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The Future is Now

The Future is NowWhat has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
~Ecclesiastes 1:9

While we live in an age of ever increasing marvel and technological wonders, some things never change–like human nature. Due to the ever increasing rise in terrorism that is spreading around the globe like a cancer claiming it’s next victim, we do ourselves a great disservice if we bury our heads in the sand and pretend it can’t happen here in America. And all of the braggadocio talk we can muster won’t stop it, either. In fact, it won’t even put a dent in it. If anything, it encourages it all the more. . . .

This post is going to deal with the subject of persecution and, specifically, the rise of persecution and the basic steps involved in persecuting others. Persecution is defined as “hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; and persistent annoyance or harassment” (quote source here). Whether it is individualized to a specific person or an entire group of people, there are several stages that take place in the systematic persecution of any individual or group. An article titled, The Five Stages of Persecution,” published on July 31, 2014 on Patheos.com written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker spells out those stages:

The Five Stages of Persecution

Seeing the rise of persecution against Christians in Iraq, the far East and Africa, Msgr Pope has a great archived article here on the five stages that precede outright persecution. Can it happen in the USA – land of religious freedom? Msgr Pope observes the five stages.

1. Stereotyping the targeted group  To stereotype means to repeat without variation, to take a quality or observation of a limited number, and generalize it to the whole group. It involves a simplified and standardized conception or view of a group based on observation of a limited sample.

Basically as the stereotype goes, Catholics and Bible believing Christians are a sad, angry, boring, backward and repressed lot. To many who accept the stereotyping we are a laughable, even tragic group, caught in a superstitious past, incapable of throwing off the shackles of faith.

2. Vilifying the targeted Group for alleged crimes or misconduct  As the stereotyping grows in intensity, Catholics and Christians who did not toe the line in the cultural revolution were described as close-minded, harmful to human dignity and freedom, intolerant, hateful, bigoted, unfair, homophobic, reactionary and just plain mean and basically bad people.

The History of the Church is also described myopically as little more than bad and repressive behavior as we conducted crusades, inquisitions, and hated Galileo and all of science. Never mind that there might be a little more to the story, or that the Church founded universities, and hospitals, was the patron of the arts, and preached a Gospel that brought order and civilization to divided and barbarous time in the aftermath of the Roman Empire. Stereotyping will hear little of that, or, if it does, it will give the credit to anything or anyone but the Church and the faith.

3. Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society  Having established the (untrue) premise that the Church and the faith is very bad and even harmful to human dignity and freedom, the next stage seeks to relegate the role of the Church to the margins.

To many in secularized culture, religion must go. They will perhaps let us have our hymns, etc., in the four walls of our churches, but the faith must be banished from the public square.

In this stage it becomes increasingly unacceptable and intolerable that anyone should mention God, pray publicly or in any way bring their Christian faith to bear on matters of public policy. Nativity sets must go, out with Christmas trees, even the colors green and red at “holiday time” are banished from many public schools.

4. Criminalizing the targeted group or its works – Can someone say HHS mandate?

But prior to this egregious attempt to violate our religious liberty there have been many other times we have had to go to court to fight for our rights to openly practice our faith. Increasing litigation is being directed against the Church and other Christians for daring to live out our faith.

Some jurisdictions have sought to compel Catholic hospitals and pro-life clinics to provide information or referrals for abortion, to provide “emergency contraception” (i.e. the abortifacient known as the morning after pill), Several branches of Catholic Charities have been de-certified from doing adoption work because they will not adopt children to gay couples. The State of Connecticut sought to regulate the structure, organization and running of Catholic parishes in 2009. And recently a number of Christian valedictorians in various states have suffered legal injunctions when it was discovered that they would dare to mention God, and Jesus in their talk. (More HERE)

5. Persecuting the targeted group outright  If current trends continue, Christians, especially religious leaders, may not be far from enduring heavy fines and jail.

The trajectory points to suffering, lawsuits, fines, desertification, and ultimately jail. (Article and quote source here.)

As Msgr Pope stated in the original article published in 2012 and cited at the beginning of the above article, “Unlikely you say? Alarmist? Well, stages one through four are pretty well in place. One may wish to whistle past the graveyard but it looks like we’re pretty well set for Stage 5. You decide.” He added the following under Stage 5 in his original article:

In this country there are greater provisions for free speech but, as we have seen, there is a steady erosion in religious liberty and many Catholic dioceses are well familiar with having to spend long periods in courts defending basic religious liberty. The trajectory points to suffering, lawsuits, fines, desertification, and ultimately jail.

The subject of persecution (the systematic destroying of others) involves “the suffering of all types of persecution and harassment short of death brought against a person or group on account of adherence to a cause and especially to one’s religious faith. This type of persecution usually takes the form of political, psychological, legal and financial harassment” (quote source here). And it occurs much more frequently in societies like America who wish to hide the outright persecution of its citizens who they see as being “unfit” in whatever category they choose to put them in (whether religious, racial, etc.) since it is not yet legal to persecute them “out in the open” (although what they do is pretty overt at times).

Love Never FailsPersecution is alive and well right here in America. It isn’t as obvious as beheading anyone on beaches yet, or gassing them in ovens; or working people to death in death camps, but it is here. For example, how many millions in this country are in the “long-term unemployed” category and have given up ever hoping to find work again? Their lives have been decimated financially and in many other ways but does anybody care? The number of homeless has vastly increased while the number of laws against the homeless has increased, too. And you won’t find their numbers listed anywhere in the latest unemployment statistics. We hide persecution under the various cloaks of long-term unemployment, or calling into question the sanity or mental stability of those we can’t “control” (especially if they have strong religious beliefs that are not popular among the general population), not to mention the systematic targeting of specific individuals for all types of harassment. There is no shortage of examples from those being persecuted as stated above on the internet if one wants to go looking for them. Unfortunately, most people just don’t want to know, and it’s easier to call them crazy. In that way perhaps they don’t think it will ever affect them.

Let’s take a look at the early stages of persecution that took place in Nazi Germany between 1933-1939. An article titled, 1933-1939: Early Stages of Persecution,” on MyJewishLearning.com states the following:

On January 30, 1933, Adolph Hitler was named chancellor, the most powerful position in the German government, by the aged President Hindenburg, who hoped Hitler could lead the nation out of its grave political and economic crisis. Hitler was the leader of the right-wing National Socialist German Workers Party (called “the Nazi Party” for short). It was, by 1933, one of the strongest parties in Germany, even though–reflecting the country’s multiparty system–the Nazis had won only a plurality of 33 percent of the votes in the 1932 elections to the German parliament (Reichstag).

Once in power, Hitler moved quickly to end German democracy. He convinced his cabinet to invoke emergency clauses of the constitution that permitted the suspension of individual freedoms of press, speech, and assembly. Special security forces—the Gestapo, the Storm Troopers (SA), and the SS–murdered or arrested leaders of opposition political parties (Communists, socialists, and liberals). The Enabling Act of March 23, 1933–forced through the Reichstag already purged of many political opponents–gave dictatorial powers to Hitler.

Also in 1933, the Nazis began to put into practice their racial ideology. The Nazis believed that the Germans were “racially superior” and that there was a struggle for survival between them and inferior races. They saw Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and the handicapped as a serious biological threat to the purity of the “German (Aryan) Race,” what they called the master race.

Jews, who numbered about 525,000 in Germany (less than one percent of the total population in 1933) were the principal target of Nazi hatred. The Nazis identified Jews as a race and defined this race as “inferior.” They also spewed hate-mongering propaganda that unfairly blamed Jews for Germany’s economic depression and the country’s defeat in World War I (1914-1918).

In 1933, new German laws forced Jews out of their civil service jobs, university and law court positions, and other areas of public life. In April 1933, laws proclaimed at Nuremberg made Jews second-class citizens. These Nuremberg Laws defined Jews, not by their religion or by how they wanted to identify themselves, but by the religious affiliation of their grandparents. Between 1937 and 1939, new anti-Jewish regulations segregated Jews further and made daily life very difficult for them. Jews could not attend public schools; go to theaters, cinema, or vacation resorts; or reside or even walk in certain sections of German cities.

Also between 1937 and 1939, Jews increasingly were forced from Germany’s economic life. The Nazis either seized Jewish businesses and properties outright or forced Jews to sell them at bargain prices. In November 1938, the Nazis organized a riot (pogrom), known as Kristallnacht (the “Night of Broken Glass”). This attack against German and Austrian Jews included the physical destruction of synagogues and Jewish-owned stores, the arrest of Jewish men, the vandalizing of homes, and the murder of individuals.

Although Jews were the main target of Nazi hatred, the Nazis persecuted other groups they viewed as racially or genetically “inferior.” Nazi racial ideology was buttressed by scientists who advocated “selective breeding” (eugenics) to “improve” the human race. Laws passed between 1933 and 1935 aimed to reduce the future number of genetic “inferiors” through involuntary sterilization programs: 320,000 to 350,000 individuals judged physically or mentally handicapped were subjected to surgical or radiation procedures so they could not have children. Supporters of sterilization also argued that the handicapped burdened the community with the costs of their care. Many of Germany’s 30,000 Roma (Gypsies) were also eventually sterilized and prohibited, along with Blacks, from intermarrying with Germans. About 500 children of mixed African-German backgrounds were also sterilized. New laws combined traditional prejudices with the racism of the Nazis, which defined Roma by “race” and as “criminal and asocial.”

Another consequence of Hitler’s ruthless dictatorship in the 1930s was the arrest of political opponents and trade unionists and others whom the Nazis labeled “undesirables” and “enemies of the state.” Some 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals were imprisoned in concentration camps; under the 1935 Nazi-revised criminal code, the mere denunciation of a man as “homosexual” could result in arrest, trial, and conviction. Jehovah’s Witnesses, who numbered at least 25,000 in Germany, were banned as an organization as early as April 1933, because the beliefs of this religious group prohibited them from swearing any oath to the state or serving in the German military. Their literature was confiscated, and they lost their jobs, unemployment benefits, pensions, and all social welfare benefits. Many Witnesses were sent to prisons and concentration camps in Nazi Germany, and their children were sent to juvenile detention homes and orphanages.

Between 1933 and 1936, thousand of people, mostly political prisoners, were imprisoned in concentrations camps, while several thousand German Roma were confined in special municipal camps. The first systematic round-up of German and Austrian Jews occurred after Kristallnacht, when approximately 30,000 Jewish men were deported to Dachau and other concentration camps, and several hundred Jewish women were sent to local jails. The wave of arrests in 1938 also included several thousand German and Austrian Roma.

Between 1933 and 1939, about half of the German-Jewish population and more than two-thirds of Austrian Jews (1938-1939) fled Nazi persecution. They emigrated mainly to the United States, Palestine, elsewhere in Europe (where many would be later trapped by Nazi conquests during the war), Latin America, and Japanese-occupied Shanghai (which required no visas for entry). Jews who remained under Nazi rule were either unwilling to uproot themselves or unable to obtain visas, sponsors in host countries, or funds for emigration. Most foreign countries, including the United States, Canada, Britain, and France, were unwilling to admit very large numbers of refugees. (Quote source here.)

Nazi Germany didn’t happen in a vacuum. The whole world watched and turned a blind eye to the horror and atrocities that took place until the world found itself engulfed in the Second World War.

Regarding persecution in America, I ran into an article published on March 6, 2015 by  on Patheos.com titled, Yes, There Is Christian Persecution in America And Here’s What it Looks Like.” His take is a bit different regarding where the source of the persecution is coming from. He opens by stating what most people believe about persecution in America:

I’ve often written about the American persecution complex that tends to see anti-Christian persecution under every rock, and have long been a proponent that such claims of persecution are often simply a loss of privilege or the ability to persecute others. Each time I say something along these lines, I usually get a flood of comments and messages/e-mails telling me how wrong I am and that Christianity in America is under attack. One commenter even said recently that “Jesus” is the only name you’re not allowed to speak at work without getting fired.

Secretly I’ve had some misgivings about my position and these doubts have now given way to a change in position. So, this post is a capitulation to my critics and a public admission about how wrong I’ve been. Yes, Christians are bullied for their faith in America– and it happens on a daily basis. Yes, Christians can lose their jobs simply because they believe in the teachings of Jesus. Yes, some Christians in America are hated on account of their association with Jesus. Real persecution just happens to look differently than what is often claimed as persecution. Case in point:

A few weeks ago, MidAmerica Nazarene University chaplain and Vice President of Community Formation Dr. Randy Beckum spoke at the student chapel services. Dr. Beckum gave a short sermon during the chapel service that is being billed as “controversial” and something that really upset the student and faculty population at MidAmerica Nazarene (see/read full text here). What was so controversial and offensive you ask? Well, let’s take a look…. (You can read the entire article at this link).

You might be surprised (or maybe not) at where Corey sees the persecution of Christians in America coming from (hint: other Christians). And if you read the article, you will find out that the President relieved Dr. Beckum of his duties as Vice President of Community Formation. The topic of Dr. Beckum’s sermon during a chapel service that started the whole controversy was on Jesus’ admonition to his followers that we are to “love our enemies.” (The article is available at this link). There is something so antithetical about Christians persecuting other Christians when Jesus clearly commanded his followers to “love our enemies.” Christians persecuting anyone should not exist.

With that being said, persecution can come from anyone or anywhere, and no one particular group has a niche on it. It is all about the motives of those who are doing the persecuting (whether persecuting an individual or an entire group of people). The persecution of others is done for a variety of reasons, often of a religious nature but not always (e.g., money and control are huge motivators for persecution, too), goes on everywhere. As I mentioned above, just because we aren’t beheading people on beaches here in America doesn’t mean we aren’t stealth in other ways of persecuting others we want to try to control (or destroy) for whatever reasons. Those involved in the persecution are adept at making others look stupid or crazy and ruining their lives if there is personal gain in it for them. Persecution in America is alive and well hidden, but it is very much “out there.”

America is changing and it is changing at a very rapid pace. What will it look like in ten years? Who knows? Just look at the upheaval in our political system during this election year. By the way, as a disclaimer, the articles I have mentioned are for information only on the subject of persecution and I do not personally endorse some of the statements in them. I have used them because they cite specific situations of how the persecution progressed in Nazi Germany, and how one high ranking administrator lost his job here in America by giving a sermon in chapel at a Christian university on Jesus’ topic of “loving our enemies.”

The irony of it all. . . .

While persecution is a sobering topic, I want to end this post on a more positive note. An article published on August 10, 2015 written by Thomas Christianson in Relevant Magazine gives us some food for thought, and it is aptly titled, What It Actually Means to Love Your Enemies.” You can read his article at this link.

Jesus said it best in Matthew 5:43-48:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So let us go . . . 

And do likewise . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Corrie ten Boom and Her Warning to Us

Corrie ten Boom (1892 – 1983)
Holocaust Survivor
Ravensbruck Concentration Camp
Her Autobiography–“The Hiding Place” (1971)

If you’re 40 or younger, chances are you haven’t heard of Corrie ten Boom. It’s been almost 30 years since her death on her 91st birthday on April 15, 1983, but her legacy lives on.

Corrie “was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at Scheveningen prison. A sister, brother and nephew were released, but Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where Betsie died. Corrie wrote many books and spoke frequently in the post-war years about her experiences. She also aided Holocaust survivors in the Netherlands. Her autobiography, The Hiding Place (1971) was later adapted as a film of the same name in 1975″ (quote source Wikipedia.com).

In an interview with Pat Robertson in 1974 (available on YouTube), Corrie mentioned that she was confined by the Nazis a total of eleven months with the first month spent in solitary confinement before ending up in a concentration camp with her sister, Betsie. From a letter Corrie wrote in 1974, she stated that “Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred” (quote source here). **Stop for a minute an imagine being one of 700 people herded into a room built for 200 and left there.** While Betsie died in the midst of that horror, Corrie was released on December 28, 1944, due to a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release (source Wikipedia.com).

Due to Corrie’s own experience at the hands of the Nazis combined with what happened to Chinese Christians in 1949 as Mao Tse Tung brought China into communism (forming People’s Republic of China) led her to speak out about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine that is widely taught in American churches today. In a letter she wrote in 1974 entitled “Prepared for the Coming Tribulation” she wrote:

“There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution . . . .

“In America, the churches sing, ‘Let the congregation escape tribulation,’ but in China and Africa the tribulation has already arrived. This last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa. Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations. But I know. I have been there. We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes to eat our steak dinners. Many, many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation” (quote source here).

Many Christians in America today have been taught by pastors who espouse a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church that they will be “raptured” right before the final seven years of the tribution period that unfold here on earth (see Revelation–the last book in the Bible–for details) and, thus, will not have to endure the horror of those final seven years. There are also two other “rapture” views known as mid-tribulation rapture and post-tribulation rapture and all three views are espoused by well known pastors and theologians (a few names of those espousing each of these views can be found here). I don’t believe that all pastors who teach the “pre-tribulation” rapture are false teachers as is stated in Ms. ten Boom’s statement above, but the whole idea of a “pre-tribulation” rapture is a modern day theory that was “developed in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible (quote source: Wikipedia.com).

I was raised under pastors who espoused a “pre-tribulation” view of the rapture; however, as I’ve gotten older, I began to question it. Why should Americans be immune from persecution when Christians in more than 40 nations around the world today are being persecuted for their faith (source here)? In America, our Christianity is a soft, easy Christianity ripe for teachings that endorses a “pre-tribution” view of the rapture, but here’s what Corrie had to say in her 1974 letter regarding what happened to the Christians in China who were taught the same type of teaching back before the Communist revolution in 1949:

“In China, the Christians were told, ‘Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.’ Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,

We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution, rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes–to stand and not faint.’

“I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it. We are next” (source here).

These are the words of Corrie ten Boom written back in 1974 who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. You can read the entire contents of her letter here. She traveled the world telling others about her experiences and how faith in Jesus Christ regardless of circumstances sustained her as it does many, many other persecuted Christians around the world even in the very face of death. Christians living in America are no different from Christians living around the rest of the world. Jesus clearly tells us what to expect in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

While I questioned the teaching of a “pre-tribulation” rapture for years, these past three and a half years of unemployment have allowed me the opportunity to open up my world in a way it never would have opened up if “life as I knew it” hadn’t come to an abrupt end when I lost my job in Houston. Granted, I expected to find a job within the first six months but that didn’t happen, and while I continued to look for work (right up through today) a whole new world opened up before me–a world out there that shouted, “there’s more to life than the ‘American way’ . . . a whole lot more. Pay attention.”

We’ve been sold on a soft, easy Christianity (compared to those millions who are severely persecuted around the world) that not only doesn’t require much from us but also promises that we’ll be “raptured” before the really awful stuff starts. Sounds like what the Chinese Christians heard before Communism took over in 1949 and the widespread torture and murder of Christians proliferated. Even today living as a Christian in China is daunting (read here for up-to-date reports).

I believe Corrie ten Boom was right, and, indeed, it is coming to our shores. In fact, it is my belief that it’s already here and growing. If you doubt that, here’s an article to get you thinking about it titled, Persecution of Christians Growing in the United Statesand it was written back in 2001. And it hasn’t gotten any better since then. Also, there’s an article at RenewAmerica.com written in 2008 that you might want to read titled, Preaching a Pre-tribulation Rapture Weakens the Church.”

I Peter 5:8-11 (MSG) states, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”

If a “pre-tribulation” rapture theory has you coasting in neutral thinking you’ll escape the hard stuff before it comes, wake-up! Sound an alarm, and be alert. We don’t want to be totally caught off guard like the Chinese Christians were in 1949, do we? They didn’t escape and we won’t either. But it’s not about “escaping” before the bad stuff happens anyway, read that passage in I Peter 5 again–You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”

Did you get that? God, through Jesus Christ, has great plans for us, but they are eternal and glorious plans not earthly and temporal plans. Eternal. So let’s start living with eternity in mind, instead of always seeking what we can get here on this planet, which is at best temporary; or escaping hardships, which are also temporary.

Bob Dylan wrote a song years ago titled, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (YouTube Video of the song sung by Phil Collins is below). While times were certainly changing back in 1964, they are certainly changing at an unbelievable pace today.  Here’s the words to the last verse in that song:

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

Indeed, the times they are a-changin’ . . . so don’t let them catch you off guard!

Take heed . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Time They Are A-Changin'” sung by Phil Collins (composed by Bob Dylan, 1964):

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Bringing whatever stirs my heart

A Breath of Fresh Air

"Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God." Philippians 2:15

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Tracking events and trends in Israel, the U.S., Russia and throughout the Epicenter (the Middle East & North Africa)

ForeWords

Lectionary Musings within the Community of Christ

Of Dust & Kings

Empowering Faith. Transforming Culture.

A MINIATURE CLAY POT

"We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives" 2 Corinthians 4:7 The Message

gracefully50

On your birthday: count your candles, count your years, count your blessings.

lilies, sparrows and grass

"That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works." Psalm 26:7

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