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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Our country is still in mayhem after the assault on the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. What aftereffects will occur, it’s difficult to say at this time. But, as a woman of faith, this juncture cannot be ignored.

Naturally, we can all pray: for peace, for wisdom, for understanding, for renewal, for justice, for explanations. And yet, despite our prayers, the question of “why” dominates my mind. How has violence become the only avenue for expressing frustration and inequity?

Today, I was meditating on “Psalms for Praying” by Nan C. Merrill and in Psalm 1 (her interpretation) presumably the last verse, she writes, “. . . Love’s penetrating Light breaks through hearts filled with illusions: forgiveness is the way.”

Another scripture says, “A good man [person] brings good things out of the good stored up in his [or her] heart, and an evil man [person] brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his [or her] heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” [Luke 6:45, NIV]

An illusion misleads intellectually and its intent is to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature (see Webster’s dictionary). This is where we are now. We can tell that illusions exist because of the words spoken and quite honestly, the actions (the violence). Illusions have found root in many hearts and, in my mind, the only way to break such illusions is by an act of God, or literally, the pure Light of the Christ.

People are regularly captivated by clever magicians who can transform what we believe to be truth into something else. And that something else becomes the replacement reality. I cannot dissuade someone who has fully engaged an illusion as real.

I suppose I may be steeped in illusion as well, but of another kind certainly, where love guides. My faith in God keeps me in the “Way,” but what about the people who read the same Bible I read, pray to the same God I do, and yet justify behaviors and words far outside my understanding of the verse, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:37].

According to cult de-programmers, it can take up to five years to bring a loved one out of the deep influence of a charismatic leader or group. This process is about unconditional love, questions, and patience. Illusions do not fall like a curtain, but in pieces and cracks. Hostility, name-calling, disgust, and chips on the shoulder are no help. Let us instead, look for points of concurrence. This is my prayer.

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First of all, please understand, I am not an “out and out” advocate for abortion. This is not my point. In most circumstances, it is not a choice I would encourage anyone to make, the unintended consequences being far-reaching, unpredictable, and possibly heart-wrenching. And yet, I do not consider abortion murder either. Not in the way so many of my Christian brethren believe. For them, I am apostate.

With that said, please feel free to skip this post. You see, because I will not condemn the woman who chooses this path, particularly without full knowledge of her circumstances, her history, her heart.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” [Matthew 5:21-22a, NIV] Isn’t the implication here, the “same” judgment?

“. . . For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23b, NIV]

“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; . . . [Romans 3:10a, NIV]

Are there people who abuse the legal right to an abortion, treating it like the “morning after pill?” Absolutely, and I find this grievous. But there is no law that doesn’t have abusers and liars. The more often someone abuses any law, the easier it becomes, not allowing the import of their choices to weigh upon their souls.

I know, there are many people I love and respect; for them, there is no time that ending a pregnancy is justified. They claim they speak for the innocents. I get it. But condemnation comes cheap these days, forgetting that no sin is worse than another, not really. Can we really walk in the shoes of the woman who must choose? To make the choice “illegal” will not make her journey any easier.

In other words, I am not the judge or the jury for a woman who seeks to end a pregnancy any more than I am the judge of lifestyle. I have friends of the same sex who have been in very long relationships while many heterosexual (even Christian) friends have cheated on their spouses and often divorced (all forbidden by the “letter of the law’).

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” [John 8:4-7, NIV]

It’s a dilemma and a mystery where to stand. I understand, intellectually, both sides of this dilemma, but, in the end, I have made my choice, one of mercy and grace (given to the very ones who don’t deserve it any more than I do).

When I look at the circumstances into which many children are born in the name of “righteousness,” I quake. Too many children are physically and emotionally abused by unloving adults; too many go hungry; too many are cast-offs and enter a life of resentment and paybacks for the misery of their childhoods. Is this an excuse? No, but it is a reality. Bringing a child into the world comes with responsibility and demands. This is one of many reasons, advocates support a mother’s right to choose – is she a fit mother? Is there a man or partner willing to share the burden of parenthood? Is this the best for the child?

In my view, there is not enough anecdotal evidence of “close-calls” for those adults who were nearly aborted, were not, and became gifts to society. Of course, God is God and anything can happen. But my feeling is that for every wonderful story, there are ten or hundredfold of sorrow. If it were not so, endless poverty cycles and unwed mothers would not be our society’s norm.

Best case? Teach people about longings. Teach both men and women of all ages about sex and why it exists, for joy, yes, but not just a one-night stand but a long-term, ever evolving relationship that is part of becoming parents. Teach people about contraceptives and give them away for free! Demonstrate love. Apply grace.

And let God work out the rest.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:30-31, NIV]

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Note 1: This topic is too big for a single blog post; I know that. I can only address a few aspects of sex in order to make a point.

Note 2: As a heterosexual female, I can only reasonably speak to sex between men and women. Not to necessarily discount the rest, I am simply unfamiliar with other practices, nor do they help in my argument about the relationship between longing, sex, and unwanted pregnancies.

Spoiler Alert: If you have trouble with the words vagina, coitus, sexual intercourse, orgasm, ejaculation, or copulation, you may want to skip this post.

Random Facts and Processes

  • Sex is noted throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. Most of the time, it’s a warning. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immortality;” [I Thess 4:3, ESV]
  • Sex (as a word) has become, over time, an over-arching term for the whole she-bang (no pun intended): foreplay, coitus, and recovery.
  • Sexual intercourse can be a pleasant and satisfying experience often culminating in orgasm. In some cases, both partners (the ideal) have orgasms, but far too often, only one does, generally the man.
  • When two people agree to have sex, the immediate outcome is often pleasant.

However–

  • In the case of non-mutual consent, sexual intercourse is primarily one-sided with the male forcibly entering the female for personal satisfaction.
  • A male can also weaponize sexual intercourse, commonly called rape.
  • A woman, in these situations, is an “object.”

Nonetheless–

  • In all cases, if the man has successfully ejaculated inside a woman’s vagina, sperm laden semen will move through the vagina and into the cervix and beyond. In the case of withdrawing, also known as coitus interruptus or pulling out, it is possible for some sperm/semen to find its way up the path.

Long Term Outcomes

  • If either the man or the woman has an STD (sexually transmitted disease), that disease will likely pass to the partner.
  • Depending on the female cycle, a single sperm can successfully travel into the cervix and fertilize a waiting egg, create a single cell zygote, and in essence, create a pregnancy.

Why Do People Engage in Sex if One of the Key Long-Term Outcomes is Pregnancy?

  • They want to have a child together.
  • One or both use contraceptives to prevent a pregnancy. In other words, they don’t want a child. Unfortunately, they tend to forget that a surprise pregnancy can still happen. No contraceptive is completely foolproof.
  • Sex is fun.
  • Sex, particularly orgasms, release a number of hormones that specifically impact the partners. [see https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-orgasm] Among them are:
    • dopamine: releases feelings of pleasure, desire, and motivation.
    • oxytocin: releases feelings of bonding (the same hormone releases during breastfeeding), a sense of love and attachment. Note: after orgasm, oxytocin continues to be release in women which often explains their desire for post-coital closeness and “cuddling.”
    • prolactin: releases feelings of satisfaction.
    • serotonin: releases feelings of happiness and sleepiness, a good mood, and relaxation.
  • Having an orgasm stimulates the brain in the same way as “doing” drugs or listening to your favorite music.
  • One of the chemicals released during sex can even desensitize a person to pain.
  • All of these feelings and “hormone releases” are a “reward” for sex.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love is not in him. For everything that is in the world does not come from the Father. The desires of our flesh and the things our eyes see and want and the pride of this life come from the world.” [I John 2:15-16, NLV]

Is There Any Wonder?

  • In review, my previous post about “longing” was the set up for this simple truth: sex fills a lot of longings.
  • If a person is sad, lonely, anxious, afraid, disappointed, insecure, unloved, or just have any number of unmet needs, sex can fill the bill. For those moments, it all goes away, just like a drug-induced state of mind.
  • In a time of loss or deprivation, sex is usually still available. For such a reason, total strangers will have sex, like a drug, to forget their circumstances.

Historically–

Because, we must remember, for centuries, women were possessions or slaves (although some cultures have female goddesses and have created myths about women). But in practicality, ordinary women had many social restrictions, few rights, and lived in the home at the whim of men. There have been pioneer women in every age who stepped out of the norms, but true self-discovery for average women came in the last century, beginning with the right to vote.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” [Genesis 1:27, ESV]

What I really want to highlight is that, in this modern era, sexual relations are different. Earlier, women were used for a man’s pleasure only, and at his demand, in addition to bearing children. Today, more women believe they should have equal say about when and how and with whom they have sex and they also want control over the outcomes.

For some people, this change for women is too brazen, outrageous, and merely sets the stage for widespread sexual immorality. For other people, this change for women means the freedom to experience intimacy in a variety of different ways.

But whether sex is forbidden or permissible, it is the drive to have sex and it’s “rewards,” that puts women at the locus where pregnancy can happen. The man plays a vital role and yet, a resulting pregnancy is still primarily viewed as the woman’s responsibility to carry.

So, in this era, most women want to have a say. They want a full participation and mutual responsibility. And yet, whichever partner has longings, needs, or desires, if a child is created, it’s still regarded as “her” problem and in some circles, her “sin” or “punishment.” In my mind, this view is held both in and out of marriage (a topic to be considered at another time – that of fidelity and infidelity).

I believe too many people have lost the ability to recognize sex as an intimate expression of love and a medium for spiritual union. Sexual encounters have become physical and hormonal experiences exclusively. Whether that’s good or bad, the result is a monumental disconnect between sex and the production of children.

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” [Genesis 2:24, ESV]

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While practicing Lectio Divina over the weekend, I found myself reading
Numbers 21:4-5:

“They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” ” [NIV]

impatienceAnd I immediately knew that “impatient” was the operative word for me. Impatience does not happen in the twinkling of an eye. It’s a process and literally, has steps along the way and thought patterns that culminate into full blown impatience. Here are just a few of the steps I discovered about myself.

  • I make assumptions about the destination and how long it will take to get there. This can be anything from walking my three-year-old grandson to the car to waiting for my lunch to be delivered at a restaurant. But it can also have a spiritual element: practicing silence (not 20 minutest yet??) or noting my unanswered prayers. 
  • I make assumptions of what I will or will not encounter. Why would I imagine that a “quiet time” would really be quiet: I live where cars, garbage trucks, pets, and a toddler manifest at will. 
  • I have often misunderstood the plan. How many times did I think I would be picked up at a certain time and discover it’s the wrong day? And how many times have I thought God wanted me to experience one moment when it was something altogether different? 
  • I don’t always recognize the early stages of impatience in my heart: it starts as a grumbling, like a gnawing hunger. At this point, there are no words, just a churning or frothiness within. 
  • Eventually, my grumbling becomes words, either out loud or in my head. I can rarely assuage the onslaught of impatience once words are formed. If anything, I’m digging in. Words make impatience stronger. 
  • My worst cases of impatience result in total disdain for “what is” and consequently, I miss what other thing could be born from the moment.
  • My personal inconvenience drives everything. It’s not long before hyperbole rules the day: How dare . . . ; I will NEVER . . . ; I hate . . . ; This ALWAYS . . .! And so on. The litany has its own rhythms and like the Baby Shark song, will not relent. 
  • As I review my episodes of impatience, whether with God or people, I can attest that I am no better than the Israelites. I complain, I lament, I give evidence of why I am justified in these feelings, and soon, I am ready to turn back. Whatever was awful before seems better than the way things are now. I think to myself, “if I can just avoid this situation, I will feel better. Life will be easier.” I’ll have that “old time religion.” 

gratefulRepercussions can develop from impatience that are more wretched than the original. Must I carry on until the “venomous snakes” (Numbers 21:6) show up before I repent? Or, can I breathe into the onslaught of impatient feelings and counter them with gratitude? 

That is the remedy, by the way. Just a simple expression of gratitude and acceptance. If I am surrendered to God, and believe God’s love for me, then really, is it too much to ask of myself to acknowledge the circumstances and walk them out? I want to say “yes, thanks,” and then see what happens. 

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There is no redeeming value to resentment. From hate to exasperation to wrath, there’s not a synonym in the group that I should want to practice. And yet. . .

But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient . . . [2 Timothy 2:23-24, NKJV] In the NIV in verse 24 says, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

I have discovered that resentment is right up there with disappointment. They have the same root in the heart. They are both married to expectations and ultimately “control.” I am resentful when things don’t go the way I expect them to go. I am disappointed when things don’t turn out the way I had dreamed they would. As though I know what is the best way, the best time, the best outcome.

There is nothing wrong, I think, in dreaming and hoping for a particular end result or a good conclusion, but the trick is integrating the reality that does not line up with the dream.

We all want perfect children with straight “A’s” and exquisite manners. We can model these behaviors and teach and tutor and guide. But guess what? Things don’t always work out. And if that child/spouse/friend/colleague does not perform accordingly, what is our response? Resentment or patient love?

Patience is love. And love is patience. [Love is patient, love is kind. I Corinthians 13:4]

I can remember other believers warning me (jokingly – sort of) never to pray for patience for God will allow all kinds of challenging events to come along to “try” this patience, to grow patience, to practice patience. But never did I think about patience as love itself. Of course, we should ask for/pray for/practice patience in the same way we ask to love, to forgive, to be compassionate etc.

In the last year or so, I have been indulging a boatload of resentment for my circumstances. I live in a small house and have very little personal space. My adult daughter and her 21 month old son live with me. They dominate the environment. I love my family, of course, I say, but I also resent their habits, their noise, their choices, their impacts. So, is that love?

Resentment is a nice word for hate. And that is unacceptable. Ever. Lord forgive me.

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Theology of the Holy Spirit is vast. Bigger than anything I could know or understand fully, but I can speak to my own experience and thereby, hopefully fulfill the essence of the Hillsong homework assignment.

The basics about the Holy Spirit are found in Acts 1:4-8 and Acts 2:1-13. The first passage carries the promise of Holy Spirit from Jesus Himself and the second passage describes the Holy Spirit’s appearance and “baptism” of the believers gathered there. We are told that the Holy Spirit is a gift and a source of power, and ultimately the resource for activities of believers from that day forth and forever. The first expression of that baptism was speaking in other tongues (not glossolalia at this point, but truly other languages). And why? To reach as many people as possible with the news: the Holy Spirit is here.

This anointing impassioned the believers with confidence to tell their story, to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, and the Presence of God’s Kingdom. The message was (and still is) that Jesus is who He says He was and that the sacrifice of the Messiah’s blood (our deliverer) was a restitution for the sins and separation of humankind from God – then and forever.

I Corinthians 12 (written by Paul) outlines a variety manifestations beginning with vs 4:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

And goes on to articulate gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healings, speaking in tongues, and so forth. At the end of the chapter, Paul lists some of the roles that can manifest by the Presence of the Holy Spirit operating freely in a believer. But then, in I Corinthians 13, the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit are recounted: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.

But this teaching was not available to the early church, not until the Apostle Paul, a learned man, had his own Holy Spirit experience and filled the ultimate command of Christ to reach out beyond the borders of Judea and Israel. He was the one who trusted Jesus at his Word to reach to the ends of the earth, the ends of their civilization. Before that, they lived communally and lovingly, they surrendered to the way of nonviolence, they shared the teachings and stories they heard from Jesus (for it was wholly an oral tradition), and they opened their doors to seekers. They were also persecuted. But they persisted nonetheless.

My own encounter with the Holy Spirit began a month or two after my confession and surrender to Jesus. My “mentor,” a rather unlikely evangelist in my acting class, encouraged me to ask for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Back in the 70’s, that was the trend, with an expectation of miracles, particularly the gift of tongues (now called glossolalia). As a previous “new ager,” I was pretty much game for anything that smacked of “woo-woo.”

When I prayed, nothing happened for several days. No tongues, no nothin.’

One day, I came home to my apartment from school, and as I entered the door, I literally experienced a whoosh of air, as though someone had opened a skylight. I dropped my bags and my hands reached up (a gesture which I was not aware at the time was common among the charismatics and their worship). I cried with a kind of joy. And I wanted to sing and praise too. But I had no history of songs to God. The only song that came to mind was the one I learned one summer at a friend’s Vacation Bible School, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. . . ” I sang that song as I walked around my apartment for 45 minutes. Ecstatic. Drenched in the Holy Spirit.

Later, when I shared my experience with my friend, he immediately asked about Tongues, for that was his church tradition. No tongues, no baptism. I was a bit crushed but decided to press along without his opinion. I knew what I knew and I knew what I felt. I was on fire for my God and my faith in Christ and the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Within a few days, I did have a language experience but not what anyone expected. My background is Latvian. I grew up in a Latvian home and it was spoken predominately by my parents until my father’s death when I was 9. After that, our family slowly drifted away from the Latvian community and I began losing my Latvian language. By the end of my twenties, I could barely hold a conversation. But one day, in the throes of my ecstatic prayer time, I began to pray fluidly and completely in Latvian. I engaged with God in the language of my human father (who never learned much English), and I experienced a healing and transfer of love from my lost father to my heavenly Father.

Like the early believers in Acts, I too was un-churched. I did not know what was normal or not. I simply told everyone I met my story. I was a most improbable convert and several of my classmates recognized my transformation as God’s alone and they too reached out to Christ anew.

That was more than 38 years ago. Who is the Holy Spirit for me now?

Over the years, I have experienced many physical manifestations from being “slain in the spirit,” to “prophecy” and “words of knowledge.” I have (and still do on occasion) speak in Tongues and I have prayed over/with people whose lives were changed. No healings as far as I know.

Today, the Holy Spirit is speaking to me more mystically than ever. I believe that Christianity is filled with paradox from turning the other cheek to going the extra mile. In the same way, I believe the Holy Spirit is within and without, here and not here. We cannot describe the Holy Spirit for that world is simply not us, not 3-D, not constrained by time or flesh. And for this reason, Holy Spirit is an intimate partner with our own personal spirit, able to direct, console, comfort, and teach. Holy Spirit can manifest physically — or not.

Holy Spirit is breath and no breath. Just as God is the great I AM, so IS the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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purposeI will never forget my mother saying to me one morning, not long after reaching her 90th birthday, I just don’t know what I should do with the rest of my life. At the time, she felt hardy and hopeful and she was ready to take on something new. This idea of seeking purpose and planning toward it, has been with us all for a long time. Self-help books abound, whether secular or faith-based, “What is your purpose? What is the point? What is God’s will for my life?”

For the past few months, I have been participating in a series of classes under the umbrella of the Hillsong Ministry School at Restore Church. The entire first semester was like a walk through the Bible, broad swaths of understanding and patterns. But this semester is turning inward. Who am I in relationship with God, with Christ, with the Church?

rich-young-rulerTwo weeks ago, after class, I actually went home deeply depressed. I was feeling overwhelmed with I was not. I had a sharp and somewhat uncomfortable epiphany in which I understood the plight of the “rich young ruler” [Mark 10:17-23]. Not because I am a woman of wealth, per se, but there are experiences I still want to have and things I want to do that are not wrapped inside the cocoon of the church. And so, like him, I hung my head a bit and walked away. I want to be an expression of God in every day life, there is no doubt about that. And my faith in God is steady and even deep, but I am feeling a push back within. (In a recent sermon, Jess talked about the way he had been limiting his exercise: “I’ll do anything, just don’t ask me to do cardio.” — so it is with me, I guess.)

But I am off the homework questions of what God’s purpose is for my life? The correct answer is that everyone’s love-the-lordpurpose is pretty much the same: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength, and your neighbor as yourself; AND, go into all the world and preach the gospel. . . ”  That has manifested as serving in the local church, adopting children, performing and speaking for about the things of God, and blogging my heart devotionally. Can I say that I have been called by God to these things? Not with confidence.

Some years ago, I spent a long time working through a study to help me articulate a personal mission. I still use it on my site: My personal mission is to inspire meaningful change, build faith in God, and connect people with resources that will make a difference in their lives. This sentence grounded me in my work at the library as well as my work in the church and my work in the arts.

I believe God has blessed my writing and indulges my desire to write both devotional and secular material. But I would also like to use my 30 plus years of marriage and faith to counsel others; is it too late to go in that direction? I don’t know. I want to simplify my life.

passionMy strengths are my passion for God, my enthusiasm for the things that resonate within me, my ability to speak in a group with confidence, my humor, my writing. My weaknesses are my losses – words don’t come as quickly as they di did before, I forget names and faces, my memories are no longer crystal clear. I am a bit adrift since Mike’s death and although I soldier on, I am a bit unhinged for he grounded me. I scatter my energy across an array of interests. For those who know the Enneagram, I am a true seven.

I am pretty capable with technology, although I am losing ground as “virtual reality” becomes more pervasive and I never really did much gaming. It’s not that I didn’t really like it, I was afraid of becoming addicted to it for I do have an addictive personality (which I learned the hard way back in the day before my faith in Christ cut me loose — I don’t test God in this anymore).

I’m not as good of a listener as I should be. I tend to be a “fixer.”

Don’t want to ask others what they think my strengths are etc. I know what they will say. I’ve been around this bend too often. They see what I let them see. I don’t have many friends, but the few who are close are far. I am not perceived as needing any.

prayerMy spiritual goal is to become a more consistent woman of prayer, working toward achieving a 5% tithe of my waking time spent in direct conversation, contemplation, and reflection within 6 months from today. Some of the strategies I will use will be to plan for prayer each day and week. 5% of 16 hours is approximately 45-50 minutes a day. I will record my time and what I learn in whatever time I spend, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, but I will see an increase over the weeks. And out of that time in prayer, I expect to return to familiarity and intimacy. And from there, this idea of purpose will be grow more authentically.

victorian-writerMy life goal is still to write a book, no not just write it, but finish it (after all the re-writes) and get it published. And then another. And another. And quite honestly, to have success in this arena, I must give, at minimum, the same amount of time. Funny. I have a gut feeling that these two efforts were always joined at the hip. So be it.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lordtrust in him and he will do this . . . [Psalm 37:3-5, NIV]

 

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