March 26, 2013

The Witness

Posted in Eastertide, Holy Week, Kingdom, Liturgical Calendar, Palm Sunday, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant tagged , , , at 11:59 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

One minute I was dozing in the morning sun;
Then I awoke to find my ropes had been undone.
The kindest Man that I have ever seen drew near,
And with one gentle touch He drove away my fear.
When His disciples led me to a crowded street
I bowed my back to Christ, the Mercy Seat.
So I, a donkey, bore the burden of the Lord;
Beneath my feet were palm fronds, spread there by a horde
Of selfish people who had sought to crown Him king,
And loud hosannas through the lanes began to ring.
But all too soon the shouts of victory had turned
To “Crucify Him!” as the Holy One you spurned.
The crown you gave had thorns that pierced His noble head;
The regal robe you offered dripped with crimson red.
You persecuted prophets when they preached to you,
But every chain will crumble, and every stone you threw
Will cry aloud to bless the God that you deny,
For all of His creation is prepared to testify
That Immanuel has come to break the dreadful curse
And all the ruinous powers of darkness to disperse.

Copyright © 2013 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


I dedicate this poem to Pedro, the sweet donkey who helped make our Palm Sunday Passion Play complete. I always smile when I remember that the animals share a part in the same remedy that makes us new creatures. The recapitulation of earth will certainly include donkeys.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

I felt compelled to have the donkey be our accuser, the witness against us. It was man’s sin that caused the donkey’s life to be filled with unpleasant toil. Therefore, it was only right for this obedient creature who served our Lord to bring the covenant lawsuit against rebellious mankind.

March 2, 2013

Firstfruits

Posted in Atonement, Good Friday, Holy Week, Hope, Incarnation, Liturgical Calendar, Redeemer, Resurrection, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist at 11:22 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our mother, Eve, stood gazing at the tree,
Then reached to pluck the firstfruits that hung there.
Deceived by him who hated liberty
And sought to separate her from God’s care.

Her via dolorosa into hiding led,
But Mercy bridged the chasm sin had cleft
And paved the way to resurrect the dead,
Returning hope to those who were bereft.

Through years of pain and hope the promise grew
Of One who could roll back the blight of sin.
Then at the darkest hour the Light shone through
To scatter night, restoring life again.

This Light, the Firstfruits of our righteousness,
Hung in disgrace upon a barren tree.
Suspended, bridging earth with heaven’s best,
While His dear mother stood in woe to see.

But in the moment that He bowed His head,
He lifted us to heaven’s lofty height.
The Fruit of Calvary’s tree, the wine and bread,
Is the sacrament of life that ends our plight.

Copyright © 2013 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

February 18, 2013

Oasis

Posted in Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Sanctification, Serpent, Son of God, Son of Man, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist, Water of Life, Word tagged at 7:59 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He, the Living Water, was baptized,
Then made a path into the wilderness
To meet the challenge Satan had devised
When thirst and hunger left Him in distress.

He yielded to no purpose but His own,
Rebuking lying words with living Word,
Thus proving that though He had left His throne,
The God-Man’s power could not be deterred.

Now in our wilderness we find Him still,
For He precedes wherever we may tread.
He freely gave Himself so He might fill
Our famished souls with living wine and bread.

The meal prepared by human hands is blessed
To be our sustenance and sure repose.
The One who fought temptation bids us rest;
The Rock was struck, and living water flows.

Copyright © 2013 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This is a companion piece to the lectionary for the first Sunday in Lent, in which the Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the Temptation of Christ. If we look only at that event in isolation, we miss so much, and even this poem does not make all of the connections that it could. Our Lord’s triumph over temptation is, of course, God’s setting right of what happened with our first parents, who did not rebuke the Opposer, but were willing to entertain the evil notion that God’s commandments were not intended for their own good.

But enough about what the poem does NOT cover. What it does bring in are references to the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, also not doing very well in resisting temptation, but still sustained by the Living Water and the manna from heaven. How unworthy we are, and yet God still loves us!

There is also some of the language of Psalm 23, for it is in the spiritual wilderness that we meet our enemy, and it is also there that Christ bids us come to His table and be filled with the Living Water of His grace. The serpent bids us come and worship him, thus securing the destruction of our souls. Jesus bids us come and dine, come and live, come and rest. Whom will you hear?


December 23, 2012

The Burden of the Lord

Posted in Advent, Christmastide, Good Friday, Holy Week, Incarnation, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Son of Man tagged , at 6:23 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In ages past good shepherds spoke the truth
And faced the scorn of disobedient men.
Some heard the call while they were in their youth,
Others, advanced in age, combatted sin.
A path of grief and pain the prophets trod;
Only a few saw fruit from labor long.
They bore the burden of the Word of God
And through the struggle sang His victory song.
Another bore the burden of the Lord:
The mother of the promised Son of Man.
Her heart would be pierced by Roman sword,
But freely she submitted to God’s plan.
And taking on that burden, she has borne
The Savior, who our deepest woes has borne.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


St. Luke’s account of the annunciation has always gripped my heart. There is so much for us to learn by St. Mary’s responses to the angel. It is quite obvious that she knew the promises of God, recorded by the prophets of old. The angel did not offer any theological explanations of the need for a Savior, though he did answer her question about the biology of it all. In her question and the angel’s answer we see two things: God does not want us to follow Him blindly but to understand as much as we are able. We also see that when our concerns have been answered, the proper response is “be it unto me according to thy word.”

It is worthwhile to study the phrase “the burden of the Lord” or “the burden of the word of the Lord” as it is found in the Old Testament. I cannot do it justice here, but one good resource is a sermon by Spurgeon. He deals beautifully with the solemn task of being a preacher of the Word. My addition to the meanings of “burden of the Lord” is a poetic play on words related to the actual physical burden a mother experiences in bearing a child.

May we ever be as faithful as the Blessed Virgin Mary.


This resulted from the notes I took during the sermon today. I scribbled down the words “the burden of the Lord” when the priest was talking about St. Mary’s willingness to endure ostracism or worse in order to be obedient to the Lord God. As to the form, it is a sort-of sonnet. I probably violated all sorts of rules by ending the last two lines with the same word, but the ideas were so important to place together that I will accept the consequences, should the poetry police ever come knocking at the door.

December 9, 2012

Renovation

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Lent, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant, Word tagged , , at 8:57 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Lift up the valleys and raze every hill,
Repave the rocky roads and make them straight.
Level the hurdles so that nothing will
Obscure the vision that we all await:
The glory of the Lord shall be
Revealed for all the world to see.

Remove the walls and knock the scaffolds down
Take out the fences and fold up the gates.
Shout from the wilderness to every town,
For God has spoken, and His wrath abates.
The Word made flesh has borne our pains
And now as King forever reigns.

Comfort the people who were once beguiled
By dark desires that war against the soul;
Be kind to them, for though they’ve been reviled,
The Lord has come their sad hearts to console.
Behold the Lamb, who takes our guilt!
In Him all things shall be rebuilt.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Isaiah 40:1-11 is a Sunday reading during Advent in more than one lectionary, and so it seemed to warrant an Advent poem. I’ve purposely rearranged the ideas, because the passage starts with the concept of comforting God’s people, and the message I wanted to convey was better served in moving from the concept of leveling everything to that of lifting us up to Himself, comforting us, and rebuilding, only better. (I suppose that betrays my fondness for ascension theology.)

It occurred to me today in reading this passage that the tearing down of mountains and filling up of valleys seems to have a particular purpose: where there are mountains and valleys, the skyline is obscured, and so whatever is revealed would be hidden from some. The timing of Jesus’ arrival, as well as the location of His birth, supported the greatest opportunity for the message to be spread to all the earth. Also, He preached to rich and poor, outcasts and leaders, politicians and zealots, those who were afar off and those who were near. No haughty heart could withstand His gaze; no humble soul could fail to be comforted.

Finally, it is important to notice that there is no room for the status quo when Jesus breaks onto the scene. Everything that would keep us from loving Him sincerely must be knocked down, destroyed, ground to dust. But when He rebuilds our lives, He makes them strongholds.


I’ve been meditating a lot on the Advent passages for Sundays, and this one in particular is filled with poetic symbols that hold great meaning and great comfort. I began scribbling this during the service this morning and completed it this evening. The first line that came to me, since amended, was “break down the walls.” As I pondered this concept of breaking things and rearranging them, I heard an echo from The Hobbit, a book I read in childhood. When Gandalf finished “chipping the glasses and breaking the plates” in Bilbo’s life, his whole future had been rearranged, but both he and his beloved Shire were better off because he bravely endured many adventures.

March 21, 2012

The Miracle of the Loaves

Posted in Holy Spirit, Laetare, Lent, Sanctification, Son of God, Son of Man, The Eucharist at 6:38 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The hillside, covered with the hungry host
Who had walked far into the wilderness,
Was glad to lift its eyes and bless
Its Maker as He blessed the barley loaves.

The young old Adam offered all he brought
But found it insufficient for the mass.
Mere loaves and fish are not a meal that lasts.
For man craves food that is not sold and bought.

But taking this small offering from the earth
Our Lord invoked the Spirit’s life and breath.
His Bread invites us to a holy death,
Yet in this death His people find new birth.

Then after every pilgrim had his fill,
They gleaned twelve baskets of the table crumbs:
Now to this feast the hungry world yet comes,
And Gentile folk eat from those baskets still.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The miracle of the loaves and fishes is as vastly underrated now as it was then. In Mark 6, the sequence of events is given as this: Jesus shows His dominion over the material world by feeding the multitudes. He sends His disciples away in a boat while He goes into a mountain to pray. The disciples are tossed about by the material elements of wind and water. Jesus walks out on the water and calms the winds because He has dominion over the material world. The disciples, who have been an integral part of the feeding of the multitude, become agitated because they think the figure walking on the water is a ghost (non-material). How could anything, material or not, destroy them while they were under the care of the Almighty? Mark 6:52 indicts their fear as follows:

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

It is no coincidence that the next event recorded is that of Jesus healing the sick, again showing again that He has dominion over the material world. The prayer that He taught His disciples was being lived out. He was demonstrating how His Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven, where His will is perfectly carried out. The invasion of earth by heaven does not negate the material world but rather blesses and restores it to its proper status.

But so what? And what connection does that concept have with this poem? The Eucharistic liturgy also demonstrates our Lord’s dominion over the material world, represented by the bread and wine, as well as by those who consume them. In a sense, every Eucharist is a creation and an incarnation, and it is most certainly the evidence of unity between God and His people, and by extension, of God’s people with each other.  The first line of the poem, which refers to the people as a “host” reflects not only that there were many of them but also that God’s people ARE one bread and one body becauase we partake that one Bread (I Corinthians 10:17). The entire first verse personifies the hillside (to represent all of the created order) as blessing our Lord because He saves not only the souls of mankind but also restores all of creation.


This poem was started in my head during the sermon on Sunday (March 18) and I’ve worked on it every morning since then. The final pieces fell in place today, March 21, which also happens to be the Feast of Archbishop Cranmer. I was told in seminary that Cranmer died for the sake of the words from the eucharistic liturgy which appear in bold italic below:

Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.

The Eucharist, as with Creation and the Incarnation, is where heaven meets earth, where the breath of life combines with the dust of the earth.

February 28, 2012

The Thicket and the Ram

Posted in Atonement, Faith, Good Friday, Holy Week, Hope, Obedience, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant at 12:21 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

When Father Abraham was called to kill his son,
He walked on faith up to Moriah’s lonely height.
With Isaac at his side, their three-day journey done,
They had tools of death, without a sacrifice in sight.

His back bowed down with wood, the faithful son inquired
About his father’s failure to provide a ram.
The answer was that God would give what He required,
For Abraham’s hope was resting in the great I AM.

He raised the knife to his own soul, his promised child,
But then the Angel of the Lord called out to stay his hand.
That Angel was the ram, who would for sinners be reviled
And thus increase the house of Abraham as grains of sand.

Oh, Father God, whose loving providence ordained
Your Son to climb the lonely hill and be nailed down.
He is the Lamb of God for Abraham’s children slain.
Your ram, caught in the thicket of the thorny crown.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This poem is primarily taken from the account in Genesis 22. As the poem presents a narrative of sorts, it reaches deeper to find the details that we sometimes miss in reading the Scripture, if we read it hurriedly. It is important that Abraham and Isaac walked three days, for that period of time is connected with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 11:17-19, we read:

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Abraham’s hope lay in the God who had called him and had always been faithful. And God did not disappoint. On that day, He provided both the thicket and the ram, as evidence that He would in the fullness of time provide a Substitute to take away the sins of the world. Although the term I AM was given to Moses and not to Abraham, I have used it here because the I AM has always been the I AM. The benefit of our vantage point is that we see a fuller picture than either of those fathers of the faith.

There are echoes of Jesus from the very beginning of the poem, but the first line of the third verse begins a conscious shift from Isaac the potential sacrifice to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. No doubt those who have read the book of Luke will see the parallel that is drawn between Abraham and the Virgin Mary, whose own soul was pierced by the sacrifice of her beloved Son.

One of the most significant details in the account of Abraham was that it was the Angel of the Lord, the Old Testament manifestation of the Second Person of the Trinity, who stopped Abraham’s hand with His Word. The One who would suffer for our sakes is the One who prevented Isaac’s death, and who invites us to partake of His life.


This was written today. I have been meditating on the image of the ram in the thicket for a few days now, but until I returned to Genesis 22, I had not made all of the connections that are (I hope) evident in the poem.

December 29, 2011

He Is Not Here

Posted in Ascensiontide, Atonement, Christmastide, Eastertide, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant, The Eucharist tagged , , , at 8:37 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Why stand you here to gaze and seek His face?
He’s gone from Bethlehem, the house of bread.
Now broken ‘round the world, the Bread brings grace
Surpassing cattle stall and manger bed.

He stands not in the temple to amaze,
Nor sits upon the hill to bless and teach.
But as the Word is preached and voices praise,
His Father’s business o’er the earth will reach.

Gethsemane does not confine His prayers,
Nor does the Court of Pilate bind His love.
From heaven He invokes aid for His heirs
And to His Bride He sends the Holy Dove.

The Cross from whence He cried the end of woe
Is empty now, but there He did atone.
The empty tomb dealt death its lethal blow.
His rising raises you to heights unknown.

Why stand you here to gaze, you earth-bound ones?
Earth cannot hold the Sovereign Lord.
But rather, over all His glory runs,
Till heaven sings with earth in one accord!

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This morning I was overcome by a phrase: “The manger is as empty as the tomb.” The concept quickly grew in my head, and I began to recount all of the places on earth where the physical presence of Jesus isn’t anymore. But it is precisely because He won the victory and then returned to Heaven to prepare a place for us that we have hope beyond this world. He tells us in John 15 and 16 that His leaving is for our own good and that He will send the Holy Ghost to empower the Church to carry out His work throughout the earth. We are idolators at heart and would have latched onto His physical presence and completely forgotten our greater purpose.

As wonderful as Christmas is, and as important as it is for us to dwell at times on the various events of the life of Jesus, we must never forget that He transcends all of that, for if He doesn’t we are of all men most miserable! The poem title is a bit deceptive. To be sure, the physical Jesus is not here. But He is always with us, in the Spirit, in the Church, in the Word. And He has given us the awesome commission to spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20). But He has also given us His promise that the Gospel will succeed: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21). “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).


Written 29 December 2011. The interesting thing about the poem is that I kept trying to work in the line that got it all started in my head, and I found that it just didn’t fit.

December 23, 2011

Festal Dirge

Posted in Atonement, Christmastide, Eastertide, Incarnation, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man tagged , at 6:05 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

In the midst of life we are in death.

From her, the Mother of all Life,
Who killed her children with one bite,
We all inherit bitter strife
And in the midst of life are dead.
Hail, Eve, we quake in dread
With you and Adam as our head,
Who doomed our race with sin
So that the Promised One must win
The battle for your banished kin.

In the midst of death we are in life.

From her, whose name means Bitter One,
Sprang forth our hope, for in God’s Son
The birthright of new birth was won.
Hail, Mary, blessed by Grace,
Whose Son for Adam’s ruined race
Has turned away God’s wrathful face!
Christ was Eve’s Abel and her Seth,
Who in the midst of bitter death
Bestows eternal life and breath.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Several years ago a dear friend of mine was gravely ill for several months, and he found great comfort reading his prayer book, specifically The Order for the Burial of the Dead. Now, that may sound morbid to you, but it is actually the most sensible response to the prospect of impending death because the funeral liturgy is filled with not only the grim reality that our mortal life must end, but also the bright hope that death is not the end of life for those whose trust is placed in Jesus Christ.


Written 31 December 2002 and edited 17 March 2008. I edited the second verse again today to link the concepts of birthright and new birth.


October 13, 2011

Kinsman Redeemer

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Incarnation, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man at 9:48 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

It seems but little skill to speak
Of saving the oppressed and weak,
So I must not equivocate:
My guilt is deep; my sin is great.
A wastrel, I had waxen poor
And sold myself to bondage sore,
Unable to redeem my soul
Or cleanse my garments black as coal.

But You, Lord Christ, my nearest kin,
Were not bowed down by weight of sin.
In love You donned mortality
And sought me out to plead for me.
Your blood redeemed my wretched life;
You made me Your beloved wife.
And breaking every burden’s yoke,
You burned the warrior’s shoe and cloak.

Your kinsman John was sent by God
The mournful martyr’s path to plod.
He needed not remove the shoe
Of his Redeemer, for in You
All that his father Adam sold
Has been regained, with wealth untold.
The prodigal, now shod with peace,
Sings hymns of praise that never cease.

So beautiful on mountains wild
Are feet that bring the Gospel mild!
Now we cross Jordan, sandals dry,
And to Your presence we draw nigh.
Although our shoes shall not wear down,
We’ll cast them off on holy ground
When, all work finished, in repose
Your feet shall rest on all Your foes.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The method I used in writing this poem is one of my favorite. In studying about the kinsman redeemer description in the Law, I became fascinated by the concept of the shoe being removed if the kinsman was unwilling to accept his responsibility. Our Lord, of course, endured the cross to redeem us, and He did so “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). But in this study I began to remember that lots of Scriptures mention shoes and/or sandals, so I decided to pull them together into my poetry net.

The first line of the poem may sound familiar to fans of pre-Raphaelite poetry, as it conjures a scene from “The Defence of Guenevere” by William Morris. The half-repentant attitude of Guenevere seemed appropriate as a beginning stance, for even in our best effort to sincerely confess, there is still so much sin in us that we must be brought around slowly to a full understanding of our sinfulness. It is only in seeing how much our Redeemer suffered on our behalf that we begin to recognize the tragedy of sin, and the spiritual poverty, bondage, and uncleanness that it imposes upon us.

The second verse turns our focus from our poverty to His perfection, and then to His sacrificial love. The Son of God became our kin by taking on mortal flesh as the Son of Man, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), and the Church is called the Bride of Christ. The images of loosing burdens and breaking yokes are from Isaiah 58:6 and Isaiah 9:4, which show that our Redeemer sets us free from bondage to sin. The image of ending the battle and burning the shoes and bloody garments of warriors is also found in Isaiah 9, and is the preamble to the well-known promise of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace:

For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:5-6)

The next verse of the poem may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but the removal of the shoe from an unwilling kinsman seemed somehow related to the enigmatic statement of John Baptist about being unworthy to unloose Jesus’ sandals. The concept I was trying to convey was that even if our Lord had decided not to redeem us, He had every reason to refuse us, and we would have no right to fault Him or to shame Him as would have been done to a delinquent kinsman redeemer (Deuteronomy 25:10). Yet as John Baptist well knew, Jesus would not leave us to the desolation of sin. Like the father of the prodigal, Jesus welcomes us home and gives us robes of righteousness and sandals of peace (Luke 15:22; Ephesians 6:15).

The final verse begins with a reference to Joshua 3 and 4, in which the children of Israel crossed the Jordan dry-shod, and it then refers to Isaiah 52:7, where the feet of the Gospel preacher are declared beautiful. The next lines combine the message of Deuteronomy 29:5, which says that the shoes of the children of Israel did not wear out during their forty-year trek, and the message of Exodus 3:5, which says that Moses was commanded to remove his shoes at the burning bush because he was standing on holy ground. That concept seems contradictory, when you think about it. Under normal circumstances, shoes protect us from the dust of the earth, the dust which the serpent was cursed to eat and to crawl in. Yet even the dust of the earth is made holy by the presence of God, and when it is, we are free to remove our shoes, indeed, we must remove our shoes, to indicate our submission to God and to show that we rest in His goodness. (There is another poem in the contrast between the burning bush and the Passover feast, when the Israelites ate with their coats and shoes on.)

The final line is the promise that the Father made to the Son by saying, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:43; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:13). His work is finished; ours is not quite finished yet, but when all work is over, as well as all opportunities to repent, He will rest His feet on His enemies.

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

As full as this poem is of the imagery of shoes and sandals and feet, it still does not include every concept in that line of thought, so look for more “shoe poetry” in the future. Chasing that concept through the Scripture has been a fascinating study.


The original version of this poem is dated December 31, 2002, and I revised it July 22, 2007 (seminary years!), and again as I posted it. The economy of poetry demands that every word carry its weight, so my continual tinkering is an attempt to pile the most ideas into the fewest words. The original version being written in 2002 means that I was coming out of a very difficult period of time. At some point during trials, we must begin to face the fact that at least some of our trouble may be self-inflicted. That is the message of the entire first verse; sloughing off any excuses and accepting accountability for my own sin. But doing that ultimately makes grace all the sweeter, doesn’t it?

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