Category Archives: Christian Spiritual Growth and Disciplines

Authenticity = Totally Undisputed Credibility; The Difference Between Character and Reputation

images-4It is fascinating to me in our contemporary culture,  how easy it can be for an individual to foist a reputation that is based on very little true substance.

Our current society feasts on the fluff of evaporating charisma while it starves for the true grit and moral fiber that is needed to shape history.   It has become simpler and simpler to manufacture a reputation with little or no personal foundation to back it up.

At every venue in society–the media, politics and even in church– bigger than life personas grab center stage with very little conscience about their ability to back up their act.  Things that used to matter, like character, authenticity of heart and a call to serve others have fallen by the wayside and are being negligently overlooked.

In short, in my opinion, character is very different than reputation.  Below, in the remainder of this post, I have put together some quotes to stimulate thinking on the subject.  Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts about the differences you observe between character and reputation.

 

Do You Have Character or Reputation?

Reputation is seeming; character is being.

Reputation is manufactured; character is grown.

Reputation is your photograph; character is your face.

Reputation is what men say you are; character is what God knows you are.

Reputation is what you need to get a job; character is what you need to keep it.

Reputation is what comes over you from without; character is what rises up within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to town; character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is what is chiseled on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God.

Quote by Robert Stuart MacArthur, Quick Truths in Quaint Texts

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Beware Fall Fall-out, Shelter Needed from Death by Watching…

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As the temperatures descend and the evenings get chilly most of us move indoors.  Fall leaves fly and the center of family life changes from the backyard and the patio grill to the family room and the entertainment center.  It is a natural change but beware the subtle fall-out that fall may bring to your family nest.

Fall-out is a term that was invented in the nineteen-forties to describe a phenomenon connected to the after-math of a nuclear blast.  Fall-out is the word used for the slow descent of minute particles of toxic radio-active debris into the atmosphere. “Fall-out” expands outward from the site of an atomic explosion and becomes largely invisible, extremely poisonous and can lead to a slow-death for those who come in contact with it.  While the metaphor is admittedly a bit overstated, the sad truth is that the effects of a fall-winter-and-spring spent tied to an entertainment center, can produce its own version of a deadly fall-out—a deadly fall-out that leads to what can only be termed “life-decay.”

Today the number one form of leisure activity in the United States is T.V. watching.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television more than any other single activity other than sleeping.  By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching T.V.”  Former president George Bush on C-SPAN in an interview about American T.V. consumption stated, “They put an off button on the T.V. for a reason.  Turn it off…I don’t watch much T.V.  His wife Laura Bush an ex-librarian and reading advocate categorically stated, “Children cannot learn to read by watching television.  Television is just background noise and a distraction.”  Prominent voices seem to agree that too much T.V. watching is not a good thing.  

If the inordinate amount of wasted time spent by children and others watching were not enough there are other deleterious effects linked with excess T.V.  It should be pointed out that—for every hour spent in front of the tube—over fifteen minutes of that hour is spent solely in the viewing of advertising.  Commercials are the centerpiece of programming and are meant to penetrate our minds with thoughts of consumption, need and greed.  Jerry Mander, an expert on media and its effects on society explains, “While watching television, the viewer is not seeing the world as it is.  He or she is looking at a world created by advertising.  Television programs are put together with the conscious attitude of promoting a consumer society.  The fall-out of television advertising overload is a spirit-poisoning, self indulgent attitude that subtly begins to creep in and controls us.  The consequence for our society is an ever-expanding consumerism that keeps us all knowing exactly what we must obtain next if we are to be truly happy.

Consumerism isn’t the only kind of harmful fallout American families who are glued to the tube are susceptible to.  The harmful fallout from T.V. watching is not limited to the effects of overdosing on advertising.  In 2014, the number one type of T.V. programming was “Reality T.V.” a popular style of programming with its own set of dangers.  “Reality T.V.” is that genre of T.V. that has no real story, no content, it is just watching someone else experiencing some part of life while you sit back and voyeuristically observe.

Millions of people each night settle for living life vicariously through others while life passes them by.  They watch the loves, the losses, the adventures, the successes, of strangers on the small screen while experiencing little “true living” themselves.  Reality T.V. is a type of video entertainment fraught with serious fallout. We are on the verge of becoming a nation who “loves to watch” above all else.  We put on hold our emotional, our physical and our spiritual interactions—in order to spend hours watching—and the result is a numbing slow death to what it means to be human beings created in the image of God with a plan and a purpose.

This fall as you move indoors consider the invisible fall fall-out your family becomes vulnerable to as you face off with the entertainment center once again.  Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of screens—inactive and focused on “synthetic life” with its demands and absorptions.  As the leaves fall why not consider turning over a new leaf and make each hour of each day more productive and full of living and giving.  You may need to schedule some alternative activities to fill the vacuum left by fewer hours in front of the T.V.  Why not take a walk and talk to God, prepare a home cooked meal with the family and catch up on small talk, attend a small group fellowship with friends, go for a Starbuck’s with your spouse and have some “couples time”, or get creative and start that home improvement project you’ve been putting off.  Experience LIFE that’s what living is all about!

Contemplate the reality that we are all God’s workmanship created for a life time of living out good works that He has planned for us (see Eph. 2:10).  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to miss out on the abundant life God planned for me because I fell numb under the effects of video fall-out, a life-decaying—death—by watching.

 

 

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We Need A “Community” In Order To Really Know God

The pub where Lewis and his friends experienced "community.

My husband, Tom and I have been discussing an amazing quote used by Tim Keller in his book “The Prodigal God.” It comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves.

For context, it’s important to point out that Lewis is referring to community within the Inklings, a small group of men who met weekly for almost 20 years. Lewis’s closest friends seemed to be in this group, and Charles and Ronald were both members. “Ronald” is J.R. R. Tolkien and “Charles” is Charles Williams.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity…Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically *Caroline joke (see below). Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases.

In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another. The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

*”Caroline” is an adjective which comes from the Latin for Charles, which is (I believe) Carolus. So a “Caroline” joke would be a “Charles-y” joke – in other words, a joke of the type Charles told.

Another interesting tid-bit gleaned from the blog world, Tolkien never liked Charles Williams and wondered what Lewis saw in him. He also was a bit jealous of Lewis splitting his affections between him and Williams. So we may wonder to what degree he would have endorsed this paragraph from Lewis!

What are your reactions to this quote and the importance of community that it underscores?

Other posts you might like: A Vision For A Church God Can Grow https://womenatcrossroads.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/vision-2009-%E2%80%93-a-vision-for-a-church-god-can-grow/

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Christ’s Death the Ultimate Expression of the Love of God

God proved his love on the cross.

When Christ hung, and bled, and died it was God saying to the world—I love you.

Billy Graham

God sat in silence while the sins of the world were placed upon his Son. Was it right?

No. Was it fair? No. Was it love?

Yes. In a world of injustice, God once and for all tipped the scales in the favor of hope.

Max L. Lucado

What happened that Friday, Good Friday?

The Apostle’s Creed states it without embellishment: “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” After being tried and sentenced Jesus carried His own cross to Golgotha,

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. John 19:17

Golgotha in Aramaic (The place of the skull) was probably called this because the hill with its stony barren top looked like a skull. The probable site of Golgotha was outside the city wall and not far from Herod’s palace—perhaps a thousand feet north/northeast of it. Roman custom placed crucifixions, and Jewish custom located stonings, outside towns rather than at their center

The sin offering always used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).

For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people withHis own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Several stakes, at most about ten feet high, stood in Golgotha ready to be reused whenever executions occurred. The upright part of the cross (the stipe) was permanently mounted in the crucifixion area. The part that the victim carried was the cross bar, weighing in at 75 to 125 pounds. The cross bar would be balanced on the victim’s shoulders, and their arms would be tied to the crossbar. In this position, if the victim tripped or fell, they could not use their arms to break their fall, and they would likely fall face first into the ground.

The victim was escorted by a Roman guard (probably a centurion and several soldiers), who were responsible for guarding the victim until his death. One of the soldiers would display a sign with the crime written on it. Once the crucifixion area was reached, the victim would be offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh to act as a mild pain killer. The drink was a charitable service performed by an association of women in Jerusalem.  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. – Mark 15:23

The Crucifixion

The victim would then be nailed to the cross bar. The nails would be driven through the wrists, not through the palms, as these would not support the body weight. The cross bar would be raised and placed on the upright post, where the victim’s heels would be nailed to the post.

Once crucified, a victim would live for a period ranging from a few hours to a few days. How long he lived depended mostly on how severe the scourging was. If no one claimed the body, it would be left on the cross to be eaten by predatory animals. The family could, however, claim the body for burial. In this case, a Roman soldier would pierce the chest with a sword or spear to make sure the victim was dead.

What actually kills the victim of crucifixion?

The initial scourging would weaken the victim, cause massive blood loss, and probably induce shock. By the time the victim had carried the cross bar to the crucifixion area, he would be exhausted. Once up on the cross, the victim would have his body weight suspended by their arms. In this position, it is difficult to completely exhale. The victim could take shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.  At this point three things happen:

The victim’s weight is now fully supported by his feet. The nails through the feet would be likely to hit two major nerves running through the area. The result would be excruciating pain in the legs.

The nails in the wrists would be likely to pierce the main nerve running through the arm. As the victim pushed up to breath, the wrists would rotate against the nail, irritating the nerves and causing intense pain in the arms. Some authorities also believe that the crucifixion position would dislocate the shoulder or elbow. Any movement would aggravate the pain from these injuries.

The wounds on the victim’s back from the scourging would push up against the rough part of the centerpiece. This would tend to re-open the wounds, leading to more pain and blood loss. This combination of pain would quickly force the victim to lower himself back down. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to raise himself up and would suffocate. The shock from blood loss due to the scourging would hasten this process. In some cases, the victim’s legs were broken to “finish him off.” This would prevent the victim from being able to raise himself up and he would suffocate in a matter of minutes.

Before the scourging and crucifixion, Jesus was beaten by his guards, which would weaken him. In addition, he would have had no sleep that night, and walked back and forth from trial to trial.

His weakness is attested to in the gospel narritives.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Mark 15:21

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Matt 27:32

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. – Luke 23:26

Typically, a prisoner carried his own cross to the crucifixion site. The fact that Simon was pressed into carrying Jesus’ cross suggests that Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. – Mark 15:42-44  Since the Jewish Sabbath would begin at Sunset, it was important that the bodies not be left up, as Jewish law required that they be buried by the Sabbath. Note that Pilate is surprised that Jesus is already dead.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. – John 19:31-32

As mentioned earlier, breaking the legs of a crucified person would cause suffocation within minutes, because they would not be able to raise themselves up to breath. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. – John 19:33-34

Again, this was typical crucifixion practice — to stab the victim to make sure he was dead before releasing him to relatives. The “water” that John describes as flowing is probably serous pleural and pericardial fluid fluid that would build up from shock and blood loss. This fluid would tend to accumulate in the chest cavity and lungs.

What does His crucifixion mean for us.

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then our debt of sin is fully paid and the record of our sin is nailed to the Cross with Christ.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. Col. 2:13-14

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then those of us who were once far away from God can be brought near.  Nothing remains between God and us but an open door.

So brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death.  We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us.  It leads through the curtain –Christ’s body. Hebrews 10:19-20

Take some time and speak to the LORD about your need for forgiveness and the removal of guilt over sin in your life.  Imagine the cross and take those charges you want destroyed once and for all and visualize them nailed there.  Jesus was crucified, dead and buried to eliminate the sins of the world that keep man separated from God.  Believe in what Jesus did for you, allow Him to take your sin, repent and follow Him as Lord and Savior and you will be reconciled with God.  That is the message of Good Friday.

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Honoring Dad on Father’s Day

Today is a day for honoring fathers.  I have a wonderful Christian father.

And a wonderful Christian husband who is the father of my children.

 I am doubly blessed!

 My husband is not perfect but in building a family and raising our children he has always sought the wisdom and power of the Lord and I couldn’t have asked for more.

 Many years ago he wrote this stanza in a song called “Family Ties” and it sums up his humility and dependence on Jesus.   

I’m not good at walk’in on the water,

Or turning water into wine,

But I’ll keep a family fed,

With the help of the one Who did.

Two hearts make a family tie.

I am grateful that my husband knows the True Source of life and all wisdom and I honor him today for his solid uncompromising commitment to our Savior.   Tom’s focus on following Jesus and putting Him first has been a wonderful example and made him an awesome father for over thirty-five years.  Thank you, honey for a job well done!

The Bible makes it clear that we should honor our fathers.  Commandment number five of the Ten Commandments is: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Ex 20:12 (NIV).

Today we celebrate a national holiday for dads, but it has not always been that way, the history of a day set aside to honor fathers is only about a century old.

 The History of Father’s Day

 The first known celebration of Father’s Day was on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia, where it was commemorated at William Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South – now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton is believed to have suggested it to her pastor after a deadly explosion in nearby Monongah in December, killing 361 men.

 It was also during a sermon in 1909 that Sonora Smart Dodd became inspired by Mother’s Day. After the death of her mother, Sonora and her siblings were raised by their father William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran. Sonora wanted to show how thankful she was to her father and, because William was born in June, she worked to have the first Father’s Day celebrated on June 19, 1910.

In 1924, President Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday.

President Johnson designated the third Sunday of June to be Father’s Day in 1966.

It was not until 1972 that President Nixon instituted Father’s Day as a national observance.

Info for this section was taken from history.com– for more on the history of Father’s Day and inspiring storys of contemporary dads follow this link: http://www.history.com/content/fathersday/history-of-father-s-day

Happy Father’s Day

Feel free to comment and share why you honor your Dad!

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What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Meek and Humble Christians, What a Concept!

peanuts-book[1]At times I grow weary of the way Christians posture themselves with one another.  

Sometimes it seems to me that the main objective of evangelicalism has degraded to being all about “correctness.”

Rather than shining forth the characteristics of Christ and being a beacon of love, peace, mercy and humility to each other and to a hurting world; I find that more and more Christians are consumed with being “right.”  

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be known for pride, arrogance and condescension.  I want to follow Jesus and to be his ambassador to those around me.  Today my prayer is Lord make me like you one who is “meek and lowly of heart.”

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matt 11:28-30 (KJV)

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