How to Relax through the Pain

How To Relax Through The Pain

For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
2 Timothy 1:12

“Just relax through the pain.”

“Relax through the pain?” I thought to myself, “what an oxymoron. Who can relax through pain?”

I was suffering from something called a frozen shoulder. It happened one day when I at recess with my students. Why I thought I had to do a cartwheel at the young age of 50 was beyond me. But I did it, and I stuck the landing. However, I paid the price.

Now, I could barely put my arm behind my back, or lift it above a 30-degree angle. I had been to the doctor several times, but I was making very little progress.

During the course of this inconvenient injury, I was attending a conference at a posh hotel in South Carolina. That’s when I met Michael—an angel who disguises himself as a massage therapist. I scheduled a massage.

Michael greeted me for my appointment and as protocol dictates, asked me the usual pre-massage questions. I saw a spark of interest ignite in his eyes when I told him I was there not to relax, but to seek healing for my injured arm. This was not just a typical bored pampered housewife appointment—I needed real help.

There is no progress without pain.

As he began to go deep into the injured arm, Michael said, “Just relax through the pain.” I turned over this comment over in my mind. Relax through pain. How do these concepts mesh? Is it possible to hurt yet rest? How does a person relax when in pain? Michael worked as I breathed in and out. Mind wandering. Muscles releasing. Stress draining. Suddenly, I realized to my astonishment I was relaxing through the pain.

Why? How? One word—trust. I trusted Michael. He knew when to stop. He knew how to probe the injury to a depth that brought healing not harm. I did not have to protect myself because he was protecting me. But he didn’t protect me out of my healing. I could relax and let him work because I trusted him.

Same thing with God. He asks us to trust him through the pain; to give our wounds into His healing hands and let Him go deep. He knows when to stop, and  when we’ve had enough. Left on our own, we will protect  ourselves right out of our healing. But God knows how to heal, not harm. We can relax and let Him work because He is trustworthy. Healing wrapped in pain. A salve of wholeness and hurt. Buried pain exposed, cut away and removed.

Pain then healing. Hurt then wholeness.

We can relax through the pain of life because we are safe in His hands.

Trust in Him.

Action Points:

  1. What are you holding back? Is there a painful situation you need to turn over to God? Take a step of trust and tell Him as best as you know how at this moment, you are giving this hurt to Him to heal.
  2. Envision your self completely healed. What would be different? What can you dare to finally do because you are completely healed?
  3. Take the first step. What is your first step? A move? A career change? The end of a relationship? Letting go of decades old guilt or shame? The first step can be scary but very freeing and empowering!
  4. Seek the help you need. Counselors, pastors, doctors, whatever it takes, do it.
  5. Pray. Cover everything in prayer. Ask God to give you His best and open wide your arms to receive it.

 

Mary Kane

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4 Ways to Stand Firm

stand firm

I love to wake up early in the morning to enjoy the quiet peacefulness of a new day with my Father. After breakfast, I slip on my shoes, grab my Bible verses and take a prayer walk.

One morning the sky was filled with dark heavy clouds.

I glanced at the sky and decided to take a chance. While I was saying my verses, I kept a watchful eye on the sky. About half way through the rain began to fall. A few yards ahead, I saw a dry spot in the road; the overhanging trees offered a little protection from the rain. I hurried to the dry spot and waited. As the rain poured down I thanked God for keeping me dry in my sheltered spot.

I was tempted, as the rain became particularly heavy, to leave my dry haven and dash for home. After weighing my choices—dashing or waiting—I decided to wait. After all, I was barely even wet despite the downpour. While I was passing the time, I could sense God had a lesson for me.

“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.”

Proverbs 10:25

As of late, my life has been a little turbulent and unpredictable. Usually my first reaction to trouble has been to run from it as quickly as possible.

I’ve spent my life running. From conflict. From fear. From change. From criticism. I’ve been a runner.

But God wants me to stand firm, to quit running and trust He will work all things for my good. Instead of running from the storms of life, He wants me to stand firm in the shelter of His presence. When I am under His cover the only things that can come to me are things He allows. In His presence I am in the storm but protected from the storm.

As the rain poured down and I stood firm,

I heard my Father whisper in my soul, The danger is not in the storm but in the running. Stand firm.

“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” Proverbs 10:25

In the storms of life, God deals with the wicked and takes care of the righteous. Forever.

4 Ways to Stand Firm

1. Change your self-talk. Instead of rehearsing over and over how you will fail, fall or disappoint God, talk about how He is helping, strengthening, and leading you.

2. Memorize scripture. Memorizing scripture will subdue your enemies, your fears and will help you with your self-talk. Speak scripture into your circumstances. Replace the lies of your own self-talk or lies of the enemy with scripture.

3. Replace worry with prayer. Every time a worry or fear pops into your head, change it to a prayer. Ask others to pray for your to stand firm. Make your prayers more powerful by filling them with scripture.

4. Go forward. Walk by faith. Make no decision based on fear. Think of a person whose faith you greatly admire. Ask yourself What would so-and-so do? and do it. God did not bring this challenge to you so you would fail. And if you do falter, get up and try again.

Stand Firm.

Mary Kane

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She Sinned

she sinned

2 “ … all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,
4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” …
9 “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst …”
“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:2-10

She sinned.

She is caught in the very act. Given the nature of her sin, she did not sin alone, yet she stands abandoned before the crowd in the temple. Is her “lover” in the crowd watching, caring, or cowering? Real love would not leave her to face the rocks alone. He had used her.

He isn’t the only one using her; the Scribes and Pharisees are guilty of the same crime. None of the men in her life are concerned about her sin or her character. She is a decoy, a sacrificial lamb to trap the Lamb of God. The Scribes and Pharisees are hoping to trick Jesus into contradicting the Law, that way they can have a two-for-one stoning. With rocks in hand, the Pharisees drag the woman to Jesus to see what He would say. Ironically, they interrogate the Law Giver by asking, “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

Why do Scribes and Pharisees think Jesus will give an answer other than stone her? Scripture clearly spells out her sentence. Stoning (Leviticus 20:27). Perhaps the fact Jesus ate dinner with tax collectors and prostitutes got around town. At any rate, the Pharisees are willing to sacrifice the woman in order to get Jesus. After all, she sinned. She’s guilty. Everyone knows it. Even Jesus knows it.

Jesus’ answer is brilliant.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The angry crowd falls silent.
Memories. Regret. Conviction.
Fingers fidget and a single stone hits the ground. Then another. Rocks drop one by one as fists unclench. A hailstorm of rocks pelts the dust.
Stones of judgment roll away from fingers as stones from an empty tomb.

The Rock of Ages offers grace to a broken woman. The One who is without sin, the only One who qualifies to throw a stone throws her a lifeline. From oldest to youngest her accusers leave, and she is left standing brazenly before the throne of grace. She sinned, but He forgives.

Her story starts with a man and ends with a Man, one a sinner and one a Savior. Grace comes and crushes her guilt, sin, and shame, and she is free. And she sinned no more.

True love wins.

From the adulterous woman, we learn three things we should do when we have sinned.

1. Take your sin to Jesus. Tell Him what you’ve done and accept His grace. Tell Him.

2. Talk to Jesus. Notice the only person the woman talked to in this altercation was Jesus. She did not fight, argue, or defend herself to the crowds. Like the woman caught in adultery, leave your accusers to Jesus.

3. Turn and sin no more. Whatever it takes … new friends … new job … new habits … sin no more. Change requires change. What will you change today to change your life tomorrow?

Mary Kane

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She Gave

give

 

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.

Mark 12:41-44

She gave everything.

Many would say the widow’s story is one of generosity. Undoubtedly, the nameless widow was generous. But I think more than generosity, the widow’s story is about faith; not faith in the church or faith in the generosity of neighbors, but faith in the Savior.

The widow’s faith was big, so her gift was big. Even when giving something meant giving everything, she gave. Her resources were small, but the widow’s faith was beyond measure.

give
She gave everything.

Widow, by the Greek definition, refers to elderly “widows” whom the synagogue supports.

Note to reader: the poor widow had two mites (3/8 of a cent) to live on. Makes one wonder about synagogue support.

However, the widow gave everything to a synagogue who gave her, by all appearances, nothing. Jesus, stationed by the temple treasury box, was watching as people gave their gifts. Ironically, He praises the widow’s gift, but lets slide the sizable gifts of the rich.

She gave … they made contributions. There’s a difference.

Giving: gut level stuff – blood, sweat and tears.

Contributions: skin deep – neat, tidy, and easy.

Rich/poor

Wealthy/widows

Millions/mites.

Isn’t it wonderful that the widow’s greatest gift came during the season of her greatest need?  And her Savior saw. He knew her need and her gift. He was right there, within reach when she gave her gift. Did she know? … did her heart burn inside her as she gave because of the nearness of her Savior?

Why do we give anything? … or better yet, why don’t we give everything? Because our faith is small. The widow’s gift gives us great hope that we can give out of our poverty and smallness.

I have given something, I have given nothing, but I have never given everything. Maybe it is only when we are deeply needy that we truly give.

What is God calling you to give?

What have you already given, but still need to give more … everything?

Pray for God to give you the courage to give your two small coins. Ask Him to multiply them and use them for His kingdom.

Give big.

Mary Kane

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Will You Stand Like a Rock?

Like a Rock

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

We live very close to Lake Michigan. While we go to the big lake most often in the summer months, we enjoy it best in the fall and winter, after the tourists have gone home for the season. This winter the Midwest experienced days of turbulent wind, especially along the lakeshore. The waves reached incredible heights, crashing the coast and pounding the beaches. Churning. Tossing. Stirring.

Big storms mean big change.

They reshape and sculpt the landscape. Yards of beach can be gained or lost during the stormy season. Houses built too close to the shore are at risk. Every year some are lost to the lake. Expensive, beautiful homes tumble down to the surf like so many houses of cards. Why? Poor construction? Cheap materials? No, wrong foundation – they were built upon the sand.

Sand is unstable—it shifts beneath our feet causing us to stumble and trip. Sand stings and whips as it is whisked away by the winds.

I have built upon the sand:

Crumbling castles of pride and foolishness.
Misplaced trust.
Wrong motives.
False doctrines.
A relationship that never should have been.
Habits of sin.

Dreams I built upon the sand came tumbling down.
I stood among the rubble, thinking all was lost—not realizing the false had been washed away by the waves to make way for the True.

Storms of life reshape the landscape of our existence
—sculpting the substance of our souls. Underneath all the turmoil God is at work. The Holy Spirit, the breath of God, blows away the sand and reveals a Rock—a firm foundation.

While the wind and waves bring devastation to the house built upon the sand, we see a strange phenomenon for the house upon the Rock. The house is not wrecked or ruined by the waves—it is refined. Jagged edges smoothed. Rough surfaces polished. Sharp corners chiseled.

The storms no longer destroy—they transform.

We no longer have to fear the storms. God uses them as an effective tool to conform us into the image of His Son. We can stand upon the Rock with the assurance that because He stands, we also will stand.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Action Points:

  1. Are you building on the truth? Can everything you are doing be traced back to Scripture? Is God’s Word at the foundation of all your decisions and actions?
  2. Do you have a good supply of building materials? Are you filling your mind and heart with God’s Word? What needs to go? What do you need to add?
  3. Are your current projects, relationships, and ideas built upon rock or sand? Will they stand the storms of life or are they destined to fall with a mighty crash? It’s never too late to make a change.

Mary Kane

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The Gifts of the Nativity

Nativity scene with gifts

“Remember, we don’t put the Wise Men out until January 6th,” my dad instructed me as my little fingers reached for the figurines.

“But why, Daddy?” I asked.

“Because the Wise Men don’t arrive until after Jesus is born. And Baby Jesus doesn’t arrive until Christmas Day,” he said.

Setting up the Nativity scene was a special tradition when I was growing up. It was one of the first signs of the season, and it anchored me to what was important, Emmanuel, God with us.

Nativity scenes are beautiful and thought provokingly simple. They speak messages of hope and peace. When we meditate on each member of the holy tableau, we see the gifts God is waiting to bestow upon us.

The Gift of Mary
It was an ordinary day for Mary. Grinding grain. Fetching water. Kneading dough. And suddenly, God interrupts. The ordinary made extraordinary by the presence of the Holy Spirit. An angel brings good tidings of great joy. God has chosen her to bear His Son. Though Mary knew not a man, she is unexpectedly expecting. A miracle.

“I am your maidservant,” is Mary’s simple answer to God’s plan. But, her simple answer leads to great complications. Mary knew the possible penalty for bearing a child out of wedlock; God’s own Law hands down her sentence. But she trusts the Author of the Law more than the letter of the Law.

Public opinion can be very unforgiving. However, Mary lays down her reputation for the King of Kings and is honored above all women—not because she is sinless or perfect, but because she obeys. Mary’s act of obedience changed the world.

If we accept the gift of obedience, we too shall greatly affect our world for Christ.

The Gift of Joseph
It was anything but an ordinary day for Joseph. A hard day’s work is followed by a hard message from his true love. Mary is having a child, not his. Exhausted, he falls to his pallet. Mary’s unexpected news hammers his soul as Joseph ponders how his dreams could so quickly turn to sawdust.

The young carpenter tosses and turns until an angel interrupts. “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” And Joseph takes Mary to be his wife.

Joseph is perhaps the most overlooked member of the nativity. But Joseph was no less chosen to be the father of Jesus than Mary was chosen to be His mother. It is through Joseph we see a father is the protector of the family.

Through dreams, God revealed dangers to Joseph that He did not make known to Mary. God protects families by using fathers and when a father is absent,God is Father to the fatherless. As Joseph guarded Jesus, we also must protect our relationship with Him.

When we accept the gift of protection, we shall greatly affect our families for Christ.

The Gift of the Magi
Wise Men, Magi, the Three Kings. We have heard these terms so often they cease to have meaning. The word Magi means an Oriental astrologer, teacher, a sorcerer, a wizard. The Magi followed the star to Bethlehem to Jesus. The star, tailor-made to catch the attention of the astrologers, drew them to the feet of Jesus. Sorcerers invited to worship the Son of God. Scandalous.

Thousands of steps, and hundreds of days. Through the wilderness and desert of the Middle East they travel. Day in. Day out. Determined. Finally, they meet He who calls the stars by name. No longer stargazers, they’ve become Morning Star believers. True wise men worshiping at the feet of Jesus.

When we accept the gift of perseverance, we too will be greatly affected by the Savior.

The Gift of the Shepherds
The Shepherds were out in the fields watching their flocks by day and by night. Night after night. Until one night: O Holy Night! Suddenly, an angel appears and the skies blaze with the heavenly hosts. Had the shepherds not been diligent in their daily tasks, they would have missed the message. They would have missed Jesus.

“And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The shepherds had to make a choice. Sheep or the Good Shepherd? Lambs or Lamb of God? They leave their sheep and hoof it with haste to Bethlehem.

“17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.”

The shepherds met Jesus, and God’s message became their message. They shouted it from the mountaintops; Jesus Christ is born! Shepherds turned evangelists (without a Bible college degree). We face the same choice. What will be our priority: career or Christ, entertainment or Emmanuel, self or Savior?

When we make Jesus our priority, we too will greatly affect the world for Christ.

The Gift of Jesus.
God calls us to accept the greatest gift of the Nativity: Jesus.

The gift is one size fits all, and comes gift wrapped—in flesh. He’s the perfect gift for the man who has everything. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you are welcome. Jesus can redeem any sin and restore every loss. Accept God’s present this Christmas. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and live for Him. He is the gift that keeps on giving.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

When we accept Jesus as Savior, our lives will never be the same. Merry Christmas.

Mary Kane

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Thanksgiving or Thanks Living?

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving or Thanks Living?

Thanksgiving. A time of year when we gather together with friends and family to relax, feast, and visit. For some, no longer having to wait for Black Friday, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Scarf down the pumpkin pie, grab the credit card and hit the mall.

Thanksgiving. Thanks giving.

 It’s not a season or a holiday, but a habit or an attitude. To coin a new word, a habitude. God desires His people to live a lifestyle of thanks giving. Not just a day of thanks giving, but days upon days of thanks living. His word confirms it, “In everything, give thanks.” Everything. That’s a tall order. Why are we to give thanks in everything? Because in Christ Jesus, all things can be occasions for giving (not feeling) thanks. It’s not just good things that yield fruit. God uses hard, painful, and bitter things for good, blessing and gain. In everything, there is a kernel of blessing, some seed of gain, a root of good.

We won’t always see the good . . .

it may be a long time coming. The habitude of thanksgiving is a walk of faith. By faith we thank God for the good He will bring when He works all things for our good and His glory. The habitude of thanksgiving is a “Joseph kind of life,” persevering through the hard stuff knowing what others mean for evil, God will use for good.

During this season of life, my sisters and I have the privilege of walking our mom through her journey with Alzheimer’s. While I wish my mother did not have this debilitating disease, our family has been blessed in many ways. We have closed ranks, hunkered down and gathered around our mother. Close knit, working together, sharing tears, joys and memories. “Hello, Mary.” Beautiful word from my mother … music to my ears. What was ten years ago a commonplace, unremarkable greeting is now treasure. Blessing from suffering. Beauty from ashes.

“I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:17

In the Old Testament, thanksgiving is often coupled with sacrifice. The word sacrifice means an offering, a slaying. Sometimes saying thank you is a sacrifice.

We make a sacrifice of thanksgiving when we:

  • lay aside our pride, confess our wrong and thank others for their willingness to confront
  • place our plan on the altar and thank God for His plan
  • sacrifice our bitterness and thank God for His sovereignty
  • cast aside our right to revenge and thank God for the healing He will bring in our relationships.

At the last supper, Jesus broke bread and gave thanks. He said the bread represented His Body broken and given for us. For the suffering and agony He would endure, Jesus gave thanks because He knew the good that would come from it.

Eight habitudes of a thankful person.

How can we cultivate gratitude in our lives? What makes a person thankful? How can we tell if we are thankful?

Thankful people:

  1. Receive blessings and seek to bless others.
  2. Appreciate the small things – a beautiful flower, the song of a bird, a cozy cup of tea on a rainy day.
  3. Pursue God and His Word. They grow more thankful as they grow in Jesus.
  4. Live in the moment. They don’t long for the future or regret the past.
  5. Believe what God says is true – they are loved, forgiven and blessed.
  6. Seek God in all things. And when they can’t see, they walk by faith, trusting that God is good.
  7. Thank by faith, before they receive.
  8. Are controlled by the Spirit. They are stable and not thrown by rumors, hardship or trials.

This Thanksgiving, let’s cultivate the habitude of thanks living. In big things, small things, hard things, in all things. Live thanks.

By Mary Kane

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Bitterness or Betterness?

Which direction are you going?

By Mary Kane

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:34b-35

When I was little, I was fascinated by treasure and treasure maps. I loved reading books about buried fortunes (Nancy Drew and The Quest of the Missing Map was a favorite). How exciting to follow a parchment map to the foot of a tree, and with spade in hand unearth a treasure.

Buried. Beautiful. Valuable.

X marks the spot.

Treasure is a key word in Mathew 6:35. In the original Greek it transliterates as thesauros, which means a place to collect things and the place in which good and precious things are collected and laid up. Interestingly, thesauros also means a casket.

Think for a moment. A container for good, precious things or a casket for dead, lifeless things.

In my living room I have a cedar chest, a place where I collect precious things. It holds treasures of the past. Corsages … diplomas … love letters … a wedding bouquet … baby booties … scribbly pictures … handmade Mother’s Day cards … funny little birthday presents from funny little sons.

Why do I store mementos in my cedar chest? So I can remember; so I can relive again and yet again the beautiful memories my keepsakes invoke. As I hold a treasure in my hands, it continues to move and change me, to mold my soul.

The heart is like a cedar chest—a place to collect things. We decide what to fill it with. Good things. Lovely things. Beautiful things. But, we can choose to fill the heart with bitter things, reliving them over and over, wounding ourselves afresh with every remembrance, shredding our heart and shattering our soul.

Bitter memories will also continue to change and mold us.

It seems then we have a choice.

What shall we store in the heart? At times we choose bitterness. Why?
I prayed for insight and an answer came clearly to my mind. We treasure bitterness because we feel something is owed to us, something feels unfinished.

But, when Jesus said, “It is finished,” bitterness died on the cross. It was never meant to be stored in the heart to taint and poison. Give bitter memories to Jesus and trust Him to use them for good. Then, fill your heart with His life-giving Word. Hide it deep in the soil of your heart.

His Word becomes buried treasure. Precious. Beautiful. Valuable.

The Cross marks the spot.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:35

The choice is yours.

Action Points:
1. Ask God to search your heart and remove any bitterness lurking there. He promises to remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

2. Check your heart by examining your tongue. What are you saying? Are you speaking words of life into your relationships, challenges and trials or words of bitterness and death? “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

3. Pray the Word. Find scriptures that address your current challenges and pray them into your life. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” Joshua 1:8

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