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Friday, 29 April 2022 15:15

Chase Joy

It’s Good for You

How does celebrating shift our emotional response to day-to-day life? Celebration causes a physiological response in our body, lifting our emotions in the process. Acts of joy release dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters essential for brain health. In their presence we feel happiness. This same response comes with exercise, acts of service, and petting animals. However, our goal is more than a biochemical response, we want it to be an act of worship. A lovely cycle that invigorates us to move forward in life.

According to healthline.com, Celebrating is good for your brain, circulatory system and autonomic nervous system. As pleasure is stimulated in the brain our blood vessels dilate delivering more oxygen to our body. The ANS controls our fight or flight response, joy suppresses stress responses lowering blood pressure and breathing rate delivering an overall calm to the body. Fun is good for you! Now there is something to celebrate!

This physiological response is recognized in Scripture. Elizabeth’s baby John, leapt inside her when he heard Mary’s voice. His joy ignited Elizabeth’s, which in turn encouraged Mary.(Luke 1:39-45) David danced through the streets, emulate the dancing but don’t do it scantily clad.(2 Samuel 6:12-16) No, I’m not a prude, I just don’t want you to get arrested. Even the apostle Paul reminded us to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and to celebrate with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8)

Pick one joyful activity you can do right away, by yourself. What needs to be done to cross that item off your wish list? Now is the time to live it out. Make plans to do that one thing this month.

Second, pick something that includes your spouse or a friend. Work to find a mutual interest and make it an adventure. Keep in mind I’m using the word adventure loosely. Find something that you both are excited about that is out of the ordinary. Celebrate time together.

Third, pick something that will take some planning. What do you need to implement it? How do you need to proceed for it to come to fruition? It brings as much joy to a person to plan out a fun trip or activity as it does to do it, even if you don’t do it! Go for it, set a date, start saving, do what it takes to get this from an idea to action.

Here are some of my ideas:

  • I’m going to make something from my Pinterest boards. You know the pins put in place when there wasn’t time to do them? Now is the time. Keep in mind the process is as important as the product. Enjoy the creative part of it, not just completing a project on a to-do list.
  • My husband and I do Sunday adventures. We hike in local parks, go to farmers markets or a museum. These adventures include discovering new places and trying new activities. The actual event isn’t as important as getting out and enjoying time together.
  • We are planning a trip to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. It won’t be possible for a while, but the planning is part of the fun.

How you choose to chase joy depends on your individual personality. Whether simple or splendid, the point is to do it. God’s goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. The purpose is not to eliminate sadness in our life, it is an important aspect of our humanity. Reveling in the good in our life lifts our spirits so that we don’t ruminate on what we’ve lost but recognize the joyous gains. Take time this month to seek joy and celebrate the good around you.

Published in Devotionals
Wednesday, 03 November 2021 13:27

Linked to Last

Struggling to fit rest into my schedule, I turn to activities to distract me, but they don’t fill me. I didn’t recognize it right away, but I know I need a change. There is nothing wrong with distractions like TV, books, and social media but when I turn to them for true rest, they fail.
Sitting still remains hard for me. Friends of mine, sit in God’s presence for hours, soaking Him in. I can emulate this practice, but it takes discipline and that is not always restful. The beauty is we have freedom to seek the Father, through Jesus, in the way we are wired. I love that about God. Today, I started my morning with a hot bath, resting in its warmth and the love of the Father. Tomorrow it will look different, but the point is to seek the rest and just "BE".
The Sabbath was introduced to the Jews in the 4th Commandment, found in the book of Exodus. Scripture reminds us to keep it holy – set apart. We are instructed schedule sacred day of rest.
Over the years, many rules and regulations became associated with this term. That is not the Sabbath I am referencing. Sabbath is a time and place where we can "be" and no longer must go. The word Sabbatical reflects the modern way to Sabbath. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, sabbatical means "of or suited to the Sabbath, bringing a period of rest that occurs in regular cycles." This is our time to be rejuvenated. We are refueled so that we can "go" and do.
During most of the year, my daily mini sabbatical is found in walking. I love this time; it invigorates my body and frees my mind and spirit to pray. The beauty of the nature around me invites me to worship my Creator. The peace in my neighborhood allows me to speak to my Heavenly Father and to hear Him speaking to me.
Rest looks different for different people. I love to walk to relax, my daughter loves to swim. She loves the sensation of the water surrounding her entire body. As the water envelopes her, it limits her senses. The stresses of her life are dampened as her brain no longer receives information from her eyes and ears. She simply feels the comfort of the water and her body relaxes. I love this picture of Sabbath, the water represents the Holy Spirit, who revitalizes and refocuses us. However, we choose to rest, environmental noise decreases as we invite the Spirit of God to surround us. In His presence, we relax, restore, and rejuvenate.
In Jesus’ gentle and humble presence, we are safe (Matthew 11:29). Yes, we receive direction but also, we receive acceptance. I love the idea of seeking this place of security. I am thankful no matter how long we have been away, we can run back to Jesus. Words escape me as I ponder this, oh God that all would know this wonder! Jesus ends this verse with this promise. In this manner, you will find rest. Take a sabbatical with Him. Let the Holy Spirit gently and humbly restore you and He will show you, His rest.

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 19 October 2021 15:01

Love Camp

Love camp

Love has a broad definition. I love my dog, a delightful book, a warm spring day, spaghetti, my husband, and Jesus. I'm pretty sure you can tell, each one of those things I "love" is cherished on different levels.

After thirty years of marriage, the shared love between my husband and I is comfortable. Anchored in security we easily take each other for granted. Tired from life’s stresses, unguarded comments slip out, especially after long days at work. What should we do? Simply put we remember to love and to reflect Jesus in our relationship. I Corinthians 13:13 reminds us “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

A beautiful sentiment easily repeated but difficult to live out, especially in a tense and uncertain season.

Love is a double-edged sword. Untainted it provide the essence of life. Sadly, it also can bring forth the emotions of disappointment, rejection, and pain. Why is love so important to us? Why can't we just throw it aside and plunge into our career, school, or ministry? Simply put we NEED love. As Relational beings, God created us to thrive on unconditional love. Agape love, implanted in us by the Holy Spirit, grows when we nurture it. (Galatians 5:27)

Often isolating this chapter to marriage, we forget 1 Corinthians 13 applies to the church. However, it should be true for all our relationships. Friends, we need to own what is in the chapter of Scripture. To love unconditionally we need to recognize it and imitate it. In 1 Corinthians we find there are two camps. What love is and what love is not.

Camp #1 Love is

Camp #2 Love is not

Patient: implies process

Jealous

Kind

boastful

Loves truth

Proud

Perseveres

Rude

Faithful

Demanding

Hopeful

Irritable

Endures

Record of other wrong

= doing what is right

Rejoices of injustice

You see many of us don’t move into love as a permanent home. We move from one side to the other depending on our situation. We become offended by thoughtless actions or differing opinions. Driven by righting the wrong we move to the “love is not” camp. Acting out of an offense drives us to feel we need to defend God instead of being Christ-like, which requires us to love. 1 John 4:8 tells us "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." God does not need our defense; he requires our witness to love through difficult circumstances.

So how do we stay in the love camp? We actively and purposefully choose it. We choose to be there. When we find we have wandered or even bolted into the Love is not camp, we ask forgiveness pack up our gear and move back. Circumstances do not dictate our love location. Other’s actions do not dictate our love location. Jesus as our example, reminds us to choose the enduring love in patience, kindness, truth, perseverance, faithfulness, and hope.

I struggle to stay there but today I choose the love camp. Tomorrow I will ask myself where have you pitched your tent? When I recognize my location shifted, I will choose to move.Revive in us the deisre to love LORD! Are you with me?

Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 02 September 2021 19:32

Keep Family Identity Alive

Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families

Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families. Celebrating our family identity keeps those relationships fresh and alive.

Although our nuclear family has transformed into an extended—and even long-distance—family, we still maintain our core identity. Who are we and what it means to be a member of this family changes over time as the children mature and add spouses, but that sense of family can always be there.

I asked my kids to give me a list of descriptors that described us. They immediately responded with silly, goofy, and weird. My son added “zany at times.” (Their friends say our family is not normal.) Don’t worry, they also included open, communicative, loving, adaptive, loyal, and close.

How would you describe your family? What is your family identity that keeps you close even when you are apart? Here are a few things we do; feel free to adopt and adapt to your family!

  • Humor is an essential part of our relationships and keeps us in touch in a lighthearted way. We love puns like, “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!” (You heard the rimshot, right? Ba-dum-SHH) Whether we laugh or groan, it’s a simple way to connect and requires little-to-no response. It simply says, I thought of you today!

 

  • Communication is key but doesn’t need to be constant. Regular and diverse forms such as phone calls, texts, video chats, and visits all work together for this. It allows us to keep our relationships a priority. But be flexible, and give each other grace; just because you didn’t hear from them in the past week doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they are living an active life. When you do talk, learn to be an active listener. Reflect to them what they are sharing so that they know you are engaged.
  • Shared Experiences: Occasionally, we choose a show series or movie to watch. We don’t watch it at the same time, but we set aside time to discuss it. The content ranges from light to serious to a little bit of both. The point is to connect—you don’t have to be together to be together!
  • We regularly meet with extended family on both sides of the family. This reaffirms our relationships with our core family, reunites us with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and promotes the value that family is important. Of course, it depends on your family dynamics and who is willing to participate. For us, it’s not a coerced event, and our kids participate eagerly.
  • Share hospitality. Friendly reception of their friends increases your family reach. When college friends came to our house for short visits, we tried to embrace them as our own, doing our best to make them feel welcome. Not only does this show love to the friends, but it also honors your kids’ and makes them feel loved as well.
  • Keep an Open-Door Policy. Our ongoing relationship needs to be a place of security. No matter their choices in life, they need to know they are an accepted part of the family Luke 15;11-32). We may not agree with you, but we will always love you. Love outshines our opinions; they know what we believe.

My son summed it up this way, “We’re all so comfortable with one another. We celebrate our strengths and support each other in our weaknesses. We enjoy our similarities as well as what make us each unique.”

We’re not a perfect family. We get frustrated and annoyed with each other at times. But we work hard to see past the frustrations to celebrate and support each other.

What does your family value? I’d love to hear about how you would describe your family identity. Send me an email and tell me all about it!

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 31 July 2021 14:38

Beauty Hunting

I learned a new phrase the other day: beauty hunting. It’s active pursuit of discovering beauty in the world around you. Isn’t that great?

Francis Bacon wrote “Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite”. Beauty, in all its forms, inhabits the world around us. Maybe you are stuck and don’t know how to move past the pain of the past year. It’s okay to grieve losses and celebrate beauty at the same time. God promised us beauty for ashes in Isaiah 61, it must be around to find. Looking for delightful moments allows us to peek at the limitless creation around us, and it redirects out minds to hope and restoration.

As a new empty nester, I need some hope and restoration. Actually, the first thing I’m doing is retiring the word empty from empty nest, because empty evokes hopeless emotions. But we are far from hopeless. We are ready to thrive! Transformative nest doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s a better description. There’s a fresh life full of adventure – and beauty – waiting for each of us. For many, life slows down, and you can finally take a deep breath, look around and take in all sorts of lovely things and moments. Beaty hunting!

In this new season of life, I’m looking for fun to rejuvenate my spirit. So, let’s make a game of this. When you are out and about, see if you can observe beauty with all five of your senses. For example:

  • I see an older couple holding hands.
  • I hear the giggle of a child. (Isn’t that the best?)
  • I smell freshly baked bread.
  • I feel the cool breeze after a thunderstorm.
  • I taste the wonder of a pour over coffee.

Beauty promotes joy and elicits wonder, reminding us our creator put good in the world for us to enjoy. Beauty permeates all of life, spilling out of the ordinary. Allow it to seep into your soul and redirect our sensory input from the negative to the positive. Don’t ignore difficulties, but let beauty keep them in balance.

Beauty hunting creates memorable moments in a normal day. Broaden the scope of its impact by describing why something is beautiful to you. What we see as beautiful often comes from experience.  That older couple mentioned above represents resiliency in marriage. They remind me of my parents who shared 57 years together before my dad passed away. Time tested they remain together with a bond that cannot be broken. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s true about that random couple I saw but to me, that’s what they represent. Continue with the list and ruminate on each beautiful observation. Linger over the details.  

Beauty hunting can look however you want. You can do it alone or with a group; it starts great conversations! It can be used when out to dinner and the conversation wanes or on a walk through a familiar neighborhood. Our souls yearn for the lovely in our lives to touch us deeply and produces joy and peace.

Try it and email me your observations! Everyone needs a little beauty.

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Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 01 June 2021 20:13

Embrace a Zoe Attitude

 

We volunteer at an inner-city community nonprofit on a regular basis. I love the people, and some are becoming like family. As I planted flowers, some of the neighborhood boys asked to help. Carefully, I showed them how to pull the plants out of the plastic pots. I explained how to pull the roots loose as to better spread in the new soil. Finally, I demonstrated the depth of the hole they were to dig. Two of the boys worked together on planting one plant and decided that was enough.

“What else can we do Ms. Leslie?” They asked

“UH…” at a loss I looked around. I noticed large chunks of dirt clods in the new soil. “Break apart the clods!”

And they did. With great glee they hacked away at the chunks. It was fun to see the boy’s exuberance as they went about their task. As the dirt flew around me, their excitement inspired me to complete my job. The joy of children makes any job fun even with dirt raining down on me.

In John 10:10, Jesus promises to give us life “and have it to the full”. Other Scripture versions use the word abundant for full. Abundance means we have more than we need of something. It is an overwhelming supply. A full to the maximum resource. An abundant life, the “Zoe” in the Greek, is one that is full and vibrant. It is a genuine life that is full of gratitude, one that recognizes that God blesses each of us. These blessings are not necessarily financial or even health but rich in relationship - the joy in knowing that Creator God wants to spend time with me.

After a year of uncertainty, it’s harder to live this way. I realized my daily routine brought security that 2020 upended. Returning to the true source, Jesus, I find that inner joy.

Jesus promises this life to all who follow Him. It is not an event. It isn’t found through service or recreation. It is found through trust in Jesus. No matter the circumstance, God stays with us. Our advocate is standing up for us, walking through it with us, and inspiring us on to do whatever each day holds. This is the Zoe life. The life that is full and genuine. A life that is worth facing each day, knowing that the God of the universe invited us into something greater than ourselves. We are to embrace a Zoe attitude in all we do.

WHAT A GIFT to grasp this way of life, each day recognizing that Jesus relishes living this life with us, the Zoe life promised to us.

Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 29 April 2021 17:38

Easter shoes showing me the way home.

 

As a little girl, my sisters and I received a new Easter outfit every year often including a new pair of white patent leather shoes. I felt grown up as the heals clicked down the church hallway. We paraded into church with our new dresses, Easter hats and our fancy shiny shoes. Those were special shoes, marking for the most important day of the year.


This year my Easter shoes looked different. Our church sponsored a stay-home mission trip. We served local organizations in various ways to help alleviate much of the added work that this difficult year brought.
Assigned to staining a deck and ramp of a warming center, I tried to work without inconveniencing the residents, but that proved more difficult than I thought. We could not lock the windowless door, so several people accidently stepped out onto the wet deck. Redirected to the other exit, most quietly respected the request.


At the end of the day, my white shoes were covered in red stain blotches. I sent pictures to my kids asking them to guess what I had done that day. Various guesses related to blood commenced, entertaining us with the silly humor we like to share.

But one moment from that day captured my attention.
Two men approached the ramp hesitating and unsure of what to do. I apologized for blocking their entrance, inconveniencing their normal routine.
One replied, “It’s okay, you are making our home beautiful.”


This caught me off guard, he said “home”. Home implies permanence, a dwelling place for family. A place I regarded as temporary for those suffering setbacks, a place of rescue and even sanctuary but not home. His comment humbled me and reminded me of how little I really knew of other’s sufferings.


Holy instances like these, cause one to pause and reflect. Straining to see behind the supernatural veil, I captured a glimpse of Jesus in that moment.
Jesus, as Messiah, had no home but He abided in the Father and we abide in the Christ. When we serve the least of these, we serve Jesus, and we are truly home. Discussing this with my son, he drew my attention to Psalm 91:1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty”


That man’s pleasant response reminded me that he was not the only one at home in that instance. I too, found my home there because Jesus was there in that man’s words. As I write this, I am reminded that maybe I mislabeled the needy person in that circumstance. Truly after a difficult year, I was the least of these and this man’s humble spark of gratitude in a life of hardship, deeply ministered to me.
Now, my stain-spattered Easter shoes remind me of the promise that my eternal home will always be in Jesus.

 

Published in Devotionals
Monday, 15 March 2021 11:42

Lighthearted or Bitter

Choose between a lighthearted or bitter future 1

Anger wells up when life seems unfair. Recently, a memory snaked its way back into my mind. That waitress was so rude. Why didn’t I notify management? Rehearsing the speech I wish I gave, I laid awake for hours. Friends, that incident occurred years ago. Why did it slip in now? I don’t know - but it was something I needed to get rid of.

After laying there for a while I heard this whisper: “Why are you holding onto that offense?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“What are you supposed to do?” The whisper continued.

“Forgive. I forgive that waitress for her insensitivity and the frustration she caused in me. Forgive me for hanging on to this memory like a dog with a bone. I’m so sorry Lord.”

Culturally acceptable, anger is emotion can cripple us. We allow the imagined argument to swirl around in our heads, feeling justified by the cause.

Ephesians 4:26-27 is a well-known verse among church goers. “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

It seems so hard to do. It is easy to point out in others but difficult to apply to ourselves. Everyone gets angry, this is part of the human condition. Sometimes we don’t even see the bitterness we hang onto.

Foolishly we nurture unforgiveness until it morphs into bitterness, which leads to an inhospitable environment. Like poison it spreads and hardens our hearts so that they are no longer malleable by God. This occurs when the offense becomes bigger and more important than God. The word “foothold” use in verse 27 means give space to. Our response opens the door and invites sin to live in us.

Sometimes we don’t even see the bitterness we are hanging onto. How do we recognize it?

Does the memory pop into my mind and anger surges again? Do I feel the need to talk about it with others for sympathy or justification? Do I qualify my emotional response with excuses? Does the experience and its corresponding emotions keep me up at night?

If the answer is yes, we must wrestle them away and allow the Holy Spirit to soften us again. We choose to let it go, yes, we decide not to feed the thoughts anymore. Shake off the anger and extract the poison by giving it over to Jesus. Jesus took our sin, there is no need for us to hold onto it. Lay the burden at Jesus feet, see yourself doing it (Matthew 11:28). He is our rest.

When I am angry, I need to remember.

God is good

Vengeance belongs to Him.

The other person who made me angry is made in the image of God

The other person deserves God’s grace as much as I do.

Extending forgiveness benefits both of us; extracting the poison from our heart.

Choose between a lighthearted or bitter future, we are in control of this.

It seems easy, yet human nature naturally embraces the trap of regurgitating past hurts. Those angry thoughts do return, there is real pain and insecurity associated with the memory. Thankfully, our God is trustworthy with this vulnerability. We return to the top of the list above and fight the urge to hold on lay it at the feet of Jesus.

When the temptation to ruminate on the rude waitress along with my ineptness at handling the situation occurs, I remember:

God is good.

Vengeance belongs to Him, He will lovingly correct her.

The waitress who made me angry is made in the image of God.

She deserves God’s grace as much as I do.

Extending forgiveness benefits both of us; extracting the poison from our heart.

I choose between a lighthearted future; we are in control of this.

Jesus reminds us that His burden is light. Always ready for us, He calls the weary to Himself. (Matthew 11:28-30) God used my anger to teach me and trust Him. He will do the same for you.

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Saturday, 31 October 2020 12:47

Thanksgiving, Pandemics, and the goodness of God.

Savor the flavors of Gods goodness

Thanksgiving 2020 feels like un-holiday. For many of us, extended family will not gather. Full tables with empty chairs make for a bleak celebration. Such an outlook can contribute to our despair instead of filling us with gratitude. We need to tilt this holiday on its side. This year will be different but not bad. Gratitude, the center of this holiday, focuses on what we celebrate the good opposed to focusing on what we’ve lost.

In the book Beautiful Resistance by Jon Tyson, he highlights the importance of celebrating God’s goodness. This reminds us that He provides the blessings in our life. It forces a pause to look for the good in the busyness of life that we often overlook. I don’t want to do that anymore; I want to embrace the good.

There are multiple Hebrew and Greek words used for the word good throughout Scripture. Its complexity becomes apparent when we search it out. Good, such a simple word, how could it be so complex? The difficulty rests in using words to describe our God. His perfect holiness transcends our own understanding and words fail. Good describes one’s nature as pleasant, agreeable, joyful and happy but it also means excellent, distinguished, upright and honorable. It describes the personality as possessing integrity, virtue, and purity. Further we see it described as precious and beautiful, full of kindness with an upright heart. Wrap that all up with gentleness, mildness, and meekness.

Read through those words again. Let the richness of each word envelop you with its strength and comfort.

Studying God’s goodness reminds me of a plentiful feast. After a season in which much was stripped away, we find a rich banquet set before us. We crave refreshment and sustenance as we sit down to God’s rich table. We take a bite, savoring the flavors as they stimulate our neglected taste buds. At the end of the meal we sit satisfied that God’s goodness met every need. When we nourish ourselves on the complexities of the word it revitalizes us, feeding the joy inside of us.

Psalm 23:6 reminds us that God’s goodness pursues us. God sends good, pleasant, agreeable, and beneficial circumstances into our lives for our welfare daily. Our job is to look for it. Even in times of suffering, good will surface. Caught up in what we don’t possess blinds us to the present blessings. We simply need to turn and let the goodness chasing us catch and surround us. No matter what God is good. That is worth celebrating.

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 03 October 2020 12:31

The Dragonfly Effect

 dragonfly effect 2

 

Dragonflies played a lovely part of raising our son. To pass the time while his sister napped, we
counted the dragonflies that sunned themselves on our neighbor’s roof. As he grew, he learned
to capture these delicate creatures and bring them to me for study.
 
Dragonfly eyes dominate the tiny faces of these odd creatures giving them excellent vision.
While our vision sees in shades of three primary colors, the dragonfly sees way beyond that, up
to 30 different primary colors. Their vision captures much more of the vibrancy of the light
spectrum, they even see ultraviolet rays!
 
Body heavy, these fascinating insects look like that couldn’t get off the ground. Yet, their
iridescent wings glimmer in the sunlight as they fly. Masters of flight each of their wings work
independently allowing them to catch their dinner on the fly. At 30 miles per hour they can eat
hundreds of mosquitoes a day.
 
I can relate to the dragonfly. I feel like I’m awkward and unable to do what God calls me to each
day. But if these baffling insects can traverse the air with acrobatic stunts, I too can learn live in
the way I am designed. Free to fly as God leads and seeking the vision to see His next steps. This
is how I see you as well.
 
Dragonfly women fly because they are fruitful, linked, and yielded.
 
        F: Fruitful, bridges to other generations and builds relationships that bring unity to the
            body of Christ. We recognize we need each other but we also value the next as well as the
            previous generation as dynamic members of our community.
       L: Linked by these bridges, we depend on one another because we yearn to nurture
           each other as well as be nurtured. A vibrant woman thrives in community.
       Y: Yielded to the Holy Spirit, we desire a close relationship with God that builds our
           confidence and anchors our identity in Christ. We release insecurity through living as God's
           child.
 
When we learn to live this way, we recognize God esteems us as His daughters. Our mid-life
centers around renewing and restoring ourselves recognizing we are still needed. We are a vital
part of our community.
 

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

 
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