Tag Archives: Jesus

Jesus’s Joy and Father’s Good Pleasure–YOU

Why would Jesus choose to give up the perfection of heaven to experience ridicule and horrific death?
 
Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What is that joy? The passage continues by saying that Jesus was given the place of honor when He returned to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
 
My thinking used to stop there.
 
But Scripture also calls you and me Jesus’ “rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18, NLT) and says that we’ve been seated in the heavenlies with Jesus. There are also a lot of passages which talk about how Jesus longs for the final ceremony when His bride (us!) is presented to Him. It’s hard to believe it is true, but Jesus died, in part, because He wanted us as His inheritance. His beloved bride.
 
Then there’s Father God. What would cause a loving Father to ask such a thing of His son? Luke 12:32 tells us that it was the Father’s “good pleasure” to give the kingdom to us. Ephesians talks of the wonder of God adopting us as His very own children, allowing Jesus to pay the redemption price, to purchase us from darkness.
My friend, we are of great worth to our Creator.
Maybe you blaze past those thoughts, accepting them quickly, in the context of the unfathomable actions of the cross. You believe you are loved, treasured even, by God. Why else would God allow the cross of Christ?
 
But will you believe it tomorrow?
 
Will you believe it when life doesn’t go as you planned? When someone wounds you? When you stare at your imperfections in the mirror (on the wall or in your soul)?
 
When the vile voice of the enemy whispers of your inadequacy and failure?
 
Can you know then, way down deep, that the King of All values you? That the cross took all of the shame and inadequacy, all of the outsider-living, and placed you in the center of God’s heart? That even before the cross God chose you as the recipient of His love because you are of great worth to Him? That you are part of the royal family of heaven?
 
If you’re like me, you’ll have good days and bad days when it comes to living like royalty. But whether or not we stand tall in the noble robes our Father gave us, it doesn’t change the fact that we were bought with a price because of our worth to God. It doesn’t change that fact that His actions rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us close to Him in the kingdom of light. It doesn’t change that fact that we are His beloved.
We belong with our family in the throne room.
 
This is yesterday’s introduction to the first week of devotions from Soul Scents: Selections for Easter. Maybe it seems strange to start an Easter devotional book talking about our worth to our Creator, but I believe this is one of the places most attacked by the enemy and also one of the main points of the cross. I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I share what God has shown me about our value to Him (week one) and as we look at other implications of the Cross of Christ. Selections for Easter is free on my website. Just click on gifts.
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Pondering With a Coloring Book 2

So yesterday I posted about how unhappy I was with my color choices as I started a new page in Lisa Joy Samson’s Colors of Hope (on sale today on CBD). I mentioned that as I colored the  Lord revealed to me  thoughts about being creative and brave and willing to try new things in life.

Following is what I pondered as I continued coloring that particular page:

I’m still not done with this coloring page or its accompanying verse (When you call out to me and come to me and pray to me, I’ll hear you), but I gotta say, I’m loving how this is coming together–even the yellow and blue I didn’t like at first.

Today three things went through my head as I colored and chatted with Jesus. The first was simply joy. I think the happy colors brought that out! I worshiped, with little praise songs freely bouncing around in my head. I wanted to celebrate His creativity, love, power, and beauty. This mixed with the ponderings I posted yesterday led me to think about what it looks like to be a follower who surrenders fully, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, without forgetting that life has other gardens, too. Beautiful Eden gardens where we enjoy bounty and beauty and walk in intimacy with our creator.

I want to understand how to live as one who walks in surrender when called to hardship or a season of sacrifice–or even to live without getting angry at God when life sends me a curve ball.

AND I want to be a joyful woman who is adventurous and lifts her face to the breeze. Free. Focused on the glory of the life God desires for us. Believing in His goodness.

The second line of thought was about perspective. As I worked around the edges of my coloring page, I saw previous work differently. I was able to see little flaws I hadn’t noticed and fix them. They didn’t bother me. At this stage of the process I was far enough along to simply handle them. No stress. And as more spaces were colored I started getting a sense of the joy of the whole picture and how it fit together, not just the unfinished parts that made no sense at first. I don’t think I have to explain either of the metaphors popping out there!

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The third pondering was simple joy in God’s provision for play and refreshment as I color. In this season of my son’s upcoming wedding, my other son’s graduation, and my efforts to meet a May 1st book deadline, I’m incredibly grateful to the Lord for leading me to play through this devotional coloring book. What delight to see the happy colors, to be creative without need for perfection or plan, to just hang out with him.

The last many years He’s often pulled me out of my more serious approach to time with just the two of us. I’m learning to rest in His wisdom in leading our relationship. There are seasons for all kinds of relating with the Lord, and I love the deeper study times as well as the intensive prayer and journaling times, but He knows I can be too serious, too responsible, so He pulls me out for long walks or gives me a coloring book and asks me just to be in His presence.

To chat or not.

To play.

Isn’t our God good?!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this three blog series about the joys of coloring and the things Lisa and I learned while interacting with Colors of Hope. Next week I’ll be talking about navigating empty nest as I interview Vicki Caruana, who wrote, “The Joy of Letting Go.” This book releases April 1, no foolin’! Receiving an advanced copy of her book in the mail the week my oldest son married his beautiful bride was quite timely. (I hope to also blog about the wedding soon. It was a glorious day full of joy and peace! There is joy in letting go. 😉 )

Until Tomorrow,

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PS If you’re interested in hearing more about my journey out of the “quiet time” box of my past and into more freedom to be playful with the LORD, you can read about it at the end of my book, Soul Scents: Bloom, available now on Amazon.

Bursting with God-news!

I’m bursting with God-news;IMAG3151
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.

God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!

What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.

His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.

He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.

He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.

The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.

He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.

It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

~ Luke 1:46–55 MSG

Have you ever thought about Mary’s Magnificat, how it is both personal and corporate at the same time? She starts out by worshiping in wonderment that God chose her. Other versions of Mary’s song use phrases like: He took notice, He looked with loving care, He looked on me, one who is not important. Mary stands in wonder at that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords chose her.

Then Mary moves into praise that is both personal and corporate, for her son would also be her Savior. Mary worships the Messiah who came to scatter bluffing braggarts, knock tyrants off their high horses, and pull victims out of the mud. (Other versions say He scatters the proud and exalts the humble, that He brings down rulers and fills the hungry with good things.)

As I read this passage today it feels intensely personal.

He looked upon me.

Upon you.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords took notice, looked upon us with loving care. We may think we are not important, that we are humble and lowly. Nobodies. But God chose us.

He chose us to be the recipients of His grace and mercy. He chose us to receive His light and life-giving truth. He chose us for truth that sets us free. He chose us. For us He comes, baring His arm and showing His strength. He fights for our freedom.

He won it at the cross.

And He fights for each of His beloved, showing them the freedom already won.

He stands firm against evil and teaches us how to do the same.

He invites our poor, hungry hearts to a banquet of His love.

He came so we could flourish.

I love Mary.

I imagine her—young and weary. She’s spent way too much time on a donkey and now she’s given birth—for the first time—in a dirty, stinky place. I’m sure it wasn’t what she expected when she sang out her Magnificat. But then the shepherds come. Shepherds. They are the class of people who don’t intimidate her, but certainly not who was expected to celebrate the birth of the King! But they have lovely, breathtaking news. When her son was born, the very sky opened wide revealing a multitude of angels singing and dancing and shouting about His birth. And they sent shepherds—shepherds!—to gaze upon her little boy.

Mary’s been through a lot. The accuser has been hard at work, heaping condemnation upon her. Instead of the honor she expected as one chosen to carry the King, she’s been called a harlot. And worse.

But the shepherds get it.

They see and honor her child.

Honor her.

They say her baby, her baby, is the Savior of the world.

In those weeks of unjust condemnation, in those months of ridicule and gossip and pointing fingers, those months when her body swelled and hurt, when her emotions were raw, when weariness overcame her, it’d taken all she had to believe the truth.

She wasn’t condemned.

She was honored.

Chosen.

Blessed.

And her son, her tiny baby sleeping in a trough meant for animals, was King, Savior of the world.

Nothing really made sense, but God was at work. In those brief moments of wonderment, when His Spirit gave direction and explanation, she saw it. She held onto it. She had to.

Life was much harder than she expected.

But it was also more glorious.

Angels.

Shepherds.

“Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself” (Luke 2:19, MSG).

Later the magi came. Then the wild flight to safety in Egypt. Finally to Nazareth, where the wagging of tongues continued.

But through it all, “Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19, NASB).

Friends, our freedom came at a cost for Jesus.

It comes at a cost for us.

Only our Lord knows what events will take place on our journey into the glory of His plans.

But He comes to us with promise.

Personal and corporate.

We believe the Scriptures, the promises that our Savior freed us us from the darkness and places us in His kingdom. Those promises are for all, corporately and individually. But He doesn’t stop there. He whispers truth as we read His Scripture. We hear wisdom in the words of those around us. Lines from songs jump out and grab our attention and play for years in our hearts. We learn His voice. Sometimes He whispers in the night or gives dreams or sends prayer warriors. We test everything to be certain it is from Him, and we cling to, ponder, treasure all of it in our hearts. When He comes with instructions—personal instruction—like it’s time to flee a tyrannical king or receive a personal blessing—like hints of the great callings of our life, we respond. Quickly. We believe.

Jesus, like Your mother, Mary, I am just me. Complicated and simple. Emotional sometimes. Afraid often. But capable of great movement as I surrender to Your Spirit. I treasure everything You’ve told me, every event You’ve orchestrated. You regarded my lowly estate and fought for my freedom. I am Your servant. Your bride. Your beloved. I have a bigger picture than Mary did. I know how Your life here on earth unfolded. I know that the cross, which pierced precious Mary’s heart, won the victory for my life. I know You purchased me so I could live in joyful intimacy with You. You won me for Yourself. I surrender to Your love. To Your sacrifice. I ponder all You’ve done for me, personally and corporately. Help me to listen to Your voice. Keep me from the lies of the deceiver, the voice of the accuser, and help me to know Your voice only. When You speak, let me be like Mary and say yes to all You ask. Help me move when You ask me to move. Help me surrender to the call of my life, the plans You had before the foundations of the world.

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

Light Glory

imag0374“I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path.” ~ John 8:12 TLB

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!” ~ Matthew 5:14–16, MSG

Our first Christmas tree had only white lights. For years we’d hung white lights as a reminder that Jesus, the Light of the World, came to save us from darkness within and without. All other decorations in the years to come will build on that first strand of lights, just as our lives build on Jesus.

Everything begins with Jesus.

Everything of worth builds upon Him.

Life is to be illuminated by His grace and truth. Our lives, our thoughts, our identity, our decisions are illuminated by His light shining into us and through us.

It doesn’t matter where the enemy lied to us or who tried to steal light from us. It doesn’t matter, because Jesus, the Light of the World, is with us now.

Where there is light, darkness flees.

Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.

Jesus chases the darkness away.

Jesus is the victory.

Life lived in Him is alive. His life lights our way. His light heals us, chases away the darkness in the rooms we’ve kept locked. His light leads us forward to freedom.

Jesus is the Word Incarnate. The Word is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path.

Jesus, our Light, reveals next steps. Steps of life-giving light.

In Jesus is life, and His life is the light of all mankind. The darkness of this world has not overcome His light. It cannot! (John 1:4)

God’s light is pure. In Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

He not only lights our way, He lights us! We are like the Christmas tree. It can sit, unnoticed deep in a forest. When night comes, it is shrouded in darkness. But when wrapped in twinkle lights, that tree cannot be hidden.

When we are illuminated by the Light of Jesus, shining from His place as the foundation of our lives, we also are not hidden. We light up our space in this world. We are like Him: pure, white light, like a city set on a hill that can’t be hidden. Like a lamp or a candle set in the middle of a dark room.

Even in the dark times of our lives or of the world, His light shines in us and through us.

The first chapter of John says darkness cannot overcome the Light. In this world of suicide bombers and gunmen in schools, the darkness fights for position. In this world of hidden abuses that tear at personal worth and identity, darkness tries to suffocate.

But it cannot win.

In the places of the deepest despair, the most inky black darkness, the tiniest light always pushes back the black. Whole caverns of darkness cannot overcome one little flickering candle.

There is no greater worship than a life surrendered to the Light. Surrendered lives pierce the darkness as they lift glowing arms to point to Jesus.

Jesus, You are perfect light. In You there is no darkness at all. I surrender to Your light. Take it deep inside me and heal me. Shine it at my feet and guide my next steps. Glow within me, lighting me up from the inside out that I may bring glory to Your name. To be Your light is my greatest act of worship. Do what You do best. Shine! Shine in me. Shine on me! Shine through me!

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

The Two Trees

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Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

 

 

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5, MSG

evergreen1I don’t know much about Christmas trees. I’ve owned only two. Both were breathtaking in their beauty. Both awakened worship within me. Both gave me hours and hours of joy.

But they smelled different.

The first one, the one Jerry chose for our family, was much more fragrant.

I learned that particular kind of Christmas tree is shaped by the blade. It’s perfect triangular shape comes because it was cut, refined, prepared for its life purpose.

theoldruggedcrossOh my.

Sweet Jesus.

So often the sweet aroma comes in the breaking.

As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Your majesty fills worlds seen and unseen.

Yet . . .

It is Your very crushing that sends forth the sweet, clean scent.

Yours.

And mine.

He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.

One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed. . . .

~~~

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people. . . .

~~~

Still, it’s what GOD had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an
offering for sin

so that he’d see life come from it—life, life,
and more life.
And GOD’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

~~~

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one,
my servant,

will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

(Isaiah 53:3–11, MSG)

Sweet Jesus, You were crushed to heal my crushing, the bruises and scars put upon me and that I put upon others. You took the punishment and made me whole. Thank You for coming to us.

Thoughts on the tree keep getting deeper . . . more tomorrow.

Until then,

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First Gift Giver

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 2: 14–15 NASB

imag0398I didn’t know Christmas had this fragrance. I breathe deeply, filling my nostrils with the clean, fresh scent of the evergreen tree. The aroma is like God’s favor washing over me. In it I smell His faithfulness. His kindness. His attention to detail.

I pause, away from the busyness, away from the bustle and noise. Seeking. Seeking Him.

“Thank you,” I whisper. “Thank you for what you have done and will do in my husband and in all of us. For being the One who fights for me, my family, and our hearts.”

He whispers, “I Am the First Gift Giver. I Am the ultimate Gift Giver.”

The day outside is a wintry gray, but my tree twinkles, full of light. The dimness outside the picture window only makes the lights prettier. I climb into the recliner gifted to us when Bernice passed away, the recliner that replaces the big blue one where I rocked my children and sought my Savior year after year. Pulling my special blanket around me I snuggle in, staring at the twinkle lights, inhaling the scent of Christmas.

“My Father is the Gardener.”

I grab my journal and listen, ink flowing across the page, recording the sweet Jesus whispers.

“My Father does great works of beauty in the human soul. I treasure the garden of the hearts of My people. When You let My Spirit cultivate a dwelling place for Me, you prepare a fragrant offering.”

I breathe deeply again, inhaling the aroma of this gift, this tree.

I watch the snow fall and think about Jesus.

How does He smell? Does Jesus have a manly, clean scent like that of my tree? Spicy like the cinnamon of my holiday baking? Or maybe his scent is hearty and tantalizing like homemade bread.

I may not know His exact smell, but I believe all these lovely aromas, like of all of creation, point to Him.

He is nourishing like bread.

Fun and a bit feisty like cinnamon.

Strong and clean like the fragrance of my Christmas tree.

My tree.

This gift of God, given through the willing hands of the man who loves me, is forever a reminder of the God who keeps His promises, the God who is forever green, strong and vibrant through storms, always producing something new in this world.

In my family.

In me.

And you.

And through all of us.

This Gift-giver is the God who gave His very self so we could be intimate friends with Him.

Friends close enough to catch a whiff of His fragrance.

My mind wanders to the Song of Songs, a love story I’ve taken for my own. I am the beloved of the Bridegroom.

We who love Jesus are His treasured bride.

His voice leaps from the pages of my Bible:

“I went to my garden, dear friend, best lover!
breathed the sweet fragrance.

I ate the fruit and honey,
I drank the nectar and wine.

Celebrate with me, friends!
Raise your glasses—‘To life! To love!’”

(Song of Solomon 5:1, MSG).

Precious Jesus, You are altogether lovely. You smell good. You are good. The garden of my heart is yours. Breathe in the fragrance of my love, the garden love You planted to be a sweet aroma to Yourself. How I love You! I celebrate You—Your entrance to this world as a baby, your offering upon the cross, your dwelling within me. But most of all I celebrate our friendship. Our love. Help me inhale Your clean, fresh fragrance every day. As we hang out together, make me so much like You that as I pass others a whiff of Your clean fragrance trails after me.

Still talking trees and Jesus tomorrow . . .

Until then,

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Like a Hallmark Ending

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can find the whole series here. This is part four of a specific story in the series, which starts with Advent Devotion 4, but really the whole context is helpful, so why not start at Advent Devotion 1?

Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them. Hebrews 6:9-12 MSG

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Our first tree ~ December 2014

Yep. It’s the Hallmark ending you’ve been waiting for.

Bewildered expressions marked my sons’ faces as they did their father’s bidding and unloaded the van. Stunned, they carried their first Christmas tree and two boxes of lights into our home. Jerry disappeared into his office, still processing his choice to bring us a tree.

Thankfully our son-in-law, David, was home because he actually knew how to set up a tree, something the rest of us had never done. He couldn’t wait to surprise his wife–our daughter, Sarah, whose employment at the church meant she was working that day. It was dark when Sarah texted her husband saying she was almost home. He asked us to turn out the lights on the tree and in the living room, so there would be no hint through the picture window of the surprise awaiting her. When she arrived, I asked her if she’d do us a favor and please plug in the lights.

“We have a Christmas tree?” She squealed.

Then, “We have a Christmas tree! We have a Christmas tree!” The little three-year-old finally had her dream after twenty years of waiting.

“Dad, do you know, do you know about the promise of the tree?” she asked. “I prayed it would be this year. While I was home.”

As Sarah and I told Jerry about the promise, I realized it was no mistake that our family home had been overrun by all of our adult children that Christmas. Our Lord orchestrated it all. Though I hadn’t been allowed to create “Christmas” for them growing up, the Lord sent everyone home for our first Christmas tree.

That night after my husband and Sarah and David had gone to bed, all three of those grown-up boys slipped into the living room sprawling their six foot frames across the carpet next to the tree. In the hush of night, with the twinkling lights punctuating our joy, we shared about the wonder of it, our first tree.

The story of why my husband bought the tree that year is too long for today’s devotional, and I promise to share of the story. But I have a point today, not just a poignant story.

We serve a God who is faithful to His promises.

He hears our heart cry.

He loves to give us good gifts.

There were many Christmas seasons, including that early December of 2014, I felt like Job’s words from The Message, “Where’s the strength to keep my hopes up? What future do I have to keep me going? Do you think I have nerves of steel? Do you think I’m made of iron? Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps? Why, I don’t even have any boots!” (Job 6:11–13).

But God offered hope in that year as he had in the others. Today I am not groaning as Job did. My heart shouts out in praise and joy, sounding more like the words in Romans, “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3–5, MSG).

Do you have a long unfulfilled desire, my friend? A longing beyond your control? If you are confident it is something the Lord has promised you, then hang on. Don’t give up.

He always keeps His word.

God, You are the giver of good gifts. Thank You for every gift You’ve given me and for every gift yet to come. Where I feel despair, please flood me with hope. If I have desires not of You, then please refine my heart so I can long for only the good You already want to give. If I have unfulfilled desires that are within Your plan, give me confidence that You will work in Your time. I know You are not capricious. You don’t dangle hope to snatch it away. You give promises to sustain. Then You keep Your promises.

More on why Jerry made such a momentous decision in the days to come. Stay tuned!

Until tomorrow,

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