Be Thankful, Gratitude is Good for You!

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.               1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

We have been told that being thankful and saying ‘thank you’ is polite and kind, but gratitude is also amazingly beneficial to our whole being. In an online Forbes Magazine article entitled 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round, evidence was given that gratitude is good for us. The article cited studies that reveal showing appreciation opens opportunity for future connection. It seems that we being thankful and showing gratitude make us more attractive to others to continue a conversation with or seek more interaction with. I know I have observed this in people at our local coffee shop. One woman, as she received her coffees, looked the barista in the eye, smiled and said, “Thank you.” The worker responded with a surprised but hearty, “You’re Welcome!” Others noticed the woman’s appreciation and helped her get her drinks together as another observer opened the door for her and say, “Wow, I bet your office is going love you this morning.” They exchanged a few more words as the conversation faded with the closing of the door. I even think the guy that held the door also helped get her car door. However, up came another customer, not in a thankful mood at all and barked out, “Where are my drinks.” The same barista handed them to the customer with a smile and, “Here you go!” The customer made no appreciative comment, no ‘Thank you,’ but utters an auditable disapproving ‘tah.’ What was very obvious is no one sought to help this guy pull together his drinks and as he headed for the door, people just got out of his way and basically avoided him. Being thankful connects us to others.

The Forbes article goes on to say that expressing gratitude has proven to improve heath, increase happiness, and reduce aggression. Thankful people are also proven to sleep better as spending a few minutes writing out what you are grateful put you in a more positive state that leads to deeper and longer sleep. Also, acknowledging those things you are thankful for, even in the midst of difficulty, builds emotional strength and resilience. I was just talking to my daughter who is a bit apprehensive about going back to work after her second child. Yet, in recounting all the blessings and ways God has provided help, her thankfulness is easing her anxiety.

Being thankful is truly good for us. This is why God encourages us to be grateful.

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

And since James 1:17 of the Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” we should be thankful to God.

Psalm 95:2-3 Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalms 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

Psalms 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

Psalms 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

So what are you thankful for? Why not take time to express your gratitude, not just the day of Thanksgiving, but start making appreciation a daily practice. Maybe even start a “Thankfulness Journal” and each night before you go to bed jot down a few expression of gratitude.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Be thankful. Gratitude is good for you!! Church is a great place to express thankfulness to God and contemplate those things in life we appreciate. If you do not already have a church you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our Branch Churches. Our website can direct you: http://cypresschurch.net/. We would love to connect with you.

Oh and thank you for reading this.

Seeking to be more thankful along with you,

Mike

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Is Church a Safe Place?

How do we grapple with the recent church shooting?

I’m sure many of you were once again shocked at the evil and heinous act of yet another shooter who took out his hate and anger on a little Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six dead, including children, the elderly, and even the pastor’s daughter, by the hand of deranged individual whose in-laws were part of the church. All shot while attending a Sunday morning church service! A church, a sacred, supposed safe haven for people to connect with God.

 

The questions flurry: Why would the gunman do such a thing? Why at the church? What is happening in our world that people would act out in this deplorable way? Why attack people who have no ties to the shooter? Why children?? Why the pastor’s daughter? The questions then go even deeper: Why would God not stop this or any evil? Where is God in this? Is church a safe place?

 

Many of these, and other questions, no one can answer and those who are close to the epicenter of this or any tragedy, no answer will satisfy their grief or relieve their suffering. Their pain and anguish will take time and love as they journey though the deep valley of their pain and affliction. God will and can help them.

Psalms 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

 

The reality of life is that evil has become more overt. There are more cases of bullying in schools, at work, and in our communities. Road rage continues to escalate. Domestic violence, crime, and mass shootings are ever increasing. People’s normal governors and restrains seem to dissolve or be overpowered with their obsession to act out their anger, hate, rage and aggression. The Bible, through the words of Jesus put it this way…

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In life there will be anguish, burdens, trials, persecutions, suffering, hard circumstances, and troubles. This tribulation is a result of our sin-saturated world (see Romans 3:23) where evil is allowed through the free will of humanity. See, God in His high value of love must also allow people to have the freedom to choose. It would not truly be love without this freedom of choice, making life far worse than we could imagine and we would be more like robots programmed to act. To have and experience love and God’s great love, there must also be the freedom to make choices, and some people choose evil. Their evil choices have destructive effects.

 

However, we also have the freedom to choose to be loving, kind, and helpful. Jesus put it this way…

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Actually, the best way to curb and combat evil and push back the darkness is to be kind, loving, and doing good. Jesus again challenges us…

Matthew 22:37-39 And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

As well we need to be wise as we live in these difficult days.

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I (Jesus) am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as

doves.

We need to be wise and step up security, even at church. I know at our church we have, and continue to develop, security measures and surveillance. We have a security team keeping watch as we worship. If you are a church leader, please look into making your place of worship a safe environment. You can connect with your local police department for insight. I have found a few articles on line that are helpful, one older one from Christianity Today and one recent from Thomrainer.com (if you are reading this in print form please email me and I will send you the links mike@cypresschurch.net). Sure, I wish we did not have to do all this, and yes, I trust God completely. Because of my trust in God I follow His Word, the Bible, and seek to be wise and make church a safe place to enjoy God and learn of His great love.

 

So let’s combat hate, anger and aggression with being loving, kind, and helpful, spreading the good of God. Yes, be wise, stepping up security. As well, let’s pray for peace and pray for those affected by evil.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Also don’t let fear keep you from church. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, please feel invited Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Seeking to push back evil with God’s love along with you,

Mike

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Take Time to Play

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play and author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul said, “I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being. The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.” In addition, an on-line article from Psychology Today entitled 5 Reasons You Need to Play More, states that play boosts creativity, helps us think outside the box, improves our health, make us present, and connects us. Play does add much to life and we should take time to play.

It is all too easy for the intensity of our day, the overwhelming list of to do’s, responsibilities, and action items to push out opportunities for enjoyment. Yet, play is important, even at work! Actually Stuart Brown has also said, “There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.” Yes, there are times we need to be serious and intense, but also times to play and dance. The Bible encourages this balance in life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Honestly, this area of play is one I personally struggle with as most of my childhood was surviving the upheaval of an alcoholic family and inheriting a drive to achieve. However, I have learned much from others, especially though those little professors of life in my grandkids, and other children I meet, like the amazing kids in my wife’s kindergarten class. I was with my wife’s class just the other day and play was as important as learning to write, and even in the learning there was an element of play. Play does recharge, rejuvenate, revive, refresh, renew, and regenerate. Many times, play does not just happen, we have to purpose to play, schedule play, and make and take time to play.

The Bible affirms the importance of play.

Ecclesiastes 5:18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

So what would it take to incorporate some good, clean fun into your day? Maybe it’s lunch at a new restaurant. Maybe it’s getting outside for a short walk, starting or picking up that hobby, or connecting with that fun friend. Play could be reading a fun book, watching a favorite show or comedian. Play could be a night out, a walk on the beach, taking in a movie, enjoying your favorite snack or beverage. Yes we need to be careful we do not have fun at the expense of others or have our play be hurtful in any way, but good clean fun is out there. Why not take time to play, even today!!

Church may not be the first place thought of when ‘play’ comes mind. But church should include times of fun and play. I know our church does. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

Seeking to take time to play along with you,

Mike

 

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The Adventure of Trust

Trust, belief, and faith are words that describe and challenge us to stretch beyond. The Bible calls this trust, faith and is describes as an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things not seen Hebrews 11:1. We extend minor trust all the time: trust in the products we purchase, trust in the chairs we sit in, trust in the banks we use, trust in the restaurants we frequent, trust in the friends we have, trust in the God we serve and live for. Minor trust or little trust comes easy, we read about the trust experience people have by their Yelp or other reviews making our trust not so risky, but safer.

 

Now, yes there is an adventure in minor or little trust but to make great strides in life, truly reaching our potential and enjoying the great adventure of life God has for us, we are going to need to extend great trust, belief, and faith. The adventure of trust is amazing! Two executives were talking about a business venture that would not only expand the market share but also bring their worthwhile product to an even greater audience. One executive was very doubtful, fear had gripped him and he was talking of all the potential pit falls and dangers. He blurted out, “What if we fail?” The other executive answered back, “But if we succeed!?!” as he listed off all the possibilities and benefits that could come. He spoke as if he could see it and as if it had already happened. Now, they did have to make sure their venture answered possible problems, seeing them as the normal rough roads of innovation and change, yet not getting stalled or stopped by fear. The short version of this story is they went for it and business expanded and many benefited from their great product. Their adventure of trust was worth it.

It is all too easy to get stalled or stopped by fear and not take on the risky adventure of trust. What if that new friend burns us? So we don’t risk trusting in new relationships. What if we don’t get that new job or new opportunity? So we don’t risk going after something that will stretch us because we might not get it and then have to deal with the rejection. Even with faith in God, the mystery of it all seems a bit daunting. So we keep God and faith in Him at a distance, not risking the adventure of trust, faith in Him.

 

What is amazing about faith in God is that He initiates and empowers us with faith.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The phrase “this is not of your own doing” not only speaks of grace, but faith. God even gives us what is needed to have faith. Actually faith is responding to God prompting. Faith in God is not some mustering up of super-belief or trust. The adventure of trust with God is simply responding to His encouragement.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Psalms 84:12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Psalms 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

 

So let’s jump into the adventure of trust. Don’t let fear grip you but navigate the obstacles and enjoy the journey. Maybe even try to stretch out in your faith journey with God. There is a great adventure of trust waiting!

 

Church is obviously a perfect place to grow in faith with God, but it is also a place to be encouraged in our adventure of trust. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Seeking to enjoy this adventure of trust along with you,

 

Mike

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Say Grace

Grace is unmerited favor, a blessing, a gift, getting what you don’t deserve. It is what God lavishes on us and we should emulate.

 

I was on a Costco run to pick up a few items (is it ever just a few items when you go to Costco?!?). I was dodging down the packed aisle I notice an older woman who was eyeing some food samples being laid out across the aisle. So enthralled in what was being displayed she bumped into a cart of a middle age couple. Surprised at the clash the older woman smiling sheepishly she said with a grace-seeking and humble bow, “I am so sorry.” You would think this to be a nonissue, accidents happen, she’s along in years and deserves some gracious margin, and besides, we are talking Costco samples! However, the middle aged man of the couple rammed his cart back into her, startling her and yelled in an angry tone, loud enough so all of us around could hear, “Hey, watch it lady!” He rammed her cart again. Just as a number of us were about to step in, his wife pulled his arm and steered him away, saying to him, “She didn’t mean it.” He glared at the older lady and moved on. The older lady kept smiling and went for one of those samples. I did too, but kept thinking how typical of our world today where earning, deserving, merit has pushed away kindness, love, and grace and replaced it with judgment, retribution, and vengeance. What is so needed today is grace.

 

Grace is what Christians call God’s extravagant love, care, and blessing initiated and freely given of God to any and all that would receive it. Some have described God’s gracious love as a beautiful breeze where we trim up a sail of faith to benefit from it. The Bible is packed full of explanations of God’s grace.

 

Grace is God’s gift of salvation from the deadly disease of sin.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Grace is the relentless love of God

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Grace is God including us in His faith family.

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His (God’s) own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

God’s Grace is sufficient for life

2 Corinthians 12:9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

God’s great and amazing grace should influence us so that we extend grace to others, saying grace with out actions.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Luke 6:36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

So let’s say grace with our actions and emulate God’s wonderful grace. We all love an undeserved gift. We could be that gift to people all around us, even today. Why not bless our world and say grace with your actions?

 

Church is a great place to learn of God’s amazing grace. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. Let’s learn of grace and show grace together.

 

Seeking to show grace with along with you,

 

Mike

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Be a Helper and Find Hope

It has been a devastating time these past few weeks and months: destructive hurricanes, demolishing earthquakes, violent storms, decimating fires, deadly shootings, horrific accidents, and in our city of Cypress, California, one of our police officers was tragically killed in an off duty car accident, leaving behind a wife and two young children. The news and online media outlets continue to bring us up close and personal to scene after scene of the devastation and heart wrenching stories of people, real people, like you and me suffering. It grabs ahold of us, even more so if we know someone personally touched by the tragedy, and takes us to a place where fear is crouching at the door and we wonder about the state of our world. One person on my Facebook feed asked the question, “With all that has happened, does anyone else think apocalypse?!?” Now most don’t think it’s the end of the world, but the dark cloud of hopelessness does loom.

 

So what do we do? How do we find hope? I love the quote from the late, but beloved Fred Rogers, who said…

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news or in movies and my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ For when we look to the helpers, we will find hope.” – Fred Rogers

What a great truth, for there are always going to be helpers. Mr. Rogers went on to encourage news reporting to include such stories to help children, and really all of us, to find hope in times of calamity (go here to see Mr. Roger’s quote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LGHtc_D328 ). To the credit of our news media, there has been a lot of reporting on prayer vigils, blood donations, people providing meals for firefighters, people helping neighbors evacuate, concerned friends housing animals displaced by the fires, neighbors helping to save another neighbor’s home, people giving to disaster relief organizations, and churches and business taking up collections to help in some way. There are a lot of helpers!

 

Helping brings hope, for it shows that the devastation is not all there is. Much of the difficulty of life we cannot stop or avoid. Even Jesus said…

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

In this world of tribulations we don’t just have to watch for the helpers, we can be a helper. Our instant, right now reality of social media puts us in at the epicenter of much of our world’s catastrophes, and we can help. We can all pray!

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing,

James 5:16b …The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Prayer works. Now sure, we don’t always get the answers we want, but there is a peace and hope that can settle in our hearts as we pray and trust God.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

So, yes, let’s pray, but if we are able, let’s give through our churches, or the Red Cross, or through reputable organizations. We can also donate our time, or clothes, or even blood. We can also find a way to encourage first responders who risk their lives for us. Let’s be some of those helpers and bring hope. What could you do today to be a helper?

 

Church can be one of those places that aid us in being a helper. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. Let’s find a way to be a help in our world and bring hope.

 

Seeking to be a helper along with you,

 

Mike

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God, I Don’t Understand

Stunned, horrified, deeply saddened and groping for more information flooded my emotions as I took in the tragedy that happened in Las Vegas. Equally, that same sense of dread and dismay crashed over me like an unexpected ocean wave as just weeks before we learned of violent riots, hurricanes, another church shooting, earthquakes, more anger driven aggression, and more mayhem making storms. Our world is a mess. It’s overwhelming, even more so if you or someone you know is at the epicenter, and in all this tragedy many cry out, “God, I don’t understand.”

 

It is difficult to grasp the immense suffering these catastrophes have caused as lives are cut short, fear is compounded, loss is expanded, insecurities are amplified, isolation is magnified, and tremendous and deep pain is intensified. No answer seems good enough and no explanation erases the haunting memory of the moment. However, it does help to talk about what we are experiencing, and to consider some important thoughts, especially about God.

 

One thought to ponder is that God is sovereign.

Psalms 97:9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Psalms 147:5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.

Psalm 24:1-2 The earth is the LORD’S and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Job 42:2 I know that you (God) can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

 

He is working His plan and purpose, including His plans for us (See Jeremiah 29:11). Yet, in God’s sovereignty, why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen even to good people?

 

This is where we need to remember that God has given humanity the free will to choose.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

When the biblical leader, Joshua, was stepping down he challenged the people of Israel to make their free choice…

Joshua 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Giving humanity free will is because of God’s great love! See, it would not be love if there were no choice. We would be robots programmed to follow tasks, not beings created to love.

 

Now, the unfortunate reality to this love induced free will is some will choose not to believe in God or follow God’s way of life, and humanity chose to go against God, seeking to be like God (see Genesis 3:1-24, Romans 5:13). Our world was then, and continues to be, saturated with sin. We are born with a sin tendency. It’s in the air, and there is an evil one constantly manipulating so people do not choose to believe in God or live life His way. That choice has consequences, some disastrous. Some choices can even be evil, like what the world witnessed in Las Vegas. This difficult truth does not hold much comfort, but brings understanding that people make bad and evil choices where bad things happen, even to good people.

 

So what do we do when those bad things happen? Yes, pray for the victims and their families. Give aid where you can: give money, step up to donate blood, give time to volunteer, help where you can, and care. The key is to have compassion.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

It is the sense of feeling with someone who is in pain: helping them carry their sense of loss, understanding their struggles, lifting and enduring the weight of their plight. Not judging, not ignoring, not placating, but walking with them as they travel this valley, knowing the truth of God…

Psalms 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  

Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

We may not understand all the tribulations of life, but we do know there is a loving God who will walk with us. Let’s keep turning to Him.

 

Trusting God along with you in tragedy,

Mike

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