Sneaking Jesus In

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By: Jana Greene

Somebody I love with all my heart asked me yesterday to “please stop sneaking Jesus in.”

Honestly, I though it was a pretty covert move when I collected all of my back issues of ‘Relevant’ and presented them to her – because she likes magazines.

I’m not trying to force anything on her, I just know this magical secret about the radical love of a real God, and I like to share about it. It’s kind of a big deal. I’d be a pretty crappy friend if I was in on this literal opportunity of a LIFE time, and forgot to mention it to you.

What I’m ‘selling’ cannot be forced.

I am so proud of this friend, who is currently getting sober. I have been praying for her for years. I knew her situation could have gone a couple of ways, getting sober being the optimal choice.

She has been clean a whole month now, Glory to God.

...Glory to a God she has decided that she can’t quite figure out, and isn’t anxious to know more about right now.

I have tried weaving meaningful Bible verses into our casual conversation multiple times and GUESS WHAT!? They went over like a bunch of lead balloons because she has (like most of us) been hurt by the church proper, and frankly, she isn’t sure she NEEDS a higher power yet.

Each time I would say, “The Bible says…” she COMPLETELY checked out of the conversation. Even though I am trying to ENCOURAGE her with it.

“Can you just please stop mentioning the Bible?” She finally asked.

“No. I cannot promise you that I won’t mention the Bible.”

And I didn’t promise, because there is a lot of really good stuff in there, all centered on The Word – in the person of Jesus Christ.

You see, she thinks she knows what it says already, and like most of us, grew up learning all the things God supposedly hates, and the various methods of bringing down the hammer for those smite-worthy creatures who test Him. I have been dodging that hammer most of my life!

Nothing she has been taught was presented in context. The Old Testament and New were just divisions in a book, much like parts of Moby Dick or Anne of Green Gables might be.

(Honestly, the New Covenant is something I’m just NOW learning about in a grace-based seminary program, and it is the most delicious and liberating nugget of wisdom in the history of EVER. It’s so easy, y’all. Accept and receive, and enjoy!)

I told her to consider her new recovery as an opportunity for bad-assery – the Super Hero kind, not the shallow tin-type Hollywood version. I cannot think of a more bad-ass thing to do than getting / staying sober. Behind every super hero worth his spandex, there is a force behind him.

You can’t usher The Force around in an old bed sheet, holding it by the hand and pretending it isn’t standing there.

And it was that odd visual – (Jesus’s sandal-ed feet peeking out from an old bed sheet like Charlie Brown in his ghost costume and my nagging Him to make sure the eye holes are properly centered) that gave me pause, and – as often happens – made me laugh. The God of the Universe schlepping around in a hole-y (HOLY? Get it?) sheet, incognito.

God wearing a bed sheet, and my shushing him to walk quietly behind me, being super stealthy. My sneaking him in a room and back out.  Gives new meaning to Holy Ghost!

And in that moment of laughter, I had a big, fat epiphany:

I don’t need to sneak Jesus in because he is, simply put, already in.

No sneaking required. He is in my breath, my being…. the essence of perfect love. He looks like His Father, who – I’m now learning – looks like me. And you, too. True story.

He didn’t beat people over the head with Truth (although I’m fairly certain he would indeed share his copies of Relevant Magazine; I mean, come ON!? Who wouldn’t want to read THOSE?)

A new thought occurred to me – There is an ever-blurring line between Jesus and I, and it’s not because I am anything special. It’s because of who HE is, inhabiting me and speaking through me and loving through me. And that makes me special. It’s what makes her special too; she just doesn’t realize it yet.

Blur that line, Papa!

I’m so happy that my friend is on her journey of recovery. I pray that she stays open to The Force, and realizes just how beautifully fierce and capable she really is.

I hope she gets curious about who is REALLY under that bed sheet.

Jesus, be everywhere and within me. Let me not ‘sneak around’ but exude your love, oozing Holy Grace. Give me oily grace – the kind of anointing that carries your scent and your love. I pray that you will be The Force in the lives of my children, my husband, my friends, and me.

Amen

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Be Still and Know that You’re Not God (Whew – What a relief!)

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By: Jana Greene

“Be still and know that I am God.” – God

Yeah, but it’s HARD to be still!

Sometimes it’s almost unfortunate that our Creator has endowed us with this thing called “free will.”Free will has gotten me into a lot of jams.

God, if you knew me, you totally wouldn’t trust me to me.

You know, the will that keeps telling you that you don’t have a disease called addiction.

That you can stop anytime you want.

That you have a plan and it looks like doing what you’ve always done.

But if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Recovery in real time doesn’t look like a baby-steppable feat, but a free fall. Every single day, I surrender my will to my Father’s, because I know he only has my best interest at heart.

Every single day, I don’t drink today. No matter what happens, I don’t have to take a drink on this very day.

And tomorrow, I will wake up and surrender my free will again, just for tomorrow.

Bite-sized pieces, you see. Bite off enough recovery today to nourish yourself today. Then free fall into the love of a very real Father.

So often we try to do the opposite. Bite off more than we can chew by declaring we can never, ever drink again and poor pitiful us! And we chase it with ‘babystepping’ just to make it through the day.

This is not the life your Father desires for you!

You don’t fail God when you fail, dear one! That’s an old trick of the enemy. He wants you to feel like a failure. Don’t give that rat bastard the pleasure.

Instead, surround yourself with other people whose free wills are also prone to malfunction. Find as many as you can and watch what they do to just NOT drink. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the Rooms.

Here’s the thing – God totally does know you. He isn’t tolerating you and your janky free will. He is madly and passionately in love with you, in all of your jankyness. He gave us free will so that when we choose to receive His love, it comes from us mind, body, and soul.

Be still and trust in His perfect will for you….

That He has only your best interest at heart.

That He knows you intimately and loves the bejeebers out of you JUST AS YOU ARE.

That He has the most amazing adventures for you to enjoy, and to enjoy SOBER so that you can be mindful of the  miracles as they unfold.

If you can’t be still and know that He is God, be mad that He is God. Let Him know that you relinquish trying to push Him out of a job, and if you can manage it, surrender your will to Him.

You’ve got this, daughter of the Most High, because He has YOU.

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Sufficient Grace in a Season of Suffering

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By: Jana Greene

Good morning, God.

I woke up in a panic today. Sick and tired, and tired of being sick. I have basically been ill since I had shoulder surgery 3 1/2 months ago, and I’m so over it. Feeling like crap for nearly 4 months straight would depress dang near anybody.

I’m really fighting the emotional funk, and I know I’m not alone – so I’m posting my prayer here. I know several of my friends are fighting (or have fought) the same funk. Depression and anxiety are real bugaboos, even for believers. I’m so tired of the stigma that gets perpetuated in churches. Jesus People should be the LEAST stigmatizing, for crying out loud. (No, really, I have cried out loud a few times this week.) Being of good cheer seems out of the question. Getting dressed today might be doable.

Every day in February, I have declared that THIS is the day I shall get it TOGETHER already! Mind over matter, right? (Wrong.)

I tell myself that TODAY, I shall work on taxes, get caught up on seminary, write another chapter for the book (AND get busy on some other projects) and lose 10 lbs and basically be a better version of me – the me in her PJs 24/7 this week, the me bingeing on Munchos. The me that feels so weak, she can hardly sit upright for more than 30 minutes.

Everything seems to be beyond my control right now, and I need Your comfort. I am asking for more faith, which comes from You. Help me with that, please.

Weakness…..Hmmmm.
There’s a scripture for that….

Your Grace is sufficient, I seem to recall. Praise Jesus for that sweet, amazing GRACE!

In your Word, you tell me that radical weakness is not a character flaw, but an opportunity for You to really bring home the razzle dazzle. You know how you do. Paul said it best:

“…Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG)

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A Case for Reasonable Happiness (or: God Grant me the Serenity, please oh please!)

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By: Jana Greene

Well, kids – here’s the bad news: At the end of the day, bad things are going to happen and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. That’s the truth.

You can march. You can holler. But morality refuses to be legislated and the planet is still a broken place.

If Jesus wasn’t spared suffering, we aren’t getting out of it either. I’m not here to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason, and God opening a window when you could really use an actual open DOOR, etc. etc. Every time someone says “When God closes a door, He opens a window” I want to punch that person in the face. Because what if the window is on the 21st floor?

Then I remember something important – my God is not a sadist. If you ask Him for bread, He will not give you a stone, because He is a good, good Father – it’s who He is. (Everybody sing along!)

A lot of bad things happen this side of the Kingdom that I don’t understand.

Nothing irks me more than Christians who talk of God as if he easily figured out. As if he is Russian gymnast coach, watching your every stance to make sure you stay perfectly aligned on the balance beam, or a lottery god who increases the odds of your winning the jackpot if you buy more prayer tickets.

Stop glossing over the sovereignty of the Almighty God in order to try to understand why the world isn’t a fair place. Of what use is a god your mind can figure out? A god so small you can understand him?

Ah, but that’s where this gets interesting.

I’m in seminary school right now, and loving every minute of it. It is a grace-based teaching, which takes into consideration the original Greek and Hebrew meanings and examines the context of scripture. It is blowing my mind, which is kind of mushy from 48 years of desperately trying to figure everything out.

Here is the GOOD NEWS, and my takeaway so far: Stop trying to manipulate the God of the Universe by suggesting ‘better’ ways of making things happen. Start believing – really believing – that the message of the simple Gospel isn’t trying to trip you up, control you, be a thief of joy.

It is LOVE. A love like none other. The God that spun the cosmos wants you to know that He is madly, passionately in love with Little Old You. And Little Old Me.

I love the Serenity Prayer. But hardly anyone reads it the whole way through – and that’s where the gold is hidden.

God Jehovah, grant me serenity!

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The wisdom to know the difference is key here. I struggle at times. I have a void, maybe you do, too. I was born with mine, like a birth defect – a life defect. A character defect, as they say in The Rooms. The void is a greedy and cavernous hole. Sometimes it is lined with depression or anxiety, sometimes frustrations and disappointments. I have, at various times, tried to pour alcohol in the hole, over eating, self-pity, various forms of people-pleasing … you name it. It eats the lining away for about five minutes (or until I finish the 12th brownie) and then just ends up being a bigger hole.

God heals it up every time. He tells me it isn’t a defect. He tells me the scar is beautiful. But sometimes I pick at it until it bleeds again.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;

I want the world around me to be a calm place, steeped in a lavender vibe, full of shalom.

I want to fall asleep easily at the end of each day, to feel the sweet cream of drowsiness anoint my spastic mind and soak into my every fiber until I can really finally, you know, rest.

I want people to be excellent to each other. And if not excellent, just shoot for not being a total jerk, for crying out loud.

But instead I have to be mindful in the moment, one moment at a time. And as I get better at mindfulness, I can appreciate the ‘now.’

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

I used to think this meant praising God for my infirmaries, as some churches had touted. As a person who has a number of chronic health conditions, let me just say, it is NOT HELPFUL to tell a hurting person to praise God for their migraine or bankruptcy. Holy cow, just stop it people, please. There is a difference between “Hey, Jesus, thanks for allowing me to go through this hardship” – and acceptance that Jesus walks the pathway with you, even through the hardships.

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Not as I would have it. Not as I would have it. Not all lavender sweet cream and shalom. Not when the GOP and the Democrats align views and sing Kumbaya together. Not when people stop cutting me off in traffic. Not when I lose 20 pounds, become a legit writer, balance perfectly on the beam. Or win the lottery…..


Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;


I surrender all. God grant me the serenity – not the complacency – to surrender all.

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely 
happy with Him forever in the next.

Reasonable happiness, what a concept! The joy endowed by Holy Spirit in us cannot be misinterpreted as ‘happiness.’ I may be happy AND unhappy a thousand times a day (menopause, what a ride!) but I’m promised supreme happiness with God eternally!

Bad things will happen and this world is a mess. We don’t have to understand why it isn’t a fair place, we just have to carry a message of love to the broken world.

Maybe we should agree with the world that YES, terrible things that make no sense happen and there is no denying it. But there is a Force of Life called Divine Love, and in the end, LOVE always wins. That’s all I know.

God, grant me the serenity. At the end of the day, help me to trust your sovereignty in this world…this messed-up world that you SO loved that you sent your only begotten son. Take the space in my void and fill it with Holy Spirit so that some of that sweet insatiable unconditional love spills out of me and into the world. And keep pouring. 

Amen

(The Serenity Prayer)

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Got the Red, White and Blues? Thoughts on Inauguration Day Anathema for Everyday People

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By: Jana Greene

Oh, this current political climate. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Can we cease and desist being so nasty to one another in the name of wanting what’s best for America? Let’s be honest about it. Is it about patriotism or witch hunting, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Salem in the 1600’s? The fervor is terrifying because it further divides us, and Lord have mercy, aren’t we divided enough already?

I keep thinking about the classic Sly and the Family Stone song that came out a year before I was born, “Everyday People.”

There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

Witnessing parents and children parting ways over political passions and good friends sacrificing relationship at the altar of The Elephants  vs. The Asses – it’s heartbreaking.

If you are like me, you desperately love people on both sides of the aisle.

Desperately and totally love. Even when we don’t agree.

Trust no man or administration or government more than you trust your God. Or at least that’s what I’m getting as I’m prayerful about our country. Prayers that go a lot like this: “Please, Papa, please….help.” Help, help, help. Please, and thank you, God.  I’m at a loss for eloquent heavenly petitions at this point.

(God, by the way, isn’t surprised by any of the current circumstances. He very well may be the only sentient Being who isn’t going batsh*t crazy right now. I’m pretty sure all of us have lost our minds.)

I wish everyone would get a grip and act like grown ups and cease having the World’s Largest Temper Tantrum. It’s like society is dissolving into one long, very un-funny episode of Portlandia.

I GET it. I didn’t vote for him either. On another day, perhaps I can wax poetic about my Libertarian leanings and how they came to be, but today is not that day. Today is Inauguration Day, and you may be really unhappy about that.

Be unhappy. You want to march, you want to rant. March and rant.

But when you allow a man – lo, even a President – to incite hatred in you to the degree that you are hatred personified, you are giving him too much personal power.

When we start seeing society dissolve into such nastiness manifest, the very intolerance you are picketing wins. Don’t let it win.

Which is more important: Being right, or being in relationship? (FYI, I have to keep asking myself this same question, sometimes dozens of times every day. I’m preaching to myself, too!)

The reality is that we have a new president and it would behoove the nation to at least give him a chance now that it’s a done deal. It’s in your best interest for him to succeed.

He isn’t a god, he is just a dude who has made some really horrible mistakes, not unlike the last 44 men who have served in that capacity. He’s a dude I don’t personally care for in the least, but I’m not willing to sacrifice relationships to register my discontent.

Elephants will be big, loud and boisterous and asses will be, well….asses. It has always been the case. Most people love our country and are just people trying to get through our governing leadership intact in the day-to-day. Your displeasure about Trump is not original – it has been felt by many Americans during every single administration, including the Obama presidency.

We are just everyday people, and we cannot afford to hate each other.

This, of course, is my two cents – the blog my platform for sharing my views. They belong to me. It’s a free country, right?

Right?

I wish we could all might consider the following today and going forward:

An inauguration lasts for a day. A presidency lasts 4 years. Going all Lord of the Flies – that damage can last a lifetime in a friendship.

Can’t we all at least try to get along?

Here are the full lyrics to “Everyday People” for your bemusement and consideration.
(Sly and the Family Stone will never steer you wrong, as a general rule.)
“Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah
There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo
Oh sha sha we got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah
There is a long hair that doesn’t like the short hair
For bein’ such a rich one that will not help the poor one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo
Oh sha sha we got to live together
There is a yellow one that won’t accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one that won’t accept the white one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo
I am everyday people”

Music from Remnants – a Father / Daughter Story

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By: Jana Greene

This evening, before my husband came home from work, I was making a casserole and listening to Jesus music. Let me be perfectly clear here – my musical tastes span nearly EVERY genre.

I don’t ONLY listen to Christian music.

I love Eminem.

Jack White is boss.

I also like some of the Jesus-y music, too.

I like to think that deep, deep down, under the smile lines and cellulite and freckles, I have an inner groupie who is wild and free and would love to follow The Grateful Dead all over Creation or something. But then, reality.

Always reality, right? Such a joy suck.

I love music…all kinds. I see God everywhere and in everyone. In the arts. In the science.  I don’t like using the terms ‘secular’ and ‘religious.’ Honestly, both of those words stick in my throat. Ick! Who the heck do we think we are to deem each person, place, or thing either ‘secular’ or ‘religious.’

The God of the Universe need is not subject to our licensing laws. O.M.G.

Anyway…the chicken. Yes. As I’m putting the casserole into the oven, Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” comes on Pandora and I stop dead in my tracks. I don’t know what it is about this song – it’s catchy and repetitive, as are many, many contemporary Christian tunes. But Good, Good Father?  It is the Official Anthem for Those Afflicted with Daddy Issues.

The lyrics, oh…the lyrics slay me! Tears spring up every time, every single time – and instantly. I am silly in my oven mitts, dancing circles around my kitchen by myself, but I don’t care. The song has so much depth to me.

Growing up, I didn’t know my dad. As a matter of fact, I’d met him only a smattering of times, even though we lived in the same town. He was a musician – a bass player. I think my surprise birth threw him a curve ball. I know it did. He was obsessed with music. All my life, I’ve allowed myself to consider that I got that from my daddy.

But just two years ago – 30 years from the last time I’d seen him – I reconnected with my biological father. We enjoyed Mexican food with my half-sister when I visited Houston. It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t awkward at all.

These people, my people! I fell in love with my sister anew, too. At the table, I marveled that we all have the same hands! It tickled me to no end to compare them. Puzzle pieces snapping into place neatly and flush with every other piece. Why did I ever doubt God would allow such a reunion?

Ah, I remember. Because I was afraid to be disappointed. That old chestnut. Fear is a terrible bully, squashing hope to a pulp. Pulpy hope is worse than no hope at all.

Somehow, all through the years,  God had caulked all of my cracks with grace, and I got to hold my earthly father’s hand, so similar to my own.  I think there was a Mariachi band there, but that may just be fantasy on my part. It was a super festive evening.

One dad, two daughters. Just for that night.No pie-in-the-sky expectations of making up for lost time, but instead a tender rekindling of hope for the future.

I had the honor of telling him I loved him, and I forgive him, because my Jesus extends so much grace and forgiveness and love my way. He says he loves me, too. And we’re cool, my dad and I.

I’m typing this through literal tears right now. Not because everything wrapped up in a nice, tidy package and VOILA! INSTANT RELATIONSHIP! That’s not what happened at all.

I’m crying because my good, good Heavenly Daddy saw fit to bring some family remnants together. And because my Abba was with me all along, delighting in me, his daughter so wild and free.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
‘Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word.

My love of music? I got it from my dad.

Reality, RIGHT?

Sometimes it’s so sweet.

Here’s the audio for Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” Enjoy!

CLICK HERE

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Oozing Grace and other Heretical Hazards

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BY: Jana Greene
Jesus sitting on a rock, looking wistfully into the atmosphere. Sandal-ed feet and in robe and sash. You remember him, right?
His portraits hung in your Sunday School and Vacation Bible School rooms. Dirty blonde hair, blue eyes. Perfectly serene expression.
I remember him, too. He is lovely and pure and holy, but He doesn’t appear to be radical, and I’m pretty sure Jesus was a radical guy.

Two weeks immersed in classes, and am experiencing all of those terms that I make fun of hipsters for using:

Wrecked.
De-fragmented
Disenfranchised from church as we largely know it.
This message of a grace-based gospel is ANYTHING but boring or staid.
What if the Love of God was bigger than the sins of the world?
It is scandalous in its oozing of mercy, positively radical in it’s inclusion.Where has this message of the Good News BEEN all my life!? Studying the Old and New Covenants, so much comes into focus. So many questions answered.

I find myself undone.

Because if what I’m learning is true, it turns everything upside down.

Sin gets so much airtime. But here’s the rub: Sin is not the MAIN THING.It shouldn’t take center stage?

What if Love took center stage, as Jesus intended?

If it’s true – this grace-based Gospel – then we can do nothing to mitigate the furious love of our father.

If it’s true that the Kingdom of God is within us, we need to stop looking for him elsewhere.

If it’s true, we need to stop trying to invoke the presence of Holy Spirit in our worship. He is already here.

If it’s true (and my Spirit tells me it IS, it’s gloriously, wonderfully, life-givingly TRUE!) then perhaps we should start spreading this amazing news. Gospel = GOOD NEWS.

I’ve been a Christian most of my life, and have never appreciated true Grace and the love of our Triune God.

Not the good news that comes with a disclaimer at the bottom for full legal disclosure. (Has anyone seen my can of “LAW BE GONE? I’m sure I left it right here next to my Self Condemnation Deflator….hmmmm.)

Not the news that Jesus loves you but you’d better get your act together before you try to follow him, or you’ll make us all look bad.

No.

The neat and tidy Jesus of Vacation Bible School is not gazing out into the atmosphere, but at YOU. Right now. He is looking upon you adoringly.

It is finished.

He is here. He is here in this messy, screwed-up, fallen, trainwreck of a planet  because he just cannot get close enough to YOU.

He walks among us, inhabits us, throws mercy on us, guides us, cradles us. LOVES US. People really need to hear this, ya’ll.

Yeah, I’m thinking Seminary is really going to mess with my head.

And I simply cannot wait to get to know my Papa better. I hope you don’t mind too terribly much if I blog about the experience here?

God bless us, every one.

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