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Archive for the ‘child of god’ Category

 

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In all my 26 years on this earth, 97% of my enemies emerged when I became a Christian.

 

It’s no joke. I’ve done things I’m not proud of when I was still an unbeliever – steal a girl from a friend, have more than one girlfriend at the same time, treat others like dirt, steal, get in fights, curse my mouth off, take advantage of others – but I’ve never had so many people reject me until I became a Christian.

 

This should not be at all new to me, as Jesus himself said, “All men will hate you because of me” (Luke 21:17). While this is a lesson that every teacher warns a fledgling disciple –- that the world will reject you because you’re no longer following the ways of the world –- my situation is the opposite: I am rejected by those who claim to be my brothers and sisters in the faith.

 

The detractors came when I started speaking in FullCup, a ‘worship café’ we maintain every Friday night in Intramuros. I admit that I have always tried my best to inject something interesting and memorable (in other words, something my audience hasn’t considered before) in my preaching, because after all, what use is there to stand and speak in front if all I share is something that my audience has already heard a million times before? If I were unable to share something new or show a fresh take on an old fact, or make my audience rethink their assumptions or remind them of something valuable they have forgotten, then I have done nothing but mouth off tired platitudes — wasting my time and theirs.

 

I have never, however, sacrificed scriptural accuracy for excitement. Not only is there no use for it, there is also no need to do it. The bible is already teeming with action and excitement, all I have to do is present it in a way that would entice my audience to revisit their dusty tomes.

 

So I came up with preaching titled “Where is God in Sex?”, “Where is God in doubt?”, and “Jesus: Boy Next Door”. All of these messages received mixed feedback, but none as much as the ‘boy next door.’ The things I heard there weren’t just unfavorable – they were harsh and even hurtful. Apparently, the mere idea that Jesus could have taken the time to study and learn and grow as a human deserves crucifixion to some churches.

 

My latest preaching (click here to listen), a summary of a year’s worth of talks in FullCup, also received a ruthless stab — “you completely do not understand evangelism and what it really means to be the light and salt of the world… I wish you would never speak in a crowd again.” Strong words, especially from someone who I once thought of as a friend.

 

Disappointment with GodHere I am reminded of Philip Yancey, who received a ton of hate mail –- some he could not believe a Christian would ever say to another human being — upon the publication of his books “Disappointment with God” and “Where is God When it Hurts? This is the same author who was branded as a ‘card-carrying communist’ when he began supporting Martin Luther King Jr. and was called a ‘hound of satan’ when he didn’t reject a longtime friend of his when he admitted that he was gay. This is the same guy who witnessed a few dozen Christians shout curses and pronouncements of hellfire and brimstone upon thousands of gay men and women who were singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so” in a gay march in Washington. The incident profoundly affected Philip – remembering it in his many books. He couldn’t but question the paradox of what he saw — while the Christians were shouting hate and judgment, the sinners were singing of grace and redemption.

 

I have had unbelievers laugh at me when I tell them about the Good News of Christ’s salvation – some of them my friends who jokingly remind me of what I used to do before I became a Christian. I’ve had colleagues and fellow students debate with me when I tell them about my faith. I’ve had my family cry when I speak of the need to become born again. I’ve met indifference, wonder, interest, disbelief and a host of other reactions, but not once did I get hurt when I spoke to unbelievers about sin and Jesus –- not once, until I spoke to my fellow believers.

 

Of course, not all Christians are like this. My church has been wonderfully supportive, also my Christian friends who I meet mostly online. But the thing is, I expect support from these people – for am I not speaking of the same God? – that is why it is doubly hard when I hear hurtful words from people who profess to worship the same God.

 

Are my messages simply wrong? My pastor, several missionaries, and elders in the church don’t think so. A guy with a Masters degree on Divinity and a teenager don’t think so. What’s more, I’ve heard a missionary speak of the same message as I did to the same people and none of them gave a peep.

 

There must be something I’m missing here – something I have yet to understand that would explain why something so evident can be misconstrued so spectacularly. So until my pastor puts a stop to my preaching because he found just cause in it, I will continue sharing what I’ve learned with my walk with my God.

 

 

 

He never promised it would be easy anyway.

 

 

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I’ve always wondered how it would feel to be the face in the billboard. To have a face or physique that could well earn a living. To be able to make the hearts of girls thrum with the merest sight of me, and to leave them giggling and flustered with a simple smile.

How does it feel, to have that power? How much more effective could i be if i had a face like Piolo Pascual’s, which, they say, can make knees tremble and hearts buckle? If I had the height and physique of Marc Nelson, how much easier could my life become?

Sadly, however, my God has deemed that I have an appearance that is, at best, ordinary. Perhaps it could grow to be loved by some people, but I am hardly one to make heads turn. I do not know why my God did not give me these weapons, these tools, but seeing how beautiful people get a lot of favors and breaks and perks, I bet those tools would’ve been mighty useful in my hands.

For that matter, I wonder why my God didn’t give me a voice that could rally His people with a song. Even my mother — hands down my greatest fan — gave up on me and my singing career. But I’m there — Sunday after Sunday — bawling my voice out to my God in worship. With a heart screamingly aching to sing for Him, I wonder why He didn’t give me the tools to do so exceptionally.

Average is what I am when it comes to the arts and sports. I can’t act even if my life depended on it, I dance funny, and the only drawings I ever made were ripoffs from X-Men and Street Fighter when I was still in gradeschool. Sure, sometimes I do get my point across in my writings, but my syntax needs major improvement and my writing voice is still under development.

My eyes are slow, that’s why the pingpong ball gets past me even if I love that game to pieces. The only karate I do is when I’m alone in elevators, and all the points, rebounds and assists I raked in basketball were paid for in blood and sweat. I wasn’t that tall, or fast or athletic, but I was tough enough to bang bodies at the post and I wasn’t afraid of the big boys. Where I lacked talent, I made up for in perseverance and determination. I may not be able to dunk on my opponent, but I’d sure as hell make sure my annoying defense would make him prefer to pass the ball instead of attempting a shot.

I’m smart, and I’m smart enough to know that there are others quantum leaps ahead of me. I am uncouth and horribly socially inept. Well-dressed and stylish chicks scare me. I am of average height, of ordinary appearance, with a commoner’s social stature. As much as Hallmark and Disney would like us to believe that everybody’s special, the same platitude inadvertently reveals my — our — mediocrity.

This can quickly turn depressing, with questions of one’s self worth and one’s unique purpose in the face of six billion other souls in the planet — a sphere that is but a speck in the unfathomable vastness of the cosmos. Why am I here? Where am I of use? Of what importance is my life when there are, literally, billions of others like me?

Strangely, God seems to see and evaluate us in a wholly different benchmark than what we are used to using. A centurion, just one of the many in the vast Roman empire, literally makes Jesus speechless with amazement. A liar and a betrayer is commissioned to be the rock of His church. An impure woman, a social outcast bleeding for more than a decade and worthless in everybody’s eyes, strikes a chord in the Savior’s heart that his jam-packed ministry schedule takes a detour just to meet her. In the eyes of Jesus, it seems, a person’s true worth is not something I am familiar with, nor equipped to evaluate. If I were to believe Him, it seems that I — with all my flaws and my mediocrity — am worth the One True God dying for.

As for one’s purpose, again, God shows a ‘preference’ for people no upper echelon manager would ever trust. A stuttering fugitive is tasked to face the Pharaoh and impudently say “let my people go.” A shepherd boy no different from the rest, is picked to become Israel’s greatest king. A deceiver and manipulator becomes the father of a chosen people. A disobedient prophet is ushered into the belly of a whale until he learns to speak the words he is told to speak. Looking at God’s history with His people, I come away not with an imposing portfolio of remarkable resumes, but rather a scruffy list containing the stories of the most ordinary of people being used most extraordinarily.

Herein lies the difficulty: unlearning to determine my worth not with society’s weighing scales, but through the eyes of the one being who matters — my God. Amidst everything that I have been taught since I could remember and against all instinct, I must pound it to my heart that it matters not who I am, what I’ve done, or even what I’m capable of doing — just the love that I have chosen to accept. My mediocrity, apparently, was never considered in the equation — all that is needed from me is to open my hands and receive His hands on my own.

In the end, when my thoughts turn to my worth and to my purpose, I must remember a quaint Jewish teaching that Philip Yancey wrote about. He said that Jews are told to carry two stones to know their place in the universe…

One stone contains the words “I am made but of dust.”

The other bears “The world was created for me.”

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Sans souci

If you want to learn how to trust God blindly, I suggest you start a career in advertising. God knows that He keeps using my career in advertising to teach me how to have more faith and how to obey with nothing behind me but faith. I know what you’re thinking: “Seriously, Ailene. It’s advertising. It’s not like a career in medicine or materials engineering. You’re exaggerating.”

Maybe. So let me give you an example. Let’s say that your client needs you to organize an event for them. Big client. They want a golf tournament, with a beautiful cocktail party afterwards and party giveaways to boot. They want all their top clients to be invited. The client agrees to everything you say, and tells you that you only have 30k pesos to do everything. Oh, and they want to have the golf tournament in 10 days.

So you manage to get the list of 1,200 clients they want to invite, predict the percentage of rejected invitations, come up with a plan B to E lists of if-Plan-A-Client-Refuses, you organize a team of call center specialists to call and follow up and then follow up again the list of clients, you monitor the call center team, you generate daily reports, you attend meetings, you approve swatches, propose design ideas, mass-produce banners, you make timelines and contact venues. All this in four days.

During this entire process, you worry. In big, bold, capital letters: WORRY. about every single thing. You worry that you will never reach your target, that the contract will be voided because you didn’t meet your deadlines. You worry that you’ll overshoot your target and then you start worrying about what you’re gonna do if more people than you need show up. You worry about the talent you hired and then you worry about the production team you hired. You worry about the bags, shirts, golf balls you had mass produced for this one event. You don’t sleep. You spend hours and hours on the telephone. You worry about what the client will say, then you worry about what they don’t say. You develop ulcers. You become allergic to the word ‘golf.’

Oh, and this isn’t your only project. You’re also organizing a mini-party for the board chairman, revamping the look of somebody else’s retail outlets, and making a new ad plan for this fiscal year.

You know what’s the worst part? You have a contingency plan for the contingency plan of your contingency plan. It’s the height of obsessive-compulsive-ness.

The misconception is that advertising is a glamorous job. It’s not. It’s dirty, stressful, and tiring. It just takes so much out of you, all that worrying and nitpicking and the revisions.

The first time I worked for an ad agency, after two years of endless revisions and whiny clients and a moody boss, I burned out. At the end of two years, I wanted to pitch the Powerbook G4, the PDA, the nifty phone, and the not-so-bad salary out the window.

This is the second time I’m working for marketing/advertising. And to be honest? If there’s any lesson I’ve learned by now it’s that God is a much better advertising/marketing person than me. Something will always go wrong, but if you’re coming from a place of rest (i.e. God’s arms), then ultimately, it’ll all work out.

In this career: I only have two choices. I could worry. Or I could trust God. If I worry, yes, I get to control the situations as they come up. But why would I want to do that? Every time I try to control everything I get overwhelmed, and then it all crashes and burns.

After years of learning the hard way, I give up. I’m trusting God every time, with any thing I do in this job. Want me to be a one-woman marketing team? No problem, as long as I have God here it’s going to be alright.

I can’t imagine now how I survived without God leading me every step of the way.

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an optimistic pessimist

I’m a pessimist — in that I firmly believe that this world, apart from the Grace I know, is not able and will not do me any favors. I’m also an optimist — in that I know that beyond this muck, there is something definitely better.

There was a time when I used to believe the all-too-familiar movie line, “There is a bit of goodness in everyone.” I believed it heart and soul, too. I expected good out of everyone, and that if ever they did wrong, they would eventually snap out of it and apologize to the people they wronged and make right the things they disturbed. I bit that — hook, line and the freaking fisherman with it. But that was a looong time ago.

What I am right now is a product of two distinct forces — the flood of bad things that the world has dealt me, and the irresistable Grace that has saved me and promised that there is something more beyond what this world can offer.

While this might seem confusing to some people, the two forces actually work together to create a profound peace in me. I find that worrying about stuff is a sure way to waste your time, because no matter what you do, this world will deal you bad things at any point in time. Some of them you can work on, most of them you can’t stop. Why waste your time worrying? Also, I find that behind all of this, my God is definitely – without any hint of inability – in control. I find that His will and His grace are both irresistable forces – they cause all things, no matter how bad they may seem to be at any moment in time, to ultimately work for the good of those who love Him. Why waste my time worrying?

Some people are turned off by my relaxed way of dealing with situations. When people feel the need to be disturbed by the bad things that happen around them, or the stupid/sick things people do with their lives, I’ll most likely take it all in stride. When I was in college and all the idealism in the world was with me, I might have stood up and said, “Ok, so what can we do to help solve this?”

Now, I’ll probably stop and take a good, long look at the situation. If it can be helped, then we try. If it can’t be helped, then we’ll probably need to go just let it come. If we tried helping and things still go bad, it means that there’s a lesson in there somewhere that needed to be learned. Some people will see this as inaction, I see it as a trust in God’s will I have learned through the years, and I’ve learned most of it the hard way.

You may say that my faith has been diluted with cynicsm. There is some truth in that, maybe. I can only find comfort in the fact that my passion for God has never been greater than it is today — in a world that has constantly frustrated, He is the only hope that I can even look forward to.

What then do we do about bad situations, bad people, bad things, bad attitudes? I say we live with them while we’re here, temporarily. We extend grace always — God will redeem those that He wants to redeem for the glory of His name. We look forward always to what His will can accomplish in this world and in the next.

As for me, I will lift up my voice continually in worship, exercise my faith, and pray that this flawed version of me will be continually made perfect each day I walk with my God.

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bar(red)

I initially wanted to write something in defense of lawyers. Heaven knows the legal profession has been the butt of jokes for the longest time. I just felt it’s high time to affirm the good in the legal community.

But I got pissed off with this lawyer-client we had, who lodged a formal complaint with our personnel department, because the telephone operator in our office called him in his cellphone (which we didn’t know was his) and asked if he was the secretary of himself. After I learned of this incident I wanted to lash out at all those pompous asses out there who are both so insecure that they feel they have to defend their “standing” at the slightest affront, and at the same time too egotistical to actually be offended by an honest mistake!

But I realized that this paradox is not confined to the legal profession alone. Lawyers who sincerely believe that they are significant members of a civilized community have no monopoly on haughtiness and conceit. Everyone who thinks himself a “somebody” is prone to have delusions of importance. Every person who has worked hard to attain an achievement is likely to lord it over another who can not boast of the same or a similar feat.

I myself have been guilty of this. Lawyering is both my boon and my bane. It wasn’t just once that I ended an argument with “I’m a lawyer, please just have your lawyer call me” without a sincere intention to discuss the matter any further. I just knew, and I was taking advantage of the fact that, there are people who are reluctant to argue with someone who knows (or pretends to know) the law. I lean on the authority of my title, and I sometimes find myself subconsciously believing that I not only have the mandate to evaluate others, but more so the right to act according to my evaluation.

I am reminded of the Bible’s teaching about the law and legalism. Of course I know that references in the Bible to the law do not pertain to the written rules governing contracts and the like, which is basically what present-day lawyers are masters of. Instead, they pertain to the rudiments of acceptable conduct that governed the lives of the people before Jesus came to earth. They pertain to the strict do’s and don’ts that have been traditionally accepted as the ways to earn a ticket to heaven. But whenever I read Romans 3:20, I can’t help but equate and see the almost literal applicability of it to lawyers and such other legalists in our present society. …for through the law comes consciousness of sin.  Yes, those who know the law, both then and now, are usually more interested in pointing out your mistakes, than helping you do right.

It is a sad fact that the learned, the intellectuals, the educated, the achievers, usually find it hard to grapple with grace. In my 6 years of involvement in the legal profession, I distinctly remember the very few persons who admit that they are lacking and that they need. Most others are content with their own victories, or if not, are determined to find their own paths to their own brands of success, without a clue that they are missing out on the one thing they don’t have to work hard for yet is worth more than everything they possess. I guess for those people who believe they deserve the luxuries they enjoy in life, it’s not easy to accept that they can’t work their way to heaven as well. The truth that sharing in a carpenter’s death and resurrection is the only way to gain eternal life just doesn’t sit well with those who are not used to sharing anything. That the gift of eternity is free, that makes it doubly suspect to people who have the capacity to pay.

It is hard to find an evangelist lawyer, simply because the harvest in that field is defiant. I once had the passion – the dream – of sharing my faith with my classmates in law school, but after a few weeks of trying and getting shut down each time (at times even by ones who profess to be Christians themselves), I gave up. I know I am not justified in giving up; after all, it is a command for us to spread the Word. But my faith and perseverance faltered at the face of intellectual persecution and “logical” debate.

Up to now, I’m dealing with this struggle. I confess that when God presents me with opportunities to share my testimony to a non-believer, fear and self-doubt instantly grip me. I confess that I still have to remind myself each time that it’s not by might, nor by pow’r, but by God’s Spirit that people hear and believe.

I look around me – at the people in my office, at the clients I deal with – and I ask, should I just let these lawyers go to hell? (sometimes I feel they deserve it.) But I am reminded that when God forgave the sins of the world, He did not categorize by profession. So neither should I. Legalist or no legalist, deserving or not, God died for them(us) too.

 

*photo from shutterstock.

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My confession is that I sincerely adore alcohol.

I really like the taste and look forward to the hot burn as it slides down my throat and the way I seem to glow from the inside out when it finally reaches my tummy. Hot sunday afternoons, for me, are nearly complete if I can only have a glass of ice-cold beer.

In fact, a lot of things go well with ice-cold beer, like raw fish, Tortillos, and anything my family cooks (which is probably intentional). But even then, I’m not a big beer drinker. Give me rum coke any day, and if it’s mixed by my friend Mikko, then even better. (His secret? Calamansi, not lemon.)

For years I have rebelled against the idea that I should stop drinking because some people still associate my “two bottles” with getting drunk, which, for most Christians, is tantamount to dancing with the devil.

And I hated that. I hated how I had to stop drinking some of the beverages I like just because they were so narrow minded they think one alcoholic beverage (not nearly as hazardous to your health as those cans of soda pop they ingest daily) would be detrimental to my spiritual health.

The idea was as insane as somebody telling me that “Ailene, it really bothers me that you’re drinking that banana shake. I mean, you know what everybody else says about people who drink banana shakes. They probably really love umbrellas.”

Because that’s what alcoholic beverages are for me: weird drinks that taste good. And because they’re weird I have to be extra careful to moderate it.

So what finally made me stop?

After years of my ex-boyfriend explaining why drinking is not a good thing for worship leaders, all it took was for him to be several thousand miles away for his message to sink in. Uncannily enough, he sounded a lot like Paul.

“Do everything in love.” I gave up my much-loved booze because I want whoever hears my music to know how much I love my God. I want them to realize that my booze is such a small thing to pass up on in the light of what God has done for me. In fact, if God thought that me going without clothes would make people stand up and notice Him some more, I’d do it.

You see, I finally realized that not everybody think of alcohol in such a positive light. Some of the kids I’ve ministered to grew up with alcoholic fathers. For them, my two bottles is the same as their father’s two bottles. Unfortunately, their father’s two bottles are never-ending. It’s two in the frigging afternoon and tatay’s all smashed out of his mind on their couch and cussing at them in a loud voice that the neighbors can hear. By 8PM, he’ll be hitting inay again.

Or maybe for them alcohol is about fast car rides through the night, parking on some bluff, making out with some random guy, losing your heart on that same night, and then being left behind.

I can’t be assured that the congregations’ memories of alcohol are always positive. Maybe there’ll be two or ten people out there who have been raised by good alcoholic fathers such as me and have wonderfully pleasant memories of alcohol. But not everyone.

So better err on the safe side.

When I’m up there on the altar, I don’t want them to bother asking themselves, “so why is she drinking?” All I really want them to think about is our Lord. Not me, not my music, not my lifestyle, or drinking preferences.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve nobly given up alcohol for the greater good. I’m just letting all the good drinks of this world pass me by as I sit here in my corner and sing to my God. But honestly, I miss alcohol a damn lot. Like I’d probably consider criminal activities in exchange for a glass of rum coke right now. But that’s just the way it is. Maybe when I meet my Father, He’ll pour me something even better than rum coke, but just for now… Well, for now, I’ll do this out of love.

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Raising a boy

I grew up under the steady and nurturing guidance of my parents. It may have been the fact that I was so sickly when I was born that every single doctor that saw me told my parents that I wouldn’t last the week, but my mother was especially caring for me. We may have been poor, but I was never lacking in attention and care by my mother.

Fortunately, my mom’s tendency to be over-protective was balanced by my father’s firm and Godly guidance that I grow up as a guy: wounds and scratches, broken windows, lizard-in-my-pocket, mud-on-my-cheeks, slingshot skirmishes that constitute a boy’s childhood. While my mother cleaned up my lacerated knees and made sure I had milo every morning and took my vitamins every night, my father took me to community basketball leagues and introduced me to isaws, fishballs, and bruce lee movies. While my mother attempted to inject some culture in me by enrolling me on piano lessons (I lasted for about two sessions, I think), my father took me fishing, bought me boxing gloves, made me a makeshift punching bag, and bought me a mountain bike, which left me pasted on a wall after I forgot to break while I was speed-turning on a steep slope. He even bought for me my first ever gift to a girl classmate I liked – a troll doll I never would have thought of giving to a girl. Why would you give such an ugly thing to a beautiful creature, after all?

I remember when I was around seven years old. My father allowed me to spend my summer vacation at my grandfather’s house in Guinayangan, Quezon – my father’s hometown, alone; seven bumpy hours of travel time and a couple of hundred kilometers separated me from my parents. Naturally, my mother was against the idea. My father was firm, “lalake yang anak mo. Kailangang matuto yang mag-isa.” (Your child is a boy. He has to learn to live alone.) Entrusted to my grandparents and several of my father’s siblings, I spent the summer on the beach.

The summer turned out to be a boy’s dream. For two months, my feet were covered with wounds from the sharp rocks on the beach, which I dived in every other day. I got bitten by a dog on my ass (I kid you not) when I tried to steal kaimito (star apple) from a neighbor. I spent every afternoon choosing half a dozen or so comics that my grandmother and I rented (there was no electricity at the town back then so no tv, or anything) so we’ll have something to read every night. My cousins and I played on the streets all day every single day. I first came to love oral storytelling on my grandfather’s lap. I blew off my allowance on champoy and siopao. My cousins took me to the shore and we followed the water up the ‘river’. We hiked on the forest and came across an NPA camp. If I could wake up early enough and catch the low tide, we scoured the uncovered miles of the beach looking for stranded fish, crabs, and one time, even a baby octopus. There was also a girl, but that’s another story altogether.

Two weeks before school was about to start, my father took me home. I returned to Quezon a year later, and spent every summer vacation there hence. Never in my life had I ever been as busy than when I was a boy.

I have no idea how to raise a daughter, but I have a good blueprint on how to raise a son. My parents raised me well. I could come crying home, secure in the knowledge that my mother would wash my wounds and make the hurt go away whenever accidents ended my childhood adventures. I would also be confident to take on new and amazing adventures the very next day, because my father has given me the courage and strength, and he has encouraged me to explore more and more.

The purpose of parenthood is to rear up children who could one day be good parents themselves. Much as a parent would want to take care of their children, it is only the cruel parent who protects their children from every single challenge, every single hardship, every single hurt. They would end up with adult children – those who have grown old but never grown up. My father and my mother are good parents simply because they raised me in a way that I could stand on my own – even if they’re not around.

God is of the same way. When we are new believers, He makes His presence known to us and envelops us in His hands as we crawl around. Being a good parent, however, He does not want us to crawl around for the rest of our lives. Slowly, He raises us up and gradually withdraws His hands so that we may learn to stand and walk on our own. This is the only way we can grow – for there is no room for faith where certainty dwells. As C.S. Lewis said in his famous letters, when a man who stumbles and looks at the universe and sees no presence of his God yet continues to stand up and obey, that is the moment when God is most pleased.

 

 

* images from http://www.shutterstock.com 

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