that measures our peripheral vision. (This one also annoys me, unfortunately). It’s the one where you rest your chin in that cold little plastic cup and peer through the machine at a plain white screen with a black X or dot. Then they give you this little remote with a button on it which you are to press when you see the squiggly lines pop up in some random place on the screen. So it ends up feeling like an angry game of Space Invaders, but it serves its purpose, I suppose.

In the natural sense, peripheral vision is pretty important! But when I consider the fact that we are called to fix our eyes upon Jesus while we run this race, why would I want peripheral vision in the spiritual sense? Don’t those dumb squiggly lines mess me up when I’m trying to focus on my goal? I don’t want to focus on anything but Him! Even when I really want to, it’s so hard sometimes to will myself to just fix my eyes on Him. I can’t deal with all these things in my peripheral vision. Well, not without the Light.

You see, in order to see with our natural eyes, we need light. It reflects off of an object and enters the eye. It’s focused, converted to electro-chemical signals which are then sent to the brain to be interpreted. (Do I remember all this from Anatomy class? No, my friend. And thank you, WebMD). 🙂 So along with our peripheral vision, we obviously have central vision as well. This is the vision that is focused straight ahead, not to the side. Light rays fall directly on the retina and forms our sharpest point of vision. So again – why would I be given peripheral vision when it just makes me stumble spiritually?

Well, there’s the fruit. You know – the garden, the serpent, and two greedy people with the gift of free will. Yeah, them. I’d say they introduced some pretty serious issues. Man was not called to sin – man called sin into the world. And here we are now, still, with the freedom to choose life or death. But you and I serve a God who reaches His hand down to us when we’re sinking, helps us up when we fall and shifts all that peripheral chaos into something good.

It’s okay to have peripheral vision. Sin, fear and distractions are not good things, obviously. But God takes every side step, every wound and every missed chance and uses it to shift our focus back to our central vision. If I never fell, I’d never understand the concept of rising up again. If I’d never sunk before, I’d never know the relief and peace of being pulled back to the surface to breathe again. And if I didn’t have the freedom to choose, I’d just be an insincere machine with no heart. Even the perfect and spotless One had the freedom to choose to be the Savior of the World or to save himself! We are not called to be robots, but instead, were given hearts and intellect and beautiful emotions that enable us to love – along with the choice to do so.

With our natural eye, we can look straight ahead yet still see 170 degrees around us. If we focused 45 degrees to the left or right, we’d probably either fall over something or start heading in that direction. Just because we can see what’s over there doesn’t mean we are to focus on it. When Peter took his first step onto the water, he was very much aware of the wind. Trust me – they were in the middle of a storm freaking out thinking they were going to die, so I’m pretty sure he knew about the torrent around them. But he took his first step while keenly focused on the Light. Although he was focused, he did not suddenly lose his ability to perceive what was around him. But he did not let his attention rest there in his peripheral vision. Similarly, when he diverted his attention away from Jesus, he did not lose the awareness that He was there. He sunk because his gave his attention to the storm surrounding him.

I haven’t lost the ability to recall my mistakes and failures. I still know I said the wrong thing last week, I can’t seem to get that one thing right and I am pretty sure I’ll mess something up again in the near future. Focusing on that stuff will either drag me backwards into a sea of guilt, make me sink into despair today or freak out about the storm that might happen tomorrow. It’s not the peripheral vision that causes me to stumble. It’s my choice to immerse myself in it and pay it my attention that causes the fall.

So we need our vision to be corrected. We need our spiritual eyes to be healthy so that we can focus on what we need to see. When our eyes are opened and we allow the Light to flow in, it will come into perfect focus and convert everything so that it can be interpreted into the beautiful image we were called to see. When the light within us is darkness, how great is that darkness! But when the light within us is full and bright, how incredibly marvelous is that?!

 

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that shines light on one’s inmost being. Proverbs 20:27 

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2   

A reward waaay better than chocolate milk…

Photo Credits: by Wally Gobetz – Boston: Boston Marathon Finish Line

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Revelation 22:13

 

 

At the beginning of the race, thousands laced up trying to contain the adrenaline that was about to fuel them for the next 26 miles. They  may have motivated themselves by thinking about their reward that was waiting for them at the finish line: a monster glass of chocolate milk, a yummy donut, a cool shower, or maybe even a medal to wear proudly. What an amazing feeling it must have been to those who had trained and trained and trained some more just for that one day! God was there. I’m sure that the Believers (and maybe even some non-believers) among the thousands preparing to run began to call upon our Lord to be there with them, mile after mile, and to provide His strength so that they could endure to the end. Nobody could have expected just what the end of the Boston Marathon would bring. There was an enemy waiting at the end. BUT… (there’s always a BUT GOD…)

God was at the beginning, and he was also there at the end. Yes, it was a heart-wrenching end that changed and even claimed lives. Many runners crossed the finish line and yet didn’t stop running, but kept pressing through after a grueling race to go straight to the hospital to give blood. My pastor pointed out that you and I also have to keep running – not to give our blood, but to stay covered by the blood that Christ gave for us so that we may have life! I invite you to watch the entire sermon by clicking the link below if you want to hear this amazing, encouraging, and powerful message. I watched it during my morning run on the treadmill, and it was just the reminder I needed: that the enemy often moves in for his attack when we are just about to breakthrough, just about to cross over into something wonderful. BUT GOD… He is there when the sun is shining, and He’s there in the darkness too. Our strong tower and our refuge – our comfort. How blessed we are that we can rest in the fact that not even the most cunning attack planned by the enemy can keep us from His promise to us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus today. He wore a crown of thorns to ensure that on that sweet day, we could wear a crown of gold…and we WILL receive our phenomenal reward. Now THAT is wonderful news, brothers and sisters!

…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2

See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it…  Revelation 3:8

 

The Finish Line – Pastor Tim Fisher, Covenant Life Church International

http://vimeo.com/64714621

 

 

 

 

 

Why Jesus and dry erase markers are awesome…

But as for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause. Who does great things – and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. Job 5:8-9

I love you, O Lord, my Strength. Psalm 18:1

I’ve been putting some serious miles on my favorite blue sneakers. You see, I’d been considering taking up running again for a while…but then excuses and 5am alarms would usually push those runs off my agenda for the day. But then my boss (who is an amazing long-distance runner) completed his 2nd ultramarathon – the monstrous JFK 50 Miler, and I found some hidden inspiration to start hitting the pavement again. In order to help return my morning runs to habit, I’ve had to continue to fuel that inspiration in as many ways as I can think of. One of them includes dry-erase messages all over my bathroom mirror. It’s covered  right now with motivation, and, of course, the best source of encouragement ever: the Word.

I have a pretty big mirror that pretty much takes up an entire wall in my bathroom so I figured I’d have tons of room if I started writing on the outside edges while leaving the center clear – you know, for grooming, makeup,  broccoli in the teeth and the like. But as time passes, those perimeter messages have begun to close in so that I’ve really only got one small window in the center that’s…well, almost big enough for my face. But how could anybody ignore the uplifting messages with letters sprinkled across their forehead?? You’re bound to get something out of it while peering through the O’s…

Anyway, besides the running encouragement, I’ve written scripture that comforts me, reminds me, and lifts me up as I face the day. Everyone needs to be reminded that they are loved, and of his/her identity in Christ. Everyone needs some extra fuel sometimes as we push through tough days and skip along through the sunny ones. As I have stood in front of that mirror with the Word of God across my face, I have remembered that I am covered. Seeing those words as part of my face makes me remember that He also has written His word on my heart, and I can carry it around with me at all times, safely tucked away so that it is not lost, but never hidden from sight. Since He has said that He is in me and I am in Him, I’ve remembered that the reflection before me is not just of Stacey, but one of the Most High God – in whose image I have been made. Now that’s some good stuff!

So you see, any creeping negativity or lie cannot survive when we think about these things. If there are some things in us that need to go, God will make it clear to us if we will listen closely and look for Him in that reflection. Low self-esteem and weak, unhealthy body image starts to evaporate with the steam on the mirror when we remember that beauty in his sight is far deeper than physical appearance:

…with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:6

Hope and love and faith overflow when we allow ourselves to evaporate too, and let his image be reflected instead. I’ve found that even if somehow I get out of the house on my way to work in the morning with some sort of negative or defeating thought that needs to be taken captive, he will ask me throughout the day/week/month, “do you see it yet?” He doesn’t give up and turn away when I’m blinded by the cares of life, but He continues to show me the person reflected in the mirror until my eyes have been opened and my life shifts into His will for me. He will ask me, “do you see it yet?”… until I see things like impatience and lack of faith within myself. He will ask me, “do you see it yet?”…until I remember that I don’t have to do this alone, but that He is with me, even in the dark. He will ask me “do you see it yet?…until I see in myself what HE sees me.

Sometimes we just don’t see it. Sometimes we forget. And when we have those days which feel like we are set back 2 miles with every 1 mile we get ahead, we can turn to Christ for our second wind to push through. With aching calves and feet, and with lungs burning with every freezing cold inhale, we can know that there is always an aid station not far off if we would just keep pressing.  And when we have come to our finish lines, the reward of being taken up to His side far, far outweighs the pain of the race.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…2 Corinthians 4:17

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which The Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

You’ve got it goin’ on!

 

The guitar riff from Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne is rocking in the background while this hottie mom steps out of her Cadillac SRX. The camera switches to the young (and also hottie) guy across the street who is completely mesmerized by her graceful presence. She smiles to herself as she drives away from the school looking in the rearview mirror completely aware of what just happened. Now there are a few things that really catch my attention about this commercial. For one, hel-LO?! It’s an awesome song. 🙂 Next, she’s a mom portrayed as a jaw-droppingly beautiful lady. Looking closely, you can see that she has a ring on her finger, and she’s dressed like she’s probably on her way to her very important corporate job. This is completely different than the portrayal of attractiveness we typically see on television. She’s dressed with class! Her clothes aren’t too small or too scant. She doesn’t appear that she’s trying to catch anyone’s attention with her strikingly good looks…she’s just dropping her kid off at school and going to work as usual! Kudos to Cadillac for giving us a really great (yet unfortunately atypical) image of beauty on TV! Love this.

So what’s up with our society that we are tricked into believing that only super-skinny, half-dressed, photo-shopped women and men are the definition of beauty? I mean, we can look our best and take care of ourselves without being over-the-top. And for my guy readers, it’s totally cool if you know how to dress, want to hit the gym so you can stay in good health or look amazing for your beach vacation. I mean after all, you’ve got it goin’ on! There is nothing wrong with being your best you and feeling good about yourself. But the shallow and materialistic world we have to live in can be damaging as we (and our kids) compare our own bodies and lifestyles to the ones we see on TV and in magazines. It really stinks, to say the least. We have to be really careful what we let get past our filters. And if we’re parents, we’ve got a big job as the gatekeeper to all that is allowed into our children’s lives as well.

Words are spirit! Have you even had a song sticking in your head all day that drives you crazy? And no matter how much you try to hit Pause or Stop, it’s like it’s stuck on Play? Sometimes that’s a good thing when we really have a song on our spirit that is encouraging or leads us to the cross during a tough time. But that very same concept can apply to a negative or inappropriate song if it’s not filtered. Even when we aren’t really consciously listening to stuff, it can be transmitted and deposited.

Shut it down. I’ve learned that just because we have to live in this world doesn’t mean we have to take it in. It doesn’t have to be part of us. My pastor always says, “just because you get a bird stuck in your hair doesn’t mean you have to let it build a nest.” Guard your spirit. Protect your heart. Check and see what The Word and The Way has to say about what’s beautiful. After all, can you think of another opinion that matters more?

Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…” Hebrews 4:12

They are not of the world even as I am not of it. John 17:16

 

 

All that glitters…10 Reasons for Christian Singles to share the hope we have

crosskeyboard  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.   1 Peter 3:15

So if you’ve been a single Christian for any amount of time, you realize that this thing is waaay more than just finding someone compatible who isn’t rude, self-centered, abusive, an addict, psychotic, or a serial killer. It’s even more than finding someone who is able to provide the basic necessities for a generally happy and healthy life for themselves and a family. We are on a mission to find the mate who will pray with us, praise and worship the Lord with us, and create a loving home environment completely centered on Christ. That is one of the greatest hopes of a single Christian man or woman! Aaaaand yet in the process, we also chop our prospects by more than half. Actually, it may be more accurate to chop that half into one or two more halves to get down to the right number.

I’ve met lots of people during my single years who were pretty decent – some even very kind, bright, and loving people. But when I take a step back and consider just how many were truly walking with Jesus and had real potential to consider forever with…well, I don’t even need all the fingers on one of my hands to count those. Well, what in the world is a guy/gal to do? Well we already know that hitting the local bars and clubs isn’t going to produce anything but trouble for our lives, so we continue to avoid those ridiculously lifeless situations. And all you have to do is turn on your tv or jump on your Macbook for five minutes and you’ll see a commercial boasting the bliss of smiling and beautiful people who met the love of their lives on Match or eHarmony or something. Well, my friends, I’ve given that idea a shot or two and although it certainly does work for some of the people some of the time, your odds are just as low (if not lower) than just walking around Wal-Mart with a big pretty smile on your face and seeing who turns down the cereal aisle.

The point is, whichever way someone pops into our lives, we’ve got to be very tactful about how we present ourselves in those early conversations. And you know something I’ve realized? It’s RARE and interesting to find a dating profile which even mentions God’s name. I mean, some of the questions you answer are things like “what are the 6 things you could never live without?” or “what are the 3 things you are most thankful for?” Do you know that I was pretty hard pressed to find more than a handful who said God or Christ or Faith? Amazing. That’s just unfathomable to me. So when I do see one, I always commend them for not being afraid to put it out there and let their faith shine. My dear reader, if you are a Christian trying online dating, read your profile carefully. Can they tell you are a Christian by what you say? Do you stress the importance of him in your life? That doesn’t mean every other word has to be God, but can someone truly read what you wrote and know that you REQUIRE a Christian mate? Or does it just say “Christian or Other” in the religious preference category? I openly admit, I have gone back before and made some changes to my profile so that I am transparent about what I know and what I am looking for. I think I got a lot less messages that way…but you know, I’m totally ok with being weird.

Everyone is on their best behavior at the beginning, looking their best and putting their best foot forward (or straight into their mouths depending on the situation). Well the grass isn’t always greener where all that glitters is gold and whatever you let go comes back to you if it was meant to be………or whatever clever cliche you want to paste onto it. Here’s what I mean: just because someone is typing “Christian” in the religious preference box online doesn’t always mean much. And certainly, just because someone comes to your church every once in a while, on Mother’s Day, Easter, and Christmas doesn’t mean they are following the Lord. Well how ’bout this: even if they come every single WEEK – it doesn’t even necessarily mean that! Listen carefully to the words they select. Observe their behaviors and habits, watch how they treat people who maybe aren’t as beautiful or wealthy or holy as they are.

Wow. I’ve gotten some really interesting ones recently. If I’ve just met someone, at some point early on, I’m saying something to make it clear that I am a Christian woman and I am only interested in seeking a solid friendship which hopefully will lead to a long-term, Christ-centered relationship and marriage. (Ok, not in those words, but something to that effect in numerous sentences with effective voice inflection and appropriate punctuation and grammar). 🙂 I always ask about their walk, what church they attend, if they are involved in any ministries, etc. … here are 10 of the unbelievably stupid responses I’ve gotten. And folks, YES…they are 100% real:

  • Church? Oh yea. Church is cool. I don’t have a problem with it at all.
  • Yea. I like church.     …….    ………….. I believe in Christ. He was a good man and did good things.
  • Oh, my profile says “non-religious?” I set it up real fast. I should probably change that, huh?
  • Christian?? So are you like, real religious and good and stuff?
  • Well, my take on religion is that it is just a way for people to be controlled and live in fear, and if you really take a look at history, you will see that the freedom of the people was stripped away from them and they were manipulated by the…”      *click.  Dial tone.
  • I’m actually Catholic. Well my family is Catholic and that’s how I grew up. But we don’t really practice all those traditions or anything that much, but I never take this cross off my neck.
  • I’m not really religious or part of like a denomination, I’m more “spiritual.”
  • What do you mean my new job is a blessing? Blessing?? I worked for it. I’m a self-made man.
  • I really admire how much you love the Lord. That’s so inspiring! I’ve always prayed for a Christian woman and …  …   …  I really want to cuddle with you on the couch right now. I wish I could kiss you, you have such beautiful lips. What are your plans tonight?
  • Well I don’t go to church like I should right now, but I’m going to do better. But I bet you didn’t know that I am actually an active member of a church in California!                          (P.S. he has lived in Maryland for over a year).

 

So you see, this stuff is no joke!! Sometimes I shake my head, sometimes I laugh, and sometimes it saddens me. I’ve often prayed for them, actually. We are so different, brothers and sisters. We truly are the minority. I can only have hope that somewhere along the way, we lead someone to Christ with our exemplary lifestyles. I hope that, even when they don’t come CLOSE to being a match for us, that our testimony and our dedication to following our Lord will ignite the tiny spark that it takes to make them lift their eyes to him. We shouldn’t be arguing with people even if we’re right, we shouldn’t be forcing principles and scripture down people’s throats, or flaunting our righteousness with pride. That’s not even the gospel of Jesus Christ. …But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…1 Peter 3:15   We lead with how we live our lives, the words that we select, the way we treat people who may not be as beautiful or wealthy or holy as we are. Sometimes that is how hardened hearts are softened and eyes and minds are opened. Sometimes that is how people become absolutely enthralled with that “something” that is different about you, and ask you how you manage to do it. Ok yea, so I’m still single. 🙂 But maybe, just maybe, it made someone stop and think…think on these things…or sit still and watch the sun rise and realize that it is the work of a magnificent and powerful God who loves us. Maybe.

…that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.   Philemon 1:6

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.   Philippians 4:8

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