Letters

Glad I’m Not Domesticated


I gradually drifted toward wakefulness the other morning. I rubbed my eyes, and looked at the clock, and rubbed them again. This was later than I expected.

I stumbled out the bedroom door, and the cat was standing next to her food dish, yowling for my attention. The food bowl was empty, and she is used to being fed earlier than this, thank you very much.


Later, she stood at the back door, watching the birds on the patio, and yowled again. I’d like to go out now, and chase some birds, please. She gave up after I’d ignored her for a while, and wandered down the hall toward her potty box.

A thought crossed my mind. “Aren’t you glad you’re not domesticated.” My mind went through some quick acrobatics in response: Me? Domesticated? Hah!

And then, wait. There was a season when I couldn’t feed myself. I had to “hold on!” until Sunday, when the pastor would spoon-feed me the same basic, elementary doctrines that I’d been spoon fed last year.

There was a season when I needed someone else to let me go outside once in a while. Unless I had assurances from senior Christians, I couldn’t trust that it was OK to go to things outside the church organization and church programs.

And there was a season when I needed someone else to change my potty box, or maybe change my diapers, because – even as an adult Christian – I couldn’t deal with my sins and failures myself. I always needed someone to point out to me, “Hey, that’s really not right,” or I always needed to have people pray for me to get me past some stumbling point. (Don’t go too far: prayer for one another is wonderful. But to always need others to pray for you to get past any trial is not a sign of health or maturity!)

So I stood there, watching my cat saunter down the hall towards the potty box that I’d cleaned out for her, I realized, not all that long ago, that was me. I had actually spent a good portion of my life domesticated, needing others to take care of every little thing for my life, as a human, as a man, and as a Christian.

Suddenly humbled, I nodded my head gratefully. “Yes, Sir. Yes, I am very grateful I’m not domesticated. Or at least not as domesticated as I used to be.”


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Letters

The Private Use of Miracles


It’s right there in Mark Chapter 8, but I’ve never heard anybody teach about it. Here’s the relevant part of the text:

Related image13 [Jesus] left [the crowd], got back into the boat, and crossed to the other side.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Watch out!” He cautioned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 So they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.
17 Aware of their conversation, Jesus asked them, “Why are you debating about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Do you have such hard hearts? 18 ‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you collect?”
“Twelve,” they answered.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you collect?”
“Seven,” they said.
21 Then He asked them, “Do you still not understand?”

-----------------

I get it that the warning (v15) about the influence of the Pharisees (religious spirit) and Herod (political spirit) preaches really well. That’s cool.

And I get the encouragement (v18) that there are three ways of building faith from miracles (seeing, hearing, remembering). That preaches nicely, and I’ve benefited from that lesson.

But in the midst of all this, Jesus is chiding the disciples for their concern about provision (food: bread). The clear implication of the conversation is that Jesus is completely comfortable with using the same miracle that he used twice before for thousands, but using it this time to provide for himself and his 12 disciples. He doesn’t actually come out and say it, but it’s pretty clear nonetheless.

This challenges a belief that I didn’t recognize I had, and it makes me uncomfortable. I find that I’ve believed that miracles are for evangelism, or for public ministry, that somehow using them to cover for my mistake of poor planning was disrespecting the miracle.

But Jesus rather blows up that false belief. (And if that weren’t enough, he does it again in Matthew 17:27, where he sends Pete to get their tax money from a fish’s mouth! And he walked on water just to meet up with his boys who had left earlier.)

As I reflect on my crumbling misbelief, I realize that it includes the assumption that God loves “them” (whoever “them” is) more than he loves me, that he is pleased to provide for hungry masses, but for some reason, I don’t qualify for that sort of miracle.

I call that out as a lie. That’s not true. God loves me. Period. And since he’s an infinite God, with infinite omnipotence and stuff, therefore his love for me is infinite: it is not possible for anyone ever to be loved more than he loves me. Not crowds of sinners, not the 12 disciples, not that missionary in Africa who gets to raise the dead so often. Not even you. He loves me fully, completely, infinitely.

It’s OK. He loves you that much, that way, too.

And apparently, he’s OK with relying on miracles for everyday life, for lunch, for taxes, for meeting friends. Wow.  


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Letters

The Grant Covenant


There are various types of covenants that could define relationship between people. Some are covenants among equals (such as a marriage covenant). Many are covenants between a superior and an underling.

One of those covenants between a superior and a lesser person is called a “Grant Covenant.” It is what it sounds like: the great person doesn’t negotiate, doesn’t require anything. They just grant the covenant. “Hold still and let me bless you.” The lesser person does nothing to deserve it.

This video is my second favorite example of a grant covenant (though of course, it’s not a perfect example).  Prince Edward does not ask anything of William, offers no conditions, no negotiation. He just frees him from prison and makes him a knight in the kingdom of his father. He doesn’t even ask Will’s permission.  Will could have refused it, I suppose, but there was no negotiation here.


That reminds me of my most favorite example of a grant covenant, and this one IS a perfect example:

“Jesus Christ… has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” [Revelation 1:5&6]

King Jesus also does not offer any conditions, no negotiation. He just frees us from prison and makes us, not knights, but “kings and priests,” heirs of the Kingdom of our Father. He doesn’t even ask our permission. Yeah, you can refuse it I suppose (at least for a while; he can be very persuasive), but there has been, and will be, no negotiation.

Note that this grant covenant is pretty much the covenant that God offered the children that Moses led out of Egypt [see Exodus 19:6], which they rejected in favor of a less scary covenant.

And the more I learn about this Kingdom that I’ve been granted a position in, the more I understand why they thought it was scary. There is an obligation that comes with real authority. It changes us.

We are no longer slaves, so acting like a slave is no longer appropriate. We’re kings, we’re heirs, we’re priests. So no, as a result of the grant, we act differently. We respond differently to the King and to the world around us now. 

Or as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben said it, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s true. Even if we’re freely granted this covenant, this kingliness, this priesthood; even if we have done nothing to deserve it.

This, then, is our covenant. It’s a grant. We’ve done nothing to earn it. We just stand still and let him bless us.

And then we live from this new place, this new identity.

  

(If the embedded video doesn’t work, the whole scene is here: https://youtu.be/JWgf-UqkD_A)



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Letters

Lessons on Giftings & Callings From an Unlikely Source


I learned some things recently, and it’s not exactly rocket science.

This fellow looks like an eighteenth century British scientist, kind of like Sir Isaac Newton. Both were knighted by the queen (different queens), and they’re both astrophysicists, but this fellow is way more well known than Newton, though not primarily for his astrophysics.

Sir Brian May is better know as the guitarist and co-founder of a band that the Guinness Book of Recordssays is literally more popular than the Beatles ever were. He’s also a Doctor of Astrophysics, a 3-D stereoscopic photographic authority and a passionate advocate and campaigner for animal rights. (https://brianmay.com/brian/biog.html)  

I was listening to a song he wrote in honor of a flippin’ spaceship of all things (it’s a wonderful song: https://youtu.be/j3Jm5POCAj8), when some interesting thoughts wandered by.

• Your reputation does not determine who you are, or what you get to do with your life. (There are exceptions.)

• Your gifts and skills, even your gifts, do not determine who you are or what you get to do with your life. (Though they may provide some limits.)

• If you have great skills in one area, don’t be afraid to use those skills. (Planet Rock rates May as the seventh greatest guitarist of all time. [https://nwp.link/2FvwYoa])

• If God blindsides you with success in an area, don’t be afraid of changing your path. (May was in the midst of his doctoral thesis on the Motions of Interplanetary Dust when his side gig, a band called Queen, suddenly found some success. He quit his studies to play guitar.)

• If you follow the blessing of God, don’t necessarily let go of your previous dreams. (After a 30-year break for rock-and-roll super-stardom, May finished his thesis, and got his PhD in 2007.)

• You can still follow other interests, too. Your job or your studies (or your ministry) is not your entire life. (May started a stereoscopic imaging publishing company, was a University chancellor for a few years, and was a collaborator with NASA for the New Horizons Pluto mission.)

My sense is that some people (I decline to comment about whether this includes myself or not) have sometimes felt, “Well, I have some gifting [or some success, or some training] here, I guess this is what I’m going to do with my life,” as if the gifts of God were a life sentence.

Stated in more blunt vocabulary, a lot of western believers seem to be awfully religious about their life choices, choosing a career because of religious expectations, or following a path of failure (of one sort or another) just because they see it as their religious “duty.”

I’m not saying your choices will lead you down an easy path. Most of God’s paths aren’t rosy: look at Jesus’ example. But if Jesus isn’t on the path, maybe you shouldn’t be either.

If you’re looking for Biblical support for this, consider how Jesus walked away from successful ministry (Luke 4:43), or how Paul bypassed part of the Great Commission for his ministry choices (compare Matthew 28:19’s commands with 1Corinthians 1:17).

Walk with Jesus. Know him well. Love him well. Then do what you want, what you feel you should do. Do what actually works for you.


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Letters

Managing Natural Disasters

I confess, I have some obstacles with how we pray about those events we refer to as natural disasters.

First let me clarify: it's clear to me that we do have both the obligation and the authority to speak to natural disasters and effect change there. I'm just not convinced it's wise planet management to always speak to every act of nature that inconveniences man.

Our species, the race of mankind, is responsible for what happens on this planet. We were delegated that responsibility by the planet's Creator. It's a pretty serious thing, and I take that seriously.

So yes, natural disasters are within the sphere of our responsibility.

Thus far in our maturation as a people of God, I observe three primary ways we deal with natural disasters:

 1.  We ignore them, because they happen to other people, other places (or because we don't know any better), or

 2.  We panic before the disaster and mourn and wail after it. or

 3.  We decide that this event is a bad thing, and rebuke it (with varying results; we're still learning).

In point of fact, an argument can be made for each of these reactions at different times, though I have hesitation about how healthy each of them actually is as a default response.

But the issue that's got me scratching my fuzzy head today is this: where, in this process, do we perform our evaluation of the situation? Where do we assess how much our involvement is actually necessary, and what the best intervention might be?

We live on a planet that has a very long history of things happening to it. Since before Adam and Eve took their first job assignment, the planet has been active: storms spreading water around, volcanoes adding to land masses, forest fires cleaning up the leftovers of life in a busy forest, earthquakes from tectonic plates jostling. You know, those things.

And when mankind stepped onto the stage, we renamed them. Suddenly, they were no longer our planet doing what our planet has always done. Now, suddenly, these are "disasters."

If we want to get overly anthromorphic, we can talk about whether it's fair to the planet to suddenly redefine what had always been its healthy processes, I suppose. I figure that's something analogous to deciding that poop is icky, and making the decision never to poop again. There might be side effects.

Or we could consider how reasonable our expectation is that the planet should suddenly change how the water cycle works, or how it cleans up after itself, or how the planet's geology works, just because our species is covering the planet now and might be inconvenienced by the planet's natural processes.

Here's my point: I don't subscribe to the concept that just because there's a storm, just because that storm soaks soaks cities, blows down houses or destroys a season's crops does not automatically mean that we need to shut the storm down.

There were three experiences that led me to challenge my previous (and in my opinion, irresponsible) practices:

The first lesson came on an extended canoe trip. It had been raining hard enough that we couldn't safely travel the unfamiliar river, so we were stuck in our tiny tents in the rainstorm. The third day, I'd had enough, and I asked Father to stop the rain so he & I could go for a walk.

After a wonderful three hours with him, I noticed the sky: a huge rainstorm was coming in from the east, but just before it reached me, the clouds parted and went around me. I turned around and saw where the storm joined together just west of me. Every place around me was getting well watered, but I'd walked in sunshine for several hours, because Father pushed the storm aside for a little while. The storm was not stopped, only diverted for a couple of hours.

The second lesson came when a couple of very credible prophets warned about a devastating earthquake coming to my region. We live on The Ring of Fire, the planet's earthquake zone, so quakes aren't terribly rare, but this was going to be terrible.

A few intercessors for our region got together, sought God's counsel, and diffused the threat. His instructions were to a) cancel the assignment of the spirit of fear that was riding the (very public) conversation about the quake, and to b) redirect the pent-up tension in the tectonic plates involved so that the release of that tension would not be a terrible quake, but would be diffused in a large number of small quakes.

We did that and the stories stopped, the prophecies stopped, and the USGS commented on the unusual number of moderate quakes in the region. Crisis averted, but not by the brute force of stopping the tectonic plates from moving; by redirecting that energy to nondestructive symptoms.

The third lesson involved a very scary storm heading for a busy coastline. Father instructed us not to pray to stop the storm, but to turn the storm. The next day, the weather forecasters scrambled to explain the unexpected change in the storm's path to their thousands of relieved viewers.

In addition, I've taken some lessons from the realm of physics. I've realized that a great amount of "potential energy" or a great "inertia" can be more easily redirected than simply stopped in its tracks.

To stop a great storm in its tracks would literally require the equivalent atmospheric energy of several hundred thermonuclear detonations, and even if you managed to handle that power well with your prayers, you'd probably end up with scraps, several smaller storms spinning off causing less news-worthy damage in a number of smaller locations. That's a lot of work, whether it's in the natural or in the supernatural. And it's likely to be untidy.

But to change the storm's path, that requires a much smaller miracle, some say the flap of a butterfly's wings, properly applied, might be enough.

So if I've got a family picnic scheduled for this weekend, and there's a very wet weather front on a collision course with my picnic, is it appropriate to exert the requisite energy to stop the weather front, or to stop the front from dropping its rain? That might be a serious disappointment to the farmers in my region who are counting on that rain for their orchards and crops, and to the fish who live and breed in the streams and rivers.

And then, what would happen to the water that would normally have fallen in my region? It would be carried to some other region that isn't used to as much rain. How does the importance of my picnic stack up against frightening and unexpected weather patterns for my neighbors?

Or would it be better to just shift the storm? Shift it early enough and you only need to bump it off course by a few degrees. Not being omniscient myself, I confess that I don't really know what the effects of that would be.

Or should I leave Father's watering system in place, and just find a new location, perhaps one under cover, for the family gathering.

I'm not arguing that one answer is better than another. I am arguing that if we're going to take our responsibility to rule over creation seriously, we need to ask these questions.

"Yep. That looks like a problem. What are the available options to deal with it? Which option looks to be the best, and how do I implement that option?"

I recommend consulting with our omniscient Father on such matters. He has millennia of experience dealing with weather (and forest fires and earthquakes and floods and....). And he likes to keep his hand in matters of this sort.
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Letters

Managing Natural Disasters

I confess, I have some obstacles with how we pray about those events we refer to as natural disasters.

First let me clarify: it's clear to me that we do have both the obligation and the authority to speak to natural disasters and effect change there. I'm just not convinced it's wise planet management to always speak to every act of nature that inconveniences man.

Our species, the race of mankind, is responsible for what happens on this planet. We were delegated that responsibility by the planet's Creator. It's a pretty serious thing, and I take that seriously.

So yes, natural disasters are within the sphere of our responsibility.

Thus far in our maturation as a people of God, I observe three primary ways we deal with natural disasters:

 1.  We ignore them, because they happen to other people, other places (or because we don't know any better), or

 2.  We panic before the disaster and mourn and wail after it. or

 3.  We decide that this event is a bad thing, and rebuke it (with varying results; we're still learning).

In point of fact, an argument can be made for each of these reactions at different times, though I have hesitation about how healthy each of them actually is as a default response.

But the issue that's got me scratching my fuzzy head today is this: where, in this process, do we perform our evaluation of the situation? Where do we assess how much our involvement is actually necessary, and what the best intervention might be?

We live on a planet that has a very long history of things happening to it. Since before Adam and Eve took their first job assignment, the planet has been active: storms spreading water around, volcanoes adding to land masses, forest fires cleaning up the leftovers of life in a busy forest, earthquakes from tectonic plates jostling. You know, those things.

And when mankind stepped onto the stage, we renamed them. Suddenly, they were no longer our planet doing what our planet has always done. Now, suddenly, these are "disasters."

If we want to get overly anthromorphic, we can talk about whether it's fair to the planet to suddenly redefine what had always been its healthy processes, I suppose. I figure that's something analogous to deciding that poop is icky, and making the decision never to poop again. There might be side effects.

Or we could consider how reasonable our expectation is that the planet should suddenly change how the water cycle works, or how it cleans up after itself, or how the planet's geology works, just because our species is covering the planet now and might be inconvenienced by the planet's natural processes.

Here's my point: I don't subscribe to the concept that just because there's a storm, just because that storm soaks soaks cities, blows down houses or destroys a season's crops does not automatically mean that we need to shut the storm down.

There were three experiences that led me to challenge my previous (and in my opinion, irresponsible) practices:

The first lesson came on an extended canoe trip. It had been raining hard enough that we couldn't safely travel the unfamiliar river, so we were stuck in our tiny tents in the rainstorm. The third day, I'd had enough, and I asked Father to stop the rain so he & I could go for a walk.

After a wonderful three hours with him, I noticed the sky: a huge rainstorm was coming in from the east, but just before it reached me, the clouds parted and went around me. I turned around and saw where the storm joined together just west of me. Every place around me was getting well watered, but I'd walked in sunshine for several hours, because Father pushed the storm aside for a little while. The storm was not stopped, only diverted for a couple of hours.

The second lesson came when a couple of very credible prophets warned about a devastating earthquake coming to my region. We live on The Ring of Fire, the planet's earthquake zone, so quakes aren't terribly rare, but this was going to be terrible.

A few intercessors for our region got together, sought God's counsel, and diffused the threat. His instructions were to a) cancel the assignment of the spirit of fear that was riding the (very public) conversation about the quake, and to b) redirect the pent-up tension in the tectonic plates involved so that the release of that tension would not be a terrible quake, but would be diffused in a large number of small quakes.

We did that and the stories stopped, the prophecies stopped, and the USGS commented on the unusual number of moderate quakes in the region. Crisis averted, but not by the brute force of stopping the tectonic plates from moving; by redirecting that energy to nondestructive symptoms.

The third lesson involved a very scary storm heading for a busy coastline. Father instructed us not to pray to stop the storm, but to turn the storm. The next day, the weather forecasters scrambled to explain the unexpected change in the storm's path to their thousands of relieved viewers.

In addition, I've taken some lessons from the realm of physics. I've realized that a great amount of "potential energy" or a great "inertia" can be more easily redirected than simply stopped in its tracks.

To stop a great storm in its tracks would literally require the equivalent atmospheric energy of several hundred thermonuclear detonations, and even if you managed to handle that power well with your prayers, you'd probably end up with scraps, several smaller storms spinning off causing less news-worthy damage in a number of smaller locations. That's a lot of work, whether it's in the natural or in the supernatural. And it's likely to be untidy.

But to change the storm's path, that requires a much smaller miracle, some say the flap of a butterfly's wings, properly applied, might be enough.

So if I've got a family picnic scheduled for this weekend, and there's a very wet weather front on a collision course with my picnic, is it appropriate to exert the requisite energy to stop the weather front, or to stop the front from dropping its rain? That might be a serious disappointment to the farmers in my region who are counting on that rain for their orchards and crops, and to the fish who live and breed in the streams and rivers.

And then, what would happen to the water that would normally have fallen in my region? It would be carried to some other region that isn't used to as much rain. How does the importance of my picnic stack up against frightening and unexpected weather patterns for my neighbors?

Or would it be better to just shift the storm? Shift it early enough and you only need to bump it off course by a few degrees. Not being omniscient myself, I confess that I don't really know what the effects of that would be.

Or should I leave Father's watering system in place, and just find a new location, perhaps one under cover, for the family gathering.

I'm not arguing that one answer is better than another. I am arguing that if we're going to take our responsibility to rule over creation seriously, we need to ask these questions.

"Yep. That looks like a problem. What are the available options to deal with it? Which option looks to be the best, and how do I implement that option?"

I recommend consulting with our omniscient Father on such matters. He has millennia of experience dealing with weather (and forest fires and earthquakes and floods and....). And he likes to keep his hand in matters of this sort.
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Letters

My Authority


Authority is always given, never taken.  That’s pretty much immutable.

Father could claim authority in my life in his role as my creator, but he doesn't. That's what free will is about: he gave me the right to choose whether he will actually be my Lord or not, and it’s a choice I need to keep making, not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it choice.

Civil government assumes (correctly) my submission to its authority by virtue of the fact that I choose to make my home within the boundaries of its authority.

Nobody else has the right to claim authority over me, though some may claim power over me (e.g. incarceration).

I can and do choose to submit myself to other authorities in my world. I have submitted much of my will to my bride with the simple commitment, “I do.” I have a pastor (not in position, but in fact) to whom I submit this: I will always listen to his input, and take it seriously, but I do not delegate my decision-making (my will) to him.

Similarly, I have invited a few others to speak into my life, though not all of them know it. However, if someone assumes that they have authority in my life, that generally disqualifies them to speak into my life. If they insist, we’ll have a blunt conversation. I am the one responsible for me. Only I can exercise my own free will, regardless of theology or psychology or civil law. The best they can do is either a) counsel me on *how* they think I should make my choices, or they can make their own choices for how they will respond to my choices (e.g. if I drive drunk, they might choose to incarcerate me), but they cannot make my choices for me.


I’ve had a goodly number of folks come into my life for the sole purpose of assuming authority over my life and my choices. I used to submit to that process, but giving away my free will has never worked out well in my world. And it insults my beloved King if I despise (= “to treat as unimportant,” e.g. by giving away) his precious gift of free will.

In my opinion, this is one of the greater obstacles to the western Church, and one of the greatest problems in many western nations, particularly my own: individuals giving up their responsibility for our own lives, choices and circumstances. 

The current buzzword for the process of not taking responsibility for our free will is “entitlement,” and it’s a doozy. The sense of “It’s not my fault!” is pretty epic right now, and it’s often accompanied by either “…therefore someone should pay me for it!” or “…therefore I’m powerless!” or pretty often, both.

So much gets resolved when we merely accept responsibility to make our own free-will choices.





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Letters

My Authority


Authority is always given, never taken.  That’s pretty much immutable.

Father could claim authority in my life in his role as my creator, but he doesn't. That's what free will is about: he gave me the right to choose whether he will actually be my Lord or not, and it’s a choice I need to keep making, not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it choice.

Civil government assumes (correctly) my submission to its authority by virtue of the fact that I choose to make my home within the boundaries of its authority.

Nobody else has the right to claim authority over me, though some may claim power over me (e.g. incarceration).

I can and do choose to submit myself to other authorities in my world. I have submitted much of my will to my bride with the simple commitment, “I do.” I have a pastor (not in position, but in fact) to whom I submit this: I will always listen to his input, and take it seriously, but I do not delegate my decision-making (my will) to him.

Similarly, I have invited a few others to speak into my life, though not all of them know it. However, if someone assumes that they have authority in my life, that generally disqualifies them to speak into my life. If they insist, we’ll have a blunt conversation. I am the one responsible for me. Only I can exercise my own free will, regardless of theology or psychology or civil law. The best they can do is either a) counsel me on *how* they think I should make my choices, or they can make their own choices for how they will respond to my choices (e.g. if I drive drunk, they might choose to incarcerate me), but they cannot make my choices for me.


I’ve had a goodly number of folks come into my life for the sole purpose of assuming authority over my life and my choices. I used to submit to that process, but giving away my free will has never worked out well in my world. And it insults my beloved King if I despise (= “to treat as unimportant,” e.g. by giving away) his precious gift of free will.

In my opinion, this is one of the greater obstacles to the western Church, and one of the greatest problems in many western nations, particularly my own: individuals giving up their responsibility for our own lives, choices and circumstances. 

The current buzzword for the process of not taking responsibility for our free will is “entitlement,” and it’s a doozy. The sense of “It’s not my fault!” is pretty epic right now, and it’s often accompanied by either “…therefore someone should pay me for it!” or “…therefore I’m powerless!” or pretty often, both.

So much gets resolved when we merely accept responsibility to make our own free-will choices.





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