A stranger in a strange land

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth.
Let none of us be frightened;
our native land is not in this world.”

St. Augustine


(a surprise flock of deer in the middle of surburn Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2018
talk about strangers in a strange place)

Many years ago my aunt and I were taking an overnight flight from Atlanta to Milan.
This was not our first trip to Italy and I proudly figured that I knew just enough
conversational Italian to get us through any real language barrier.
All would be well I confidently told myself.

Yet in the back of my mind, I knew my aunt.
A panicker if ever there was one.

She knew the word equivalents to hello, yes, no, good-bye and stop.
She depended on me just as a blind person would depend upon a service animal.
I was to be her eyes and ears and mouth while navigating all over Itlay for the
next 3 weeks.
She was simply happy and content being along for the ride.
No thinking, no working, no figuring…just eating, drinking, shopping and seeing.
That was the extent of her comfort level when travelling.
No real thinking—just enjoying…while leaving the details to one more savvy
and experienced.
And in this case, that simply left me…

So what could possibly go wrong?

Arriving early morning in Milan, which was middle of the night Atlanta time,
and having flown for nearly 9 hours in a tin can in the sky with absolutely zero sleep
and limited nutrition…
We deplaned, made our way through the terminal, found our luggage,
then when trying to figure out where the train was located that was to take us into town…
well, I might as well have been hit on the head, suffering from complete amnesia.

Exhaustion was hanging like a thickly spun cobweb in my brain.
Panic was creeping up through my now rapidly and tightly closing throat.
I stood in the middle of the terminal looking around, trying to make sense, trying to translate
signs directing us where we needed to go.
It was as if my brain had gone blank and all that practice of asking in Italian where
the train station was located…as was now gone the time spent memorizing the map of
the airport…it had all instantly, completely and totally left me.

Yet I had to get a hold of myself as I didn’t need my 70-year-old aunt turning into
a wailing Henny Penny.
“GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF” I mentally screamed at myself.

And just as quickly as that sense of panic of a blank brain had engulfed me,
I clamped down on that boiling panic and calmed down… as I casually sauntered over
to the information desk asking the nonplused airport employee if they
“parli inglese”
and DOV’È LA STAZIONE CENTRALE?

And no that was not the end of our adventures during that particular trip…
but those are stories for another day…

It does, however, remind me of today’s quote by St Augustine.

A bold reminder that we Christians are strangers on this rather strange planet.

For we are indeed a strange people in a strange land.

Just like my aunt and I when we first arrived in Milan.
Strangers, much out of place, most uncomfortable and seemingly lost in what
was a new strange land.

I am currently grossly far behind reading and listening to both my two favorite
‘across the pond’ clerics, that it isn’t even funny.

This new role of grandmother, dashing around on the fly, with little to no sleep while
being out of pocket from my usual routine and home…
has me terribly out of sync here in blogland.

Yet I did manage to look over Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s latest musings which
actually starts off with a tale about Meghan Markle of all people—
that soon to be bride of Prince Harry.

It seems that Ms Markle has “agreed” to be baptized and subsequently confirmed
into the Anglican Chruch of England…as a gesture of graciousness for her soon to be
Grandmother-n-law who, as Queen, is known as the “Defender of the Faith” and “head”
of the Chruch of England.

The good bishop smells something a bit odious.

Not so much because of Ms Markle herself, who is obviously trying her best to now “fit in” into
her fiancee’s most British world as well as into his family…
but rather odious because of the Chruch of England itself.

As a Christian, I find it a bit odd, awkward and simply wrong that one would want to be
“baptized” as a child of God and in turn confirmed into a church body simply for the sake
of “fitting in”…
Not to mention the notion of a church body that sees such a life-altering decision as a mere
technicality.

I wonder if Ms Markle actually understands the implications behind what it means to
be Baptized–or as to the requirement of what is required of one who “joins” the church?

I wonder if the Church of England actually understands the life-changing and deeply
mystical experience that resides within the act of Baptism.

When we have a church body baptizing individuals as a means of helping one to fit in
or as a technicality…then I know we as Christians are indeed treading in a strange land.

And here is the dilemma for the Church of England.
A state Church wedded to a state that hates Christian virtue and Christian ethics;
a state that has begun to criminalise Christian witness as hate speech,
where police arrest street preachers and have them thrown in prison at the push of
a SJW’s phone button;
a state that has begun preparations to remove children from their Christian homes
if social workers detect what they improperly label ‘homophobia’ in the parents;
a state where Christian teachers are expelled and sacked if they do not endorse
the secular brainwashing on the fluidity of gender.

Meghan Markle, Justin Welby & The Use And Abuse Of Baptism.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
For what can be known about God is plain to them,
because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes,
namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20

it was a good day

Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
‘Til your good is better and your better is best.

St. Jerome


(for unto our little family, a child is born / “Moppie” Cook / 2018)

Lots to share from the past 36 long unslept hours when life took a sharp curve…
careening nearly out of control.
I’ll eventually journey into more detail regarding tale about the panicked what-if’s,
the tremendous burden of concern,
and the seemingly miraculous turn from potential devastation to the long-awaited
satisfaction of life…

The highs and lows that can still, in this modern 21st century of ours, become a by-product of birth.

And as each birth is indeed the same…that being a miracle of the unknown and unseen…
we were actually afforded the grace of this miracle of life of our own…

7 Lbs 14 oz
19 inches
arriving at 4:15 Saturday afternoon.

I’m home for a bit of sleep, a most welcomed treat, before hitting the road again…
But I wanted to thank all of you who joined us in prayer these past 9 months and especially these
past precarious 36 hours…

Autumn has blessedly arrived…


(my son with his brand new daughter…who he actually named / “Moppie” Cook / 2018

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

Nefarious and sinister

“No sign, so far, of anything sinister—but I live in hope.”
Agatha Christie

Firstly, you must remember that I am from the generation that was before this
over-zealous addiction with technology was a thing…
From a time before cell phones, before DVD’s, before standard air conditioning,
before videos before virtual reality….

Television, with only the standard 3 major networks, broadcast in black and white,
was not a 24/7 happening thing.
Who doesn’t remember the good ol buzzing of the test pattern waiting for the time
in which the day was to crank back up?

I was well into my teaching career when schools began introducing computers
to their teachers.
A hulking behemoth of a thing that had no such thing as a connection to a
world wide web or wifi capability…but rather ran a single electronic grade book system….of which was only as good as the teachers trying input the
averages and grades…

So when it came time for our son to actually need his first computer,
in say maybe his 9th or 10th grade year in high school,
he was sold on needing an Apple.

My dad was always the techie guru of the family…
of which probably had something to do with Dad having been an engineer all his life.
For he was always cutting edge with technology.

When I was young we were the first on our street to get a color television,
the first to move from HiFi to stereo and the first to get a cell phone.
Granted it was basically a plug-in phone in a bag that looked more like a
traditional phone stuck in a black pocketbook…
but it was cutting edge none the less.

When he bought mother her first microwave, a giant monstrosity that took up an
entire kitchen counter, he made us all leave the room when it was on lest we be
radiated…yet it was ok to eat the radiated food…hummm.

So when it came time for folks to get home computers, dad was right there
in the mix…and this must have been where our son got his proclivity for
technology.

Of course it was now the 21st century…
Apple had come a long way from the early
days of the Macintosh…
Apple now presented a clean futuristic take on technology.
They were slick and if you were slick, Apple was what the slick were craving.

So naturally our son eventually sold me on needing an Apple as well…
despite my school still using traditional PCs in the classroom.
“Apples are easier to use and they don’t get viruses mother” he would
frustratingly remind me whenever something went awry at school…
“Plus they’re for the more creative” this being a push to his
art teacher mother.

And so it is…
I’ve been through one large Apple desktop and two iMac lap tops…not to mention
and array of iPhones and one iPad…

And then it happened.

There I was last night having to update my adobe acrobat.
My phone happened to be ringing at the same time.

Answering the phone while trying to update…
as in multitasking has always been an area in which I have always excelled…
Yet suddenly something crazy and terribly wrong had come up on my screen as there
was now a voice coming from my computer with some dude talking to me about virus
detection while my computer had downloaded not adobe acrobat but something else
entirely, something called Safe Finder—
with this actually becoming my new home page.
Safe it was not….

WHAT????? I hear a panicked voice wailing,
realizing the voice was mine.

So I quickly hung up the phone and tried doing everything a limited minded
57 year old knows to do.
I cut my computer off and on.

When some semblance of clarity finally returned to my distraught brain,
I tried uninstalling the blasted thing but it wouldn’t uninstall.

Shades of Equifax now ran through my brain as I heard the Discover Card commercial
Russian sales associate “Peggy” mocking me from somewhere deep in Siberia…
I now believed everything I held dear or what was of importance to my existence as
a humanbeing had just been dumped on that nefarious Dark Web.

I actually looked up “what is the dark web”
And just when you thought the internet was not dark enough,
it gets even darker.

The links that came up were frighting at best.
With the lead link claiming to be able to step by step anyone into the dark web
within 15 minutes allowing you to remain anonymous.
I felt as if it was assuring me that it could happily step by step me
smack dab into the middle of Hell all within 15 minutes…
somehow I don’t think one remains anonymous in Hell.

Naturally I didn’t click on any links because I just wanted to see if it was
really real.
And no I do not need to see if Hell is real…
I’ve already figured that one out.

So I now had a sick feeling in my stomach…a kind of scared to death feeling of
instant doom.

I worked my way into reaching Apple in order to make an appointment at one the
Atlanta stores for the following day but discovered there were no appointments
until Saturday at 5:15.
“Are you freaking kidding me?????”
Again the panicked voice, which was mine, was heard wailing.

By now my husband was home.
I rapidly fired off the retelling of my troubles as he was wondering why
supper was only half way cooked.
“Maybe you should just go buy another one?”
“No” I practically snapped, “this one is only two years old and a new one
would cost an arm and a leg.”
All the while images of viruses being sent out to everyone I knew, or worse,
my identity was now multiplying in places like North Korea, Russia, China….
all dark shadows playing out in my now overstimulated imagination.

After supper I called Apple and left my number for a “miracle worker”
to call me back.
An almost immediately my phone rang with said Apple miracle worker.

I explained my tale of woe.
We ‘share screened’…
(which is scary in itself as we where both in my computer at the same time)
while he walked me through the malware issue.
He found the culprit embedded on my hard drive…hidden well deep within
the labyrinth of the the computer.

We got it, got rid of it and added a Malware program to my computer to
detect and deal with any further issues.

So naturally with all this virus verses no virus business…
along with the hackers, identity theft, and the sinister Dark Web plaguing
my life, I got to thinking….

We live in a world of utterly false protection.
If you think otherwise, it won’t be long until this world makes a believer out of
you as well.

We have been lulled into believing that everything from our identity,
to our credit history to our medical records, to our very safety as an American
are all perfectly safe…
Yet with the big credit companies like Equifax recently being attacked…
While millions of medical records were hacked at Anthem in 2015, with even
the Pentagon being hacked, no one should feel safe.

While credit information is easily stollen at gas stations, restaurants and
even while innocently and mindlessly shopping…
with it all being sold to the highest bidder.

Life is no longer simple nor is it safe.

So while we now work diligently to be ever vigilant protecting what is ours
while living in a world of growing cyber darkness…
we must be equally, if not more so, mindful that our very souls are
just as vulnerable as our credit or our medical records or even our identity ….
for there is indeed a darkness that longs for such…

And should you disagree—there are steps available for taking you just as dark as
you dare go…I think they call that hell…..

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent,
who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—
he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the
authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers
has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word
of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you,
O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:9-12

where lies your dependency?

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4


(Atlanta’s interstate fire and collapse courtesy CBS46 Atlanta)

There were so many titles for today’s post….
“Atlanta is burning…again”
“The domino effect”
“Catastrophe under, or is it of, the road”
“S’mores anyone
as the camera would then pan to a sea of stopped cars stranded for hours as
they waited to be literally turned around and rerouted from one of the nation’s busiest
interstates.

If you haven’t yet heard, Atlanta was on fire, again, Thursday.

I say again because if your history lessons have failed you,
you may recall that a certain General T. Sherman burnt Atlanta to the ground
as a Christmas gift for President Lincoln during the Civil War.
And that is now the reason as to why the mythical creature the Phoenix is Georgia’s
sacred state bird…that is, besides the brown thrasher.
For the Phoenix is a symbol of how a smoldering Southern city rose up from the ashes
to become a major US metropolitan megatropolis…
along with the world’s busiest airport,
and a horrific gridlock of interstates….
but I digress….

Our son called late yesterday afternoon asking if we knew Atlanta was on fire.
He had seen this during his commute home from work.
We flipped on the television, and sure enough, Atlanta was on fire…
or more exactly a large swarth of area underneath a section of I-85 near Piedmont Rd,
what is known to locals as the Mid town area….
If you’ve ever driven north or south through Atlanta, you’ve driven over this stretch
of road.

This was a Thursday evening, at rush hour.
The interstate in both the south and north bound lanes were shut down as the fire
raged.
The heat so intense, a large section of the interstate buckled under the strain and collapsed–
which may have been a good thing as it helped to snuff out much of the inferno.

And miraculously, no one was hurt.

Still not certain as to the actual cause….
But what is certain, a major US artery is now shut down for travel for who knows how long.

Listening to the various news stations and the reporters who,
as everyone watched in real time, first the fire then the collapse,
gasped in obvious overwhelmed amazement.

What would happen with all those cars now stuck?
What would happen in the days to come?
Where would all the traffic be rerouted?
What about Atlanta’s notorious Rush hours?
How much longer would it now take to get to and from work?
What about all the soon to be Spring Break travelers headed south to Florida?

On and on the mounting panic became palpable as a million questions flooded
the thoughts of everyone….

I had to drive over to Dad’s today to meet with the funeral home in order to gather up
some needed papers and documents.
It was not a pretty picture as traffic was rerouted over to my usual route….
bypassing around the city.

There had also been an early morning crash just this side of the Georgia / Alabama state lines
shutting down all of I-20 east bound. That swarth of interstate closed until late afternoon.
Meaning more rerouting, with all that traffic, with an endless line of tractor trailer trucks,
being rerouted again, to my particular route of travel….
and I have to go back today….
sigh….

And with all this burning, collapsing and rerouting nightmare…it’s all gotten me thinking.
Thinking of our dependance upon our own limited abilities and vision…

Our world, the world in which we, man, has created is so tenuous and superficial.
Yet we assume and even take for granted that it is invincible.
Our massive buildings, our sprawling shopping meccas, our spaghetti maze of roadways,
our expanding bridges, even our modes of travel…
all seemingly built to last…
That is…until there is a bizarre or freakish event of catastrophic proportions…
which in turn sends us, much like ants, scurrying in an endless state of pandemonium.

There are no guarantees.

I can vividly recall watching the aftermath of the 1989 earthquake out in San Francisco…
the quake which collapsed and sandwiched the 880 interstate,
crushing and trapping both cars and people.

It was a horrific reminder of our fragility.
Just as each catastrophic earthquake has been in recent months in central Italy.
Centuries old buildings reduced to instant rubble in the blink of an eye.

It matters not the disaster…
It matters not if the victim be historic, modern, structurally sound or state of the art..
Nothing that we put our hands to, which we arrogantly assume is built to stand the test time,
will in turn do just that…last to kingdom come…
All will eventually give way to ruin…

For all of our ingenuity, our hutzpah, our try, try again mentality and and our plain
ol good intentions..
none of it will last….
for it will all pass away, just as we shall pass away to the very dust
from which we were formed in the hands of the Creator…

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

the kindred spirit of a chicken

“To love is easy and therefore common –
but to understand –
how rare it is!”

― L.M. Montgomery

What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul,
which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?

Saint Teresa of Avila

DSCN3747
(one of dad’s urban neighbors / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve written about Henny Penny before.
And no, Henny Penny is not the chicken in the picture above…
that’s just a neighbor.

The real Henry Penny is the heroine of a classic and timeless sweet children’s tale.
The story of a rather hapless and clueless chicken
who gets her knickers in twist when she’s out and about minding her own business,
when suddenly out of the blue, something falls from above knocking her in the head…

This falling object unleashes pandemonium in poor ol Henny Penny.

Convinced that the sky is now falling,
Henny Penny proceeds to run about chaotically alerting all her neighbors
that the time to panic has arrived…
while proclaiming that everyone must immediately seek shelter…
because the sky is…
falling…

henny_penny_02-1
(Henny Penny / art work by Thao Lam)

As it turns out the sky was never falling, as the sweet illustration above indicates,
yet try telling Henny Penny and her now distraught neighbors that it was
just a pesky little acorn falling onto poor Henny Penny’s head.

And not that I’ve become some sort of nervous nelly dashing about
in a frantic panic over a falling sky…
but it does feel as if the sky, or actually life rather, is indeed falling…
and that familiar primordial feeling of panic
is desperately attempting to rear its ugly head…

As I’ve just spent the past three days running around in circles over…
dad…

Add to that some other rather pressing issues of life and we have
our very own Henny Penny running around clucking like a nut.

If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who may have spotted a black car,
early this morning, out on the four lane driving in big circles…
about 3 different times back and forth…

As in driving out toward the interstate then turning back around,
then driving back out toward the interstate, then truning back around…
again…and again…
Not so much a panicky Henny Penny but more like a crazy moron…

Either way I’m feeling a bit Henny Pennyish as of late as I’ve been
twirling about in circles flapping my wings arms trying to make sense of things…

It’s a long story…as are all my stories as of late.
And I’ve promised myself that I will not be overtly verbose today,
for your sake as I wish to spare you the agonizing details…

However…is it not the details which make things all that more interesting??
as in the devil is in the details—
as in really, yes,
he is frighteningly in my details….

It all has to do with a catheter, a nurse, dad, a blockage, the caregivers, the ER
and a urologist that I had hoped to never see again…as I’m not a fan.
Add multiple calls beckoning me to come then don’t come,
come, don’t come… and you’ve got circles on the four lane…

Throw upon that not gas but confusion…adding all the other nuttiness in my life,
throw in the shenanigans of this county of ours just for kicks,
fan the fumes…
and you get me, driving around in big circles
while dad is blowing up like a water balloon refusing to be treated.

So I will take the water balloon dad back to the Urologist today, whether he wants to go or not while taking our chances that
a) the water balloon weren’t burst and
b) that mr nonchalant will figure out the problem
allowing us to get back to our regular business of falling sky….

I think I like Henny Penny…
I think we must be kindred spirits…

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:12

I think I’m the one on the right

“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon

“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ”
― C.S. Lewis

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(lovely relief masks found under an ancient bridge crossing over the Seine in Paris as seen from a bateau / Paris, France / 2011)

Ok so you would most likely assume that if a person had a life sized one of these standing about in one’s home, there would be a certain sense of well being, an understood knowledge that all was indeed quiet on the western as well as the eastern, the northern and the southern fronts and that everything would be under control right?

DSCN4772

And yet there is a prevailing sense that something big is coming.
Like it or not, it is indeed coming.
As in 26 days, less than a month, as in you’ve been hearing about, plotting and planning about this now for nearly 3 years. . .and yet, the foreboding sense of something huge and monumental coming, as in like it or not–it’s coming, is proving palpable.

Maybe it is assumed that everyone is hunkered down, ready and waiting.
All eyes are focused, ever so keenly scanning the horizon for the slightest bit of movement, fingers steady and poised on all sorts of triggers.
Preparedness is key!
Organization is paramount!
A stiff upper lip a necessity. . .

Andy yet. . .

You may recall that,one day last week, I had asked for prayers for my son who is suffering from complications from kidney stones. We thought he were going to have surgery this Tuesday–as in tomorrow– but it seems the doctors are opting for more tests Tuesday–as in tomorrow. There have been ultrasounds, blood work, a CT scan and now some sort of scope thingy is scheduled—for Tuesday–as in tomorrow.

For some reason, the fact that I keep reminding all living and breathing personnel residing in this particular doctor’s office that we have a wedding on June 7th—does not seem to deliver the same overwhelming sense of panic that it does for anyone but me and perhaps the bride to be, and maybe my son.

So, as of now, we’re on for a scope only Tuesday, as in tomorrow. The supposed surgery which was mentioned, the one that I think I heard as having something of a 2 week recovery time of such, as in there is this little thing such as a wedding taking place in less than a month, a wedding that has been in the making now for 3 years, as in it’s happening in historic Savannah, as in the famous park, as in this had to be set in stone over a year ago, as in come hell or high water we WILL all be present and accounted for, as in one would think a bride and groom would want to feel 100% on their wedding day, as in is this not becoming a bit of a hinderance to one’s health, as in maybe should I have gone into medicine since I seem to be the only one to have a better sense of time and priorities—or is that just a mother thing???

At any rate, I will hold onto my panic a bit longer, sharing it with this medical office as often as possible and will continue asking for prayers as I believe that prayer does indeed availeth much. . .
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.
James 5:16

And since we’re now talking about confessing. . .
Remember my voila moment from the other day?
The construction of my wonderful purple martin house?
The one I worked so hard putting together so that the birds wouldn’t think of me as a slum lord?
Remember the picture of the bluebird sitting on top of the collapsing old house I was wanting to replace?

Well . . .

It’s a bit of a long story.
One I really don’t think I’m emotionally sound yet to fully discuss but let’s just say that
A. My husband who thought he would be sweet and go out yesterday morning to remove the old one and replace it with the new one discovered that I may not have assemble it exactly correctly. . .

I know this comes as a great shock, but surprisingly, it seems that maybe I did not line up a couple of arrows correctly. Of which meant the pole wouldn’t fit up inside the house.

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Once the blasted thing is assembled, you can’t undo what you did—being plastic and having called for plastic bolts–there’s no unbolting plastic pushed in, as in not going anywhere, bolts. He had to rig some sort of brace. . .

B. Then there was the issue of the bluebird.

Bluebird you ask?
Remember the one sitting on top of the old house in the picture from the other day?
May I just say that my husband now feels really really badly, and I am really really sad.
There was a bit of a tragedy yesterday while he was taking down the old house—of which I’m still too traumatized to speak of—
Just remember the story of how I told you that there are the occasional usurpers who attempt taking ownership of the martin house—

You would think that with 5 bluebird boxes in the yard, a bluebird would never consider usurping a martin house. . .a martin house on a 25 foot wobbly pole perched precariously in the middle of a field?!

I don’t want to talk about it. It was an accident. In his excitement of bringing down the old and putting up the bootleg new, he never saw that they fell out. . .
I’m really sad—as is Mrs Bluebird. And it was mother’s day of all day’s—lets just say there were tears, a little screaming, a lot of feeling really badly, and the proverbial best laid plans—once again, run amuck. . .

So with all of this drama whirling about in and out of my world—may we all take pause this morning, breathing in deeply these immortal words . . .

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