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“Deciding on a Church: What Really Matters”

by Linsey Driskill

With churches hovering every corner, how do we decide which to attend? While many around the world are forced to seek Jesus in secret, I am grateful we even have possibilities. But we are still left with the decision of which church to attend.

After an unforgettable two years in Colorado, my family moved back to Virginia. We thought about returning to our tiny church, but we hoped for one with more people and programs so the kids would have more opportunities. That deceptive word, “more”, led the search.

We visited seven churches throughout the year, our children asking each time if this was “the one.” Our kids quickly grew tired of church hopping, and so did we.

Until we finally decided on a church. It had more programs and opportunities than I could imagine, with endless people to meet. I was relieved, for a moment. Six months later, an unsettled feeling arose within me.

I had volunteered in the large church, but we hadn’t met a true community of friends there. One of the families we connected well with lived too far to regularly get together. The church had every program possible, a seasoned band, engaging sermons, a massive number of people, and most everything I thought I was looking for.

One day, my husband and I realized something was missing: community for ourselves and our kids. That gaping hole was the unsettled feeling that had bothered me.

Find your church

Jesus valued community and sent his disciples out together. Mark 6:7 tells us that, “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two.”

Even though Jesus retreated alone at times, he also spent a lot of time with people, in community. It was important to him. I wonder if Jesus sent his followers out in twos to stay strong? To encourage one another? For companionship and to avoid loneliness?

Mother Teresa once said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

We were made for community. We were made to walk together. Not to brush shoulders and simple greet each other on Sunday, but to walk together. To connect with each other.

In Luke 17:21, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” The church is not a building. It’s a community of people. I had to learn the roundabout way that what mattered most wasn’t more programs and people, but deep friendships and community.

We decided to return to our small church, their arms open wide welcoming us back. It was renewing to know and be known. After service one day, my daughter said, “Mom, all our friends are here!” I think the answer to finding a church was far simpler than I had made it.

Are you in the middle of searching for a church to attend? If your beliefs line up with the church and over time you can build community there, then look no further.

Are you lonely where you are and longing for more? If after getting involved, you still feel like a visitor, it might be time to look elsewhere.

But remember that, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24) The Lord is far beyond the limited spaces we create to seek him.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. (MT 20:28) Let’s not look for a church to be served, but to find community and serve one another.

Being with friends and seeking Jesus together is where “true life” is found. It’s where true church is found. 

The post “Deciding on a Church: What Really Matters” appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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Columbus, OH. It was a typical working day for Chick-Fil-A employee Levi Jones, when he spotted a homeless man named “Walter” sitting under a tree nearby. In an interview with WRBL-TV on October 2, 18-year-old Jones said that as soon as he saw Walter looking very tired, he went up to the homeless man because God had led him to do so.

Not only did Levi give Walter food, he also handed over his own shoes. He noticed that Walter did not have any shoes on, and coincidentally they have the same shoe size. Levi returned to work without any shoes but the Management gave him a pair that is available. However, it is 4 sizes bigger than his. Levi gladly received them and continued working without complaint.

Later on, it was learned that the homeless man was expecting a newborn son and has decided that he will be naming the baby, “Levi”.

According to the management, at another occasion, Levi helped a family who had trouble with their debit card while ordering. Levi swiped his own debit card to make sure that they get their meals. He also gathered everyone and prayed for them.

The branch’s operator Todd Kalish said that Jones’ acts reflect those of Chick-Fil-A founder, Truett Cathy.

“Truett told us always obey your kindhearted impulses and so you’re (Jones) kinda channeling that; and he really didn’t even learn that or hear that. It’s kinda in his DNA,” testifies Kalish.

“I love Jesus and as His son. I’m called to live and walk just like Jesus did on the earth. Jesus hung around homeless people. He took care of people, loved on people, blessed people wherever He went and so I just wanna walk as my Father which is Jesus Christ walked and live that out every single day of my life,” says Jones. (WRBL-TV)

Not A First For Chick-Fil-A

Levi’s good deed is not the first time Chick-Fil-A was involved in such. December 11, 2017, an unidentified Chick-Fil-A patron at Bowling, KY, noticed a needy man wearing dilapidated shoes that were only held together using duct tape. Before the man could go back out into the cold, the good Samaritan went up to him and gave him his own shoes.

A witness was able to capture the gentleman’s photo while finishing his meal with only his socks on. The photo made it to Twitter that night.

The post Chick-Fil-A Staff Gave Up Own Shoes for Homeless Man appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”  So, what does fitness have to do with God? Everything. To take care of our physical well-being is to honor God for the gift He has given.

A previous article mentioned about having a healthy habit. A healthy habit to me means having a good balance of the right kind of diet, the right kind of exercise, and making yourself happy. It is not easy to do but if you are focused and determined, you would be willing to start somewhere. Let me help you with the lessons I learned when I started my own fitness journey. To give you a quick background, I was 20 lbs heavier when I began in 2009. I used to avoid going to fitness clubs for fear that I might not sustain the workouts. But when my friends pressured me to try it once, I got challenged and I decided I’ll do it again. I haven’t stopped ever since.

Exercise is more mental than physical

What has really worked for me is not focusing on the numbers (e.g. weight). Instead, I focused training my mind to not listen to what hurts. Endurance comes first. I made sure that I can survive the work out.

When I started attending a martial arts-inspired group exercise class called “BodyCombatô”, I had to skip a lot of the routines because of its high level of intensity. I kept attending the class and gradually worked on skipping less and less routines each week until I was able to last the entire class without stopping. Afterwards, I started improving on proper form and movement to make sure that I’m safely working on all the right muscles. The next thing I know, I had already lost a significant amount of weight. I no longer get easily tired taking multiple flights of stairs or doing everyday chores. I felt really good. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you as long as you get there.

Make sleep a priority

Adequate sleep is crucial to keeping fit. In order to make sure your efforts do not go to waste, it is important that you reward yourself with enough sleep. An average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily. Sleep allows your body to recover, build muscles, repair tissues, and maintain your rate of metabolism. Metabolism is our bodies running on calories, as a car running on gas. Metabolism plays a huge role in making sure every part of the body functions well by fueling them with energy from the calories burned. Lack of sleep messes up the metabolism which means, slower calorie burn resulting to stored fat.

Eat right, drink right

You can spend hours and hours working out, but it will not make you healthy if you don’t maintain a good eating habit. When my friends ask me the secret to my diet, I always say that there is no secret. It is something that we have known our entire lives but most find difficult to do – eating right and drinking right. Let’s keep it simple:

  1. Don’t skip meals especially breakfast
  2. Eat little portions 4 to 5 times a day
  3. Drink plenty of water

Master these three and you can master other forms of diet (e.g. low calorie, high protein, etc)

Start slow

If you find yourself being so determined to reach your health goals that you had planned to exercise at least 3 times a week at first try, STOP and drop the plan. Getting in there too quickly can cause you to get burned out as quick, which will make you stop exercising and gain even more weight. It is very important to form a habit first by starting slow. Commit yourself to doing an exercise once a week. Your body will adjust to the routine. If you find yourself no longer getting tired, increase the frequency – add another day. Your body will keep on adjusting so make sure that you listen to it.

Have fun

You don’t have to sign up at your local fitness club in order to get good exercise. You can use the outdoors, or your own home. The first thing you really need to do is to find a physical activity that you enjoy doing and go from there. It may be walking, running, dancing, or any type of sports. In an interview with Oprah, Robert Downey Jr. once said, “What’s hard is to decide to actually do it” referring to overcoming obstacles in his life. The same can be said with knowing what to do to improve our overall health. We can read all the online articles, watch all the videos that we like but we need to choose which one might work, decide to actually try it and decide to do it consistently. And in order to sustain it, it’s important to make sure that you are having fun. If something is not enjoyable, change it. Having fun is vital to keeping your fitness routine effective. It means getting more done, having more successes, being healthy, and being happy!

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3 John 1:2 NIV

Want to know more about taking care of yourself? Click here.

The post Honoring God: Starting Your Fitness Journey appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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They say church potluck is more than just refreshments after a church service; more than just sharing meals. It is actually a fellowship – an opportunity to get to know other churchgoers like us.

I remember being invited by a friend to a new church not long ago. I was surprised that we did not immediately leave after the service to have lunch somewhere. We’ve had this routine since we were young. He took me straight to the church basement where everyone also headed. Much to my delight, there was a nice spread of spinach dip, crackers, sandwiches, pasta, brownies, and iced tea. While shyly enjoying a bit of everything, I was approached by some of the folks to say hi. Some even asked where I come from and how I knew about the church. Later on, my friend told me the food I was enjoying were voluntarily brought by some of the leaders and regular church-goers. And that was my first taste of a church potluck.

I have enjoyed going to the church service and potluck for more than a year now, and also bringing food to share – 3 times so far. I thought I’d share with you some of the easy recipes I found online, which are similar to the few ones I have brought to church as well as similar to those that have been shared to me by others. If you are planning to share your blessings by (literally) cooking up something for the church, I hope this short list of delightful recipes will not only give you good ideas but bring your whole fellowship closer. There’s nothing like bonding over delicious food!

Click here to continue. (link to full article at church.org)

Easy Cheese Straws

Five ingredients transform into long, crisp cracker sticks. The hand-held snacks make for easy mingling at parties. —Elizabeth Robinson, Conroe, Texas

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/easy-cheese-straws/

Cilantro Tomato Bruschetta

This is an easy tomato appetizer that all of my family and friends love. The garden-fresh ingredients capture summer and meld together for a great-tasting hors d’oeuvre that goes well with many different main dishes. —Lisa Kane, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cilantro-tomato-bruschetta/

Colorful Spiral Pasta Salad

Tackle gatherings to go with a bright pasta salad. This tricolor toss-up with broccoli, tomatoes, olives and a hardworking dressing is the easiest one you could take. —Amanda Cable, Boxford, Massachusetts

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/colorful-spiral-pasta-salad/

Tangy Glazed Meatballs

The slightly sweet sauce on these meatballs has such a great zing to it. Use a little more or less hot sauce depending on what you’re in the mood for. —John Slivon, Milton, Florida

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/tangy-glazed-meatballs/

Chicken Tater Bake

You’ll please everyone in the family with this inviting and filling dish. It tastes like a chicken potpie topped with Tater Tots. —Fran Allen, St Louis, Missouri

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chicken-tater-bake/

Sugar Glazed Ham

This old-fashioned sugar glaze gives your ham a pretty, golden-brown coating just like Grandma used to make. The mustard and vinegar complement the brown sugar and add tangy flavor. Be prepared to serve seconds! —Carol Strong Battle, Heathville, Virginia

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/sugar-glazed-ham/

Stuffed Pasta Shells

These savory shells never fail to make a big impression, even though the recipe is very easy. One or two of these shells make a great individual serving at a potluck, so a single batch goes a long way. —Jena Coffey, St. Louis, Missouri

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/stuffed-pasta-shells/

Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Pudding Frosting

Rich brownies are topped with a peanut butter pudding frosting, making this a recipe the whole family will love. These are perfect for a potluck, bake sale or yummy after-dinner treat. —Amy Crook, Syracuse, Utah

Full Recipe

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/fudgy-brownies-with-peanut-butter-pudding-frosting/

Source:

https://www.tasteofhome.com

The post Awesome and Easy Church Potluck Recipes appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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Part of life is being hurt by others, but do we have to hold onto that pain? As believers in Christ, we have been forgiven so we are expected to forgive, but what does forgiveness actually look like in our lives? What happens when we find it hard to move past a particular hurt or pain caused by someone? What can we do when others find it hard to forgive us?

I have recently struggled with the disappointment of an abandoned friendship. I have seen the impact of the loss on my life in small and large ways. There have been many moments when it has felt more like a death than a broken relationship. Essentially the bond that was so strong is no longer there, mimicking the feelings of loss when you can no longer pick up the phone to your lost loved one after a passing. It all just feels so foreign, so surreal. In so many ways, this process feels so similar to the stages of grieving.

Moving forward without clarity is the toughest part.

We may not have the chance to hash-out all the details, nor would that even help in some cases. People have their reasons for believing a certain way or acting a certain way, and we may not ever get the opportunity to fully understand those reasons. Many times we will never, ever get the apology we really want. Many times we will never hear the words we yearn to hear from those who have hurt us. Ultimately, our strength and our guidance comes from something outside of us, something even stronger than earthly, humanly love. Our choice to forgive must be separate from the actions (or non-actions) of those who hurt us. They are connected, but not mutually exclusive.

There are four ancient principles established by the Toltec religion, which pre-dates the Aztecs, called “The Four Agreements.” They are super helpful to me in times of confusion.

The Four Agreements state:

1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

I know they seem so simple, but man, are they tough sometimes! I have always admired these ideas and they have helped bring me peace when I felt that I was not enough. When my ended friendship was slipping away and I was feeling all sorts of emotions, I could take comfort in the fact that I knew I had been truthful in my words to my friend. Even when I knew that the situation would not change, at least I could walk away with my head held high, knowing that I did my best, I told the truth, and I aim to move forward without strings attached.

It is normal to be angry.

I have beat myself up over the anger I feel toward my friend. I have been damaging to myself in these thoughts, and I have lost focus on my positive outlook in my quest to “feel better.” What does feeling better even look like, anyway? Some days I just want to feel angry, and I don’t know how to move out of that sinking feeling. It may just be a day where I allow myself to feel the anger, but then I move toward a goal. Its okay to be angry; we were given that emotion for a reason! Drawing the line and not giving the anger a foothold (Ephesians 4) is the key, which is much easier said than done!

Forgiveness may feel different depending on the day.

This one really comes into play when I watch others try to forgive me. I know that my actions have caused immense pain to others, or that my words have sparked hurt in those close to me. I can think of a handful of examples of this from just this past year. Within these experiences, I have noticed that as we all move forward, some days I feel so…forgiven. I feel like the tone in the voices of my loved ones are loving, caring, and supportive. I feel like I have a team, a partner, etc. But then…other days rear their ugly heads, and I’m left sitting on the floor, staring at the wall, wondering how in the world I can ever move past this pain.

When we cause others pain, it will hurt us as well. When we have been in a place where we need forgiveness, we may not always feel “resolved” all the time. Forgiveness is a choice much like real-life, committed love. It may not always “feel right.” Even though our loved ones may choose to forgive us, we may have to learn to live with the pain of hard days as we all work through our hearts.

Paul’s teachings in Ephesians tell us that forgiveness will actually set us free.

Once we have released the anger, bitterness, and hurt from our hearts, we can actually move forward into the life that God wants us to live. We can gain that clarity that we were missing. We can walk the aisles of the grocery store and not have to worry about who we might run into or what they might say. No matter what the person did to us, we know that we are no longer connected by anger or hurt. We have released it from ourselves, regardless of what the other person has done to atone for…or not atone for…their actions. This allows us to live in the truth of a fulfilled life. This is the greatest representation of our creator’s love for us. After all, we don’t deserve it for a second, and yet we live in his forgiveness every single moment of every single day.

The post How Forgiveness Can Allow Your Life to Move Forward appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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We know our children will interact with both kind and harsh people, but when they face the latter, it’s hard.

Last year in first grade on the walk home from school, my daughter, Brooklyn, said that a boy at school was mean to her. My defenses immediately sprang up. Mama Bear silently held back and listened.

Brooklyn was playing with her friend, but when she told him she was leaving to play with her girlfriends, he rejected her harshly. He kicked mulch at her and yelled, “I don’t like you and don’t want to be your friend anymore.”

Brooklyn was partly upset, but then a look of confidence emerged from her sweet, little face. She said, “Mommy, I walked away from him because I know I am clothed with strength and confidence and that God loves me.” As I was partly shocked by her response, I beamed as I took in her words.

The Proverbs 31 “Wife of Noble Character” story from my devotional had settled deep into her heart. That day at the playground, the words of clothing ourselves with strength and confidence in the Lord armed her and the Lord made her strong. While my daughter was still upset, she was able to move past the hurtful words because her confidence was not in the boy at the playground, but in our great God who thinks the world of her.

Believe me, episodes don’t always end in this way and many other times she’s wept in my arms.

But if we can teach our children when they are young to stand out from the crowd and that their confidence lies in God and not others, they will hopefully be more equipped to stand strong when they do face tougher peer pressure.

Putting our confidence in the Lord is a daily choice we all face – one that I continue to pursue. Jesus’ words in John 5:44 inspire me to do just that: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” Jesus also said in Luke 9:5, “If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet…”

When our kids face harsh people, how will they respond?

Jesus always spoke truth to people and didn’t worry about man’s approval. He loved the outcasts, overturned tables in the temple, stayed focus on God’s will regardless of the harshness around him, and never wavered in his faith, confidence and purpose. Jesus simply didn’t care what others thought of Him. He was the greatest example of being humble, yet confident.

What will our kids, and us for that matter, do when others try to sway and intimidate us? I am inspired by men and women in the Bible who set their confidence in the Lord and not people:

Esther stood up to Hamaan, and saved the Jewish people;

Even though Naomi urged Ruth to leave, she stayed. From that secure choice, Ruth married Boaz, and Jesus came from their lineage;

David did not succumb to a bully intimidating him – he confidently proclaimed that he came in the Name of the Lord and prevailed;

Deborah defeated the evil Sisera because she chose not to run away from a scary, unknown situation, but to bravely trust God;

The “crippled woman” staggered to the front of the synagogue while Jesus preached, ignoring the critics and she was healed by Jesus;

Because Jesus wasn’t swayed by people, he was able to fulfill his divine purpose of being Savior of the world.

I assume fear crept into their hearts at times, but they chose to trust God and be brave. I don’t think bravery means never experiencing fear, but rather walking forward in faith. Do we want fear or bravery to drive our choices?

Do we want our children to have courage to stand out from the crowd and follow Jesus? If so, let’s instill the truth in our kids that our confidence comes from God, not others. While there’s no easy formula, we can arm them with words like Jeremiah 17:7: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”

Our children will then know that their worth is not dictated by others’ opinions, but on the immense love Jesus has for them.

To receive my weekly post via email, subscribe at LinseyDriskill.com and visit me @BeautifulHeartedParenting. I look forward to growing together in encouraging our children to love God and love others!

The post Inspiring Our Children to Put Their Confidence in the Lord appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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The idea of “home” is biblical. It is remarkable in literature. It is portrayed in music, theatre, film; in both old and new art forms. It seems difficult for some, yet effortless for others. When we grow up in homes that don’t feel safe, we might feel stuck in that unfortunate pattern. When we talk about “home” we refer to more than just four walls for shelter and safety. We build homes in others’ hearts, and those “homes” feel much more powerful than a domicile to put things in.

Yet, there is something to be said about curating a space where friends and family can gather, especially when the bulk of our income often goes towards paying that rent or mortgage! The whole idea of a home is built right into our culture, our idea of what it means to be a free American citizen.

Recently I have been making an attempt to really think about what my home portrays about my life and my priorities. My husband and I have so much STUFF that we sometimes feel stressed about it, but when we go to de-clutter, we still end up keeping 80% of it. I once read somewhere that if you can sleep better away from your house, you need to de-clutter. I think I fall into that category.

Here are some goals of homemaking for me. Some are way easy, some are a major challenge for me! Feel free to comment and let me know what you find works for you, as well as what you struggle with.

Creating a space that feels calm and safe.

Obviously, we spend so much time in our homes that we don’t want to be stressed by them! This may look like adding some plants or removing some outdated decor elements, or it may be as simple as a coat of paint. No matter what this looks like for you, remember that the home can be a haven for you.

Your emotional wealth can be multiplied by spending quiet moments hearing God in your home, but if your soul can’t be present in this space, you might miss out on these precious conversations. Often, I find that when I work to create a calming atmosphere, I will actually be more prone to spend time in it not just because its doing its job, but because it gives me a sense of accomplishment in that I was able to manifest something that I dreamt of.

Being creative! Using what we already have to genuinely display ourselves in our home.

Those trips to Target sometimes leave me thinking, “Man, if I just had that throw pillow, the living room would be complete.” My husband likes to remind me that the six other throw pillows are doing their jobs just fine. So much of what makes us happy is caught up in THINGS, when we could really use that energy to enjoy what we already have, both the tangible and immaterial.

Think of some of your most meaningful gifts. I’d be willing to bet that their price tags are either nonexistent (like a homemade card from a special youngster) or are valued at a much lower price than your emotions would appraise them for. Some of my favorite items on display in our home are photographs of family and friends. We give them to each other at Christmas and they’re always crowd pleasers.

My husband studied Science in college and loved to collect random skulls and bones from animal specimens, and at first when these appeared on our shelves at home, I was a bit miffed. Now they’re some of my favorite elements of our house. In fact, in the living room, next to one of his skulls sits a jar of sand from our honeymoon beach in the Bahamas; this little corner of the room is one of my favorites to sit and stare at. Our homes should be an extension of our love, not necessarily our wallets.

Establishing home “rules” that allow for fun, creative experiences.

One practice that I struggle with all the time deals with “breaking the mold” and being spontaneous. It is something that I wish came naturally to me, but it just. does. not. I have been known to miss out on a silly play fight because I didn’t want to mess up my hair. Life is too short for this type of stubbornness. I aim to get better at this by not stressing so much about the dirt on the floor or the messy kitchen clutter, but by focusing on the joys of having a blessing such as a kitchen in a house.

I want to go ahead and establish this mentality now, before we have children, so that we won’t be quite as thrown off when the mess is the norm. My goal is that my house rules will focus on support for each family member, on the love and compassion that comes with sharing a space with someone. I want our rules to center around the love that Christ displayed for us by his life and death. I want our rules to be less legalistic and more forgiving.

Reminding myself that the list will always be there, and it will never be perfect.

My friend and I have a promise to each other that we will never allow the clutter and mess of our houses limit our friendship. Maybe you have those handful of friends and family who are always welcome no matter the state of your house. Part of being a friend is accepting the “mess” figuratively, so why not also accept it literally?!

Using rainy days as purge opportunities.

I know that I would feel so much better if all the closets were clean. Somehow, I feel like our homes tend to mimic our internal struggles. If we have messy closets and dark corners that hold scary cobwebs, maybe we have some of those “messy” place in our hearts. Working to clear the tangible spaces will help us clear the emotional ones. We don’t have to live in a mess, remember! Sometimes just an afternoon of folding laundry can help us breathe easier.

When our creator makes a space for us at his table, we are invited to find our home in His presence. No matter what our current dwellings look like, feel like, or remind us of, our true worth and assurance comes from knowing that we are AT HOME no matter where we are. Our failures and mistakes are taken off at the door, we are given a cup of forgiveness as we enter, and we find our places at the most welcoming, beautiful table we can imagine.

The post Making Our Home a Safe Haven and A Reflection of Ourselves appeared first on Churches Near Me.

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