We’re at War Hoss!

“It’s hard to look up to a man whose ear is always to the ground.” “We’re at war Hoss!” “We need statesmen, not politicians.” Those are just some of the catchier quotes from callers to Hugh Hewitt’s show. I must tell you the passion runs deep, as does the ire due our conservative Senators unwillingness to do the right thing. Cowardice in a man and leader is a very ugly thing.

There is very little in life I find as ugly as cowardice. Especially when it comes from people who purport themselves to be leaders. That’s why I’ve joined with Hugh Hewitt and other conservatives who are contacting our Senators who are considering signing a resolution expressing non-confidence about sending additional forces to Iraq.

The Senate just confirmed General Petraeus 83 to 17 in the Senate. General Petraeus and Secretary Gates have stated that signing and backing any such resolution will only serve to embolden the enemy and put our soldiers at further risk.

Just this last week five American’s were killed…murdered…when their helicopter was shot down. This is a preview of coming attractions if the enemy smells the fear from our leaders, their lack of support for our military and confidence in their ability to win this war. Loosing is not an option. We must win. Be wise and be a 9/11 American…not a 9/10 American.

Please contact the Senators listed below by e-mail, fax or phone…or all three. Let them know your concerns if we as a nation fail to back our military. Take “The Pledge” and get a clear message to our Senators.

Senator McConnell: Phone: (202) 224-2541 Fax: (202) 224-2499E-mail here.

Senator Lott: Phone: 202-224-6253 Fax: (202)-224-2262 E-mail here.

Senator Kyl: Phone: (202) 224-4521 Fax: (202) 224-2207 E-mail here.

Senator Ensign: (202)-224-6244 Fax: 202-228-2193. E-mail here.

Senator McCain: Phone: (202)-224-2235 Fax (202)-228-2862. E-mail here.

Senator Warner: Phone: (202) 224-2023 Fax: (202) 224-6295. E-mail here.

Senator Cornyn: Phone:202-224-2934 Fax: 202-228-2856. E-mail here.

Senator Smith: Phone: 202-224-3752 Fax: 202-228-3997. E-mail here.

Senator Coleman: Phone: 202-224-5641 Fax: 202-224-1152.E-mail here.

1/24/07 At the End of the Day…Regrets?

Tonight while studying the book of Ezra in Bible study…I was surprised by the verse that I found thought provoking.

At Kindred Community Church on Wednesday night one of our Elders, Dave Dunn teaches a Bible study. Dave is a wonderful Bible study teacher. His knowledge of the Bible, history and his heart for God help him to paint memorable pictures that remains with me each time I hear him teach. Sometimes listening to Dave teach…I feel like I could step right into the passage we are studying and be there. He makes the Bible come alive and the people of the Bible seem real, not just characters or names on a page…but real people.

For a couple of months now…we have been studying the book of Ezra. While I’ve read it before…it now means more to me as we’ve gleaned spiritual nuggets along the way.

Tonight’s passage was from chapter eight, verses 24-36. From this passage…the verse I want to remember and take with me is from verse 31b, “The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.” To always remember and never forget…that our God, my God is faithful…and He is good and He loves His own and provides for us.

But the verse that struck me was verse 31a, “On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem.”.

Why that verse you might ask? Well when I read that…I started thinking about what we had studied earlier. When the call went out to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon…not everyone wanted to return to Jerusalem. Some had grown use to and were comfortable staying in Babylon. So instead of returning to Jerusalem…they chose to stay in the foreign pagan land of Babylon.

But what I really wonder about…was on that day that the Jews, about 8,000 in number, chose to set out and return to Jerusalem…what were the Jews that remained in Babylon thinking? After all the preparation leading up to their departure was quite visible as they assembled by the Ahava Canal. It was obvious that God’s hand and favor was with them…even moving through King Artaxerxes.

Were they relatively oblivious to the Jew’s leaving? Or were there any folks looking on with a feeling in the pit of their stomach realizing that they made the wrong choice. That they missed their shot to return to the land that God had given them? And now it was too late. Or was it too late? Would Ezra have accepted anyone who made a last minute decision that they wanted to return with the rest of the Jewish exiles?

I think of the phrase that Charles Stanley frequently uses. “I can choose to obey God and see what He will do, or I can not obey God and spend the rest of my life wondering what God would have done in my life.”

It seems like the daily obedience in life prepares me to be obedient to God in the big decisions. I must have a listening ear towards God…with a mind, will and spirit willing to obey. That means trusting God…even when things don’t seem to make sense…from a human perspective. Leaving room for a work of God…not always planning everything out according to my handiwork.

I think one of my biggest challenges is having a listening ear towards God. I fill my days to overflowing. I love Bible studies, church and meetings…and listening to podcasts from my favorite pastors. Goodness knows there is enough of the everyday chores to eat up any remaining time. I find it hard to just be still…and listen to God.

I think there is something patently different about reading God’s word…than meditating on God’s word and waiting for God to speak. God doesn’t always do things quickly or on my time frame. It would also require me to choose to tune out some of the other distractions…some that are even quite worthy. I guess this is one that I will have to ask God to help me and guide me on.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

What would my choice have been if I had been one of the Israelite exiles in Babylon? Would I have stayed in Babylon…or returned to Jerusalem?

Take the Pledge…Not One Stinking Dime!

My dear Republican Senators…let me caution you…to not even go down the road of signing a resolution that criticizes the President and his commitment to send additional troops to Iraq. I promise you…if you sign any such resolution…not now, not ever will I give another dime to you, your campaigns or the National Republican Senate Committee if they do not unreservedly condemn your cowardly actions. Boys and girls…it time to stand up and back our troops.

Your life is not on the line in Iraq…have the courage, the moral courage, to back our men and women serving in Iraq. Don’t get wobbly weak knees now.

If you disagree with President, then tell your reasons…but offer a better solution. Never, ever take away support for the military that is serving.

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt has come up with a pledge to take for those who are committed to the men and women serving in our military. Below is the pledge taken from Hugh’s website. Please also be sure to let your Republican Senators know your concerns…and the consequences if they go down a wrong road.

The Pledge

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

Take the pledge, and tell the NRSC:

Ronald Reagan Republican Center
425 2nd Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Then e-mail Senator McConnell and Senator Ensign, and tell them too. Senator McConnell’s phone number is (202) 224-2541. Senator Ensign’s phone number is (202) 224-6244.

GOP activists and donors built the GOP senate delegation, as well as the majority that was punted away. They can disassemble it as well, and GOP support for a neoappeasement resolution is exactly the way to start that process.

The Congressional GOP has to realize it cannot have it both ways –you can’t be for victory after you were against it.

And GOP senators –alone or as a group– definitely cannot count on the support of the base if any of them vote for appeasement.

A Nobel American…Mark J. Daily

Lieutenant Mark J. Daily

Killed in Action…January 15, 2007

This magnificent piece was written by Lieutenant Mark J. Daily and is posted on his website Mark Daily at My Space. Mark was killed in action on Monday, January 15, 2007 in the city of Mosul when a bomb under his vehicle exploded. Three other soldiers were killed in the explosion: Sgt. Ian C. Anderson, 22, of Prairie Village, Kan.; Sgt. John E. Cooper, 29, of Ewing, Ky.; and Spc. Matthew T. Grimm, 21, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

Please take a few minutes to read this young man’s take on the Iraq war. When you consider not supporting our military and choosing to cut and run…please read Lieutenant Daily’s post telling why he joined the military, knowing full well he would be in Iraq.

Why I Joined:

This question has been asked of me so many times in so many different contexts that I thought it would be best if I wrote my reasons for joining the Army on my page for all to see. First, the more accurate question is why I volunteered to go to Iraq. After all, I joined the Army a week after we declared war on Saddam’s government with the intention of going to Iraq.

Now, after years of training and preparation, I am finally here. Much has changed in the last three years. The criminal Ba’ath regime has been replaced by an insurgency fueled by Iraq’s neighbors who hope to partition Iraq for their own ends. This is coupled with the ever present transnational militant Islamist movement which has seized upon Iraq as the greatest way to kill Americans, along with anyone else they happen to be standing near.

What was once a paralyzed state of fear is now the staging ground for one of the largest transformations of power and ideology the Middle East has experienced since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to Iran, Syria, and other enlightened local actors, this transformation will be plagued by interregional hatred and genocide. And I am now in the center of this. Is this why I joined? Yes.

Much has been said about America’s intentions in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and seeking to establish a new state based upon political representation and individual rights. Many have framed the paradigm through which they view the conflict around one-word explanations such as “oil” or “terrorism,” favoring the one which best serves their political persuasion. I did the same thing, and anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).

I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day “humanists” who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow “global citizens” to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn’t confront the Ba’ath party, the Taliban or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!) or even a creeping suspicion of America’s intentions.

When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow “humanists” and I would relish contently in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday.

Others would point to America’s historical support of Saddam Hussein, sighting it as hypocritical that we would now vilify him as a thug and a tyrant. Upon explaining that we did so to ward off the fiercely Islamist Iran, which was correctly identified as the greater threat at the time, eyes are rolled and hypocrisy is declared. Forgetting that America sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, who was promptly confronted once the Nazis were destroyed, America’s initial engagement with Saddam and other regional actors is identified as the ultimate argument against America’s moral crusade. And maybe it is.

Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein.

One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.

So that is why I joined. In the time it took for you to read this explanation, innocent people your age have suffered under the crushing misery of tyranny. Every tool of philosophical advancement and communication that we use to develop our opinions about this war are denied to countless human beings on this planet, many of whom live under the regimes that have, in my opinion, been legitimately targeted for destruction.

Some have allowed their resentment of the President to stir silent applause for setbacks in Iraq. Others have ironically decried the war because it has tied up our forces and prevented them from confronting criminal regimes in Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere.

I simply decided that the time for candid discussions of the oppressed was over, and I joined. In digesting this posting, please remember that America’s commitment to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons existed before the current administration and would exist into our future children’s lives had we not acted. Please remember that the problems that plague Iraq today were set in motion centuries ago and were up until now held back by the most cruel of cages.

Don’t forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed. Don’t overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war but don’t cheapen the moral aspects either. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural, democratic one is dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction.

So if you have anything to say to me at the end of this reading, let it at least include “Good Luck” Mark Daily

An Unexpected Hero

Eighteen years ago when I first met Mike…I wouldn’t have guessed that one day…I would consider him a hero.

Today…as I look at what he has accomplished over the years…he’s become one of my hero’s. The quiet kind…that live an ordinary life of excellence and perseverance. Not looking for applause or recognition…but someone who has a passion for excellence that he applies to everyday life.

Not to say that Mike is obsessive compulsive…but by golly when he does something it has to be done right. And when it’s not…it wouldn’t be unheard of to see Mike edit, correct, change, revise…or start all over again. Not just the big things like properly documenting an investigation, installing cameras or preparing an emergency manual. But things as simple as wrapping up a power cord to put in his well organized computer bag.

When it comes to training and showing people how to do it right…call on Mike. If you need a manual to aid in training…call Mike.

When I found myself ready to pull my hair out…because a less than conscientious employee was turning in another sloppy report or file…I could always find an understanding soul to commiserate with when I talked to Mike.

After a while…we all just learned to accept these quirks as Mike just being Mike. I use to like to tease him and tell him we were going to get him therapy. But honestly…when I grow up…I want to have that same passion for excellence that Mike does.

I probably I realized how extraordinary Mike is when tragedy struck his family…leaving him as a single parent. Without hesitation…he stepped up to the plate. A devastating experience for anyone…but he committed himself to being the best dad that he could be to his beloved daughter. Through love…they got through it together…and still do.

You might think that one so neat, tidy and organized is way too serious. Let me assure you…that’s not so. Mike is a fun loving guy…and always appreciates a good joke. When you get the likes of Mike, Peter C. and Kris together…watch out. Add to that equation…the instigators Robert or Louis…you’d better take cover. You’re likely to be the next target of their latest joke!

Through all these years…Mike has had a deep desire to go into law enforcement. Ever since I first met him…I knew he’d make a great cop! If I ever turn to the dark side…and had to be arrested…I’d want to be arrested by Mike.

Not only is Mike a man of excellence…he is a practical soul. Leaving a company that you’ve been with for over twenty years…is not an easy decision. Even if it means pursuing your dream. Not a lot of folks have that kind of courage.

However…when our company was recently sold…Mike decided to make that leap. He decided to pursue his dream…and go into law enforcement. Not only do you have to apply…you have to undergo background checks and numerous tests to make sure you are fit to serve. So…after he applied…then came the waiting game. After many months…I was so excited when Mike shared the good news…that he had been accepted into the Sheriff’s program.

Then came the hard part…many weeks of training. Lots of folks enter the program…but not all finish. It’s a tough program that weeds out those aren’t able to cut it…or decide it’s not their cup of tea. Mike’s a practical man…and did not over estimate his chances of success. He knew he had a tough road to hoe…but took it one day at a time.

This week I received a note that Mike is graduating from the Sheriff’s Academy and will begin working in the field he’s aspired to for ever so long. Timing is everything…and unfortunately…I won’t be able to attend the ceremony. But I’ll tell you…I’ll be there in spirit and bursting in pride for this man who is my friend and my hero.

Phrases like…simply the best…seem contrived and over the top. But when you hold that phrase up to the pattern of Mike…it’s a very close match.

May the Lord protect you as you serve and protect our community…in this, your life long dream fulfilled. My prayers are with you. Congratulations Mike!

1/15/07 At the End of the Day…Questions

I’m very tired after a long day in which I was on the go from beginning to end. In part from fatigue…and in part from studying God’s word and contemplating God, my life and so much more…I have many questions swirling around in my head. On some…I have a glimpse of insight, but others…I have only layer upon layer of questions.

What does it mean to be conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ?

What does that look like in mind, will, emotions, attitude, actions and behavior?

As I grow to be more like Jesus…how and in what ways will I change?

I want to know…I mean really know Jesus in a deeper and more personal way. What exactly doest that mean? What will I have to do to know Him more?

No easy answers…but oh what an adventure. If life’s not a grand adventure…then what’s it all for?

I am done…I’m finish…I’m no longer willing…to live a settled for life!

1/14/07 At the End of the Day…Mixed Bag

Being that it’s Sunday…I almost feel obligated to have a post of a more spiritual nature. Indeed God was part of my day…as He is every day. Church was most excellent today. As I close everyday…I thank God for brining me to such a loving and wonder church as Kindred Community Church. Also I give thanks for living in this amazing country…in which we are able to freely worhsip and study the Word of God.

However…my post this evening may seem relatively frivolous. Each Sunday after church I go to see my mother and we watch a movie. Some old movies…some new. It’s the one time during the week…where I may actually sit down and rest for an hour or two.

This week…I chose to watch “The Goodbye Girl” dating all the way back to 1977. It’s one of my all time favorites. (Good golly…that’s 30 years ago. Jeepers creepers…I’m getting old!)

The Goodbye Girl is a charming, funny, touching romantic comedy. Richard Dreyfuss’ character Elliot is ever so cute and charming. Who could resist falling in love with one so fun, whimsical and romantic…okay, okay and sexy too? What a charmer he is. I find that I still identify with Paula, Marsha Mason’s character…one who has been hurt and is vulnerable…but covers it up with her quick, witty attitude…hiding her softer side for fear of bearing more scars.

I find that old movies that I once loved have become like comfort food for my emotions and soul. All too frequently I avoid romantic movies…since they seem to act as a painful reminder of my single status. But every once and while it’s nice to wrap around the thought of a nice romance…try it on for size. Boy oh boy…it feels ever so good. It reignites the hope that one day that deep longing and prayer will one day be answered.

Despite sneaking in a short nap…watching “The Goodbye Girl” was just what I needed.

On an uglier note…have I ever told you how much I hate Alzheimer’s? I hate it! Well my mom has Alzheimer’s as do all the residents of her section of the assisted living facility.

One of the ugly things with Alzheimer’s is how it robs you of your dignity. It’s wretched. There are days…when time with my mom is reduced to me reminding her to chew and swallow or wipe her nose when it’s running.

But that was the least of today’s ugliness. In the middle our time together in walked Floyd. Normally he is the sweetest man around…with his smile and easy going disposition. It’s not uncommon for the patients to get confused and disoriented and forget which room is theirs. So I gently try and steer them in right direction.

However today…Floyd would have none of that. He was quite agitated and wouldn’t cooperate. Something as simple as taking his hand and showing where he needed to go…wasn’t working. It’s amazing…for an elderly person who is quite frail and unsteady…how strong they can be. So I was surprised when not only did Floyd resist me leading him back to his room…but he was pushing me away.

It was a rather disconcerting situation. Alzheimer’s patients don’t always listen to reason. So trying a normal tactic like speaking in a soft, calming voice, taking his hand…didn’t get me anywhere. There’s no telling what Floyd was actually agitated about. The whole situation left me with a pit in the middle of my stomach…and a prayer that this won’t go on much longer. Somedays I feel like I can’t take much more of it…someday I just don’t want to take much more of it.

Not a pleasant day visiting my mom today. More and more…she is loosing her ability to relate. She doesn’t speak too much…and regular conversations are a thing of the past. Right now it’s mostly time spent together…hopefully doing something she enjoys.

To end on a good note…she does enjoy her Frappuccinos or Ice Blended drinks. I do have fun trying to select a new or different flavor to bring her each week.

Gollum and Sam’s Response

Please check out the website of Curious Servant’s website at Job’s Tale and his piece “Smeagol & Gollum”.

Let me forewarn you…it’s thought provoking, challenging and you will likely be moved. Below are the comments I left in response to reading this most recent post.

Dear Curious Servant,

Powerful…very powerful.

I find I am like Sam…my first desire and instinct is to throw Gollum over the cliff…seeing the ugliness and evil and wanting to be done with it.

Yet there is a part of me…that also sees a thread, a remnant or promise of the good. I want to trust that…I want to believe in that too. To see that and believe that…is to have an eternal vision…and a long distance view.

It is only through the power of God…and through His strength and love within me that I am able to choose the later and not the former.

Wonderful piece. Very thought provoking…deep with many layers. Makes me want to pull out my Lord of the Rings videos…and watch them again. Or better yet also read the books again.

Thank you so much.

Lord bless…Susan

Chuck Obremski – Trusting God in the Fire

Chuck Obremski “Chaplain Runs the Longest Mile Home”

Randy Clark from TBN recently posted this video clip from an interview that he did with my beloved former Pastor Chuck Obremski. He conducted the interview shortly before Chuck died and went to be with Jesus in heaven. (Please click on the above link to watch the interview.)

When I listen to this interview…I’m reminded about what made Chuck’s testimony and witness so powerful. It was the words of a man who had preached God’s word for over 20 years…now living it out…to the end of his life what he had preached, taught and believed with all his heart, mind, soul and strength.

In the crunch time…in the fiery furnace…through the power and strength of the Lord…he chose to trust God. Trust His character, believe His promises revealed in His Word, that God has a purpose and plan and that He is working all things together for good.

That did not come about by happenstance…but instead came about through study of God’s Word over many years.

When I look at other men and women whom I admire greatly…I see that same characteristic and action. Knowing God intimately through daily study and reading of His Word.

Dare I do the same?

1/13/07 At the End of the Day…Rooted and Grounded

During the school year…on most Saturday nights you will find me working on my Bible Study Fellowship lesson. Tonight is no different. This year is my most favorite because we are studying the book of Romans. If one can say that they have a favorite book of the Bible…I would say Romans is my favorite…and this week’s chapter, chapter 8 is my favorite. But to narrow it down ever further…we studied vs. 28-39.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:28-39

I do believe that out of the entire Bible…if I could fully lay hold of these verses, comprehend them and live by them…they would transform my life. I’d say that this last year has taught me more about the truth of these verses in a more personal way…than ever before. As I reflect back…I now know God in a more personal way…as He stood with me and walked with me through every trepid and lonely step.

I must confess that many a time during this process…I did not feel His presence or His ever present help in times of trouble. But looking back at the wake my ship that sailed…I can see God’s presence and help along the way.

At times…the seas I sailed on were stormy and tumultuous and at other times peaceful and smooth as glass. There were many days…that felt like torpedoes…one after another were coming my way. Little did I know it but my lifeboat was at hand. Many a time…I was resting comfortably and safely in it as the storm assailed my tiny boat. But the Master was at the helm.

At times…my ship sailed ever so close to treacherous shoreline…when the storm threatened to dash my ship upon the rocks. However…oh Captain, my Captain with ease brought me safe into a calm harbor.

I found two questions in this week’s lesson most compelling. 1) We were to read through chapter 8 of Romans and tell which two statements we most wanted to remember and why? 2) What difficulty has Christ’s love helped us to conquer this year?

Reviewing chapter 8 and writing my responses…was both moving and difficult in the fact that it brought back painful times in my very recent past.

To the first question…there were two scripture verses that stood out to me the most.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31b

The obvious answer is that if God is for us…it is insignificant and it pales in comparison who stand against us…because God and His love is so powerful. In essence their opposition amounts to nothing. As much as some stood against me…more so, there were those people who did not stand with me. Even in that…I had the one Person…the One who matters most that stood and remains standing in my corner. He never left me, nor forsook me.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

It surprised me that this scripture verse meant a lot to me when reading chapter 8 this year. Normally vs. 8:28 is my favorite. In fact I consider it my life verse:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

But right now…verse 18 means a lot to me. To know that even though my present burdens seem very heavy that one day…I will look back and see that they were very light indeed. That God will repay me more than I can ever imagine or deserve for the troubles I’ve endured.

To the second question…what has Christ’s love helped me to conquer this year? Well…I guess all of the above is what He helped me to conquer. That which a year ago…I could never have imagined and I am most grateful to have not known beforehand was coming my way.

In some respects…it kind of scares me…because I know today is preparation for tomorrow. These recent difficulties were meant to help me grow stronger and prepare me for tomorrow.

That is why it is essential that I be rooted and grounded in the Word of God and be ever mindful of His work and presence in my life.

If any of you are in need of a good, strong, foundational Bible study…I would highly recommend Bible Study Fellowship. You will grow in wisdom and knowledge through God’s Word…and you will know God in a more personal way through the study of His word.

“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].” – Hebrews 11:6 Amplified Bible

How Susan Got Her Smile Back

“So like…am I the oldest person who has had their wisdom teeth removed?” The nurse smiled and assured me that no…they have had many people older than me see the oral surgeon for their wisdom teeth. That’s how my day started today…on this the culmination of my adventure…in how I got my smile back.

Now I’m not exactly sure when I developed this irrational fear of dentists. It seems that for as long as I can remember…I was terrified at the thought of going to the dentist. My mind knows they are good folks, in a noble profession, helping people in an important area of health. Not only health…but personal appearance…which effects emotional health and confidence in oneself.

But my emotions…they told a different story. My emotions said that dentists are glorified Nazis. Not nice folks…ones that like to inflict pain upon people. So where exactly did that come from? Coming from a girl that thinks too much…I thought about it.

I know I went to the dentist as kid. I had a few filings in my youth…but I have no recollection…good or bad, one way or the other. But what I do recall quite clearly is the orthodontist. I think I got braces when I was 11 or 12 years old. It wasn’t my idea or desire…but that of my parents. They wanted me to have braces because I had an overbite. So the adventure began with the unwilling and unhappy participant.

It was not a pretty time in my life. My dad had died a year or two earlier…and my mom Gayle and me had moved to California where we lived in a two bedroom apartment in Santa Ana. An occasional resident was my brother Michael. Living not too far from us in Garden Grove were my grandparents Mary and Henry. I was in another new school, a new state, and had to make friends all over again. (On a side note…by time I was ten years old…our family had moved ten times. Not fun…and explains a lot on why I have problems connecting.)

My mom had started back in school to become a nurse. All the while she was married to my dad Frank she had been a stay at home mom. Now she was back to square one…and made the leap to become a nurse.

It was sometime during that year that I got braces. Like I said earlier…not my choice. While it was a long time ago…I think I made monthly trips to the orthodontist…to undergo monthly torture. Unlike other dental procedures…the orthodontist in that day and time worked on my teeth without any painkiller. For those of you who had braces…you know full well the pain I’m referring to…the regular tightening of braces. Not only hurting during the dental appointment…but a pain that remained for several days as my teeth were adjusted.

As an adult…I would approach that pain by taking a couple Tylenol for a few days…but as a kid…I was clueless. Nary a word was said by the orthodontist about the pain. I think I had those bloody braces on for three or four years. Each appointment…my grandmother would pick me up from school and drive me to the doctor. She was filling in the gap and helping out while my mom was busy with her school work. Grandma and me weren’t close at all…cut out of very different cloth. But my grandfather was very sweet and precious.

My mom was not overly maternal…and one thing that I find odd especially considering that she was a nurse is other than the orthodontist…I didn’t have doctor appointments or dental appointments for teeth cleaning and examinations. It wasn’t a money thing or for lack of insurance…just one of those odd unexplainable thing.

So the only think I can come up to account for this irrational fear of dentists relates back to the orthodontist. I have only negative memories and pain associated with dental appointments. Those negative memories and impressions made for very poor choices in my dental future.

When I became an adult and was responsible for my own health care I avoided both doctors and dentists. It was about 10 years ago that I ventured to the dentist for an examine and teeth cleaning. The appointment only added to my negative impression of the dental profession. So rather than sucking it up…and doing the right thing…I avoided dentists again for far too many years…once again. If I had been able to avoid the little buggers until death…that would have been fine with me.

But God had a different plan. That plan included some painful encouragement that now was the time I needed to see a dentist. I’m one heck of a stubborn son of a gun. I dig my heals in and will persevere through so much…actually too much if the truth be told. But God got my attention in this last summer.

A summer filled with much stress due to job changes. In the middle of that stress was the month of August…which turned out to be a blur for me. For most of August…I was in intense pain…excruciating jaw pain. Precious little brought relief. My days were consumed with finding something, anything to bring pain relief. My wisdom teeth were on the move again. I was taking a blend of Tylenol and Alieve every four hours to bring the pain down to a tolerable level. Sleepless nights…and prayers crying out for relief did little to quell the pain. Finally I sent off a prayer request to Kindred’s prayer team. Shortly after sending the prayer request God in His mercy did lower the pain. Things remained the same for couple more weeks…and then finally relief…for which I was ever so grateful.

After reading some of my blog entries during that time…my sister Denise Silvestri called me to encourage me to make a dentist appointment. She said it was crazy to put myself through that pain needlessly. Being a mom…she’s rather adept at the good old maternal guilt and pressure. I think her winning argument was, “Susan…you jaw is very close to your brain. If you have an infection…it could go into your brain.” Between Denise’s argument and the occasional reminder of a twinge of pain…I bit the bullet and made an appointment with the dentist.

When you don’t already have dentist…it’s kind of like a stab in the dark finding a good one. But God’s hand guided me. The dentist I selected was Vaughn Stewart in Brea. Close by to work and home…so going to appointments would be relatively easy.

On my first appointment I advised Dr. Stewart and his staff that I was terrified of dentists and a certified dental wimp. They assured me that they understood and would tread lightly…and use Novocain as needed.

The month of September started me on the adventure that would bring my smile back. Over the next few months I would have many appointments…starting with an examine and X-rays to see where I was at dental wise. After that I moved on to teeth cleaning and received the bad news that I needed the dreaded “root canal”. Also lined up were fillings for new cavities and replacing the old mercury amalgam fillings with porcelain. Also on the horizon was having my wisdom teeth removed at the age of 47.

Well I got through the appointments one by one. Now I don’t know if Dr. Stewart is the exception to the rule…or dental procedures have advanced greatly over the year…but as bad as I thought it was going to be…all in all it was relatively simple. While not entirely pain free…it very tolerable. Novocain took care of the pain during the actual procedures…and a few Tylenol afterward kept any pain manageable.

Even the dreaded root canal was not so bad. One of the gentlemen at church, Les Nesbitt, called with a recommendation for an endodontist, Dr. Merrill Schmidt in Santa Ana. While not the first experience I’d want to sign up for…if you are in need of a root canal…I would highly recommend this doctor.

As the months ticketed by…I got the fillings taken care of as well as the root canal. As I neared the end of my treatment plan…I got two porcelain crowns. While all of this wasn’t cheep…I was ever so grateful to finally get it taken care of and for the provision of dental insurance which helped ease the financial pain. The one thing that remained was the removal of my wisdom teeth. Out of all of these procedures…I feared this one the most. Good golly…I’m 47 years old…who in their right mind gets their wisdom teeth removed at that age? Namely…me.

Early on in this process when Denise was putting the pressure on to go to the dentist…she had an excellent recommendation for an oral surgeon. Dr. Kim DiPasquale was the doctor who had removed her children’s wisdom teeth…and Denise gave him a thumbs up. In December…God gave me a gentle reminder of pain to spur me on to make that final appointment. All it took was that one painful reminder…and I called that day to make the appointment.

Everyone hears horror stories on removal of wisdom teeth. While I wasn’t looking forward to the appointment…I was looking forward to the knowledge that never again would those third molars bring me any more pain.

Well today was that fateful day. I scheduled a couple of days off work…for the appointment and recovery time. As the day approached…I was a titch nervous…but kept my focus on the other side of the pain. My partner in crime was Denise who had committed to taking to and from the appointment.

All in all…12 hours later after the appointment I am ever so glad I had them removed. They gave me some darn good drugs…and you don’t feel a thing or have a clue what’s going on during the procedure. You wake up and it’s done…with relatively little pain or discomfort. What’s amazing is how quick the procedure is. I was in and out of the office in a little over an hour. And the X-ray machine…way cool. You rest your chin and the machine does a panoramic scan around your head/jaw. Medicine continues to advance…to the benefit of doctors and patients.

It’s a done deal now…no more pain from wisdom teeth. The bleeding stopped after a few hours…I’ll be rinsing with salt water for the next few day, taking it a little easy and eating lightly as I recover.

I have a couple of brief follow up appointments. One with the oral surgeon…and one vanity appointment for teeth whiting with my dentist.

In the future when I get those reminder calls from my dentist…I won’t hesitate to come in for a check up and teeth cleaning. If low and behold I have to have a filling…I know it’s not a big of deal. After going through all these dental appointments over the last four months…I’m more committed to better dental care. That includes not only brushing my teeth in the morning and evening…but even packing a toothbrush and toothpaste to work so I can take care of my teeth after lunch. Heck…Dr. Stewart even got me on the flossing band wagon.

These days you won’t find me cupping my jaw because of pain. You won’t find me avoiding the dentist…and you won’t find me keeping my smile in check because teeth don’t look to spiffy.

Now when I smile…I’m not worried how my teeth will look. By golly that feels so good…more than you’ll ever know. Earlier I had mentioned that how your teeth look affects your personal appearance and confidence level. I know that up close and personal.

That’s the journey…on how Susan got her smile back.

My thanks to God…for His patience and helping me to get through that which I greatly feared. Thank you to Denise for her no nonsense encouragement to do the right thing…and be there to take me to oral surgeon. Thank you to Kindred’s Prayer Warriors…for praying me through. Thank you God for the provision of dental insurance. Thank you to my employer for their understanding and allowing me to keep those doctor’s appointments over these many months.

Thank you to Dr. Stewart, Dr. Schmidt and Dr. DiPasquale and their respective staff…for your excellent work…and getting me through that which I could not have imagined…with kindness, gentleness and concern.

One last note…I’ve decided if I turn to the “dark side” and do something which merits the death penalty…I’m opting for the lethal injection. Those drugs today…that put me to sleep…the only way to go!

1/7/07 At the End of the Day…Lesson Learned

Sometime ago I had received an e-mail from a woman…a fellow Christian writer/blogger with some godly counsel regarding a link I had on my website. In her e-mail she expressed concern that I had a link to Joyce Meyer’s website and advised me that I might want to re-evaluate that decision since at times Joyce’s teaching has leaned on the side of the word faith movement.

Since I’m relatively well grounded in my study of the Bible (through Bible Study Fellowship and great Bible teaching from Chuck Obremski, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, David Hocking, etc.), I felt convicted to some degree and made the decision to remove the link. After all I didn’t want to lead astray anyone, young in their Christian faith, who may not be very discerning or rooted and grounded in Biblical doctrine.

Probably about that time…I thought to myself, “Gee wiz…perhaps I ought not to be listening to Joyce either.” Time went on…before I knew it my scheduled had changed and I was not able to listen to Joyce’s program while I got ready for work in the morning. But I kind of had that nagging feeling that in fact I did miss listening to Joyce Meyer’s program. Not because it made me feel good…or promised me much prosperity…but because Joyce’s teaching helped me to walk a better, everyday Christian walk. She offers some very practical advice on how to walk the Christian walk…even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

Somewhere along the line…I discovered a post at Debra’s website As I See It Now in which she talked about being less concerned with what others thought was an acceptable or okay ministry and what wasn’t. She said that God is even able to use ministries whose doctrine may vary a bit. Debra never mentioned any names…so I’m not certain whom she was referring to. But after reading that…I felt convicted again…and the thought kept nagging at me. Perhaps I was being a hypocrite to so quickly jettison a ministry…a good Christian ministry that had help me to grow in my Christian walk…just because I had received some criticism. Criticism that was well meaning and even accurate in its concern on Biblical grounds.

One of the joys of having an I-Pod is subscribing to various podcasts…from political or secular shows to ministries. I love it…and it’s a wonderful way to keep informed, built up in the Word of God and educated. Recently…I subscribed to the Joyce Meyer radio show…and started listening to Joyce once again.

I’ve got to tell you…that there is something in that woman’s teaching which genuinely helps me to be a better Christian. In the practical, everyday walk of life…when I’m listening to Joyce Meyer’s program…I’m a better Christian. One, who trusts God more, is more willing to submit God and His plan in my life, to treat others better…even those who might not deserve it.

So at the end of the day…I can see plainly that I’m better for having listened to Joyce Meyer’s teaching.

Now for those Christians who are young in their faith I would counsel you to examine all Bible teachers’ messages against what the Bible says.

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11

1/6/07 At the End of the Day…Most Blessed

One of the things I treasure most in this world is my church, Kindred Community Church.

Even when we were still a Bible Study… I knew I beheld a treasure and was most grateful to God for bring me to this wonderful place. A place where the Word of God is taught uncompromisingly in a powerful way. God soon grew our Bible study into a Church. One that set out to “Reach the World with the Word”.

I was ever so excited as we ventured out as a church. I remember well our first Sunday in the Elks Club in Santa Ana. After that first Sunday…we had to move to the largest room they had available.

It was through the illness and death of my beloved Pastor Chuck Obremski…that God knit our congregation together with a thread of love. A weave which remains tightly held together with love…but with a loose enough weave that we welcome into our fold those who come to Kindred.

Tonight I heard a story that warmed my heart. Doreen Apple has had the opportunity to share with a family that has become near and dear to her heart. On Christmas Eve, many of the family members came to our Christmas Eve service. God has used Doreen to share His Word with this dear family.

Recently one of the youngest members Joseph was inquiring how Kindred got its name. Doreen explained to Joseph our church’s history. Precious Joseph commented that he wished that he had been there when we first started as a church and he would have named it, “The Church that Loves Jesus”.

When Doreen asked why…he said because everyone he’s met there is in love with Jesus. And indeed we are.

If you live in the Southern California area…I would invite you to come to our Sunday morning church service…which starts at 9 AM. If you would like to hear any of Pastor Chuck’s great preaching of God’s Word…go to Kindred’s website and click on the Audio Ministry page.

Tonight and always…I am most grateful for bringing me to a saving faith in His Son Jesus Christ. I am thankful…that He allowed me to find Kindred…where I am fed the Word of God in the most loving church I know. I am most blessed by God.

Lessons from Noah’s Ark

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark

One: Don’t miss the boat.

Two: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

Three: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

Four: Stay fit when you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

Five: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

Six: Build your future on high ground.

: For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

Eight: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

Nine: When you’re stressed, float a while.

Ten: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

Eleven: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.


Recently I found my thinking was challenged when I was greatly disappointed in the actions of another. My feelings were hurt…and I overreacted emotionally. Rather than saying, “Gee wiz…that hurt my feelings and I feel let down and disappointed”…I wanted to say, ‘I’ve lost all respect for you.”

Part of me wanted to “hit back” emotionally. To let him feel the same sting of hurt that I felt. To pound home the point of how much his actions hurt.

However after sometime passed…I had to ask what does it really mean to say “I’ve lost all respect for you”? Is it just a one time only action (or lack thereof) that smashes a history of proven character over time? Unless we’re talking a serious moral breech…I don’t think so. I’m talking murder, molestation…theft…or something pretty big…yeah then I could see that. But the everyday actions of life…some good choices…some bad choices…probably not. That instead comes under the realm hurt or offence.

Perhaps letting the words rip “I’ve lost all respect for you” feels good in the moment…but in some respects it’s kind of lazy. I don’t have to think about what’s really bothering me. I don’t have to take the time or effort to explain what I’m feeling. And I don’t have to take the risk and expose myself and be vulnerable to someone who just hurt me. I don’t have to risk him saying…”I don’t care”…or worse yet, “Good, I’m glad I hurt your feelings…because I hate you!”

Depending on the person…that may not be a risk I want to take. But hopefully people I’m involved with are people who are emotionally safe.

When I realized that perhaps I had “overreacted” or was being overly critical…I started thinking about the word respect. Specifically holding up the magnifying glass of respect and seeing…did I really loose all respect? Or was something else going on?

What are some of the elements that make up the word RESPECT? Some that I came up with help define it or are elements are listed below. They are in no way definitive:

Responsible (Dependable)

Expectations (for oneself and others)

Steadfast (Persistent, Unwavering)

Purposeful (Focused, Determined)

Ethical (Knows he is accountable to God…and it effects/determines his actions and how and what he does it. Caring)

Character (Moral, Internal Consistency…he’s the same in all situations and with all people)

Truthful (Honest, no guile, real)

When I look at his actions…against the measuring stick of respect…in all honesty I can’t claim I’ve lost all respect. There might have been one or two of those elements that were breeched temporarily. But a history of proven character can’t just be thrown under the bus.

Have I “lost all respect”? No! Was I disappointed? Yes!

So that I might be consistent…in another situation when I hold up this same mirror of respect against the actions of another…I would say more of those elements were violated. In a way…I have lost respect. But even that instance is more accurately described as disappointment. A keen disappointment…but one more all encompassing over a period of time.

As New Years Eve approached I debated…should I send a letter? Should I reach out? , Say, “Hey…I know that you are a better person than that and I don’t want to “throw you away.” I knew exactly what I wanted to say. But at the end of the day I decided not to send the letter. Why? Because all other attempts to reach out were rebuffed. Even I…one who is slow on the uptake…gets it.

But at least I feel a release from the hurt of disappointment. My desire to send a letter told me that I was walking in forgiveness. My decision to not send a letter…was me walking in reality.

Can God work in the hearts and minds of people? Absolutely…He does everyday in my life.

I guess I’m walking away from these experiences with a challenge to examine more closely my feelings before emoting. Speak my mind…share my feelings…yes. But do so with more thought and intent behind those words. Which goes back to an earlier post…I need to live more intentionally. Intentional in my words, thoughts and actions.

1/5/07 At the End of the Day…Tired

On average…I’ve been getting about four to five hours sleep a night for quite a long time now. On occasion…I’ll sleep a full night’s sleep of seven or eight hours.

But this lack of sleep is really catching up with me. I’m exhausted all the time. My head feels fuzzy and I find it hard to think clearly.

I feel like there are just not enough hours in the day. Rather than go to bed a wee bit earlier…I’ll more often than not supplement with caffeine. I often joke around saying, “Good thing coffee is legal…otherwise I’d be sneaking around trying to by dime bags of Folgers on the street corner.”

It’s an exaggeration…but not by much. Ever once and a while…I’ll check my brain at the door and get the brilliant idea that I can snack on the chocolate covered espresso beans. Not a really good idea…for oodles of reasons.

But my Heavenly Father bids me to come unto Him and He will give me rest. So off to bed I go.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Good night…and sweet dreams.

1/3/07 At the End of the Day – Repentance

This evening post could actually qualify for a new website I’m working on called Susan’s God Stops…in which I jot down when I recognize God’s presence in my life…and the message He may be conveying to me at that time.

Today was rich and filled with God Stops for me. Ones that ultimately challenged me, convicted me…and ultimately lead me to repentance. I have ever so hugely failed God in letting doubt and unbelief take hold of my emotions and thoughts with respect to all the changes in my life in the past year.

In so many respects…2006 was a year of great loss and disappointment…impacting my job, my mom, friends, family, physical pain and even my dear pets. It seems like so much of my life was touched.

In the crunch time…when push came to shove…all too often instead of trusting God when answers were not readily apparent…I fell into doubt and unbelief. I doubted that God really cared for me. I believed the lies of Satan.

When I reflect on different aspects of last year…I wonder how different things would have been if I had stood firm in my faith.

When I didn’t understand why I lost the job I loved and the actions of others…I could have trusted God, instead of doubting. Knowing that He had a purpose and plan. Take my hurt to God for His care and healing touch…rather than expect a person to make it all better. Be assured that none of this took Him by surprise. That He is calling me to something new. That He removed me and put a hedge of protection around me and He did not allow me to return for a reason. That I had allowed work to become too important to me. That instead I need to serve God with the same fervor that I served man.

Well today God gave me another insight into why He may have allowed these circumstances to transpire. Would He have revealed it sooner if I had trusted Him? Would I have not needed additional assurance if I had stood firm in my faith? This insight I think I’ll ponder in my heart rather than share it at this time.

Other areas of my life were touched this year as well…including my mom who suffers with Alzheimer’s was hospitalized twice. In the aloneness of that time when my brothers were absent as they have been for several years now…I was overwhelmed and felt resentful towards them. On a drive home one night after leaving the hospital…God mercifully revealed His hand of protection in their absence.

In so many of these circumstances…I would have far better weathered the storms that assailed me…if I had trusted God, His character, work, purpose and plan in my life. On occasion I got it right. For a while I did trust God and didn’t ask why. But when I failed to stand firm and trust God…boy oh boy did I fall.

So God…tonight…I humbly come before you and confess my sin of doubt and unbelief. I confess there are times that I didn’t trust you…or believe that you cared for me. I didn’t look closer to see Your hand in my circumstances…and know that there were bigger things going on.

I thank you that You are a God of second chances and can redeem even my failings and use them for Your Kingdom and glory. I thank You for Your hand of protection upon me and removing that which You determined necessary. I give over to You…a bundle feelings too numerous to mention…and too personal too share with the world. I thank You for giving me insight along the way as to why You allowed the circumstances I encountered. I thank You for the lessons I learned, what it revealed in others and me.

So God…what is it that You would have me to do now? Give me ears to hear I pray. Jesus…thank You for walking each step with me…and carrying me when I fell. PS…Jesus…please stay close by me…I’m quite certain I will fall and once again…and turn to Your precious hand to lift me up.

1/2/07 At the End of the Day…Accepted

At the end of the day…I am grateful to know that even if all men leave me or reject me, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will never leave me nor forsake.

Even if I’ve become a pariah in their eyes…that I am accepted in the Beloved.

I’m grateful to know that even though my feelings are like waves in the ocean…Jesus Christ is my steady Rock.

I’m grateful to know that my feelings are not the final arbiter…but instead Truth is found in God’s Holy Word the Bible.

May I be ever mindful that the Truth shall set me free!

Dear Jesus…I look forward to how you will answer and fulfill the scripture verse that you have given me for 2007. I look forward to Your amazing work in my life. I pray that You will remove my reproach and shame.

1/1/07 At the End of the Day…Grateful

At the end of the day…the first day in January 2007…I find myself grateful for a couple of things in particular.

1) Having ears to hear anew. This afternoon while taking down Christmas decorations and cleaning…I turned on the DVD from the 2006 Women of Faith conference. I’ve watched this DVD multiple times…but I swear this time I heard things I didn’t before.

Isn’t that true with God’s word…it’s new every morning and for every situation. I may have read a passage twenty times before…but this time…God brings to mind something that applies to my current situation.

2) Encouraging people…people like Teresa Shirkie at Canadian Blogger. Miss Teresa and those who have the gift of encouragement build people up. They look for the good and always have something nice to say. They are focused on others…and seem to be aware of the power of words…whether spoken or written. They freely share. Because what they do and say seems to come so naturally… they may not even be aware of the good they do in the lives of the people they encounter.

Miss Teresa…I am most blessed by God to have discovered you…my Canadian friend and kindred spirit.

(Launching a new blog…called at the End of the Day. A place to record a thank you to God for that which I’m grateful for.)