Seeking Spiritual Wellness

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“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” Psalm 139:23

Our first response: “Wait! Why would I want God to get into my life and point out all the bad things I do? I have enough people doing that already.” To truly appreciate this verse, we need to dig further into God’s plans for us, and who He is.

God has wonderful plans for us. We were created to bring Him glory. He wants us to be the most we can be. He is ready to help us. Jesus came as a man, to die for us so that we could be free from the bondage of sin. Then, Christ arose from the dead so that we could spend eternity with Him. Not only does this show God’s great love toward us, but His interest in our personal lives.

Despite God being perfect, He understands our weakness and frailties. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Jesus is the Gentle Shepherd. He lovingly cares for us.

Just as we go to the doctor to seek physical wellness, we need to go to God for diagnosis and treatment– the Great Physician loves us more than any doctor could. Treatment does have its hardships, but we can know we are in safe hands.

Once God shows us our illness, we can seek spiritual health by following the instructions in 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Another useful step in overcoming sin is found in James 5:16. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We can seek help from God and others.

Let’s take a look at Psalm 139 again. Go ahead and read the entire chapter. God is looking out for us, and He desires to gently work through our lives. Regardless of our failures, He unconditionally loves us. We should desire His guidance to lead us in the way everlasting.

Yes Lord, search me, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

By: Daniel Hancock

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Going to Battle

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I see a battlefield with two opposing armies. One army fights for Evil. Its warriors (and they are warriors – fierce, gruesome warriors) are the followers of Satan.

The other army fights for Good. Its warriors are the Children of God.

Everyday that we awake as Children of God, we awake to a raging battle. But, you must make the choice to pick-up your sword and face the enemy, rather than stand idly on the side lines watching your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ fight.

When you first choose to join them and fight, you will be inexperienced. You will have to choose whether to stick it out and learn as you fight, or run back to the sidelines. If you choose to stay and fight, each new enemy will teach you something. You learn through experience and by watching your fellow soldiers. And let us not forget, the Captain, the KING of the army, has given us a battle guide. Study it, learn it, memorize it.

 As I view this battlefield, I see the King choose to give certain warriors Battle Partners. You see, their missions are better fulfilled when they have someone to work with. They can stand back to back, guarding each other, watching  for an onslaught from the enemy on their Battle Partner which they cannot see.

Other warriors can better fulfill their mission alone. One might think this would be a more dangerous position to be in. And grant it, sometimes it may  be. But, it seems to me, as though the Enemy has a special hatred for any 2 warriors willing to put aside their difference’s  and be brave enough to take on the responsibility of a Battle Partner. And a great responsibility it is!! These warriors are not perfect. No! They are simply fighting for One who is. They don’t always discern the onslaught the Enemy has prepared for their Battle Partner. Sometimes they are weak, sometimes distracted, sometimes blind. But the King chose them for one another for a reason. They each bring out in the other what they lack themselves. They encourage one another, take counsel together, and most importantly, study the great battle plan the King has given them together. And yes, they fight together. 

So, it seems to me when two warriors are willing to come together, that there is a special strength, wisdom, and courage found. I believe the Enemy sees it also. And I believe he has a great desire for these warriors to fail. That he sends his best warriors, and hottest fiery darts in their direction. 

So now, maybe you understand why I feel it’s easier to be a lone warrior. Making decisions yourself, not worrying about “having any-ones back”.

Anyways, that’s just how I see it. And I pray I have the strength to choose each day to put on my armor and fight. To fight with a passion!! For our cause is so worthy! 

And I pray that if the King should choose to make me a Battle Partner, I will have enough courage, selflessness, and humility to accept. But either way, no matter what His plan is for me, my ultimate goal is to fight the battle well. And when this life on earth is over and God once and for all defeats Satan, I want to be able to live eternity knowing that, even though I made mistakes (and mistakes I’ve surely made!), I fought for the cause and never lost sight of the One for whom I fight.

By: Christina Crain

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

Reach

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Reach.

Reach for God, in the face of cloudy horizons; lines out of focus. Fix your eyes on the mark, barely visible – recognizable to the mind, doubted by the heart. Grasp for what is there, but feels like empty air in a closed fist. The Almighty is in the small things…the whispers of life…more than any, magnificent display.

Reach even when you feel your hands stopped by rain-streaked glass; the panes of frustration are hard against your skin, mostly because you can see through them what you should have, but don’t. Reach even when the briars and thorns tear at the hope in your soul, cut and scratch and break the skin of trust in a future where the Suffering Servant’s crown will be turned to gold.

Reach when the darkness in front of your eyes swallows your hand and everything it is outstretched to receive. Fight your way through the valley of shadows and refuse fear. Your God is with you silently, because He forsook the Lamb on the darkest day in history. You have never felt alone as He did, and still He reached: “My God? My God? Why have You forsaken me?” And then submission in the face of what could not be understood: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” It was finished then, and glory triumphed because He reached when He could not see. So we must reach. We will never be forsaken as He was.

Reach for the nail-pierced hands. The hands that healed the unthankful and touched the outcasts. Reach for the broken feet, that walked hundreds of miles to love those who would turn away, reject, scorn His truth. Reach for the side that was thrust through with a sword. It showed the world the broken heart of the Son, poured out for people who knew not what they did.

Reach, and you will not be disappointed. Labor through the dark, the confusing, the barriers, the prisons of this life. It’s all momentary. It’s all working an eternal WEIGHT of glory. And how? How do we reach?

“Call out to me and I will show you great and mighty things which you know not.” Spoken to the prophet Jeremiah – the weeping prophet – who served faithfully and struggled with the depressing weight of failure in the face of a hardened nation. We are to seek the Word – which is from the beginning, and is the exact representation of Jesus, the One we are called to follow. The One who alone can ground us.

Confused? Reach for the One who knows all things.

Tired? Reach for the One who restores souls and satisfies the weary.

Thoughts racing? Reach for the One who says, “Peace be still.” Even the winds and waves obey Him. Our minds are not too great of an ocean for Him to calm.

Suffering? Reach for the One who was forsaken in His darkest hour and remember that you are not alone.

Torn? Reach for the One who makes all things new.

Reach, Christian. And don’t stop. Blink and your life here will be gone. Reach for all that you can lay up in the Kingdom. Reach for what is bigger than yourself. Reach and be totally lost in the Christ who came to displace sinful flesh with holy glory.

Reach and rest.

By: Hannah Stelzl

Forgetting the Bigness of God

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Spider is not not a pleasant word to my ears.

I know that some people (like my sister in law that I love very much) think they are really awesome. When there is a spider crawling up the wall that seems really scary and big at the moment, I usually call my brother in and he will take care of it for me.

And I do have to laugh at myself sometimes when I think about how small the spider really is in comparison to me.

I think how we forget about our size compared to a little spider is kind of how we forget about the size of our God.

These huge problems we have in our day to day lives are little, bitty spiders compared to Our God.

One day I was reading in the Old Testament about how God led his people out of Egypt safely and, yes, they were grateful and praised Him but when some other problems came up, they forgot all about their loving, merciful God and what He had done and how mighty He is, and they could only imagine doing things in their own strength. And I thought to myself “What jerks to be so ungrateful and forgetful.” Then it hit me. When a problem stands before me, I think that I will have to face it on my own and in my own strength. Why do I forget what all God has done for me and how big He is?

I am no better then the children of Israel in the Old testament.

I catch myself not giving my problems to God and I ask myself why am I not giving this to Him. I am acting like I don’t think He can handle it. But that is so silly. That is like not letting my BIG, STRONG brother come in and get rid of the teeny tiny spider because I don’t think He is big enough to do it. Sounds silly right?

When I do give God my troubles, He does a better job with them than I ever could. I feel so free and peaceful afterwords. And I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.

He wants to take our problems; He tells us to give them over!

Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain the: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. Psalms 55:22

It’s kind of like having an electrical problem and calling the electrician, the one who knows all about electricity.

God knows all about our problem and how to fix them. But just like you have to call the electrician and let him fix it, you have to call on God and give Him your problem and let Him fix it.

So I think next time I see a spider on the wall, I am still going to call for my brother, And when the next problem comes up hopefully I will remember to give it to God.

Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Because Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world. 1 John 4:4

By: Emma S.

Photo Credit: Flickr

When Love Turns His Face Away

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“With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.” Isaiah 54:8

The jealousy of God is something remarkable to think about. It embodies the concept that the Almighty Maker of the universe, who needs no one and lacks nothing, is fiercely protective of and possessive towards sinful, human beings. He wants relationship with us so deeply and so passionately, that when we serve other gods, He has to turn His face away. He has to let us suffer the absence of His face, and feel the burn of His jealous affection for us.

There is something incredible to be noted here in this verse: the goodness of God is not circumstantial. It is relational. And that is a constant, unaffected by changing situations. The momentary anger of God over misplaced affections gives way to everlasting love and kindness. The God of heaven came into a world of pain for which there are no words and no explanations, and He met us where we were with love that cannot be described; desire that cannot be comprehended. That should produce worship. That should produce a song that does not take circumstances into consideration nearly as much as it takes the Person of God into thought. He who is faithful, keeping His covenant for THOUSANDS of generations.

Don’t stop praising Him in the valley. He is always good. Not just on sunny days; actually, especially on rainy ones.

By: Hannah Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

Jesus Died for More Than Me!

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It’s a wonderful thought and even more so because it’s true, but I think we often forget one small factor: Jesus didn’t die just to save me.  He would have, had I been the only person in the whole world. But the Bible says “For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son”. The word “world” in the Greek is Cosmos, and in this particular verse it refers to the human race.

Jesus died for me, but he also died for the whole world. I think as Christians, we like to dwell on the fact that Jesus died for “Me” and we sometimes treat others like He did not die for them. Instead we begin to view ourselves as somehow more worthy of Christ’s love.

When I truly stop to think about it, I am shocked at how easily I judge others.  Instead of seeing them as (1) another child of God who may not have the same standards or preferences that I do, or (2) a lost person who desperately needs to be told about Jesus Christ, I think we tend to sit back and compare ourselves.

 “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt 

When we sit in church and hear the pastor talk about the pride of the Pharisees, it’s easy to shake our heads in disapproval and think about how evil and selfish they were. But when church is over and we find ourselves in similar circumstances, surrounded by people who are different then we are, if we truly stop to think, we will most likely find ourselves copying them rather than following the example of Christ. How many times have you compared your standards with others, or mentally judged someone in the grocery store? It’s a habit; it happens all the time and we don’t even realize how much we do it.   

John 7:24 – Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment

The thing is, our flesh wants us to feel more important – like we somehow deserve Christ’s gift – when in fact as Paul stated, “I am the least of all sinners” – or in other words, “I am the lowest of the low.” We deserve nothing but death and hell, yet Jesus came and gave His life for us. Jesus showed us by His own example that no sin was too great for Him to forgive. If Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was willing to give His life for those who would nail Him to a cross, is it so much to ask of His children that they put away their judgmental attitudes towards others and take the time to share the truth in love?

Ephesians 4:15  – But Speaking the Truth in Love, May grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.

The next time you start to judge someone, stop and remember that just as Jesus died for you, He died for that person too.

By: Bethany Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

Who Am I?

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Dear Diary, today I hit 500 friends on Facebook. I now get hundreds of comments and likes every day…  So why is it that I feel completely alone? Why do I feel worthless and out of place? Why don’t I feel like any one values me for who I really am?

This is the story of so many people around the world today. Social media controls us. We decide that the most important thing in life is what others think of us. If no one likes my picture on Instagram, they must not like me as a person. Why is it that we allow such a small thing to control how we feel about who we are?

Revelations 1:6 – And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Jesus made us the way He made us for a purpose. He has a journey for us to take, a masterpiece for us to be a part of. But instead of waking up each morning praising the Lord for the life He has given us, we allow the world to set the bar for our identity and our worth. Every day when I wake up, I know that Jesus still loves me and he still has a plan for me. I can never make a mistake that will change that because I am his child and he has forgiven me for my sin – past, present, and future. I know that he will always accept me just the way I, am no matter how bad or good my day may have been. He is always by my side and he will never give up on me, because I am his child. But sometimes that knowledge gets lost, and I forget that it doesn’t really matter what my Facebook friends think, or how popular I am.

Jeremiah 1:5a – Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…

There is a saying that if you don’t care what anyone else thinks you, don’t care about anybody. And I think that is true. If you don’t value anyone’s opinion but your own, you don’t tend to value people in general. But we take it too far. Instead of valuing opinions the way Christ meant for us to, we make them into idols. And we find ourselves always trying to measure up to the standard the world has set for us. As humans, we can only go on measuring up for so long before we get tired of trying and fail – and when that happens, our entire identity that we worked so hard to build comes crashing down around us. We find ourselves depressed and ready to give up because we are searching in the wrong place for our worth.

People will disappoint people, but Jesus can never be disappointed.

Disappointment means that someone was not expecting us to fail in some way. Because Jesus knows our hearts and he knows what we have done, are doing, and will do, we can’t surprise him. We may grieve the Spirit by our sinful actions but we can never disappoint him. Unfortunately, it’s much too easy in today’s culture to seek our worth and identity from the world and the world is easily disappointed.

It’s time to start a new trend. It’s time to stop worshiping the identity that the world has set on us and to start looking to our Creator and Savior for our identity.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – 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 with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

By: Bethany Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

Running to Jesus When You Especially Don’t Want to

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Sometime near the end of last week, I had a crazy, rough day. By the time evening came around, I felt borderline insane. I’m a problem solver, but the issues I had come up against that day were maxing out my little mental motor. I was on zero, and I could feel the last bit of my spiritual battery draining. With a depressing grind, everything  within me that was faithful and trusting of God came to a halt. 

For a while, I paced the house. I scrolled through social media – which was no help at all. I tried showering. I went through the refrigerator and discovered that my brothers had cleaned out everything good. My head felt like it was going to explode, and by this time, I had about 25,000 journal entries drafted in my head. I locked myself in my closet with my bible, my journal and a pen…and the war began. Should I journal the chaos in my mind first? Or open my Bible – something I probably (no…definitely) should have done hours earlier? 

It was a battle for me. I was exhausted and soul-sick. I had huge problems looming over my head that I wanted answers to. I had already had my usual, morning quiet time that day and it felt elementary and somewhat dry.

In that moment, I thought of King David. I knew he understood what was going on in my mind. I believe God filled His Word with the stories of fallen, human beings because He knew we’d need relatable content. I decided to read several, consecutive Psalms, and journal afterwards – but trust me, the whirlwind in my mind was screaming “NO!” with all the ferocity it could muster. My flesh almost didn’t want to be quiet. It almost didn’t want to calm down. In a twisted way, it wanted to figure things out ON ITS OWN. 

A lot of you know what I’m talking about. Isolate, divide and conquer. Make it through and emerge with self as the victor yet again. It never lasts.

As I dug into Scripture – reluctantly and maybe even resentfully at first – the storm in my head slowed to a drizzle…then a rainbow in the clouds…then the sun came out. I don’t think I left my closet until almost 11:30 that night. I never did journal – I only ever got around to writing down verses that jumped out as I went along. But my heart was quiet when at last, I turned the knob on the door to go to bed.

I had had to run up the hill to the cross when I least wanted to.

Did I have answers as I fell into bed that night, exhausted and worn out? No. Had my circumstances changed? Absolutely not. Were all the people I cared about where I wanted them to be in order to have peace of mind? Without doubt, they were not. Yet, as I drifted off to sleep, I realized what it meant to cast one’s burdens on the Lord. Most often, we want to hog our burdens because we don’t want to need help. I am a self-doer. I don’t like to ask for help. That’s something I’ve had to learn slowly, the hard way. But there is a peace that the world cannot understand that is found in telling Jesus our troubles. He doesn’t always take them away. But more often than not, we discover in the midst of them that it is not the trouble that is disturbing us as much as it is that we have not been walking as closely with Him as we should have been.

By: Hannah Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

How Radically Should We Love? – Pt. 3

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The second balancing truth I mentioned on Tuesday is this: our bodies are the vessels God works through to carry out His Kingdom agenda. That’s a tall order, but with Christ in us, it’s a miraculous possibility.

For the past 4 years, God has led me deeper and deeper into the dark, often impassible territory of the traumatized mind. Young women who are fighting indescribable enemies in their minds and trying to rise above the horrors of unspeakable abuse in their past have crossed my path, forcing me to learn to love at a new level – an unconditional one.

It is contrary to human nature to patiently and genuinely love someone who cannot possibly meet any human expectations, or contribute much back to a relationship. But there is something incredibly beautiful about watching a trampled, tightly closed bud begin to bloom. And that is the life I get to live. That is the miracle I get to watch. 

The more I think about this radical love idea, the more excited I get. But there is also a sad side to this truth. We are part of a body of conceited individuals called Christians. People who live with an enormous sense of entitlement because they were worth enough for Jesus to die for them. The same people who should live with an incredible sense of indebted gratitude, willing to lay down their lives for the least.

Right now, God is taking me through a season of life where I’m learning about the joy of becoming a servant; where I am realizing the gift of not mattering, because someone else has pressing needs. It’s hard and often incredibly painful, but it’s a pain I am learning how to thrive in. It’s a loss I am learning to love, relish and enjoy. I am in the early moments of grasping what Paul meant when He said, “To live is Christ.” To be a representative of Jesus to someone who doesn’t understand Him is an awesome responsibility – and a weighty one. But it’s a precious commission that should not be taken lightly. 

Honestly, I feel like I could go on for days, weeks…months or even years about loving broken people, because that is what Jesus came to do. Just this past Sunday, a friend texted me Mark 2:17 which says, “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”But a lot of us don’t believe that in practice – right?

In the past 6 months, I’ve had some deeply discouraging and disappointing interactions with people who profess to be Christians, but believe they are completely well – and proud of it! I’m not well – and I suffer the effects of that every day in my soul! But there is good news for those of us who are in disrepair and know it: Jesus came for US. Specifically, especially, and uniquely, He came for US. The vast majority of the “Church” today believes that they are well, and proud of it. But let those of us who think we stand be careful that we don’t fall. Christ came for those who need healing. And as we become aware of our need and receive that desperately needed care, He empowers us to give it for His glory, to others. May we not forget the Lord when we have been filled and satisfied!

Take-Aways for Loving Radically:

  1. Ask yourself in what ways your personal needs or the demands of your comfort zone get in the way of loving people radically – especially those who impersonate Judas.
  2. What is radical love for you? Sacrifice is a key element. If the love you give to others never costs you, and never hurts, it’s probably not really love.
  3. Do the people you love sense that you matter to yourself more than they matter? That your expectations and desires trump the meeting of their needs? Be honest with yourself, and be willing to ask them! If so, something needs to change!

By: Hannah Stelzl

Photo Credit: Flickr

 

How Radically Should We Love? – Pt 2

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Part of loving others is loving ourselves. It’s true to one degree, but twisted to another. Yesterday, I mentioned 2 balancing truths that relate to loving people. The first was that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. They don’t belong to us – they’ve been purchased at an unfathomable cost. Therefore, they are not ours to do with what we want. They are ours to steward – and God does not deal lightly with irresponsible stewards (See Matthew 25:14-30).

If we want to radically love other people, down the the very last Judas walking this earth, we’re going to need something supernatural. We’re simply not good enough, motivated enough or selfless enough at the core as human beings to succeed at something so audaciously holy. In fact, we’re the opposite in our flesh. But remember what I wrote yesterday about Jesus as He knelt in front of those disciples to wash their feet? He was so secure in His identity as the Son of God, that He was able to stoop to the lowest possible place out of love for them. It is only when we are secure in an identity that far surpasses us – the identity of the Son of God – that we will be able to love radically and sacrificially. Therefore, it is not really about loving ourselves for who we are by nature (children of wrath, Colossians 3 says). Instead, it is about loving the Christ that lives within us (Galatians 2:20). This is why the first greatest command is to love the Lord with all our hearts. The second is only possible when the first is in play. To love ourselves, we must love the One who made us and inhabits us, and in fact has removed everything about us that is us, and replaced it with His perfect self. Learning to walk in an identity that huge and that awesome is a learning curve for our human hearts. But when we begin to search out the Person of God in us, we begin to understand that there is no such thing as self-care. It is rather about worship and stewardship. 

Self care usually revolves around what makes life convenient and easy for us. It is aimed at making us relatively comfortable in the battlefield we live and work in. But stewardship is about worshipping the One who is empowering us to do what we do. David wrote, “You have done all of our works in us.” And Philippians 2:13 says that it is God who wills and works out in us what pleases Him.

Jesus’ life was a demanding, exhausting ordeal. Yet somehow, He didn’t have to tote a huge sack of art therapy supplies with Him to stay sane (there’s nothing wrong with art therapy by the way – I use it all the time!). Jesus didn’t cope with the extreme life He lived. He thrived in it, and He did so by staying close to His Father. It was the one “luxury” He afforded Himself. The Son of Man had no place to lay His head at night, no house to call home, no wife or mother who cooked Him three, solid meals a day. He lived a life of constant pilgrimage, persecution and personal sacrifice that left Him exhausted at the end of each day. But it was the nights and early mornings spent in worship and prayer that revived Him. Often, we fail to love people radically because we have not gotten to know the God who loves them radically. And without Love Himself dwelling in us, we will fail our mission.

Take-Aways On Stewarding Your Temple:

  1. Have you learned to wield the weapon of worship? When the battle gets hot, the soldier who doesn’t trust the power and foresight of his commanding officer will retreat. Worship takes us to the heart of who God is so that we won’t run when things get tough, but rather, have faith.
  2. Do you step away on a daily basis to be with your Father? Once a week is not enough. Sometimes once a day is not enough. Jesus was in CONSTANT communication with His Father, and therefore, He did not burn out on His mission to love a world that was actively rejecting Him. You can never get too close to your Sustainer!
  3. Are you meditating on your TRUE identity? Studies are now proving that the person we become is directly linked to what we think about in our solitude. What we think about is inextricably bound to what we watch, read, and listen to. Are you putting the truth in, or are you marinading in lies and then expecting to feel secure enough to emerge from the fight victorious? It won’t happen. Stand fast in the liberty that Christ has set you free for! 

By: Hannah Stelzl (To Be Continued)

Photo Credit: Flickr