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Archive for the ‘Meditation’ Category

 

During a former chapter of my life, I taught fourth grade language arts and social studies.

One of the reading strategies we emphasized was looking for Ah-HA Moments—places in a book where readers finally receive answers to the questions they’ve been asking—questions like:

  • Why is the main character doing that?
  • Who could be responsible for this situation?
  • How will the main character(s) solve this problem?

The quest for Ah-HA Moments helps keep readers engaged, aids comprehension, and adds more pleasure to the reading experience.

I took great delight in seeing my students internalize this strategy. Even during other subjects, I’d hear “Ah-HA!” now and then, as a student found the perfect verb for her writing or a history research-team discovered why the Erie Canal was abandoned.

Eons ago the apostle Paul desired Ah-HA Moments for his children—the spiritual offspring he’d led to faith in Jesus.

 

(“St. Paul” by Rembrandt, c. 1657)

 

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that his readers would experience spiritual Ah-HA Moments.

No, you won’t find those exact words in any translation. What you will find is a statement with similar meaning:

 

“I pray that the eyes of your heart

may be enlightened” (NIV).

 

 

And then Paul chose to highlight three aspects of our Christian experience that can create those Ah-HA moments: 1) Our hope in Jesus, 2) The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and 3) God’s incomparable power.

I wonder what Ah-HA Moments we might discover while meditating on each one?

Consider the following:

 

Hope

 

“Hope is the reality that is being constructed,

but is not yet visible.”

—William Stringfellow (emphasis added)

 

And just what does our reality-under-construction include?

  • God’s good work in us that is never-failing and never-ending (Philippians 1:6)
  • Peace and joy, because we hope in Jesus (Romans 15:13)
  • God’s delight in us—not when we’re finally perfectbut when we put our hope in him (Psalm 147:11)
  • Hope that translates into strength—especially strength to persevere (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Refinement, as the anticipation of Jesus’ return “acts as a purifying hope in our lives” (1 John 3:2-3 and Kay Arthur*)

 

 

Did any of those statements provide an Ah-HA Moment for you?

For me it was the third bullet point. God delights in me, simply because I hope in him. I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect to receive his approval.

 

The Riches of His Inheritance

 

Some Bible scholars believe Paul meant God’s inheritance in us.  

We are his treasured possession, adopted into his family when we accept Jesus into our lives (Deuteronomy 7:6; Galatians 3:29).

As such, he takes care of us, provides purpose for us, and even takes pleasure in us. He enjoys our company and looks forward to the day when we’ll all be together with him for eternity (Revelation 21:3).

 

 

 

Again, any Ah-HA Moments?

I, for one, am astounded to realize God treasures me—sinful and flawed as I am.

 

God’s Incomparable Power

 

Every one of us can relate stories of God’s miraculous work, as he’s provided, protected, and guided in ways beyond human explanation.

But sometimes he produces super-human perseverance, inner strength, and even joy through difficult circumstances.

The Christian who avails herself of God’s power is ready for both kinds of intervention. She knows that God will supply all her needs, including the wherewithal to turn every negative into a positive.

That last statement provides my final Ah-HA for this post; maybe for you too. We can find delight—in spite of distress—as we avail ourselves of God’s power.

 

Of course, these two verses from Ephesians aren’t the only places in scripture where we can experience Ah-HA Moments. In fact, we will never come to the end of them—for which I am very grateful.  You too?

 

“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture;

the book widens and deepens

with our years.”

–Charles Spurgeon

 

 

That’s especially true as we invite God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts—with Ah-HA moments.

 

*Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, p. 31.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com.

 

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Pretend you’re a crew member on a cargo ship, and the captain has just announced rough seas ahead. That means just walking will be a challenge. Things on tabletops and floors will tumble and roll if not secured, and sleeping will require wedging yourself into position to keep from being tossed back and forth.

But the captain reminds you, there is good news. A full load of heavy freight in the hold will provide stability and safety against the waves. The rocking will be greatly curtailed.

All of us at some time or other face storms in life, and the same principle applies: certain kinds of cargo provide stability–not the lightweight freight of feel-good pep talks, relaxation techniques, or plain avoidance.

Cargo of substance is required, such as:

 

 

Joy

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Simply affirming all the ways God demonstrates his love to us will quickly fill a large compartment with delight.   Last week’s post, Be Glad, included many reasons to rejoice in God.

 

 

Quietness and Trust

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

If you haven’t already done so, make space in the hold of your heart for frequent quiet times with God, perhaps by going to bed earlier and rising earlier.

Very soon time spent in his presence and in his Word will become one of your favorite times of day.   You’ll find it transformative also, creating strong bonds of trust with your Heavenly Father. Just ask anyone who has established the habit.

 

 

Promises

“He has given us great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).

But they can offer no stability if we’ve not stored them in the hold our hearts.

“Grasp them by faith,” Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago.   “Plead them by prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

Not that a compartment full of promises will protect us from all harm. But our attitude toward the storms of life will be very different as fear is replaced by faith.

 

 

God’s Grace

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b).

And what is grace?  I like the old standby definition, an easy-to-remember acronym:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This compartment is worth checking often, to examine the wealth of substantial contents stored there.

Several years ago I surveyed scripture for that wealth and discovered forty-seven gifts tucked behind the door of grace.*

Thomas a Kempis was right:

 

 

So if you don’t feel quite strong enough to face the challenges of 2020, add more weight in the cargo hold of your heart:

  • More joy in who your God is and more delight in what he does
  • Frequent quiet times alone with God, for meditation on his Word, talking with him and listening to him
  • A collection of promises, especially those that apply to your situation
  • Attention to the many facets of God’s grace and how each one impacts your life

Of course, if these blessings could be placed in the cargo hold of a ship, a record would be kept of each compartment’s contents.

The same is true of the cargo holds of our hearts, though for different reason. We can enhance our joy, strengthen our faith, increase our wisdom, encourage our spirits, and augment our worship of God—all as we keep record in a journal or notebook.

 

 

“The deepest satisfaction of writing

is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us

of which we were not aware before we started to write.”

–Henri Nouwen

 

M-m-m. More space for more compartments to add more cargo.

 

What would you put into one of them?

 

*(You can compare your list of God’s graces to mine at Undeserved Goodness Part 1 and Part 2.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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“Let all who take refuge in you be glad;

let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

that those who love your name

may rejoice in you.

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;

you surround them with your favor

as with a shield.”

–Psalm 5:11-12

 

Thank you, Father, for each line of encouragement here, presenting truth worthy of contemplation and celebration. To that end this is my prayer:

 

 

I praise you, O God, for being my unfailing refuge—my protector and sanctuary.

Year after year you have:

  • Supplied my needs, like the three teaching positions you provided–each one a miracle (1)
  • Brought me through difficult circumstances, including moves to new communities that initially I wanted no part of
  • Surprised my husband and me with delights we didn’t expect, such as a generous check enclosed with a note, suggesting we enjoy much-needed R & R at our favorite getaway

 

(Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL)

 

I’m not just glad you’re my refuge, I’m elated! My heart sings in celebration of your perfections, sovereignty, and kindness. You provide unending delight!

You have been my protection, preserving my life:

  • In dangerous circumstances, including that narrow mountain road outside Quito, Ecuador
  • From near accidents, such as that red-light runner who could have sent me spinning into heavy traffic
  • Through natural disasters, like those hurricanes during our forty years in Florida

 

(Hurricane Charley damage, 2004)

 

You have been my protection emotionally, carrying me through:

  • The incomprehensible, like the senseless death of a young friend
  • Hurtful circumstances, when those we trusted proved unreliable
  • Disappointment, as certain hopes were not realized

I thank you, Father, for every time you’ve limited our ordeals so we could endure; and when necessary you’ve given us your strength to withstand every difficulty (2).

 

  

I praise you, O God, that the righteous are not those who always say and do the right thing. Such a standard would disqualify me. Rather, the righteous include those who trust in you and love your many names–Shepherd, Counselor, Helper, and more.

I praise you that your favor includes adoption into your family, freedom from the eternal consequences of our sin, and freedom from guilt—when we ask Jesus into our lives (3).

You graciously give us access to your presence. And when we come you are always ready to listen, uplift, and advise (4).

 

 

You’ve designed us for purpose, to give us glorious satisfaction in life, and day after day you lavish blessing (5), including:

  • The privilege to watch children grow—from first steps to first race, from mere sounds to sentences, from making scribbles to writing stories
  • The delight of old friends we know well and new friends we want to know well
  • Your creativity all around us, whether it’s azure skies or smoke-like clouds, sunbeam ribbons or raindrop jewels, verdant treetops or bare filigree branches

 

 

Your shield of favor also stands between each of us and the evil forces on every side. You are beneath us as a foundation, over us as a shelter, at our right hand as security, before us to lead the way, and within us to provide strength (6).

Keep me mindful of all these glorious truths, O God—truths that make me more than glad. And as this new year begins, may my days be laced with praise to you, my choices motivated by gratitude to you, and my faith be strong in you until that day you take me home.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Two of those miracles are detailed in other posts, After the Fact and The Greater Plan.
  2. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Isaiah 41:10
  3. Ephesians 1:3-7
  4. Ephesians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Psalm 145:14; James 1:5
  5. Ephesians 1:11-12, 2:10; John 1:16
  6. Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 73:23; John 10:3b, 4b; 1 John 4:4

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; naplesnews.com; http://www.bible.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org.)

 

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Decades ago at the birthday party of a childhood friend, each of us that attended was given a surprise ball. (Maybe you remember this party favor?) Thin strands of colorful tissue paper were wrapped around and around to make the ball, about the size of a small grapefruit. Among the layers were tucked small trinkets.

We sat at the young host’s dining table, unwrapping, discovering, and exclaiming, until we’d created little piles of treats and toys such as candy, erasers, miniature tops, finger puppets, rings, gum, and stickers—next to a large mound of tissue spaghetti.

But the best surprise was at the center. When all the wrapping was removed, each girl found a miniature doll with hand-painted features, and each boy found a tiny car—with wheels that actually moved.

The trinkets paled in comparison to the treasures at the center.

I’m thinking the Christmas season offers us many delights among the layers of things to do and places to be, including:

 

 

  • unpacking the familiar decorations, each one laced with memories
  • baking vanilla sugar cookies and scenting the house
  • reading Christmas cards and letters, bringing far distant loved ones close to heart
  • creating a jumble of colorful packages under the tree

Lovely, holiday moments for sure, but they pale in comparison to the heart of Christmas: Jesus.

He is the treasure, and everything else is mere trifles.

 

He is the way—for a world that is lost.

He is the truth—in a world full of lies.

He is the life—for a world that is dying.

 

And the wonders of His radiance far exceed our capability to understand.

For example, he is:

 

 

  • Emmanuel—God with each of us always (Matthew 1:22-23)
  • God incarnate–fully divine, yet became fully human (John 1:14)
  • Our compassionate Friend (John 15:15)
  • Omnisapient—all-wise (Romans 16:27)
  • Lord of our Righteousness, putting us right with God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Our great intercessor, praying for us continually (Hebrews 7:25)
  • Able to create out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3)
  • Productive —always working on our behalf (Hebrews 13:21)
  • Faultless–absolutely perfect (I John 3:5)
  • The Alpha and Omega—eternal from beginning to end (Revelation 22:13)

 

 

There is nothing wrong with the Christmas traditions of decorating, baking, card-sending, and gift-giving. But they are just paltry trinkets—unless Jesus is preeminent within the celebration.

 

https://quotefancy.com/saint-augustine-quotes

 

And as we contemplate our Treasure, adoration swells within our hearts:

Lord Jesus, we bow in holy wonder before your supreme majesty, incomparable power, and unfathomable glory. You are the Morning Star! The King of kings! The Everlasting Father!

Yet, out of love for us, you left your throne and kingly crown to take on human form, giving up your majesty for a manger, supreme rule for severe restraint, and the beauty of heaven for the brokenness of earth.

What wondrous love is this, that you were willing to bear the dreadful curse for our souls? Our minds cannot comprehend.

 

 

But our hearts can sing in adoration of you and your overwhelming love that dispels the darkness with glorious splendor and ushers in eternal bliss—when we say YES to You.

 

You have opened heaven’s door,

Man is blessed forevermore–

Jesus, our priceless Treasure.

 

(Carols referenced: “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” “What Wondrous Love Is This,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.”)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainfiles.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.org; http://www.jpl.nasa.gov; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

“Your thoughts run your life.” That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

 

 

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection–nor the inclination–when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to twenty and reciting the ABCs at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore; it’s accomplishing nothing. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”

 

                           

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, or quoting an uplifting scripture, or listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation.

For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

 

“There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

 

“I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).  Restoration will come.

 

 

“I am never going to succeed.”

 Not true.  God says [he] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

 

“I have no idea how to proceed; maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

“Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?”

It is God who made me the way I am, with specific plans and purpose in mind:  to do good works according to the gifts and talents he’s given.

 

 

_________________________

 

If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

“Outlook determines outcome” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, p. 22).

 

(https://quotefancy.com/quote/931807/Warren-W-Wiersbe-Outlook-determines-outcome)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

 

What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the comments section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com.

 

(Revised and reblogged from April 16, 2015, “Focus Determines Direction.”)

 

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“Would you look at this?” my friend exclaimed. Her outstretched hand waved over a selection of magazines in our favorite place to meet, a local bookstore/cafe.

 

 

Do you see what caught Cindy’s* eye? That word “Mindfulness” or “Mindful” shouted from nine different periodicals.

After the initial surprise, we realized why mindfulness is such a hot topic.  These days many adults are under great pressure to push themselves hard, move faster and accomplish more each day. All the while electronic devices are demanding their attention.

Add to that the worries rasping in their minds: the mistakes and failures of yesterday, the tight schedule and uncertainties of tomorrow, and fears for the future.

The pace, stress, and anxiety take their toll in the form of health problems, sleep disorders, and relational strain.

 

 

As a result, many have embraced mindfulness—a pleasurable time-out to capture the joy of now–like pausing to savor the tart, crisp, juiciness of an apple, stopping to listen as small bare feet patter down the stairs, or taking a moment to study a chipmunk collecting acorns.

And according to the research, just a brief interlude of mindfulness can calm the nerves, reset one’s emotional equilibrium, and foster contentment—all to positive effect upon our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

But I wonder, how many people know God offers even more–if we augment mindfulness with gratitude and praise?

 

 

For example, while doing the dishes I can focus on the hot water warming my hands, the clean scent of soap, the rainbowed bubbles floating in a bowl, the burbling water cascading over glasses and cups–then add a short prayer:

Thank you, Father, for giving us five senses

with which to enjoy your world.

 

 

While traveling in the car I can take note of the late summer haze clinging to the hillsides, today’s cloud exhibition, and the leaves on the roadside performing pirouettes on the breeze–then honor the Lord of all things:

I praise you, Father, for your creative genius

on display everywhere I look.

 

 

While reading a book with my two-year old granddaughter, I can pay attention to the sensation of her little body snuggled into my side, the sweet sound of her toddler-voice “reading” some of the words, and the dimples on the back of her hand as she points to a picture–then express gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts:

Thank you, Father, for the delights to be found

beneath the surface of ordinary experience.

 

 

Each day I can pause to observe the rose-pink tint of dawn, the dappled treetops in the noonday sun, and the slow glide of shadows at sunset–then rejoice in God’s power and glory.

My mouth is filled with your praise, O God,

declaring your splendor all day long.”

–Psalm 71:8

 

 

Mindfulness may prod us to notice God’s gifts in the moment, and that’s good.

But mindfulness plus gratitude and praise prompt us to treasure him, and that’s transformational.

God’s presence becomes palpable (James 4:8), joy sings in our hearts (Psalm 92:4), contentment settles in our spirits (Isaiah 26:3).

And the Giver of all good things surely smiles with pleasure in response.

 

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com; ww.canva.com.)

 

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“Be still and know that I am God (1).

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

It starts with ‘be.’

Just be, dear one.”

–Shauna Neiquist (2)

 

Moments of quiet, contemplative silence are rare for many people. We’ve been swept up in the cultural norms of productivity: use time wisely and stay on task. Better yet, multi-task.

But there is tremendous power and blessing in stillness.

Quietness of spirit:

  • creates space for us to hear God’s voice
  • builds bonds of trust between us and God
  • accelerates our understanding of God
  • revitalizes our spirits
  • brings the peace of God to our hearts

Surely these are desirable outcomes that warrant a few minutes each day to just be—in the presence of God.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we achieve such a goal when other responsibilities clamor loudly for our attention?

Like any priority, we must make time.   Begin with five minutes; you’ll soon be craving more.

Choose a secluded place. For years I sat at our kitchen table early in the morning, before anyone else in the house got up. Now I enjoy the luxury of a private home office. But when the weather allows, I revel in sitting on the deck with God, surrounded by his creation.

Not everyone has such options. I know one young mother who has chosen the bathroom as her place of stillness!

Put your God-given imagination to work. We considered the gift of imagination a couple of weeks ago, in a post titled: Oh, What We’re MissingYou can borrow my visualization if you like–the one I use if quiet time must take place indoors:

 

 

Picture a peaceful lake shrouded in morning mist.  On a dock are two Adirondack chairs, one for you and one for Jesus. He’s already sitting in his, because he loves to spend quality time with his children.  As you settle in your chair, reach out your hand for his. Just sit in companionable silence for a moment.

Another option: picture a place where you’ve experienced Jesus’ peace before, and imagine yourself there with him again.

Be physically still.  Relax.  The original Hebrew word translated “be still” can also be translated “cease striving.” Take several slow, deep breaths, and prayerfully set aside the to-list and concerns.

Focus on Jesus and contemplate his attributes. When distracting thoughts pop up (and they will!), add them to the to-do list or the prayer list as needed (keep them handy!), then turn back to Jesus.

Remember:  He understands how hard it is for us to sit quietly with him; he does not expect perfection. What he does treasure is our persistence to seek him (3).

 

 

Listen. “Deep within the center of the soul is a chamber of peace where God lives and where, if we will enter it and quiet all the other sounds, we can hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)” (4).

You may wish to keep a journal and pen nearby as God reveals impressions in your heart.  Perhaps it will just be one word or a single thought at first. Write it down. From that starting point you just might grow a paragraph, or even a page of God-thoughts.

But don’t worry if you hear no whisper. “In God’s presence is peace (Isaiah 26:3), joy (Psalm 16:11), and strength (Proverbs 18:10)—whether words are exchanged or not.

In A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about her Uncle Vince, who had constructed a prayer room complete with fake paneling, some stained glass from an old church, and a couple of old, musty tapestries. The only furniture was a small prayer kneeler and a Bible stand.

 

 

Joni remembers thinking it was stuffy and tacky. Years later she realized how wise Uncle Vince was to have a special place where he met Jesus. That was undoubtedly the reason he prayed on the golf course and on his hikes with Joni and her family.

“Uncle Vince encountered God every place, because he had one place,” she wrote (5).

How we need such a place…

…to just be.

It starts with be.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 46:10
  2. Shauna Neiquist, Present over Perfect
  3. Sarah Young, Jesus Always
  4. L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert
  5. Joni Eareckson Tada, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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