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The rain falls on the just as well as the unjust and many times as God’s children we find ourselves struggling to be thankful because of the hardship we experience.
If we are honest with each other it’s easier to be thankful and joyful when things are going well. But it is a totally different story when you are struggling to keep food on the table and all hell is breaking loose in your life. It’s in the hardship seasons that I believe our faith is deeply tested. Faith that hasn’t been tested – can’t be trusted to last. These seasons can bring even the strongest of us to our knees with questions we would’ve never thought could enter our hearts. So how can we cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in hardship?
The majority of humanity has or will experience seasons of hardship. The scripture tells us that even the earth has been groaning (Romans 8:22-23). So, it’s only natural that when we go through rough seasons it feels like a personal attack, but that is just not true. No matter what we may experience, we’ve got to know that even in a sin-sick world God’s grace is sufficient for us and every situation we may experience.
Facing foreclosure His grace is sufficient
Struggling to keep food on the table- His grace is sufficient
Doctors aren’t sure why your health is failing God’s grace is sufficient
Grieving over the loss of loved ones– God’s grace if sufficient
Whatever it is – God’s grace is sufficient! it may not feel like it or look like it, but you must receive it and rest in it by faith – if you are going to be victorious and thankfully each day.
Hardship can feel like a dark veil is over your eyes making it hard to see the truth of God’s promises. So, it is vital to spiritual growth that we be very selective about what we’re listening to and what we allow to go before our eyes. Poking around on social media wishing life was different and complaining about what you don’t have will only keep you stagnant and rob you of a grateful heart. Instead get up, go for a walk and thank God for legs to enjoy the scenery. Worship and praise music are always a great idea. Letting encouraging messages and podcasts enter your ear gate will feed your spirit and hopelessness will fall off you like a heavyweight. The benefits are increased joy, spiritual growth, purified praise, and true worship!
Who I’m I referring too? Patience – let her have her way in every situation. James 1: 2-5 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces patience. Let patience have her way, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” Lacking nothing – I really like that! You see there is a purpose in the trials and hardships of life. It may be annoying and inconveniencing, but hardship should almost be welcomed because it gives us the opportunity to suffer like Christ. The truth is God never promised us a trouble-free life, as a matter of fact, Jesus said, that in this world we would have troubles, but take heart because He has already overcome them all. Now that is good news.
I know, we are aware that we should keep our eyes focused on things above, but truthfully when we’re experiencing pain, grieving and going through our flesh tends to forget that. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Suffering is not an option it is just a matter of time before it happens to us all, but I am so glad to know that God is not an inactive bystander in our circumstances. We have a good Father who is working all things together for our good and for His glory. Feel free to pout and pour out the fleshly feelings before Him, then arise and know that God is working in you a greater purpose.
When you are going through hardships, seasons of lack or grief be intentional about staying in the word of God and allowing the Father to encourage you. You don’t want to waste the experience becoming bitter or being offended. Cultivating a thankful heart in the midst of hardship is a pleasing offering to our Father.
So be encouraged and press in because hardship is not where your story ends!
This weeks guest post is from my dear sister, Melissa Walthour
A friend and I recently went on a cabin trip for a weekend getaway to spend time with God. We were intentional about setting aside that weekend for Him, so we put our phones on airplane mode. The only time we interacted with our devices was to pull up sermons or google scriptures. With no distractions, it made it easy to be immersed in God’s presence the entire time. It was amazing!
On the second day there, I got up, dressed myself in like seven layers and went outside on the deck, which had a front row seat to the newly risen sun, gorgeous mountains, and morning fog. I brought with me my Bible, a blanket, wireless speaker, and my phone (to play some music). Once I got settled and bundled up in my blanket, I turned on the “Thank You” playlist I created before getting out of bed that morning. As the sounds of worship and thanksgiving filled my ears, I found myself in Psalm 100:
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
After reading Psalms, I got up and began to pace the length of the porch, while boldly singing the lyrics to each song with both hands raised. The more I sang, the more my heart engaged, but it was when I heard these words that tears overwhelmed my eyes: “Tragedies are commonplace. All types of diseases, people are slipping away. The economy’s down. People can’t get enough pay. But, as for me, all I can say is thank You, Lord, for all you’ve done for me.”
The melodic words were lyrics from an old song I grew up on. Although I’ve heard the song countless times, the words were so fresh that I felt like it was my first time hearing it. The message finally hit me! Yes, this girl, who has the tendency to complain when things don’t go her way, or when she gets hurt, or when she gets disappointed, realized that there are so many unseen things that God has protected her from.
I’ll admit it wasn’t a mind-blowing epiphany and I’ve heard expressions like “It could’ve been me” all my life, but my heart was receptive and it sunk in this time. Maybe as a child, as a teenager, and as a twenty-something, I didn’t understand. Maybe now, as a woman in my thirties, it’s real because I have more experience of witnessing tragedies up close and mourning with others during their devastating hardships. Maybe it’s because I have more experience of hurt in my own life. And, I realize, although painful, those hurts didn’t end in ways they could have. I could have still been stuck. I could’ve still been broken. I could’ve still been hopeless. But, instead I grew, I healed, and I became stronger all by God’s grace.
Honestly, I’m not sure what caused that song to come alive to me that cold October morning, but I’m just glad it did. Now, I’m more grateful for what is not (i.e. what didn’t happen and what God protected me from) than what is.
Be blessed & encouraged,
Melissa Walthour is a fun-loving soul who’s addicted to laughter. She’s an encourager who finds joy in lifting up those around her. She has an undying passion to pursue and get to know God more, and loves sharing her experiences with God to help others grow. She’s a thought-provoking writer, recreational photographer, and self-proclaimed music connoisseur. Click here to learn more about her ministry, Fruit of My Branches, check her out on Facebook , Instagram & YouTube!
This weeks guest post is from my dear sister, Doris M. Cush
The large clock on the wall ticks a certain way. I love how it enhances the décor of my sunroom and blends in with the occasional sounds of the early morning commuters puttering down the street. I glance over at the cluster of household foliage gracing the window sill. Creating more of a jungle than a few, simple accents, they outnumber the furniture in the room 2-to-1. And yet, that ticking clock and jungle of plants keep me humble, mindful, thankful.
Okay, seriously? I kid you not. If you live anywhere within these coastal shores, ‘Tis the Season commenced sometime in mid-October, right? Almost like two old souls playing checkers in the park, advertisers jumped on the idea to skip November and get to the crowning glory of Christmas – the decorations, the shopping, the movies, the hustle, the bustle, the stress! That means no time for November. No time to give thanks with a grateful heart. Thankfulness now comes wrapped in a Pinterest-perfect box and gets sprinkled in between the holiday baking and family visits.
In the quiet of the morning, I hear the tick of that clock. Yes, it can annoy me, but also amaze. It speaks the same language everyone understands, but all of us choose to interpret differently. The Psalmist said, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life” (Psalm 39:4). Time doesn’t tick away to offend us of its end but to offer us the best of its moments. It’s not meant to rush through, but to rest in and enjoy. Let’s not rush through them, but be thankful for each and every moment time gives us on the clock.
Taking time to settle into the ticktock makes us thankful for the intertwine. Again, you’re thinking, “What?” Well, my 2-to-1 jungle of a sunroom didn’t start off that way. A variety of foliage graced that window sill. An evergreen here. A peace plant there. A few plants I don’t know all living and thriving because someone took the time to care. We may not always pick who impacts our lives, but I for one, am thankful for the lessons I learn from their nurturing. Much like the water poured into the soil of those plants, I drink in sweet themes like – Enjoy the day. Smile at the annoyances. Laugh at the impositions. Kiss your loved ones. Offer a hand to the unlovable. The good thing is the God thing. Fill your heart with forgiveness.
I realized the ticktock of a clock and a hodge-podge of houseplants could spur my thankful heart. This holiday season, I hope you find your amazingly odd combinations and I pray they speak volumes to a heart filled with gratitude. Blessings!
This weeks guest post is from my dear sister, Raquel R. James
Thinking of thanking, and actually thanking, two totally different things. There were times this year where I had to remind myself to do less thinking about it and more doing. 2018 has been a very interesting year, filled with challenges that certainly tested my ability to be thankful in the midst of the storm. You would think that when God calls you to do something once you’re engaged in the process of accomplishing the task at hand it would be a breeze. Right? Wrong. You see as you embark upon the journey of purpose you learn that indeed the weapons form. Thank God they never prosper.
The year started with the Holy Spirit leading me, strongly leading me, to finish writing a book that He had long ago told me to complete. With a hard deadline quickly approaching, a new work from home job with ten hour work days and way too little pay, being surrounded by my super loving, but very busy, and seldom quiet family did not make writing a book the easiest thing to do. That didn’t matter. It still had to be done. Can we say all nighters? And no I don’t mean the fun girl talk and decadent dessert all nighters. I mean prayer, and Spirit led writing and research type of nights, vanilla chai tea and sugary almond milk creamer type of nights, Lord I’m tired, but I’m gonna get this done type of nights.
During this season I often had to remind myself that it was just a season. I also had to stop and take a moment to be grateful for the many things that seemed like obstacles, but were truthfully blessings. The Holy Spirit told me 30 years ago that I would be an author, a New York Times best selling author to be exact. The only problem was I hadn’t yet written a book. So, the first thing I had to be grateful for was the mere fact that the first part of that had come to pass. I am now an author, and truly believe that the New York Times best seller component will soon be manifested. That low paying work from home job served its purpose for the time that I had it. It was my only source of income as I struggled to grow my business and be intentional about God’s calling on my life. My super loving, very busy, seldom quiet family makes me strive to be better daily. They love me without pretense or conditions and they support my vision so much that they serve as my team when it’s time to get things done. Not only do they give of their time, they also give their money and their skills; no strings attached. Those all nighters, they served as quiet time for me to hear from God, uninterrupted, and complete that task I was given. My first book, BETTER, Not Bitter Baby, Becoming The Woman You’re Called To Be… 22 Days of Affirming Truth, was published in April of this year.
Now if I’m completely honest, I was not walking around screaming, “Oh Lord I’m so grateful!” each day as this was all going on. Some days I was whining and complaining. Well, it wasn’t whole days, it was more like moments throughout a day. Then I’d have to give myself the proverbial, figurative, slap in the face as a reminder of the many blessings I had to be grateful for. If that slap in the face didn’t work I’d text or call my sissy, Shannon, to whine for a moment. She’d give me some encouragement and I’d move on with my life.
I’d like to tell you that writing the book was enough of a reminder to simply be thankful at all times, but sometimes you need additional reminders. Oftentimes, those reminders come with, or in the form of challenges. Writing the book and those obstacles that were really blessings, hmph, the smallest of my obstacles for this year.
Did I forget to mention that one daughter was in the process of finishing college and the other (and my son-love-and-law) were expecting my third grandchild. Yeah, there was a lot going on. So, my third grandchild, my first granddaughter, was born in June. Soon after her mother, my oldest daughter, began to battle postpartum depression (PPD) that manifested as panic attacks, sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, and OCD. Yep, all of that falls under the PPD umbrella. All of the previously mentioned challenges/blessings were simply preparation for this huge obstacle in our lives. Yes, I said our because although this was certainly my daughter’s challenge, it was a family battle. We went to war against the enemy with, and for, her.
That meant many more all nighters. Initially the all nighters looked like praying over my daughter throughout the night, sleeping next to her, watching over her to know when to start praying when she awoke. Then it became a combination of rotating baby shifts with my son-in-love-and-law so that my daughter could sleep. As I write this I’m reminded that I hadn’t pulled an all nighter in years prior to writing my book; didn’t think I still had it in me. God needed me to know that I could. He prepared my mind and my body before my granddaughter came. How good is God?! Yet another reason to be thankful in spite of. Not only had He prepared me physically and mentally, He kept me where I was needed during a season when I thought I needed to move. In fact it was a season where I wanted to move. Heck, my entire family wanted movement prior to PPD showing up. However, we quickly realized that God had us in position for what was to come. So, as we battled this beast, and make no mistake about it PPD is a beast, we were actually able to stop and thank God for His sovereignty and for covering my family when we had no idea what He was doing or why He had done it, until that very moment.
You see, had I moved when I wanted to I would not have been in position to support my family in the way that I needed to. Had I gotten the high paying job I wanted, in a nice office, I wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the swift life change that allowed me to be by my daughter’s side 24 hours a day. Lastly, I look at the struggles our family endured during this season and can clearly see God’s hand and His plan. My God. My God. When I tell you, He brought us through to get us to… whew! PPD was simply a necessary tool to bring our family closer together and bring about changes in my daughter, in ways nothing else could. This experience also assured that my daughter truly knew God’s heart for her and His purpose for her life.
He is mighty to be praised! Do you hear me?! He taught us all how to be grateful in the midst of any and every storm for a number of reasons:
So, today, no matter what you’re going through be thankful for the lessons and blessings that are sure to come as a result of whatever you’re facing. Most importantly, be thankful that even in your struggles God is still God, Jesus still sits on the throne, and He is going to bring you through this test with a mighty testimony of His love, His grace, and His mercy. As you go through this month of thankfulness, don’t just be thankful in spite of, be thankful because of.
Be blessed & encouraged,
Raquel R. James is committed to serving as a catalyst to transformation in the lives of ladies dedicated to changing the trajectory of their lives as they define what next, what now. She is an LMSW, a Master Lifestyle Strategist, Transformational Speaker, Author of BETTER, Not Bitter Baby…, Creator of Jammies and Jewels, and the Owner and CEO of Raquel R. James Unlimited, LLC. In addition, Raquel is an Authorized Relationship Program Leader and Certified P.I.C.K. a Partner and Marriage L.I.N.K.S. Instructor. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from Fordham University in New York.
You can purchase her latest book, BETTER, Not Bitter Baby… as well as BETTER, Not Bitter t-shirts here. Single ladies be sure to join Raquel at her 2nd Annual Jammies & Jewels, New Year’s Eve Edition; click here for more info. You can always connect with Raquel via Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to drop by her website as well.
I can’t believe it’s November! This year has flown by! It’s been filled with many highs and a few lows for me. I’ve seen God move so much more this year thus far and I already know the rest of this year and next year God is going to blow my mind! I know this because the events and tasks that I’m embarking on are stretching me and pressing me to trust Him like never before!
Nevertheless, I’m excited that we’re entering a season where things slow down a bit. I also know that we’re entering a season where things can be a little sad for some of us who’ve lost loved ones or may not be in a great place in some familial relationships. Of all the things, people & activities that will vie for our attention, let us not forget to have a thankful & grateful heart for what & Who we do have, our relationship with Jesus Christ! Our relationship with Christ helps us to have a thankful heart in spite of adversity, less than favorable circumstances, heart ache and heart break. This month on the blog, I have coined it Heart of Thanks In Spite Of…. I have a few of my good sister friends guest posting this month on how they’ve been able to have a thankful heart in spite of the challenges they’ve faced this year. I hope their heart of faith shines through their writing as you get to know them.
I pray that the posts this month blesses and encourages you greatly! There will be a new post each Monday so make sure to sign up so that you don’t miss a post! Plus, my sister friends will include links to their blogs/ministries/books as well. I have some very gifted sisters!
Be blessed & encouraged,
P.S. We just launched Purely Loved Butters & Scrubs!! I’m so excited about this as I love whipped body butters and scrubs and I enjoy making them so make sure to check them out here!
P.S.S. There’s still space for the Purely Loved Retreat and there’s still time to take advantage of our payment plan! Click here to register!
Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT) ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Now this story is a great example of unwavering faith! If you don’t know the story, please go read Daniel chapter 3 in the Bible. But here, we see the response of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego, they were not going to bow down to a stupid statue, they were not going to worship anything or anyone other than the Living, Holy God! They were not bothered whatsoever by the king’s threats! So King Nebuchadnezzar is ticked and orders them to be thrown into the fiery furnace only he’s so angry, he orders it to be heated up 7 times hotter than normal! Stop here. Ok, I don’t know about you but I’d probably be crying, begging, pleading, snotting all over the place because hello, I’m about to be bound and thrown into fire, while I’m awake and fully alive! I can’t help but to wonder what was going on in their minds! What were they saying to each other if anything? Were they praying? Were they praising God? Or were they silent and stoic? Also, as I was reading, I noticed that as they got closer to the fire, the guards who’d bound them and led them to the fire, they burned and died but nothing was said about the heat from the fire affecting Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego! So now I’m wondering, when did the Angel of the Lord actually show up?! Shouldn’t Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego have burned from the heat too?
I’m reading this chapter in the Bible and I’m thinking of all the warfare I’ve experienced in the past few weeks and even hearing from friends who’ve been in a spiritual battle and wondering, how strong is our faith really? I know I’ve had several days where I’ve just wanted to quit and in my mind I did quit. But I’m not facing physical fire, no physical pain, nothing as dire as what Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego faced so why is my faith so shaky and conditional? Lord, this it too hard, I quit! Really Shannon!? Not only is this chapter making me check myself (insert eye roll here), I learned 4 key points about unwavering faith from our brothers:
In the ending of chapter 3 after seeing 4 figures walking around in the fiery furnace, the king was astounded! He had to question his guards to make sure that there were only 3 people thrown in to the furnace! The king goes to the furnace, calls for Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego to come out of the furnace and they don’t smell like smoke, there are no burns, not even a piece of hair was singed! He’d witnessed the miracle of God’s supernatural protection as a result of their unwavering faith and it drew the king to worship God and to promote Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
I don’t know about you, but I needed this kick in the butt today! God always gives us what we need when we need it. He knows when we need a gentle nudge or a firm push or kick in the pants to get us to stand while in the fire! Either way, He still gets the glory! I shall press forward to fulfill what He’s called me to do. I know the warfare won’t stop but I can rejoice knowing that by standing in unwavering faith, I’m protected, my faith is drawing others to Him, He will promote me and my unwavering faith will bring Him great glory! Hallelujah!
Be blessed & encouraged,
PS. Don’t forget that registration for Purely Loved 2019 retreat is open & my new 5 day e-devotional is available, You Might Be Stuck If…5 Reasons You’re Not Moving Forward
I’ve written a new 5 day devotional! I wanted to write something that was simple, to the point. I wanted to write something that would make us sit down and listen to what God has to say about our situation and not our friends, or our own biased thoughts. If you’re stuck and going in circles, perhaps this devotional is for you. Enjoy!
“A 5 day, in-your-face, intimate devotional that guides you through 5 reasons you’re not moving forward. Each day there’s a break down of the issue, then several scriptures that you go through with Holy Spirit as you allow Him to show you the reasons you’ve hit a brick wall according to the Word and Will of God. No sugar coating, no flowers or rainbows, just straight truth!”
Be blessed & encouraged,
I believe the sooner we learn that only God can truly satisfy us, the better off we’ll all be. Everything else is just a bonus, a filler. If all the things we strove for were truly fulfilling, then we’d stop striving. We can have everything going for us and have everything we could ever want and still feel empty. The reason is we spend so much time pursuing things, people, recognition, worldly success and not nearly enough time pursuing God. We even pursue the encounter with Him more than we pursue Him. How often we forget that everything we need is in the presence of the Almighty God! If we pursue Him first, everything else will be added unto us!
Even though I’m married and have kids, there’s still a place in my heart that only God can fill. My husband, a wonderful man of God, yet still human, does and says things that aren’t always pleasant and my children often do things that don’t make me happy. They are human. No human should carry around the weight of having to make another person happy. For God alone, fills me completely. If I can’t feel His presence or hear His voice, I feel lost. I have to have God. Without Him, I’m an absolute mess. He truly is my rock, defense, my strong tower. It’s only by Him that I’m able to stand and not be shaken or disheartened.
Things are moving slower than I’d like right now but I know without a shadow of a doubt that my God is moving and working. I know this because I know Him. I know His character and I know His word, therefore, I continue to stand in faith and I will see the salvation of the Lord! Make sure that you know Him too!
Be blessed & encouraged,
Because so many of us are in a time of transition, facing so many different things personally, I figured Psalm 91 in it’s entirety is needed instead of one verse. I pray that the words of our Father brings peace and comfort to you today and forever, in Jesus’ name, Amen!
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”
For He will save you from the trap of the fowler,
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions,
And under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.
You will not be afraid of the terror of night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction (sudden death) that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But danger will not come near you.
You will only [be a spectator as you] look on with your eyes
And witness the [divine] repayment of the wicked [as you watch safely from the shelter of the Most High].
Because you have made the Lord, [who is] my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will command His angels in regard to you,
To protect and defend and guard you in all your ways [of obedience and service].
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you do not [even] strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and cobra;
The young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he set his love on Me, therefore I will save him;
I will set him [securely] on high, because he knows My name [he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no, never].
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
“With a long life I will satisfy him
And I will let him see My salvation.”
Be blessed & encouraged,
‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you;
I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’
Today has been pretty heavy. I’m feeling the burden of the anniversary of 9/11 and the impending hurricane on the east coast. I’m feeling the fears and hurts. Being a prophet and having the gift of discernment, I feel lots of what’s going on in the atmosphere and it’s compiled with what’s going on in my own life. The hardest thing sometimes is separating other peoples hurts and fears from your own. So I pray for both.
I’m learning so much in this season. I’m learning so much about people and that their actions speak a whole heck of a lot louder than their words. Their facial expressions speak volumes! I’m learning to deal with the discomfort of not being liked by some people but loving them in spite of. I’m learning to accept people as they are and sometimes that can be hard and painful but never the less, my God tells me in today’s verse not to be afraid of this new journey for He is with me. He will give me the strength to move forward in spite of all that I’m learning and discerning. He’s helping me to see people through His eyes and I’m so happy that He is. I refuse to let bitterness take root. I refuse to develop a hard heart because of the things that I can see and feel. Instead, I will pray harder and love with the love of Christ. I will hold on to His righteous right hand, His hand of justice, power, victory and salvation. I’m so grateful for our Father’s heart to help us to navigate the rough waters.
Whatever you’re going through right now, please remember that you are not alone, God is with you and for you! For those on the east coast, I’m praying for you and for those affected by the tragic events of 9/11 I’m praying for you as well. If there’s anything in particular that I can be in prayer for, please send me a message at email@example.com.
Be blessed & encouraged,
Trust the process...
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4
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