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Heartbreak

Lately I have been thinking about God’s plans and purposes.

My heart hesitates to speak of God. Not because of lack of love for Him. Not because of shame or guilt or anything like that. I simply feel inadequate. Who am I to have any vast knowledge of or insight into the grandeur of the Lord? Who am I to comment on the holiness of God or the love of Jesus or the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit? I am not a great theologian. I’m not even a mediocre theologian. Even reading the Bible is so very difficult at times. All I know is the still small voice. The one that whispers, “You are ok” when everything is falling apart. All I know is His faithfulness to hold me when everything around me is crumbling. I know nothing from an academic standpoint. But I know He loves me and He has good thoughts and intentions for me.

The past several months, God has been asking me to evaluate my attitude about my circumstances and deal with my emotions about how someone else’s choices are affecting me.

I was hopeful.

I was jubilant.

I was devastated.

I was numb.

I was numb for about 4 months while my life crumbled around me. I didn’t have the capacity to feel anything. Then I needed help and he came. He helped me for a few hours and then he left. My world was right-side-up for a few hours and then it crumbled again. I was devastated. I was broken. I was heartbroken.

It’s been four long, long years since this situation started.

I had prayed and cried out to God to reveal His plan to this other person. I cried a lot during those four years. And nothing happened. Nothing. Except that he left for two years in the middle, while I did my best to muddle through life, hoping for the best; fearing the worst; praying to be delivered from the affection and adoration I felt for him.

And still, nothing changed.

After he departed that day, I was down. It was the first time I felt anything outside of numbness about the situation for several years, and it was bad. Very, very bad. I struggled. I prayed. And in a moment of epiphany, the Lord seared on my heart the truth that the things that I have always thought of and understood as “God’s plans” aren’t plans, per se. They are purposes. They are things that He thinks and wants for us. But because of His overwhelming grace, His mercy and His love, we are given the choice if we want to participate in those purposes. (Note: I think the terminology is important here, because, a plan, when coupled with the name of God, implies inevitability. Because of God’s gracious gift of free will, the word “purpose” is a much better fit, in my opinion.)

No one is locked into a plan with Him. No one. He’s not like Verizon, where you sign on the dotted line and follow the rules until the contract runs out. He doesn’t work like your employer or your Master Promissory Note or your wedding vows. He does His thing and gives us opportunity after opportunity to participate in His purposes. But we aren’t locked in. We get to choose.

I was given an opportunity to reevaluate how I feel about Him. And how I feel about…. him. Am I going to reject God because I can’t (necessarily) have what I want? Am I going to be angry and bitter with the man in question because he won’t get his crap in a pile already?

Of course, my other choice was to internalize the grief and heartbreak and enter an even deeper depression. But that’s no fun either.

So many choices….

Several years ago, during a time of deep darkness in my life, God branded into my heart the truth that people are terrible representations of Him. Nothing people do changes who He is — nor does their behavior (very often) represent who He is. And because people are imperfect, I neither have the choice to be angry with Him, nor do I have the choice to be angry with…. him. He is already perfect, while he is in the process of…. becoming. You can’t kick people to the curb because they’re not quite like God yet.

I internalized the grief. I got depressed. I asked God for a reason to live.

Four. Years.

Wasted. (At least from my perspective, at this moment in time.)

I don’t know what to do with any of it. I’ll be the first to say that I have no idea how to help myself. I don’t know where to begin, except by going to the faithful arms of the One who is incapable of setting me down and incapable of losing His love for me. That is the only thing I can do. And as I cry out the pain and frustration and sadness of loss, I begin with these words:

If You’re going to start somewhere,

Why not here?

If You’re going to start sometime,

Why not now?
(City on Our Knees, Toby Mac)

I have no words. No thoughts. Nothing but pain and sadness and an eternal hope in His purposes that are always, always good – even when I don’t understand them and even when they don’t feel good.

I am reminded of this:

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

    Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

 

I know not how to pray. Nothing I can say helps. Nothing changes anything. I don’t know what to ask for. And so, I pray, “Lord, fulfill Your purposes toward me.” That is all I can do.

And He will do it, because His steadfast love endures forever. He will never, ever forsake me, the work of His hands.

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Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Current Events

 

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St. Patrick’s Day

I love St. Patrick’s Day.

I don’t drink green beer or believe in leprechauns or 4-leaf clovers or pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But I love the story of how the grace and mercy of Jesus compelled a man who had everything ripped from him and who was sent to another country for the purpose of being sacrificed to the gods, to go back to the place of his greatest pain so he could tell the people who hurt him the most about how much Jesus loves them. I love how that one choice changed the trajectory of a nation. Patrick saw the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He saw redemption. He saw freedom, both for himself and for the nation that had oppressed him.

Whether you know it or not, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is celebrating the grace and mercy of Jesus. You’re celebrating the freedom and life that Jesus gives.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2019 in Profundities

 

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Simply Rest

Today, nothing matters.

And tomorrow, nothing matters.

And the next day.

And the day after that.

Today, I am supposed to breathe. Tomorrow. The next day. The day after that. Today I am simply supposed to rest. Today, I am supposed to simply be present.

Today, I am supposed to take hold of all that is before me in this moment and receive what is here in this moment and offer what I can offer in this moment. Because this moment is the only one in front of me. Tomorrow doesn’t matter. The next day doesn’t matter. Not in this moment.

It is astounding the difference it makes when I am in the middle of what God has called me to do. Even if I can’t even begin to guess what He is asking of me in this moment. Sometimes I just know that even though I don’t know what my “thing” is at this moment, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Sometimes not knowing what to do is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

Sometimes, the only thing I am supposed to do is rest.

Wait.

Listen.

Be.

Sometimes.

Sometimes, there is no “do.” Sometimes more is accomplished by waiting, being present in the moment, and laying hold of opportunities as they present themselves, than could ever be accomplished by relentlessly chasing after good things. Sometimes things that appear to be life-giving can be suffocating, simply because they take time. Sometimes, we focus too far out.

Sometimes, it just needs to be about today.

This hour.

This moment.

Sometimes, it is enough to simply rest.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2019 in Profundities

 

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Is It Well? Really?

The past several weeks have been very hard. There have been several situations that have been challenging and some of them have been heart-wrenching.

I went to church yesterday and found myself thinking about no less than three potentially life-altering situations that I’m living right now. The sermon was about how to find joy in the darkest, most painful parts of our lives.

But, the thing that had the most impact on me was the very last hymn. “It Is Well.”

As I sang, I felt the Lord saying to me, “But is it really? Is it well with your soul? Is it truly well? Or are you just resigned to what happens? What if situation A is bad and Situation B doesn’t step up to the plate and Situation C ends up throwing you under the bus? What if none of those things work out for your benefit? What then? Is it truly well with your soul? Or are you simply resigned to your fate?”

I felt an overwhelming sense that regardless, I was going to be ok. I didn’t sense that everything was going to work out for my good and my glory (because let’s face it — we all have an inner, unconscious desire for self-glorification), but I felt peace that no matter what happened, I could trust that I would be well and that I could expect to find a place of wellness of the soul.

I spoke with my pastor and a dear friend this afternoon and we were talking about the concept of wellness of the soul. How do you get to a place where no matter what happens, your soul is well? What does that even look like? My pastor reminded me of the message in church yesterday….

  1. Be humble enough to invite Jesus into the painful areas of life.
  2. Receive the grace that He continually pours out.
  3. Experience true joy in the darkness.

That is how one can move away from being resigned to one’s fate and into being able to truly say, “It is well with my soul.” Wellness of the soul begins with knowing that Jesus is intimately involved in your situation, even if that situation doesn’t work out for your benefit. It involves being aware of and consciously receiving His overwhelming grace and being able to see the hand of God at work in it. Knowing His presence and seeing His hand is what brings joy — and true wellness of the soul.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2018 in Current Events, My Story

 

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Window of Hopelessness

Last night I watched an old episode of House in which Dr. Cuddy had to negotiate a deal with an insurance company. She asked for a 12% increase in the amount the company paid.

Throughout the episode, several things went horribly wrong. An employee was caught stealing meds. She was late for the insurance meeting. Her baby was sick and she couldn’t reach the sitter. The day was a disaster. And on top of that, the insurance company refused her offer. Several times.

Dr. Cuddy made several bold moves, with the intention of trying to get the insurance company to agree to her offer. They flat out refused. She interrupted an insurance rep’s lunch to offer an ultimatum which earned her an increase.

But it wasn’t enough.

She told them her hospital wasn’t going to accept their insurance anymore, effective at 3:00 pm.

And the whole hospital was in chaos over it.

For the next two hours, Dr. Cuddy put out fires related to the stealing employee and the insurance company and she was so discouraged by 4:45 that she told people she was going to turn in her letter of resignation.

She turned around….

And ran into the insurance company rep who handed her an envelope and said “congratulations. You got your 12%.”

Sometimes our miracles come when we are at the end of our rope and well past the deadline. Sometimes we have to get to the end of all of our options and then wait a little while longer before that one last detail falls into place.

Don’t give up. Yet. Because sometimes, it takes just a little bit longer than we have. Sometimes, when it feels like it’s a lost cause, that is when Jesus can step forward and move the last piece into place.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


It’s the waiting.

The waiting is what hurts our hearts.

We try.

We do our part.

We give it everything we have.

And then we wait.

We wait while discouragement settles in and becomes a faithful companion. We wait while every last option floats away and we are left clinging to hope for something that could have been.

And after hope is gone, we wait those two hours that sometimes stretches into two decades and we struggle with discouragement and fear and wondering what our next option will be — and if there will be any next option.

And if hospital dramas are any indication, at that last possible second…. just as we’re about to slam the door on our dreams, something changes. Our vision becomes clear. And we finally find victory.

Don’t get discouraged during the two hour window after all hope is gone. That is where Jesus is. That is where grace lingers and where hope dwells just around the corner.

I was given a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
II Corinthians 12:7-9

Give glory and honor to Jesus, even in the two-hour window of hopelessness. Because His grace is enough. His power is unending. And your victory is near.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2018 in Current Events, Profundities

 

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The Least of These

My church talked about what worship means today. And that got me to thinking about the different ways churches I’ve been part of have viewed it.

There are many ways to look at worship. People who teach primarily from the Old Testament talk about worship as a series of postures, attitudes and sounds. David danced naked before the Lord in worship. You’re supposed to raise your hands. Kneel. Clap your hands. Dance, shout, and if you’re a little Charismatic too, shout or sing in tongues.

The Old Testament is all about the rules and having a theology of worship based on the Old Testament will give you a legalistic, rule-based worship model that can feel very chaotic at times.

I attended a church like that for a while. When I attended this church, there were several times when revelers took me aside and scolded me for not being “worshipful” enough. One particular incident occurred when a woman pulled me aside — actually taking me outside the building — to talk to me about how I was sinning because I wasn’t dancing and she wondered if I was “really saved” since I was living in such rebellion. I am a contemplative person. Worship aerobics is not my thing. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off does not bring me closer to the heart of God. It just doesn’t.

John 4:24 says  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” I don’t claim to be a great theologian, but my understanding of that verse is that God is saying that He wants our worship to be honest. If we want something to touch the deepest part of the Spirit of God, it needs to come out of the deepest part of our hearts. Wild gyrations and screaming at the top of my lungs isn’t in the deepest part of my heart and my behaving that way in worship does nothing to sway Him because He hasn’t put those things in me. If I did those things, I would be allowing myself to be manipulated into being something someone else wanted me to be instead of being who God created me to be. I don’t think God responds to or cares for manipulation or worship birthed out of manipulation. Most of the time, I was adamant about not participating in this ritual because it did not feel genuine to me.

I moved to my current location 7 years ago and the culture here is so different. No one cares what I do in church. For the longest time, I would find myself bawling in church because I had the freedom to be who I am. No one cared if I raised my hands. No one cared if I clapped my hands. It was pretty normal to not dance or gyrate or holler in church, although sometimes it happened. But no one expected it and no one cared one way or the other. It was a very liberating experience for me because I was finally allowed to be myself in church. It was a beautiful thing.

If those things are your thing, then by all means, knock yourself out. Not literally. But, if God made you a dancer or a shouter or a tongue-speaking screamer, then by all means, you just do you. No judgement from me. I love to see how people are different. Everyone is unique and no one’s personal worship style is wrong or bad, unless it contains things like murdering children or seducing or raping people. I draw the line right there. Treat yourself and everyone else with respect and you’re good.

But, as I was talking with a couple of friends about this today, one of them asked me what I think worship is. If screaming and jumping around isn’t your thing, then what does it really look like?

And I said, “I have no clue.”

I mean, I probably could have thought of something if I had had more time. But in that moment, I wasn’t coming up with anything. This is what I came up with later:

One of the verses discussed in the sermon follows:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1 (NIV)

True and proper worship involves offering your bodies as a living sacrifice. Once again, I am no great theologian. The original scripts are Greek to me (and probably everyone else too, since I think that verse was actually originally in Greek) and I can only draw my conclusions from English translations. That’s the best I can do. To me, offering yourself as a living sacrifice involves sacrificially loving and serving those around you. It means going without something you might want so you can provide for someone else’s need. It means taking two minutes to sit with a blind person and describing the sunset so they can experience it too. It means taking a minute to tell a child who can’t talk that they are so very important and so very loved. It means sitting with an elderly woman who lives with dementia and is terrified because she can’t remember. It means buying lunch for a homeless person or sitting in silence with a mama who has just lost her unborn baby and doesn’t have words to describe her grief and hopelessness. It means sometimes taking a minute away from those needs to attend to your own needs so that you can be a truly living sacrifice because if you run yourself into the ground, you might be sacrificing, but you’re not truly living in the process. Self care is actually a service to God. Taking care of yourself is worship.

I got to thinking about my work. I truly have the best job in the world. I get to sit with a sweet little boy all day and play and read and have dance parties and sometimes we just work really hard at breathing, because sometimes that is a very hard thing to do. A lot of times we snuggle and share lots of love and stories and music. Sometimes we talk about all the things that matter most, like life and love and happiness although his part of the conversation is hard to understand sometimes since his language is smiles and giggles and grunts and moans and moving his arms and legs. But we talk, and everything he says matters. Everything he does is noticed. We giggle together. We talk. We sing and we just have fun.

And all of it. All of it. Everything I do with him is worship.

I was reminded of this passage:

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (NKJV)

And the awesome thing about it? None of it is hard. It comes out from the deepest part of my heart and it blesses my little guy. It blesses his family. And it blesses the Father, who put that kind of worship within me with the intention of seeing it flow out of me from morning until night, every day of my life. He didn’t put crazy, boisterous stuff in me because “the least of these” that I am around every day don’t need boisterousness as much as they need gentleness and kindness and attention and love.

True worship….It’s being who you are and loving those around you.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James 1:27 (NKJV)

 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2018 in Current Events, Profundities

 

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Married People are Insufferable

I am not here to complain.

I consider myself to be more of a truth-talker than anything.

I will tell it like it is. I don’t sugar-coat it.

Married people are insufferable.

Some of the married population never really knew what it was like to be single in the first place. I mean, come on. If you married your high school sweetheart, you have no idea what it’s like to be single because you have never had to do any part of what the kids these days call #adulting without someone else by your side. If you’ve never “#adulted independently of a romantic partner, you have never been single.

#SorryNotSorry

If you got married in college or before you had to start being responsible for your own finances, you probably don’t truly know what it’s like to be single either. College, for many people, is an extension of childhood during which a student still enjoys being on their parents’ insurance, Mom and Dad help figure out the finances and the car and some parents even do their college student’s laundry. I’m not saying this is bad or wrong. But if you fit in this category, you haven’t #adulted today. If you got married while you still had this level of support from your family, you don’t know what it’s like to be single.

People tend to forget what singleness is like the instant the engagement ring goes on the finger.

Some forget what it’s like to be single as soon as the relationship is defined as a bona fide relationship.

If the selective amnesia doesn’t kick in instantly, it does come eventually, most often by the time the wedding band slips into place. In some cases it lies dormant until the first big fight or until the monotony of having the same person waking up next to you morning after morning begins to set in.

It doesn’t much matter how long it takes. It comes eventually.

And it is insufferable.

They complain about how horrible it is to be married.

Or they sit with a single person and they chide said single person because they don’t love the “freedom” of being single.

A married person might listen to a single person, feigning great interest in their circumstances and when the single person stops talking, offer a condescending remark about how they need to get right with Jesus because they have a “horrible attitude” about their lives.

The previous example happened to me recently. Today, in fact.

Someone made the statement that the book Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers) is a wonderful book.

I contributed to the conversation by saying that it is a brilliantly written and excellent book, but it is extremely frustrating for single people who don’t love being single.

They told me that I didn’t understand the story.

I understand it completely. I have a degree in reading (in the words of my brother) and in the many, many literature classes I’ve taken, I learned to recognize symbolism and find meaning in places the average person wouldn’t find symbolism and meaning. I also know the Bible. I know it quite well. I am very familiar with the story of Hosea and how his life was a foretelling of the redeeming love of Jesus. I understand that both Hosea was and Jesus is a man who loves people regardless of what they have done. It is beautiful and I love the concept of redeeming love very, very much.

But the book is frustrating. It brings that story into a slightly more modern-day time period and presents the “love story” between a man who marries a prostitute because “God told him to” with the intention of having his love change her into a woman of grace and beauty.

It’s a lovely idea.

I’m going to let my inner cynical old hag out, for just a moment, and make the comment that in the time period and geographical area in which this story took place, there were many more men than women. If this were a true story, it wouldn’t have been so much about a man proving a point as it would have been about a man who desperately wanted to have legitimate sex and operated under the delusion that marrying a prostitute would both provide him with legitimate sex and with a godly wife who had no interest in other men, simply because he picked her. If I remember the details of the biblical story correctly, it didn’t work out that way for Hosea. It didn’t work out that way for Jesus. It probably wouldn’t work out that way for anyone else either.

The book frustrates me because I’ve followed all the Good Girl Formulas. Things like:

Go to Church + Don’t Kiss Boys = Wedded Bliss

Pray + Dress Modestly = All the Men Want to Date You

Don’t Have Sex + Behave Demurely = Engaged by Age 22

Read the Bible + Don’t Talk to Men = It’ll Happen Before You Have Time to Wonder What’s Taking So Long

All the formulas. All of them.

I’ve learned that they are all lies. There is no such thing as quid pro quo when it comes to these things. God doesn’t do “If you do this, then I’ll do that” when someone else’ free will is involved.

I’ve had Christian men refuse to date me because I was too innocent. Or too godly. Literally, if I had been a prostitute, I would have gotten somewhere with those (Christian) men.

As I read Redeeming Love, I thought to myself, “The formula is to become a prostitute. Being chaste doesn’t work. Being godly doesn’t work. No matter what I do, I’m not good enough. So I might as well try being a prostitute. It worked for Hosea’s wife. It worked for the prostitute in this book. Why wouldn’t it work for me?”

Of course, that’s not the kind of person I am and I’m not actually going to become a prostitute — which makes it even more frustrating because the only thing I haven’t tried is something that I wouldn’t try. It really makes me feel like a victim of my circumstances. A girl can’t win no matter what she does because there are limits.

The other person responded by chiding me for making the story about sex trafficking (um…. the story is about sex trafficking) and told me I was being disrespectful to women who are trafficked (???) and the cherry on top was when she asked for permission to add me to her prayer list because she didn’t want to argue about it with me anymore.

Wow.

Just. Wow.

For the record, I wasn’t arguing. But you want to not argue? Just patronize me. Talk to me with a condescending tone. I wasn’t arguing. But now that you mention it…. Now I feel like arguing.

* * * * *

My response to the person’s preposterous statement was promptly deleted.

Further proof that married people are completely clueless about how truly difficult it is to be single, especially among married church people.

One might ask what my point is. Why make a ruckus about it?

I don’t talk about singleness every day. I don’t even think about it every day.

But having people shut me down as soon as I start talking about it gets old.

It says that my experience is not relevant or important. It says that my feelings don’t matter. It says that I don’t matter.

I’m sorry my experience is hard for you to hear about and watch. I’m truly sorry. But if you think it’s hard to listen to or watch and you feel the need to shut it down because it just doesn’t fit with your expectations as a Christian person…. you should really try living it.

You should try doing everything alone.

You should try coming home to an empty house day in and day out.

You should try having people pat you on the head and tell you you’re cute when you talk about it.

You should try listening to people tell you to get over it.

You should try talking about your places of woundedness and having people shut you down and tell you it doesn’t matter.

You should try having people getting in your business all the time because you’re just a little (single) girl and they don’t think you can do life without their input.

You should try to be an adult woman in a community that doesn’t recognize women as adults unless a man comes along and validates their existence by choosing to marry them.

You should try to function as a minister as a single person. Let me tell you — that does not go over very well in many circles.

You should try to live in a way that you understand to be godly and also try to date. (Hint: They either don’t want a godly woman or you’re not godly enough. There’s no winning on this one.)

You should try being not good enough and too good, both at the same time, depending on who you’re talking to, and rejected by everyone because of things that you can’t begin to comprehend.

You should try talking to people who have no concept of your circumstances and try to get them to understand.

They won’t understand. It is a truly frustrating situation to be in. You feel very isolated and alone and the harder you try to help people to understand, the more alone you feel because they don’t get it and they don’t care enough to try to understand.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2018 in Current Events, Rants

 

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