Category Archives: Christian Living

Book Review: Junkyard Wisdom

junkyard-wisdomRoy Goble is my friend. The first day I met him, I hated him.

Ford Munnerlyn, Roy Goble, me - probably 1979 in Sunol CA
Ford Munnerlyn, Roy Goble, me – probably 1979 in Sunol CA

We met in 1977 as incoming freshman at Westmont College. He is a Giants fan; I bleed Dodger blue. One of the first things we did together was play catch. We have done a lot of things together since then and I no longer hate him (I really never hated him; we just irritate each other). All of that to say that I know Roy and therefore can say some things in this review that are first hand.

Roy is generous. An anecdote: we were each other’s best man. I married in July of 81; he in September of 81. We started our families at the same time. He went into Real Estate and I went into pastoral ministry, that is, he made money and I didn’t. Soon after the birth of our first born, Roy sent me a check for a significant amount of money (more than $20). After the second born, another check. After our third, another check. After the fourth, the standard amount + $500 with a note: “here is an additional $500, get fixed, I can’t afford this.”

Roy is smart. Roy is straightforward. Roy is bold. This is why I turn to him for advice when I need it – only a few times in my life –  and why I listen to what he has to say.

Those are all good reasons for you to read his new book: Junkyard Wisdom: Resisting the Whisper of Wealth in a World of Broken Parts.

Every person who lives in the US is wealthy on the global scale.  Roy writes for those of us who want to live lives that see beyond personal gratification and gain a perspective on how to be wise about how we manage the resources we have in abundance. Written in a direct, uncomplicated way Roy gives us a road map for maximizing our impact with wealth.

The story is told in ripple format, a modern take on ancient Hebrew chiasm. As Roy tells the story it ripples out from the junkyard to the ends of the world, he invites you to experience the ripples yourself. You can learn his lessons and apply them so that you too can fix some broken parts in our world.

Roy ends the book with apologies, as opposed to thanks, and here is a final apology: “I’m sorry this book can’t fully express the things Jesus has taught me. I tried my best, but only a few of the pages even hint at the amazing opportunities we will find if we dare to resist the whisper of wealth, tear down the walls between us, and begin loving our neighbor as God calls us to.”

I am recommending this book to all my friends who have money. That is you if you are reading this post.

Buy the book. Read the book. Share the wealth.

roy

Roy wrote a guest post on this blog entitled The Riches of Grace.

You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or just call him, here is his cell phone number….555-555-5555.

Look up and involve yourself in some of Roy’s investments: Pathlight  – an educational enterprise aimed at reducing poverty in Belize and Jaguar Creek a place to stay in Belize and be filled with awe through a truly unique experience that adds positive value to  local communities.

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Praying for Others

The dynamic of prayer in the fellowship of the Saints is a dying art and practice.  Here are some guidelines for the art of what is known as intercession.

in·ter·ces·sion

Moses Prays for Israel
Moses Prays for Israel
/ˌintərˈseSHən/
Noun
  1. The action of intervening on behalf of another.
  2. The action of saying a prayer on behalf of another person.

There are many examples of intercessory prayer in the Bible.  Paul is a good source, he communicated what he prayed to the the people for whom he prayed.  One of the best and most detailed prayer comes from Colossians 1:9-14:

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NASB)

So here are the items in Paul’s prayer that you can use to pray for others.

  1. Pray that people be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
  2. Pray that people have spiritual wisdom and understanding.
  3. Pray that people walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
  4. Pray that people please God in every respect.
  5. Pray that people would bear fruit in every good work.
  6. Pray that people would increase in the knowledge of God.
  7. Pray that people would be strengthened with all power so that they would be steadfast and patient.
  8. Pray that people would be filled with joy and would not forget to give thanks to the Father.
  9. Thank God that he qualified them to be a saint in the Light.
  10. Thank God for rescuing them from the domain of Darkness and that they are in the Kingdom of His beloved Son.
  11. Thank God that their sins are forgiven and that they are redeemed.
  12. Thank God that they are in fellowship with you.

Notice that I didn’t do anything special. I just hijacked Paul’s prayer and personalized it.  Paul was praying for actual people in Colossae, pray for the people who sit next to you in church. The following week, share with the person that you prayed for them. Depending on your personal knowledge of the person you are praying for you can be more specific. Depending on your level of study and understanding of the passage you can add detail to your requests.

Some other passages that are intercessory in nature:  Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-21; Ephesians 3:14-21.  List some others in the comments.

 

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Love God…Thank God

A reprint from 2007 becomes

Grace Challenge Day 26

“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

This is at the same time the easiest and the hardest part of Christianity. When you love something, no effort is needed to express that love.Being “in love” consumes us.Our every waking hour is devoted to thinking about the object of our love.We find ourselves struggling to focus on other things.We have to force ourselves to work, eat, sleep – or we do all these things with that person in and on our mind. Remember?When we love God on this plane, obedience and service and study and worship become effortless.My yoke is easy, my burden is light is realized in the context of absolute mad love.When we look at the verse as a whole, resisting the temptation to break it down into parts (What does it mean to love God with my heart or mind?) we see that the command is all encompassing. Love God with every part of you:the inside, the outside, the tangible, the intangible, the major, the minor, the significant and insignificant.In every way, with everything, LOVE GOD.

This leads us to the first problem:this is a command.If we are honest with ourselves we would recognize that the above statement is not descriptive of our natural tendency toward God.How do you force yourself to love someone or something?We have the idea that loving someone happens naturally, hence the term:“falling in love.”It just happens.It just keeps going.Well for most of us, this is not the way it is. We may have a sense that it just happened, but keeping it going has proved to be more of an effort – more like climbing than falling.

As I have contemplated this, here is an incomplete list of things to do to increase and build your love for God.

  1. Recognize the depth of your sin and the huge need you have to be forgiven (Luke 7:36-50). The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.
  2. Recognize that all that you have, everything, comes from God (James 1:17).Everything.Everything.Big things, small things, seemingly insignificant things, the things you love the most in this world, they all come from God.Try disliking someone who daily gives you a gift.If I were to take you out to lunch every day, pick up the tab and give you a present, after a while – you would look for me.You would love me.God showers us with gifts every moment, multiple times over.Think about your every breath, it is a gift from God.Start counting.
  3. Recognize, behold the beauty of God (Psalm 27:4). Beauty triggered our love affair with our girl.Beauty makes love easy.And God has surrounded us with beauty – Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name (Psalm 29:2).Beauty triggers love in us.
  4. Verbalize the value (Psalm 9:1-2).I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, for every good and perfect gift. I will tell of all Your wonders and brag about Your beauty.Speaking is a powerful tool.It affirms the truth we believe.It discerns and points out our inconsistencies. To speak the words, “I love you Lord,” affirms and builds in us the emotion of love.It acknowledges and gives credit to God when you verbally thank Him, which affirms in you that the gift is a gift. It makes it harder to take for granted.
  5. Spend time in proximity to God (James 4:8). The promise is that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.When you spend a lot of time with generous, good, beautiful people, your tendency to love them will increase commensurately.God is the ultimate good, the most magnanimous, the unmatched beauty of the universe – when you see Him, you will love Him.He rewards those who seek Him.

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Having A Bad Day?

Grace Challenge, Day 15

Here is a repost from December 1, 2007…

Have you ever had one of those days?  Where you skipped breakfast, didn’t eat lunch till 2 and finally stopped for dinner at 10pm?  Where you ran from thing to thing, didn’t get anything done, had all sorts of interruptions, and then the water heater stops working, then your wife calls and tells you she was robbed at Costco.  Well, here is how you can praise God and rejoice even in the midst of your worst day.

I have been using this phrase lately, with myself and with others I have been interacting with:  “I have forgotten more good things that God has blessed me with than I deserve.”

I had dinner with some old friends a few weeks back and we reminisced about days gone by.  It brought back so many good memories that I had truly forgotten, abandoned to the deep crevices in my brain, banished by the onslaught of my pessimism and negative attitude.  For most humans, our default mindset is on the failures, shortcomings, disasters, hurts, regrets of our life.  It takes initiative and purpose to remember the good, the successes and the joys of life, all of us have forgotten a wealth of happiness and blessing.

Why do we have to think about smiling?
Why is it that if happiness is not directly connected to some current experience that we are having, we have to “choose” to be happy?

As Christians, we have substantive foundation for our positive outlook on life.  The Bible even commands us to be positive in the direst of circumstances.  Our foundation for positive thinking is the sovereignty and fatherhood of God.  He is in control and he loves his children.  Plain and simple.

So, here is how I found room to praise God on one of “those days.”

I was busy…I have a job, a family, a home (they demand my time).  That is a good thing.
I ate…I never go hungry, the only variable in my eating is my schedule.
I have a water heater to fix…or replace.  In Russia my parents showered with a pot of boiled hot water and a cup…like I did, once.

In the midst of the day there were also endless supply of joys…friends called my phone, friends helped with my project, a big check is on its way to my mailbox, the sunset that night was indescribable…very simply, counteract your default mindset with active thanksgiving and gratitude for all the good things during the day.  When you are overwhelmed by circumstance, actively look for something good, and praise God for it.  Make lists of memories that can serve you at low times.  In the OT they were big on memorial stones, memorial piles of stones (they called them altars).  Build yourself a memorial at the entrance to your home, to remind you every time you park your car that God has blessed you with a mansion, good relationships and …electricity.

Kelly’s wallet was stolen during “that” day…here is what Matthew Henry said when he was robbed:

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (James 1:2)

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Mis-Spoken Prayer

I originally posted this back in March, thought it was worth moving to the top of the blog for

Grace Challenge Day 10

My Dad is a Russian immigrant and English is not his first language.  He prays at all our family functions.  We often make fun of the mistakes that he makes in speaking. For instance,  he (as many people who have English as a second language might do) struggles with the gerund and distinguishing it from a participle.  I love that many of you  English as a first language people are scrambling to Google right now. He often says “take care-ving (taking care) of us.”  Here are some examples of what we are now dubbing “Moisi-ism’s” (His name is Moisi):

  • Celkular phone
  • Macadonian macaronis instead of macadamian macaroons…
  • The fire department checking the hydrogens
  • They got their bookshelf at the stapler instead of staples
  • He cussing us out…
  • Pie Alamo for Pie ala mode…
  • Crackpots for crockpots…
  • They lived till they died….

Recently, I had one of those aha moments during one of his “mis-statements” in prayer.  He meant to say: “I thank you God for all that you do for us” but instead it came out “I thank you God for all that you do to us”.

I was shocked out of my “arrogant-child-internally-begging- my-father-to-not-go-on-too-long-in-prayer-while- deciphering-his-every-English-language-mistake” mindset into a Holy Spirit moment.  God does stuff TO us.  He doesn’t exist to do favors for us, rather he often just sticks stuff to us.  And that is when it hit me.  I was not seeing or speaking correctly in my prayers with regard to the activity of God in my life.

Most of the time this perspective is helpful with regard to difficult stuff God does to us.  The personal problem of evil stuff like why did he let my dad abuse me, or my wife cheat on me, or my child have some incurable disease. Even the lesser evils like my car breaking down.  Mostly in my past I would “protect” God and say that he “allowed” these things. The obvious question is if He “allowed” it, why didn’t He just stop it from happening? and what is the difference between allowing and doing for God?  I find it more helpful now to say that God did it to me.  Here is why.

I trust God (so I say).  He is in control.  I trust God for the future (all things work together for good), so shouldn’t I trust Him for the past (in all things give Thanks)?  In trusting God for the past and to get to thanksgiving, it is better to use “to” than “for”.  “For” implies that I am only thankful for the things that seem to me to be beneficial.  But that is not what I have trouble thanking God for.  I have trouble thanking God for the things that don’t seem beneficial, the suffering.  The phrasing forces me to embrace the suffering of the past as truly a part of God’s hand in my life. When I am able to embrace the suffering of the past as from God I am empowered to move beyond it to the good that is intended through the suffering.

I thank you God for all that you do TO me.

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6 Steps to Freedom; 6 Patterns of Bondage

Steps to Freedom

  1. To Recognize is to admit that something needs to change
  2. To Repent is to identify destructive thought patterns that bind you to sin, renounce them by identifying them as lies
  3. To Renew is to adopt a new way of thinking
  4. To Replace is to exchange old behaviors with new ones
  5. To Reveal means to tell a trusted friend or mentor

Patterns of Bondage

  1. Rationalize bad behavior as normative, or blame others, or make the behavior extreme and unchangeable
  2. Continue in rebellion to what you know is right
  3. Habitualize your rebellion until it becomes a rut (addiction)
  4. Return to the same destructive patterns of behavior after repeated attempts to change
  5. Repeat the process
  6. Reject recognizing that the problem is yours and changeable.

 

Freedom Bondage
Recognize Rationalize
Repent Rebel
Renew Rut
Replace Return
Repeat Repeat
Reveal Reject/Refuse

 

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4 Verses from Isaiah

Here are some of my favorite verses from the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 25:1-3:  O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. 2 For You have made a city into a heap, A fortified city into a ruin; A palace of strangers is a city no more, It will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore a strong people will glorify You; Cities of ruthless nations will revere You.

Strength is not commonly associated with “religious” people.  A construction worker told me recently that Christians do not have a reputation as being “strong” in the construction workplace.  I like this verse because it affirms godliness as a strong characteristic.  That is why Paul says that bodily discipline is “only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things…”

BE Strong!

Isaiah 30:21: Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

What an apt description of the working together of the Holy Spirit and our conscience. You know what is right, you do.  The issue isn’t what is right and what is wrong, the issue is:  Are you going to heed the voice?  Decide to obey.  Choose the right path.

Listen!

Isaiah 37:31 “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.

There is a marvelous principle of growth embedded in this verse.  The fruit that is produced by the tree is a by-product of two things:  The internal structure of the tree (identity) and the strength and vitality of the root structure (mindset).  If you want to produce the fruit, you must have the appropriate identity.  The Bible calls that being born of God, born from above.  Christ has made believers a new creation.  Secondly, that must be the new soil in which the mind lives. If you plant an apricot tree in rich soil, it will produce fruit.  It will not have to try to produce it, it will simply produce it.  If you are not producing the fruit, one of two things is wrong.  You have not been made into a new creation by Christ, or you are not sending your roots down into the soil of God’s revealed truth.

Take care of your garden.

Isaiah 49:16 “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.

This verse has stuck with me for weeks now.  I can’t get over this picture of God loving me so much that He writes my name on His hand.  To be honest, I don’t know if I really believe this verse.  It is beyond my imagining that God would love me that much to perform this silly adolescent act.  This is what I did as a kid when I was so in love with Laura what’s her name in 4th grade.  That is what a lot of drunken sailors do when they get a tattoo with their girl’s name on their bicep, and then get it crossed out in the next port and replaced with a new one.  The picture here is one of sonship, God has adopted me as His son, and I can call Him Father.

Remember who you are!

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Lost Phrases

There are natural changes that come in life, some are good and some are bad.    There are a few phrases that have gone out of vogue that need to make a comeback into our vocabulary:
Ocean Liner, SS St Paul
“That’s none of your business”

Everything is now public, except of course what is done in Las Vegas…unless you are on Facebook. On Facebook it seems, everything is public. Social networking is a fascinating development in that we have a running first hand commentary on the interests, likes, dislikes and behavior of people.  I vote that we reinstate the phrase “that’s none of your business” back into our corporate psyche.  It would impact us in two ways:

First, we would be spared some of the more inane and inappropriate details of your life, as it is none of my business what you do in your bedroom, bathroom or private party.

Second, and more seriously, it will impact our relationships and conversations.  As a pastor I have had many people confide in me. It is a discipline, skill, and obligation for me to learn to keep things to myself. I am often surprised to find out how many people thing that my wife knows what people tell me in confidence.  She doesn’t, “it’s none of her business.”  I have told people in my office that I would not tell others what they said because it is their story to tell.  I might encourage them to tell it, but I don’t.

With children this is a great phrase.  It is amazing how many people think they are obligated to share inappropriate details with their children.  In parenting, “it’s none of your business” is a great phrase to keep in mind, not just saying the words to them when appropriate, but having certain conversations outside of their ear-shot.

So many conversations would be better if we adopted this marvelous phrase.

We need a good dose of “none of your business,”  not only on Facebook, but in all areas of life.

“You’ll have to take that up with….”

This corollary of “That’s none of your business” helps to communicate with other people that the conversation they are trying to have with you is misplaced.  This phrase is a good “stopper” for gossip. It draws a boundary that directs back to the subject, as in the topic of conversation.

I find that most people have no desire to draw these people-subject boundaries.  Since we have lost the art of confrontation, it is much easier to vent with a third-party.  This venting serves the purpose of letting off steam, expressing the anger that we might have, and possibly gaining an ally in our battle with another person.  None of these things leads to a reconciliation that needs to occur.

We do one another a favor when we recognize this behavior and redirect the person back to the source by saying “you’ll have to take that up with…”

Practice these two phrases, it makes you a better human and you will make the world a better place.

 

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6 Steps for Confrontation

One of my friends posted this question on Facebook:

“When exactly do you have to hold your tongue and not say just what u feel? I think I need a class in this. Anyone???”

 

I responded briefly to her status and decided it would be a good blog post, because she is right: a lot of people “need a class in this.” So here is a primer.

Generally, if something needs to be said you should say it.  Too many people overlook this and simply stuff their anger, dismay, hurt, recognition of idiocy, etc.  What happens if you hold your tongue too often is that you collect anger which generally leads to an over-reaction when you collect too much.  Obviously discernment is necessary because sometimes you should hold your tongue.

Maybe what needs to happen is we all need to learn to say things more effectively.

The short course would be:

  1. Always say these things privately.  There are a few instances when public confrontation is called for, but the majority of the time confrontation should be done one on one and in private.  (Matthew 18:15)
  2. The tone of your voice and your selection of words should be soft .  Take care in the words that you select.  Soft words are words that you would use speaking to your mother, a small child, a judge or police officer.  Trash talk, smart-aleck sarcasm, toe-to-toe shock language, cursing would be hard language. If you are looking for the appropriate result (see point 6), then  suit your language for your goal.  If you just want to “put someone in their place” or humiliate, then hard language will suffice. (Proverbs 15:1)
  3. Your words should be true.  Maybe this goes without saying, but test the value of your words with truth. Accuracy is key, especially if you are responding to a “report” and not first hand. This is not as easy as it sounds – sometimes truth is elusive when surrounded by emotions. (Ephesians 4:15, 25)
  4. Your attitude should be humble.  People are more receptive to a message covered in humility. Attitude is a form of communication and is often expressed non-verbally.  Even if your tone is soft, you might still be able to communicate arrogantly. Humility communicates that I am not any better than you, I am not trying to put you down or humiliate you, I just want to bring something to your attention. (Galatians 6:3)
  5. Your demeanor should be gentle and meek. Everyone wants to be confronted gently.  The last thing you want to do is give someone room to not receive a good message of confrontation.  If they walk away saying: “what a jerk” then you have undermined the message – no matter how necessary or true it might be. (Galatians 6:1)
  6. Your goal is to win over the person you are confronting, that is, it should be done with their well-being in mind – not just to get it off your chest. Typically confrontation has the potential to divide even the closest of friends and relationships.  When you confront, if you think of the other person first, you can turn a potentially bad situation into a win for both you and your friend.  (Proverbs 17:17; 27:6)

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3 Ingredients for Growth

 I am interested in how people grow.  This is crucial information for individuals, married couples and parents.  I think there are at least 3 components that are critical to growth:

Appropriate Environment.  My wife has a book called the Sunset Guide to Plants (something like that, but I am in bed writing this post and I am not going to go find it to give you the right title – wait…Google), it’s actually called Western Garden Book. It gives you the types of plants that will thrive in your particular climate.  The premise being that plants that thrive in Washington don’t necessarily do well in the Southern California desert region we live in, no matter how much you like the plant.

Growth occurs when the appropriate environment is supplied.  Things like soil, moisture, sunlight all contribute to growth.  In the human realm the environment has to do with the people, places and challenges in which we surround ourselves.  So if you  want to grow look around and see what the climate is where you do your living.

Who are the people in your life?  Are they positive people? healthy people? People who have a strong life compass?  People who are ahead of you, that is older, more mature, stronger and wiser?  The people we are with tend to shape our minds and hearts.  They can encourage us or destroy us.  Make wise decisions about your associations.

Closely related are the places of your life.  These are homes, workplaces, church, clubs, hang-outs.  Do the places I go encourage me to grow?  If not, maybe a change is in order.  Maybe I am in the right place, I am just not invested in the program –  if that is the case then engage.

Are you challenged by your activities?  Challenge pushes us to move beyond complacency and try new things.  Last October I rode in the Tour de Perris, a century ride sponsored by the city of Perris to commemorate their centennial anniversary.  A century is the bicycle riders marathon, 100 miles on a bicycle.  This was challenging, and in order to accomplish it I surrounded myself with others who were like-minded and we put ourselves in a place (our bikes) to carry out the challenge.  We all grew as a result.

Appropriate Elements.  You have to feed plants the right things if they are to grow in a healthy manner.  In the same way, if you are going to grow you have to address the needs in your life and apply the appropriate nutrients to your life so that you will grow.  The human body needs food, water and rest.  The human spirit needs a healthy sense of identity, security, and purpose to grow.  The human body really grows and matures, then simply needs maintenance until death.  The healthy habits of childhood simply need to be repeated in the physical realm. At 52 I am no longer looking to grow physically.

My spirit continues to be in need of development and in order to grow I nurture my sense of security (faith and belief, trust), identity (my relational knowledge of God which is characterized as “son-ship”), and purpose (engaging in my place in the family of God, the kingdom).  When I focus on developing these three areas of my life, bad habits fall to the wayside and the fruit of God’s Spirit are displayed in me.  Some of the practices that encourage this are:  repentance, believing, trusting, humbling myself, submitting, obeying, resisting temptation, and immersing myself in truth.  Some of the things that serve as blocks are:  scepticism, self-righteousness, independence, unbelief, worry, temptation, the power of the lie.

Appropriate Energy.  These things do not happen just because.  I must invest energy in the process.  Developing relationships with the right people and placing myself in the right contexts and challenging myself to do greater things takes effort.  Working on my faith is just that, a godly work which takes time and effort.  Discipline and discernment compel me to find this new direction in life so that I may grow.

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