Author: fathomingheaven

About fathomingheaven

Wife, mom, doctor (the philosophical kind), amateur photographer, and blogger...oh, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus. :)

For Such a Time as This

Esther 4:14 (ESV)

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

If you read the last entry on my blog, you will have read my mom’s adoption story, from her perspective and in her words. This week, I’d like to add a bit of my own commentary, having watched her adoption story, even more as an outsider than I realized. I say this because I remember always feeling like it wasn’t fair that my mom was adopted, only to be relegated to housekeeping chores and other responsibilities beyond the purview of a child.

Adoption, in my mind, was supposed to be magical, joyous, and all the rest. But so often, as I looked on, I saw it as a burden for her. Granted, in seeing what was, I was unaware at the time of what might have been—mafia ties and the like, which appears now to have been the alternative.

Over the years, I think my mom found solace in her parents’ need for her, reasoning that their physical and tangible needs were the reason God placed her in their home. But in my view, that’s only part of the story. Ultimately, we all have physical needs, and we find ways of having them met. But I think that watching my mom’s selflessness, day in and day out for 35 years, made a lasting impression. How do I know this?

Just this past summer, I learned of the day when my grandparents were ageing and in failing health, and my mom sent her pastor to visit with them, and to tell them about Jesus. After the visit, the pastor told my mom that both Grandma and Grandpa had accepted God’s forgiveness and were now secure in their eternal salvation. It seems odd that a virtual stranger could walk into their home and find such accepting and receptive hosts.

And yet, in a way, it’s not surprising at all. It’s not surprising because this stranger was sent by someone who had lived out the mission of Christ in their midst for all those years…she had served them sacrificially, loved them unconditionally, forgiven them repeatedly and undeservedly. Just. Like. Jesus. And I believe that with each act of selflessness, each load of laundry, each Sunday visit (and so much more), they were seeing Jesus. And if you ask me, it wasn’t each of those moments that were God’s purpose for placing her there. It was the moment when each of them said yes to God’s offer of salvation. And I believe that God was watching, thinking of my mom, and whispering to her soul, This. I placed you here for such a time as THIS.

And in truth, God continues to use her in times such as these…to serve a neighbor in need, to reach out to a disheartened coworker, to impact a school child in her care, and on and on. I know that the mundane of her day to day isn’t always glamorous, and that she often feels like she’s still waiting for her calling. But I believe she’s living it every day. So many times, God must be whispering to her soul, I placed you here for such a time as this…and this…and this. Oh, that we would all be willing to live our lives as a reflection of Jesus, and to recognize those times when He has divinely placed us here or there, and for such a time as this.

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Loved & Treasured

By Mary Beth Anderson

Hosea 14:3b
“in you the fatherless find compassion.”

Most people don’t remember the day they were born, but I do. It was a beautiful sunny day in June of 1957. I was 2 ½. My brother, who was 3 ½, and I were going to meet our new parents, Don and Norma Schulke. I recently talked to a woman who was a teenager at that time and she said she remembered how excited my parents were when they were preparing for our arrival. She said that it was like they had won the lottery.

I don’t remember any time before that but the adoption agency filled in a few gaps for me. My birth mother had left my brother and me with friends so that she could explore a risky business venture. They said she had planned on coming back for us but never did. When the county found out about this they put us in foster care, where we stayed until we were adopted.

Our parents had always told us that we were adopted. They said it was like going into a candy store and some people just have to take what the man behind the counter gives them. But my parents got to go in and pick the ones they wanted. I felt bad for all the kids who weren’t “chosen” by their parents.

Our life with our new parents was great, although not perfect. No families are. When I was 10, my mom was diagnosed with M.S. That meant that I had to be responsible for much of the housework. And then as my parents aged, I continued to take care of them. I always thought that God had given me to them because he knew that they would need me.

Recently though, I have been doing an ancestry search—trying to find out my story. In so doing I found out that my birth mom, Lois Blomberg Brown Gildea, was adopted as well. And I learned that my birth father, Zane Orwin Brown, and his family members had a history of having children and abandoning them. And though through my DNA search I have found some amazing cousins, a half-brother, and at least two step sisters, I was still looking for my mom and dad. I did find out that my mom had died in 2009. But I would still like to find out more information about her. And I’m still hoping to find my dad. I’ve learned that he wasn’t a very nice man, and that some of his family members were awful and crazy. But still, I want to meet him and hear the story. It’s not that the story is going to change who I am, I just want to know.

I might not ever find him. I don’t know if they know the Lord. I pray that they do and that someday I will meet them in heaven and know the story. But even if they don’t, I know the one who has known me since I was formed in my mother’s womb and He knows the story. And I can hear it from Him.

The most important thing that I’ve learned on this journey is that, though I believe that God put me where he wanted me to be to help my adoptive parents, I now also see His protective and loving hand picking me out of a very dysfunctional family and putting me in a home where I was loved and treasured.

I’m thankful for my birth mom making the decision to put us up for adoption. My birth parents gave me “life.” My adopted parents gave me “a life.” And Jesus gave me eternal life.

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Holding onto Manna

Exodos 16:18b-20a

“Everyone had gathered just as much [manna] as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”

Proverbs 3:9-10

“Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

So, at my most recent checkup, I learned that my blood work was all out of whack. Namely, my white blood cell count was up and my iron was low (and getting lower with every passing month, I guess). Follow-up labs showed elevated double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). The first thought—Lupus. I was devastated at the possibility. Not because it is debilitating and incurable, although it is. And not because the number one cause of death among sufferers is kidney failure, although it is. To be sure, those thoughts were disappointing and discouraging. But the thought that most often brought me to tears was that such a diagnosis would constitute a permanent medical deferral from donating a kidney, which as many of you know has long been on my heart as one of God’s calls on my life.

And in my layman’s understanding of the disease, I reasoned (rightly or wrongly, I still don’t know) that, had I only donated soon enough—before Lupus attacked or infected my kidneys—someone might be alive today as a result. Meanwhile, delaying my donation might well cost someone else their life, along with my own. Two kidneys wasted, when at least one might have been salvaged. My mind kept going back to the story of the Israelites in Exodus 16, where God supplied their daily needs through the provision of manna. You see, God gave each person and each family enough for one day, and if they tried to save any for the next, it would rot overnight—and in a very unpleasant way according to Scripture. This was done to teach the Israelites to trust and depend upon the Lord.

And I believe He wants the same from us. No, God doesn’t provide physical manna nowadays. But He provides, and He calls us to trust Him. This concept is found throughout the Bible, namely that we aren’t to honor God out of what is left, but out of our first fruits (Proverbs 3:9-10). But it seems like many of us are waiting until…or saving for…some point in the future.

  • We’re called to serve, but we’re waiting until we have more time.
  • We’re called to give, but we’re saving just in case.
  • We’re called to trust God, but we rely on ourselves.
  • We’re called to step out in faith, but we choose to remain where it’s safe.

We’re holding onto our stuff—our comfort, our convenience, our control. But God is more concerned about our character than any of these. And that’s why, when we refuse to let go of our stuff willingly, God may very well pry it out of our cold dead fingers (consider Lot’s wife, and Ananias and Sapphira, and several others). Whatever God is calling you to, don’t wait. Don’t waste the gifts and talents and resources that God has blessed you with. Honor Him with them TODAY, lest you wake up tomorrow to find them gone.

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Worse Things

Psalm 34:18

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Today I decided it was time to wash the delicate clothes that had been piling up in my closet for months. In particular, I decided it was time to wash Laredo’s tights and leotard, in which she dresses up like a ballerina almost daily. But as I went to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer, I noticed that something blue in the load had bled on the pale pink leotard. I said to myself, “Thank God I didn’t put her fancy white Easter dress in this load.”

But then I stopped myself. I realized the fault in my perspective. You see, as Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath continues to cause destruction not two hours from here, I understand that there are worse things that I could have to worry about. There are far worse things that many people are facing at this very moment—even some people I know. And I don’t want to be the kind of person who dwells on silly and inconsequential things, when there are people out there in need of compassion, and prayer, and tangible help.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are most certainly times in life when those worse things will happen TO YOU. I wouldn’t tell those who have lost everything and even loved ones to tell themselves that there are worse things. At some point, you need to recognize that you’ve just lived through the worst day of your life. When you’ve been evacuated from your home by boat in the middle of the night, and been shuttled around from one shelter to another in search of one that will allow your pets to stay with you… Or when you’ve faced some other tragedy, emergency, betrayal…some of you may know this feeling firsthand. You know what it’s like to feel helpless, hopeless, and lost. Be honest about it—let your family, friends, and community come alongside to help you.

But for those of us who aren’t suffering greatly right now, I would encourage us all to take a posture of gratitude, humility, and compassion. Let’s recognize that those little things that frustrate or disappoint us are exactly that—little things. Let’s remember that there are (unfortunately) worse things than what we are facing. And let’s pray that God will give us HIS heart for the brokenhearted. As is so often said, let’s ask Him to break our hearts for what breaks HIS. And I can just about guarantee that what breaks His heart is not a stained leotard, or even a ruined Easter dress.

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Where 2 or 3…Sleep

Matthew 18:20

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Not long ago, our pastor preached on Matthew 18:20, a passage he argued is often taken out of its intended context of reconciliation and misplaced into the context of prayer. It’s encouraging to be reminded of the truth that our prayers are not dependent on the faithfulness of flawed fellow humans. Because how often have we brought our burdens to our community of believers, requesting their prayers, only to have those requests fall on deaf ears, or get lost in the shuffle of daily life or the litany of other requests that occupy their time and attention? But God hears and responds to our prayer, no matter who joins us in them. This is evident throughout scripture, actually. For instance:

  • Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
  • Romans 8:26-27: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Still, if you’re anything like me, you may be tempted to respond with an air of resentment…misplaced, though, because let’s be honest—unless you’re that lady from War Room, you’ve probably dropped the ball on a prayer request or two yourself. I know I have.

So how should we respond when we are disappointed and when our prayer warriors let us down? Fortunately, Jesus Himself offers us some guidance on that. In the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), Jesus shared His burden with Peter, James, and John, saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Then He asked them to keep watch and pray. And did they? No. Instead, they fell asleep. Even John—the beloved disciple and the one who may arguably have loved Jesus the most. And not just once or twice did this happen, but three times! But Jesus recognized that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Scripture also tells us that the disciples’ “eyes were heavy” and that Jesus left them sleeping and continued to pray. Finally, after they’d slept through the entire ordeal, Judas showed up to turn Jesus over to the authorities. And Jesus woke them up and said, “Rise! Let us go!”

I see Jesus doing four things in this passage:

  1. He asks his friends to pray—and more than once. He doesn’t give up on them, just because they’ve let him down.
  2. He understands their weakness and weariness. He recognizes that their failure is not a result of them not wanting to pray or not caring. He sees that their eyes are heavy.
  3. He continues to pray, even in isolation. He knows that the Father hears and answers prayers—whether we are joined in those prayers by our fellow believers or not.
  4. He doesn’t give up on the disciples. Even though He does eventually allow them to slumber, he wakes them up when it’s time to go, and summons them to join Him.

My hope is that you and I will take our cues from Jesus when faced with our own disappointments, and that we will remember, as God does, that we are all but dust (Psalm 103:14).

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Dear Younger Me

I recently saw a post to a Facebook group I’m part of about a 20-year high school reunion. I glossed over it, figuring that the post was for another graduating class, because I’m not that old—but then it dawned on me that I AM that old! My 20-year high school reunion is supposed to be THIS summer!

Well, a lot of people have been posting pictures and life updates to the group, but one in particular brought up the fact that she was hesitant to attend a reunion because she was treated poorly in high school and didn’t really want to see those same people. Her post set off a number of responses (78 at last count), many from people with the same experience. Then there was one response from a girl who was hesitant to attend a reunion because she had been one of the ones doing the mistreating and felt a lot of regret over it. The proposed theme of the reunion is now “Kind is the New Cool.”

All of this is to say that I wish we could all have gotten along better back then, done great things in school, made great memories, and avoided the regrets that so many seem to have. And then I figured, now might be a great time to pen one of those “letters to my younger self.” What would I say?

  1. Own who you are. There’s no point in pretending to be someone you’re not. If people don’t like who you really are, then they don’t really like you anyway.
  2. Portray confidence. If you do, it will translate into REAL confidence. How? I’ve found over the years that three things help: smile, eye contact, and posture (and it also helps to know and accept your identity in Christ!).
  3. Develop your strengths. Try out for the debate team, or speech, or apply to work for the school paper. Stop lamenting about the school plays or the Concert Choir you weren’t chosen for, and find something you excel at.
  4. Go for it! Don’t just go to a week’s worth of cheerleading training—actually try out for the squad…Or for the fast pitch softball team…Or swimming…or cross-country running. And if you don’t make it, it’s not the end of the world. At least you’ll know, instead of always wondering whether you could have made it.
  5. Look outside of yourself. Instead of feeling alienated from others (usually the popular kids) who don’t want anything to do with you, forget about them. Instead, befriend someone who looks lonelier than you. Be the answer to someone’s prayers for a friend. And when all is said and done…
  6. Forgive. I can’t imagine any of us made it through school without ever getting hurt. Someone, whether intentionally or not, will have said or done something unkind or thoughtless or insensitive. Remember that kids don’t always know better. And when they do, it is sometimes a symptom of something else that’s going on—consciously or otherwise. We may never know someone else’s whole story, but we can respond with grace and compassion. Forgiveness is a freeing thing—don’t let bitterness and resentment control and imprison you, or steal your joy. Let the past go and start fresh.

As I continue to reflect on the advice and wisdom I would give my younger self, I’m sure I’ll come up with many more nuggets. In the meantime, how about you? What would YOU tell YOUR younger self?

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Our Turn

Luke 12:35-36

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet,
so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.”

Well, Tijge’s first tee-ball season is in the books. I don’t know that it is a sport he will pursue any further, but the season certainly taught me something. All of these kids were playing for the first time. They knew little to nothing about the game, but some definitely had some pre-conceived notions. One little girl in particular comes to mind. She was all decked out at the first game, with her pink bat, pink helmet, and matching black and pink glove. And she was ready to play. I think in the end, she was disappointed with the slower tempo of the game. I remember one of the first games, while the team was in the field, when she asked the coach, “When will it be our turn?” You see, in her mind, their “turn” only came when they were up to bat. It didn’t even dawn on her that she might get more action in the field. After all, when a team is at bat, each player spends most of their time on the bench. And often, it’s players’ fielding performances that can win or lose the game. But on the surface, the field seems quiet, subdued—like a waiting game.

I wanted to somehow convey to her the idea that this time spent playing defense, and seemingly waiting, was equally as important as time spent on offense. It didn’t take but a hot second for me to see the parallels between being a 5-year old on a tee-ball team and being a Christian in today’s day and age. How so? I’m glad you asked.

For starters, don’t we always want to be where the “action” is? We want to be in the spotlight, at the plate, hitting home runs, getting noticed. We don’t realize that the real, hard work of the Christian life often happens in the quiet, slow, behind-the-scenes moments—when we don’t feel at all important. We beg for God to put us in the game—Come on, Coach, I can do it!

But in truth, God may (and probably is) doing something extremely powerful and valuable during the waiting. He may be doing something in you—culling sin, developing gifts, igniting passion. He might be doing something through you. He might have someone who needs to see you handle those times of waiting with grace, humility, and purpose. He may be preparing you for the world beyond the waiting or He may be preparing the world for YOU. Can you imagine?

As we wait though, in seeming limbo, we sometimes lose focus. Like 5-year old tee-ball players, we need constant reminders to get into ready position, to watch for the ball, to support our teammates, to stay vigilant—READY. When we aren’t ready, we can miss opportunities to make huge contributions to the team, to the Kingdom. We must stay present, focused, and engaged, even when it seems like our role is small.

Finally, when we do make the big plays, I think that there is a very real temptation to bask in the limelight, to take the credit, and accept the glory. Just as in tee-ball, where success is a team effort, we can’t accomplish much in this Christian walk without the help and support of God and our fellow sojourners.

So now, when I’m tempted to ask God, “When is it my turn?”, I try to hear Him reminding me that it is my turn, now and always. The question is, my turn to do what? And if I can find the answer, I can make the very most of this life. And so can you. So let’s get in ready position, because it’s our turn!

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Look Out!

Psalm 5:3

“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

Have you ever gotten to the point in a situation where you thought, “Well, it’s out of my hands now—all that’s left to do is pray.” The tone always seems a little bit fatalistic, doesn’t it? And then, there may be other times when you pray, but you pray for small things, easy things…things you’re most likely to get or to be able to ensure on your own. But you pray, too, just in case. Or perhaps you pray big things, but not really believing that they will happen, or even that they could happen. It’s just too big, too much, to impossible. Except it’s not.

Luke 1:37 states very simply that “nothing will be impossible with God,” and the other Gospels echo this statement. In Jeremiah 32:27, God Himself says, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” And of course, the answer is NO! But I (and perhaps you) keep living and praying as though God is not all-powerful. But around the first of this year, I began occasionally and “coincidentally” coming across Psalm 5:3, in which the psalmist declares, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” The more times I read it, the more I really started to hear what it was saying…expectantly. So I looked a little deeper, past my NIV, and read some different translations of this word that had caught my attention, and I learned what a great word it is, in the Hebrew and in other translations, as well.

The word is translated as “eagerly watch,” in the New American Standard Bible. The King James Version translates it, “look up.” The International Standard Version states, “I will watch for your answer.” But my favorite I think is Young’s Literal Translation, according to which the psalmist states, “At morning I set in array for Thee, and I look out.” This says to me that when you set your requests before God, you’d better get out of the way and be ready for Him to do a mighty work.

I have definitely been guilty of praying little prayers, doubt-filled prayers, last-ditch prayers, lip service prayers, double-minded prayers…you get the picture. But I for one don’t want to do that anymore. So from now on, come hell or high water, when I fold my hands in prayer, I will see this reminder on my wrist to pray big, to pray expectantly, to pray believing…and when I open my eyes, I’ll be ready for Him to answer—and I’ll look out.

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Ice, Mice, and the Lessons They Teach Us

About nine months ago, we moved into a new house and inherited an ice machine. That was exciting in itself, but even more exciting is the kind of ice the machine produces. It’s soft and porous, a little crunchy but not too much so. You can actually bite a cube in half with your front teeth! It does wonders for my oral fixation, but it is much less suited to my TMJ. While this condition has laid dormant for some time, this newfound ice-chewing habit of mine has caused my symptoms to flare up. They extend beyond jaw pain at this point, causing horrible earaches as well as sharp headaches throughout the left side of my head (I’ve even begun to wonder if they aren’t migraines). And yet, I sit here munching away. I’ve even been known to delay my bedtime routine some nights just so that I can eat a few more pieces of this marvelous confection. All of this, even though I am likely driving myself to one day need a titanium jaw replacement—and that is not a good thing to have to have replaced!

The whole thing reminds me of a research study I once read about, involving a bunch of lab rats (or mice, I don’t recall). These rats were placed in cages containing buttons that, when pushed, would allow them to directly stimulate the pleasure centers in their brains. What the researchers found was that the mice would literally pleasure themselves TO DEATH! They wouldn’t eat, or sleep, or do anything else. It seemed so sad and pitiful.

But my ice fetish got me thinking, aren’t we all a bit like those lab rats? It seems that many of us could identify something that might compel us to pleasure ourselves to death—literally or figuratively. It might be something that in itself is relatively benign, or it might be something highly destructive. It might be something that affects only ourselves, or it might affect our friends, families, colleagues, and communities. It might not reach MOAS (Mother of All Sins) proportions, but it might.

In any event, recognizing our own weaknesses, temptations, and vulnerabilities should awaken us from our delusions of self-righteousness. It should give us a frame of reference from which to reach out to one another in our shared humanity. And from this place, we can reach out in grace, and compassion—and yes, in accountability, but first and foremost, in LOVE…because after all, didn’t God first love us? (1 John 4:19).

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Even the Swallows

Psalm 84:2-4 (NASB)

“My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars,
O LORD of hosts, My King and my God. How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah.”

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Many essentials in life can be gleaned from the Bible and from the Berenstain Bears. Today’s post is no exception. You see, in the story “God Bless Our Home,” Papa Bear reminds us all of the Biblical truth found in Psalm 84:3:

“…swallows built their nests of mud in the rafters of the garage. Papa had to duck when the swallows came swooping in to feed their babies. But he didn’t mind.
‘As the Good Book says,’ Papa explained, ‘Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself.’”

Well, God bless Papa Bear! He has much more patience than most of us! I can’t say I really appreciated this aspect of the story (or the Psalm) until we moved from town to the country—which is apparently where swallows live. And I have to say that those mud nests are DISGUSTING. Even worse is the bird poop EVERYWHERE! And to make matters worse, they dive bomb your head. I’m hesitant to even let visitors approach our front door, for fear that they will get attacked and then sue us over our angry birds. We’ve tried all kinds of tricks to encourage them to nest elsewhere, but they will have none of it.

I think that the Psalmist presents us with both a literal and a figurative illustration through the verses above. From a literal perspective, I’ve just realized after reading the surrounding context that the altars of God (in the Temple courts, perhaps) were the sites of swallows’ nests—and therefore their excrement! And yet, He welcomed them!

Turning to the figurative application of Psalm 84:3, there may be a reason that it is God’s care for the sparrow that often makes it into the songs and sayings of Christendom, rather than the swallow. You see, sparrows are small and insignificant, often going unnoticed. But I’ve never thought of them as pests or nuisances, and would never consider them gross or malicious.

And of course, God does see us and love us—no matter how small or insignificant we might be. He notices our plight. But do you know what else He does? He sees us, loves us, and offers His gift of salvation to us—not only when we feel small and insignificant, but also when we are disgusting, sinful, malicious, destructive, filthy, and rejected by all. We know this because of the thief on the cross, whom Jesus promised paradise with some of His last words. I’m convinced that, had Judas repented, God would have welcomed him home as well. Quite possibly, even Satan himself could have found forgiveness and redemption, if he’d only accepted it.

And that’s the Good News of Easter—that Jesus accepted the punishment for our sins, and rose from the dead to defeat death and hell on our behalf…even if we are but nasty little swallows!  May we all celebrate together today that He is risen indeed!

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