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God’s burning light of genius

While our granddaughter walks a few feet, indoors, to her laptop, to attend virtual school, I remember walking a long driveway and riding the school bus 45 minutes to the nearest rural school. Eight hours later, in reverse. We each, however, have jobs to do after school.

In the fall, my job took me to the freshly harvested 400-hundred-acre potato field. The job required tumbleweeds, a pitchfork, and matches. Fire.

Southeast Washington state, where I grew up on the family farm, grows bounteous crops of tumbleweeds. Highly combustible tumbleweeds. Capable of igniting infernos especially when mixed with dry cheat grass and sagebrush, common vegetation on the west coast.

You can imagine, I was trained to apprehend fire. I don’t fear fire as much as anticipate the need for immediate action to make sure the good caused by fire outweighs the bad.

I appreciate cooked food, but I also follow Smokey the Bear’s instructions on proper fire handling. I support laws prohibiting celebratory fireworks. And it became natural to install solar panels to counterbalance climate change.

When a kid, fire was used to counterbalance the tumbleweed threats of fire and of barricading plows.

Because the weeds are round prickly conglomerates of stems that grow three to four feet in height and width, the bunches made it impossible to plow the ground. So, with pitchfork in hand, I’d walk the field, jab tumbleweeds and carry them to pile. Once the pile was fairly large, I’d strike a match and produce a bonfire.

Four hundred acres required a lot of piles.

To save matches, or rather, to save myself from getting frustrated because the match sticks kept breaking, I first built multiple piles of tumbleweeds and lite only one pile. Within half a minute the pile was in flames. I’d then jab the pitchfork into the fire and pull out a clump of burning weeds before running, carefully, with the clump to insert into the next pile to catch it on fire.

I came home smelling like smoke and with an appetite for dinner.

No longer a kid in the potato fields, today, the smell of smoke continues triggering an appetite for improved strategies to counterbalance devastations produced by fires. I keep an ear open to the genius-spirit that moves people, calmly, persistently, and solidly, to design improved strategies, despite the howling noises produced by blame and animosity.

When young, I learned to plow fire breaks around fields and houses to help reduce fire damage. It helped but plowing isn’t a cure-all, because of countless shifting variables, because of unknowns.

Unknowns exist, no matter how much human beings believe they can know or control everything. But unknowns aren’t as scary when we’re open to the genius-spirit.

Even in the face of today’s weirdness, practically mocking our controlled schedules, I see the genius-spirit moving people to develop approachable programs to fight fire damage or help children learn. It’s happening. And I can support its many forms by grabbing clumps of this enlightened genius, before leaving behind, and moving away from, my burning outgrown passions.

We read in 21st Century Science and Health: “Pay attention! Make sure that the motive for prayer doesn’t embrace the desire for human admiration and instead encourages pure sentiments. It is physical emotionalism, and not Soul, that triggers a nervous passion for God. Allow spiritual sense to guide your higher experiences, because fanaticism and self-satisfied devotion do not promote spirituality. God is not influenced by human beings. The divine ear is not an auditory nerve. The Divine is all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, recognizing and supplying our every need.”

Think outside box when in Big Boxstore

The blackhole of Walmart is treated with humor in our household. It’s been treated with awe and disgust in the past but that’s not near as pleasant, so you can imagine the hoots and hollers when my husband brought home a package of 10 underwears. Not size large mens. But size large boys.

“You could lose weight,” said our son-in-law. “Or go back to Walmart.”

Losing that much weight is impossible but in desperation not to return to Walmart, my husband actually admitted, “I tried to put them on.”

Superstores have a place. If anything, the place of convenience. But convenient for what? Well, for me it too often meant the convenience to buy too much. Not thinking outside of the box, I finally saw that type of convenience was feeding the human habits of addiction and throwing away the future. Like eating or gambling problems.

The problem of getting sucked in. By so much stuff. And its promises of good deals and convenience? Lies. All lies.

First off, I don’t need near as much stuff as I believe. Second, if I do need something, I can mooch it off my daughters. Just kidding, but shopping for too much food leads to too much eating or rot. Bummer futures. Both.

Life isn’t about resisting hard work and inconveniences but about tackling them with a worthy future of balance and goodwill.

And because my husband lost his Trac Phone, purchased at Walmart years ago, and because I found his flip phone out on the deck, after it got rained on and wouldn’t resurrect, we made the decision to go to Walmart. Early.

While walking to the entrance, I got a brain flash. I’ve needed washcloths for about a year now, so I said, “Hey, I can get washcloths too.”

Yep, although I haven’t been to a superstore in half a year, I already began straddling the rabbit hole of consumerism. But after entering the store, I caught myself and said, “We have to stay together, or we’ll get lost or buy too much.”

Walking toward Electronics, I put myself into a mental straitjacket and gave myself lectures. “No, Cheryl, we don’t need another watermelon, or Honey Bunches of Oats, or toilet paper, or winter shirts, geesh, those donuts smell good, keep walking to electronics.”

But when passing a muscular bin of underwear, it grabbed my husband and yanked him in for a purchase.

Making greater efforts to stay on the straight and narrow, we then found and purchased the phone and washcloths before hightailing it out of the store.

We’re now waiting until our three-year old grandson can fit into the boys size large underwear.

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!”– Philippians 4:4, The Message

“On our spiritual journey, if we sympathize with mortality, we will be at the beck and call of error and follow a zig-zag course getting nowhere. If we travel with the worldly minded, we get sucked into a nasty cycle. A good example of this is randomly walking around the shopping mall, making feel-good purchases and eating junk food with friends. We return home, thinking we had a good time and feeling satisfied. However, when re-thinking the situation, we realize that too much time and money was wasted. So, we repeat the trip to the mall but buy books on time and financial management, or on dieting.

“Our moral and spiritual progress is monotonously slow if we constantly bounce back and forth between futile habits and the hope of forgiveness. Selfishness and stupidity cause constant retrogression. We must wake up to Christ’s demand; however, the waking generally causes suffering. We may even feel like we are drowning and struggle to stay above water. Through Christ’s precious love our efforts are rewarded with success.”–21st Century Science and Health


Apparently, the word “eavesdrop” came about in the 17th century and described a noun, like dirt, but more specifically as “the ground on to which water drips from the eaves of a house.” Today, eavesdropping signifies a verb meaning “listening into a conversation without the knowledge of the people involved in it.”

Not too long ago, I had to make strategic efforts to eavesdrop. It required tiptoeing undercover, with inhaled breath, near a hushed conversation, to hopefully gather curious or pertinent information. Not anymore.

I can stand in the line at the grocery store and listen to, albeit one-sided, conversations about sold properties, other children’s behavior, and where they want to eat dinner that night.

Granted, most conversations aren’t pertinent and tend in this direction.


“I’m at the grocery store.”

Louder. “I’m at the grocery store.”

Impatience kicks in. “Why can’t you hear me, where are you?”

“I’m at the grocery store.”

“I’ll be home in ten minutes.”

“I said, I’ll be home in ten minutes.”

Right. Those type of conversations happen so often that I now make efforts to ignore what I hear. I don’t want to know what I hear, and I don’t think I’m alone. Why do most people stuff earbuds in their ears?

Which brings me to riding the subway in New York City. Where I see ears chockfull of buds. As I did last week after traveling to Washington state. A grand trip it turned out.

My return flight to New York landed at JFK airport. I still had the Air-train, subway, bus, and car to navigate before reaching home. From the subway, I wanted to get to Port Authority and sort of knew to get off at 42nd Street, but when in doubt, I ask the person next to me.

I was told by a confident person, “Get off on 35th.”

I got off at 35th and started looking for signs to Port Authority. None.

I heard a calm but clear voice, “You want 42nd, get back on before the door closes.”

I did.

“Get off at 42nd and follow the signs,” he told me.

The voice came from a guy who was sitting in the subway car I just exited. He was seated at least seven people away from where I’d been standing. How did he hear my conversation through the track rattling and his hoodie covered head? I don’t know.

All I knew was, I could have made it to Port Authority from 35th but I was carrying a heavier than normal backpack and looking for the shortest distance to walk. Thankfully, someone eavesdropped. They listened. Or did they answer a call for pertinent information?

Society is a foolish juror, listening only to one side of the case. Justice often comes too late to secure a verdict. People with mental work before them have no time for gossip about false law or testimony. To reconstruct timid justice and place the fact above the falsehood, is the work of time.”–21st Century Science and Health

[Jesus said] “Are you listening to me? Really listening? 16-19 “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”–The Message

New audio book

Newly released audio book:

Raising Children Without Church: Finding God in Everyday Activities

audio cover paint

Weird birds and water

In a steamy kitchen, Mom busily prepares dinner for our family of seven. She simultaneously pulls quart jars of preserved peaches out of the canner while flipping potatoes on the stove. My younger brother walks in the kitchen and says, “Mom, I ran over a bird.”

“Ah, that’s too bad, it’ll be okay, I know it feels sad ,” said Mom.

“Dad will be mad.” said my brother.

Double take from Mom.

My brother answers her questioning look, “Not a feathered bird, a sprinkler bird.”

“Oh, I’ll tell Dad, he will fix it, don’t worry. Go finish mowing the lawn,” said Mom.

Living in southeastern Washington state, where grass and crops require irrigation to survive, we call the sprinklers, perched on irrigation pipes, birds. It worked for us, most of the time. My brother finished mowing the lawn. Dad glued a coupler between the broken pipes and the bird sprayed water again after an irrigation valve was opened.

We used the word bird, for irrigation, frequently. We got paid by the number of birds we moved. We moved birds every day. We unplugged birds. We took off birds with broken springs and replaced them with new birds. We carried extra birds around with us in the farm trucks.

Since moving to New York, the word bird has totally swapped over for me. It just happened. No effort on my part because we don’t have irrigation in Warwick. When I say bird, I’m definitely referring to feathered creatures. Blue birds, robins, blue jays, cardinals, swallows, finches.

Another word, however, took me about five years to swap out. Or unlearn. Or get. In a nutshell, the swap out took effort and understanding. I just could not figure out why New Yorkers looked at me funny when I’d talk about pop. My husband finally put it together and explained, “They say soda here.”

So weird.

Not weird that pop is called soda here and pop in Washington but it’s weird trying to remember to say pop when visiting the Pacific northwest and soda here.

Sometimes, I lack the patience and etiquette to bother speaking with appropriate words altogether.

Last week, I’m at the pool shop collecting my weekly pool care supplies and remember to say, “Oh yes, one more thing I need help with. The edge of the hose thingy broke off the thingy I hook it too and I probably need a whole new thingy instead of just a piece of a thingy.”

The pool specialists and owners, Pool Ladies, as I call them, did a double take, but within minutes I had what I needed and was headed home to swim in water instead of use it to irrigate.

Murphy’s Law and the measles

As printed in The Record, North New Jersey newspaper:

Murphy’s Law and Measles

By Cheryl Petersen

Word count: 402

At the same time New York City’s Board of Health unanimously voted to extend an emergency declaration ordering mandatory MMR vaccinations in four Brooklyn ZIP codes, I was driving to the nearest urgent care center for a titer test to determine the level of antibodies for measles in my blood. The test cost $29.15. The visitation took as long as it took to listen through office speakers to Barry Manilow sing Mandy, Elton John sing Empty Garden, and the Four Tops sing Ain’t no woman like the one I’ve got.

Sure, I’m not a super-fan of mandatory medical treatment but societal rules deserve thought and rethinking, whether rules come from officials issuing declarations for public health or from hands chiseling commandments onto stone tablets.

Filtering through the information, at this point, I agree with the emergency declaration. And to avoid rigid opinions as to why, I’ll defer to made-up Murphy’s Law, that if something can go wrong, it will.

Prime and heartrending example is found in The Washington Post article by National Reporter Lena Sun, who wrote about a recent traveler unaware he was carrying and spreading the measles virus. Even when the traveler became aware of the fact, he couldn’t believe it, until he finally conceded to the fact.

Sun quoted the head of Oakland emergency medical service, Steve McGraw, as saying that the traveler then “’put his head down and was very emotional. I could tell from the look on his face that he was devastated. He was doing the math in his head,’ counting all the people he had been in contact with,” wrote Sun.

Corrections were made. Corrections always need to be made.

I’m not afraid of measles or vaccinations as much as I’m afraid of human unawareness and feelings of devastations.

The titer test will play a role in awareness even though I’m not sick. I’m healthy as wind, but I’d quiet if asked my medical history of measles. I don’t know it and that unawareness adds to the problem.

Measles is highly contagious. Like gossip. And because I use public transportation and visit New York City frequently, I will not disgruntle vaccination for measles. If not for myself, for others, same as the thousands of people who have recently come forward to vaccinate their children in the hot spot of Williamsburg, NY, as reported by the health official at the New York City’s Board of Health meeting on Wednesday.

Bio: Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer living in Warwick and author of 21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: A revision of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health.

A better understanding of Mary Baker Eddy

A better understanding of Mary Baker Eddy requires fact above falsehood. It requires admitting and correcting mistakes, rather than turning a blind eye or giving excuses.

Three examples:

  1. When Mrs. Eddy is accused of plagiarism, recognize the validity in this argument. Although 19th century writing wasn’t regulated by today’s copyright laws, Mrs. Eddy’s writings contain a glaring lack of referencing. If she was ahead of her time, she would have credited everyone she quoted with due respect. Mrs. Eddy didn’t even follow her own advice when telling other writers of her time to credit her when discussing ideas found in her Science and Health. What was considered complete in the 19th century is no longer complete to today’s human perceptions and as a result Mrs. Eddy is misperceived. But correction is possible by producing copies of her works with added references and proper crediting. Fact above falsehood also adds credibility to the “science” of Christianity. Scientific documents and texts are such because they’re referenced.
  2. The claim that Mary Baker Eddy was a charismatic leader of an un-Christian cult seems complex, however, the light of understanding shows that all leaders have charisma. Mrs. Eddy’s charisma shouldn’t be denied but admitted and then her followers should answer honestly: Do I talk and act as if Mrs. Eddy teaches exclusive (cultish) knowledge? Do I talk and act as if Mrs. Eddy had, or her writings have, all the right answers? Or, do I talk and act as if Mrs. Eddy was a significant servant to Christ? Do I place God and the Bible as sufficient to advance Christian Science, as stated in the first tenet given by Mrs. Eddy for Christian Science? Charisma isn’t the focus when God is.
  3. Misunderstandings of Mary Baker Eddy multiply and mangle when critics and admirers speak for her. When in fact we really can’t speak for her. No matter how well we know her history, our words shouldn’t speak for Mrs. Eddy as if we know what she “believed,” or “revered,” or “wished.” There can be no assuming or pretending we know what Mrs. Eddy would do today, because it’s not a point in Christian Science which deals with fact, evidence, and divine inspiration. We can actively admit the evidence that her church leadership was successful, however her outline for future church leadership lacked foresight and success. But based on the facts that Mrs. Eddy amended church bylaws as spiritual ideas unfolded and spiritual ideas are still unfolding, the bylaws can be amended again by people who take full responsibility for their action. Moving forward with God, rather than repeating or arguing opinions about what Mrs. Eddy wanted or didn’t want, would substantially aid in a better global understanding of her.

In today’s world of 7 billion inhabitants, Mary Baker Eddy is unknown. To the few who are acquainted with Mrs. Eddy, many are critics. Eddy has always been a controversial person, however, as with any controversy, it is opportunity to clarify and advance in understanding. In other words, if clarity and understanding aren’t given the upper hand, Mrs. Eddy will continue to be lost to history through misunderstandings. Clarity is not achieved by repeating “insider” language and behavior.

Clarity is achieved by representing that which is correct to human perception.


Thursdays in Black

Thursdays in Black #TiB aims toward a world without rape and violence. Historically, the movement is traced to the 1970s when Argentinian women protested for protection from violence and rape. Flowing and ebbing over time, Thursdays in Black has spread globally. March 15, I attended a panel discussion at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City. Hosted by Ecumenical Women of the United Nations, a panel discussion. Four men dialogued on progress and potential for a world without gender solicited destructive behavior.

Toxic masculinity was defined broadly, not necessarily by gender or male human beings, but by attitudes; threatening attitudes that bully and harm. I talk in my memoir, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter, about negotiating the attitude of masculinity. Here is the chapter:

Keeping It Straight

The farmer’s market got a reputation. Officials from other markets, including from the Seattle Pike’s Place Market, visited Pasco to watch its operation. I’d give them tours and answered questions. They took notes. The standard comment to me was, “I can’t believe you don’t have theft problems.”

The comment tempted me to pat myself on the back. I diligently prayed for honesty and believed my prayers had positive effects. Cash was the main currency. In the crowded hubbub, purses were opened and closed. Pants pockets were dug through for money and dollar bills were handed to farmers, who threw the money in shoeboxes and crates.

In an apron tied around my waist, I carried thousands of dollars from paid vendor fees, even serving as the local bank for change. Theft was only mentioned once.

A vendor noticed a pair of handcrafted wooden earrings missing from his rack. Two weeks later he told me, almost incredulously, “Cheryl, those earrings reappeared on the table.”

My prayer for honesty was fine and good, but I knew the people and atmosphere had a lot to do with it. The customers genuinely appreciated the fresh produce, handed to them by the very people who put their hearts and souls into the products. The vendors were from family farms, not corporations. There was no middleman to dilute the authenticity. The good outweighed the bad.

Not that it was all hunky-dory. Irritation, jealousy, and plain old weariness crept in periodically to throw us off guard. Fortunately, we’d help one another get back on track quickly, even when we didn’t know it. Like the time a woman helped me correct myself.

It was a scorching August day when more than seventy vendors showed up. I wiped salty perspiration from my eyes and was menstruating, not always a trouble-free task for me. I moved cautiously so blood wouldn’t start rolling down between my legs. People kept asking me for help, keeping me from walking across the street to where the bathroom was located.

I watched three vendors walk up to me at once, all talking, or rather complaining. When they were standing within an arm’s reach in front of me, I held up my hand, palm out as a stop sign. They stopped and quieted. I pointed to the person I figured would be the quickest to deal with. “I need change for this $50,” he said. I made the change.

I pointed to the second person, who said, “I need plastic bags.”

“You can buy some bags at stall three,” I answered, and then looked at the woman who stood with an agitated, indignant expression on her face.

“You told me to sell from stall fifteen and there is no way I can get in that stall. Do you see all these people? I have a truckload of peppers and tomatoes and need to get them out of the sun. It’s impossible to get in stall fifteen. I’ve tried. There’s no way.”

In the middle of her verbal explosion, I saw a thought pass through my head that harkened unmistakably: Women like you are why we are considered the weaker, dumber sex.

Though feeling annoyed, I said to her, “Please take me to your truck and I will help you.” I followed and asked her if it’d be okay if I backed her truck into stall fifteen. She gave me her keys and within two minutes she was selling her produce, relieved and happy.

Oddly, I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt a bit chastened.

When walking to the bathroom. I quickly realized I’d judged the woman alongside the thought that some women feed male chauvinism. I’d spent my life dodging male chauvinism because plenty of men treated me with prejudice, as if I was weak and dumb. So, why would I entertain what amounted to a male chauvinist thought?

Later in the day, I took the time to answer that question the best I could. It dawned on me chauvinism wasn’t gender specific. It was simply narrow-mindedness, a laziness that doesn’t help others. I would be adding to it if I accepted that thought about the woman that had passed through my head earlier. I mentally re-routed my thinking to admit it was chauvinism that annoyed me, not the woman. I affirmed that I didn’t help the woman because she was daft, but because I could help her in a way she understood. We were equals.

It was an exercise in breaking apart thoughts and reconnecting useful thoughts to get a more inclusive picture. The exercise helped me later when reading the Bible at home.

I read the story about Elisha who met a distraught mother in debt. She was about to lose her sons as payment for the debt. Elisha asked, “What do you have in your house?”

The mother had some oil.

Elisha instructed her to borrow a bunch of jars. When she poured her little bit of oil in the jars the oil multiplied miraculously. She sold the oil and paid off the debt.

It was the question, “what’s in your house,” that shifted my mental strategy. Instead of thinking and acting from the premise that I lack, why not ask what I have?

I had food, shelter. I even had stuff in storage, nearly forgotten. We certainly had family love. And then whomp, the thought to foster children landed in my creaked-open mind. I needed to share family love.

I went to the phone and called the State Social Services Department. A social worker came to our house to start the process of licensing me and Doug as foster parents. She examined our house, nodding in approval. Where I saw puny, she saw modest. Where I saw ugly, she saw practical. Where I saw cheap, she saw affordable and clean. Within a few weeks, 2-year-old Junior came to live with us.

Leah and Carly didn’t mind a stitch when we moved their clothes dresser out of their bedroom into the kitchen so we could fit a crib next to their bunk bed. The girls had fun showing Junior the swing set and forts.

Unexcitable by physical color, shape, or size, Junior ambled as fast as his chubby legs could carry him to keep up with the girls. He adored hugs and book reading time.

Junior helped solidify in my mind the concept of a Father-Mother God that cares for us all. With a divine Parent, the temptation to condemn his human parents died off.

We continued fostering children for the next fifteen years.

I learned that I never lost what I didn’t have. I learned that I can increase what I have.

ecumenical panel against violence

Four member panel

ecumenical show of hands on violence

Audience raises hands if knows of or experienced violence against women and girls

Resting life and death in peace

First posted in September 2014

Our culture avoids it, fears it, is attracted to it, and uses it as a threat.


But every now and then, an anomaly shows up. I met a couple who raised 7 children, successfully, on a farm. The mother told me, “The farm life taught the children about life and death.”

Interesting. She spoke of life and death as equal, mortal elements that shouldn’t absorb so much attention when the true task is to live.

How can we live life and death?

By not making life and death something they are not.

Mortal life and death are not immortal or lasting.

Life isn’t a competition for wealth and fame and human approval. Death isn’t something we escape or dodge.

Life expresses itself through us as spiritual beings. Life is God, manifesting itself, in countless individuality, through us.

Death is the human interpretation of spiritual life unattached to mortality. Someone dies and we realize they are still alive in consciousness.

Human life and death can be beautiful, but it can also be ugly. We read in Matthew 16:21-23:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

I bet it was somewhat of a struggle, but Jesus didn’t focus on human life and death. Christ Jesus lived immortality; he expressed integrity, forgiveness, courage, and wisdom.

Added 2019, from 21st Century Science and Health:

“The complicated mis-creations must finally give place to the glorious forms which we sometimes glimpse through the eye of divine Mind when the mental picture is spiritual and eternal. Take the time to look past the fading, sensational pictures. Gain the true sense of life. Rest your gaze on the unsearchable realm of Mind. Look ahead and act as possessing all power from Truth and Love in whom you have your being.”

Don’t remember stress during the holidays

Holiday hoopla keeps many people over-the-top-busy. Others feel idle, maybe lonely. As a young mother, I experienced both extremes within a few years and struggled to find a sense of balance. Oddly, I came down with holiday amnesia. It started with birthday blank-outs.

Our daughters reconciled my forgetfulness by writing on the “shopping list” the items so desired for their birthdays, allowing time to wrap the present themselves. They’d unwarp the gifts and act surprised and delighted, asking, how did I know exactly what to get.

Sometimes my husband shopped for the girls’ birthdays, but I think my amnesia was contagious to him. Or maybe I caught it from him. Either way, it seeped into the holidays.

My forgetting to run around and find perfect gifts during the holidays, however, hasn’t made me forget the meaning of the holidays. It’s the same as every day. It’s the meaning of building trust, family, and community. I talk in my memoir, I Am My Father-Mother’s Daughter, about a power higher than myself and some of the people who gave me the gift of building a trust in a goodness that knows no bounds.

Stress isn’t a gift from God. Neither is forgetfulness. But forgetting to be stressed isn’t forgetfulness, it’s remembering God’s goodness.

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