Wtmcclendon

Author's details

Name: wtmcclendon
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. A Potter's View: Role Models: Zechariah or Simeon — December 11, 2014
  2. A Potter's View: Offering the Gospel at Christmas — December 4, 2014
  3. A Potter's View: Ferguson and the Pecking Order — November 25, 2014
  4. A Potter's View: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is — November 19, 2014
  5. A Potter's View: Holiday Grace — November 13, 2014

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  1. A Potter's View: Trinity Sunday as United Methodist Hope — 1 comment
  2. A Potter's View: Church Conflict and United Methodist Zeitgeist — 1 comment
  3. A Potter's View: A Cord of Three Strands — 1 comment

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Dec 11 2014

A Potter's View: Role Models: Zechariah or Simeon

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/role-models-zechariah-or-simeon/


To everyone who hasn’t figured out your family’s Christmas plans, your gift lists, or whether or not you’re going to invite Aunt Sue, the drama queen, to anything – here’s to you! Two weeks from today is Christmas and I behind in my decision making and confused. Like being caught between the First Advent and the Second, I am in this tenuous almost there, but not quite mode of either making some hard and fast decisions or just throwing my hands up in the air and go with the flow. My choice is to go with the flow, God’s flow.

Isn’t that what Joseph decided as he heard about the impending birth? He could have really wrecked things. Gosh, Mary absolutely could have refused to say to Gabriel, “Be it unto me as you have said.” All the people from Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Magi, Shepherds, Innkeeper, Herod, Cyrenius, Simeon, and Anna could have make fateful decisions that would have made the Lord’s birth turn out very differently. It is simply amazing how God allowed human freedom of choice to affect his plan of salvation for the world. What a risk, but we have a God who risks and I’m glad!

Now, I know that some of you think that the whole birth thing and everything before and since about everything in life has been a done deal, pre-arranged, and orchestrated, but to do so lessens the love-factor that God embraces for human history. God loves us so much that He allows us to be partners in this thing called life. Our decisions are ours to make, and for God to use, oftentimes having to bring good out of our bad choices.

Well, enough about theological “what-if’s” and human choice and let me get back to what I need to do about Christmas shopping, planning family get-togethers that fit everyone’s schedules, and whether or not we clean the house for the potential aforementioned festivities. I am reluctant to be as compliant as Mary and Joseph, and feel as resistant and befuddled as Zechariah.

Zechariah is an interesting character. He’s a Levitical priest who is married to Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. He’s pulled the duty that places him in the temple and an angel lets him know that he and Elizabeth are going to have a child. What gets me is that he shouldn’t have been very surprised. It says in Luke 1:13 that his prayer has been answered for a baby, but his response to Gabriel the angel is DOUBT in verse 18, “How can I be sure of this?” He’s like people who pray for rain but never carry an umbrella. He’s been praying, but when it comes true, he’s shocked. Go figure, but it sounds like me – maybe you.

The character in Jesus’ birth narrative that I would desire to be most like is Simeon. In Luke 2:25-35 we read of this faithful devout man who has been waiting in Jerusalem for who knows how long because the Lord told him that he wouldn’t die before he got a chance to see the Messiah, the consolation of Israel. What I want to emulate is what it says in Luke 2:27, “Moved by the Spirit, he went to into the temple courts.” Wouldn’t my choices turn out better if I did what the Holy Spirit moved me to do?

Anyway, Simeon sees Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child. He dares to take him in his arms like LeBron James hugging Princess Kate last week in NYC, and then he bursts into song. Simeon sings the “Nunc Dimittis” which says, basically “Now dismiss your servant because I’ve seen your salvation…” He says some other very important things, but what captures me is that he was willing to be faithful enough to wait until God delivered on his promise, obedient enough to be moved by the Spirit, bold enough to take the Savior from Mary’s protective arms, and fearless enough of what other’s thought so that he could break out in a song that said, “Lord, now I’m ready to go. I can die in peace because You kept your word and I’ve seen the Savior!”

Who do you want to be like in Jesus’ birth narratives? Who are you like? I may be a Zechariah, but I want to be a Simeon. If I’m like Simeon then the Christmas lists, plans, and what-ifs are going be no big deal. Real choices still need to be made like Simeon’s choice to remain in Jerusalem until God came through, but if I rest in the Spirit my choices will turn out better than okay. Reluctant Zechariah or Expectant Simeon, which shall I be?

Simeon


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/role-models-zechariah-or-simeon/

Dec 04 2014

A Potter's View: Offering the Gospel at Christmas

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/offering-the-gospel-at-christmas/


Have you ever wondered about the inaccuracy of our coffee-table Nativity Scenes? Mixing Magi and shepherds in a stable as opposed to a house is a convenient mixing of the two Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth but just aren’t what the Bible text says. I am leading a 3-week study of the Birth Narratives of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. Anyone who has read them know there are huge differences between them.

Matthew has Jesus’ genealogy go back to Abraham, includes 4 very interesting non-Jewish women of questionable initiative and pursuits, has a Joseph-perspective unlike the Mary-centric view of Luke that focuses big-time on Jesus’ birth being the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and loves designating the Christ-child as the “Son of David” emphasizing that he is a true king in the Davidic line (2 Samuel 7:16).

Matthew further makes the point that Jesus is the culmination of the promise to Abram in Genesis 12:3 that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” by including the Magi/Wise Men, the foreign astronomers who followed a star and found Jesus after a confab with wicked King Herod. Unlike Luke, in Matthew there are no shepherds, no Song of Mary, no manger, no heavenly host singing, no lack of room in the inn, and Luke’s genealogy goes back to Adam, not Abraham.

All this is to say that each Gospel writer has his own perspective and audience because each writer wants a certain group to have a better chance to receive and accept the good news of Jesus Christ. The truth doesn’t change from audience to audience, but what preacher doesn’t want to make their message more attractive by cherry-picking certain recollections that speak more clearly to their primary listeners?

So Matthew differs from Luke. “Son of David” occurs 11 times in Matthew, 4 times in Luke and Mark, and not at all in John. That’s a clue! Matthew wants his Jewish/Gentile church to have an apologetic, an argument to use in their mixed religion and no-religion community that Jesus is the Jewish Savior and the Gentile Savior rolled into One! Sounds like something we need to do as the “None’s” who have no religious affiliation or affinity become more and more numerous.

As much as Easter is the hinge upon which our faith stands or falls, it is Christmas that is the primary season for us to witness to the people in our society who don’t know Jesus. After I attempted last night to cover all the ways that Matthew was trying to make the case for Jesus, I asked the question, “What do we use today to prove to people who Jesus is? Do we use Scripture, personal actions like good deeds, corporate goodness in Christian institutions, personal experience, the miraculous, etc.?” The question still looms, “How do we offer Christ to the world in a way that is both inviting and convincing?”

Do the images, messages, and tunes of Christmas during Advent and Christmas seasons mostly benefit those already in the know, or do they convey the truth of Jesus Christ as Lord in effective ways to nominal Christians, newcomers to the faith, or strangers to belief. I dare say it, I think that we’ve been “preaching to the choir,” and satisfying our own need to have our beliefs reinforced. Before our message is completely drowned out by Santa Claus and “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas,” we must reinterpret the Gospel in a fresh yet timeless manner that compels people to at least consider that Jesus is who Jesus and the Scriptures say He is!

It is my experience that music and sentiment are the best ways to reach people during this season. Longest Night or Solstice Services help people through a season without a loved one. Traditional Christmas carols done in fresh ways via the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Pentatonix are stirring and a valid entrée into people’s need for an emotional, even spiritual, depth to the season. Bottom line, as syrupy and manipulative as it may sound and seem, I think we need to meet people exactly where they are and touch them with the wonder of the season in emotional ways.

I suppose I am admitting that the facts of Christianity aren’t reaching people. They answer questions that people aren’t asking anymore. Therefore, we need to touch the most pressing need and that is on an emotional level. Of course, the facts provide emotional buttressing and support feelings of financial stability and cognitive peace. However, it is sentiment that is measured nowadays when the Fed gauges money policies of contraction or loosening of interest rates. They call it “Consumer Sentiment,” or the “Consumer Confidence Index,” and it largely determines the Fed’s actions.  I suggest that we do the same in our apologetic, our attempts to prove who Jesus is and what only He can do for someone’s life.

What are the arguments, proofs, compelling reasons, apologetics, or rationales that you are using to witness for Jesus? Matthew used one perspective on Jesus’ life to reach his listeners. Mark used his. Luke had his own take for the benefit of his audience, and John another. We better be using or doing something or the culture is going to keep marginalizing the religious aspect of the season and totally miss Jesus. Not a good thing – a terrible thing especially in light of the Good News that everyone so desperately needs.


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/offering-the-gospel-at-christmas/

Nov 25 2014

A Potter's View: Ferguson and the Pecking Order

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/ferguson-and-the-pecking-order/


“The Pecking Order,” is what my father-in-law, Guy Godwin, a retired High School principal, called the tendency for one person or group to try to dominate or lord it over another. The pecking order can be seen in Ferguson, Missouri and it’s everywhere else, too. I saw it as a child at mealtime, especially at holidays, when there was a “Children’s Table,” and we went last. From schoolyard bullies, family systems and birth order, businesses and preferential treatment, or the socio-economic pigeon-holing of the have’s and have-not’s, there is always a pecking order. I want to say, “Like it or not, deal with it,” but I don’t like it. None of us should. I think that it is a pattern of existence that predates society and civilization. It goes all the way back to Lucifer’s attempt to usurp God’s throne in Isaiah 14:12-15. It is found in Adam’s silence when he and Eve were tempted in the Garden. It’s been in every culture since and seems to be an integral but horrific characteristic of human nature. It’s in the animal kingdom, too, and surely brings out the barbaric animal in us.

We like pecking orders because it sets up one of the most insidious patterns of sinful behavior: the “blame game,” and proves my Dad’s point when I thought that I was doing some new, unique, and improved sin as a teenager. He would say, “Son, You don’t think your brothers didn’t try that, your uncles, me, and your grandfathers? There isn’t anything original about original sin.” That might have been my first theology lesson. Yes, there’s nothing original about attempting to stratify society and try to either hurt or blame somebody else. We’re great at being victims, and victimizing. Unfortunately, it’s true. Did Bill Cosby victimize women? Seems so. Did the Ferguson Police Department with its out-of-balance ratio of white-to-black police officers promote victimization? Seems so. Didn’t someone say that perception is reality?

So whether one thinks one side is right and the other wrong is irrelevant. The fallen human desire to have pecking orders presupposes that one race always wants to be higher on the rung of society and the way to get there is to demonize the next lowest, and the next lowest does it to the next lowest, ad infinitum. The problem is that in God’s view all of humanity is simultaneously at the top of the heap and at the bottom in a sense. Every one of us is at the same time a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), and sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We’re the best that God has to offer and our own worst enemies.

The problem with racism and the blame game is that we can repent over and over again and we’re still stuck in victimization. I’m not saying that we need to let perpetrators off the hook. We need to hold people accountable, but sadly grand juries and street mobs view evidence that we all know is skewed. Every so-called fact has bias, and we wonder like Pilate, “What is truth?” My father-in-law was right. Most mayhem and what’s wrong with the world isn’t about the facts, it’s about the darn pecking order.

Well we could try the communist method and not have a pecking order at all but, truth be told, even in communism and socialism there’s a pecking order. One person explained the difference between capitalism and communism this way: “In capitalism, man exploits man. In communism, it’s the other way around.” Pardon the sexist language, but isn’t it true: the only difference is that you trade one set of fat-cats for another?

How do we move past Ferguson and racism, elitism, unfair judgment, and the pecking order tendency we all have? I suggest we own it, confess it, and repent. We need to admit that our judgments are very often not true, our assumptions are false, and our elitism actually betrays our very weakness. We are all pitiful creatures that need a Savior. The only way to make this world right can’t be legislated, though we can continue to try. The only way to have lasting peace and harmony isn’t through riots and demands. It’s through emptiness and non-violence. I daresay and mean it 1000% – it’s through a come-to-Jesus meeting for all of us. The only way for us to move forward is through self-sacrificial love, forgiveness, and human transformation. In other words, through an encounter with Jesus. Therefore, we pray the Kyrie eleison, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” No more pecking order except Jesus as Lord and everyone as our sister and brother. Amen.

Black and White Praying hands


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/ferguson-and-the-pecking-order/

Nov 19 2014

A Potter's View: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/putting-my-money-where-my-mouth-is/


Christ the King Sunday is always the concluding Sunday of Pentecost season and the last Lord’s Day before we begin Advent. It is even more appropriate that Thanksgiving Sunday and Christ the King Sunday coincide! We have so much to be grateful for in response to God’s providence, none of which would be possible without recognition that Christ is King. Caesar isn’t King, nor any other world leader or system. Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and when we hang onto that reality all of our difficulties pale in comparison. Because Christ is King we can have hope for today and expectancy for tomorrow.

So many stores have been promoting Christmas earlier and earlier because it affects their yearly bottom line. This coming Sunday is finally when it’s appropriate for us as Christians to begin a hurry-up of our preparations for the holidays. Therefore, it is entirely sensible for us to crank everything up a notch. We have waited long enough! This conjunction of celebrating that Christ is King and Thanksgiving is the only time when I’m glad to start thinking about making detailed plans for Advent season and Christmas. We will have moved from what the church calendar calls ordinary time to an extraordinary season where we can make things right before the year ends. There are people that we need to forgive, goodbyes and hello’s to say, visits to make, and debts to pay. We better make the best of these closing weeks of the year. They will never come again.

Therefore, this is when I better gauge my personal bottom line spiritually, financially, emotionally, and physically. If Christ is King in my life what does that do to my scheduling and priorities. If I am a thankful person, how does that prepare me to celebrate the Lord’s birth and get ready for His Second Coming? Like many, this is an important time for me to assess how I have been faithful all year. This is the time of the year when churches send out year-to-date contribution statements, receive pledge cards, and count the cost of doing ministry and make budgets. We need to respond by counting our blessings and giving back to God what is God’s. I dare not forget the Guest of Honor at His own birthday party. I should ask right now what end-of-year gifts I need to make. I need to put my money where my mouth is!

This world is filled with more takers than givers. A pastor was visiting one of his parishioners. He took his young daughter with him. As they visited an elderly couple, the man gave her a handful of peanuts. Expecting her to show a spirit of gratitude, the girl’s pastor-father asked his daughter, “Honey, what are you supposed to say?” Sincerely, and with her eyes fixed upon the older gentleman, she asked, “You got any more?”

How easy it is to expect more and more without expressing our gratitude in return. This coming Sunday and Thanksgiving week is a marvelous opportunity for us to say, “Thank You,” to God. What we decide this week in honoring Christ as King will go a long way in making or breaking our entire 2014 and our Christmas. Too often we are like the child who received a dictionary on her birthday from her grandmother. After considerable time had lapsed without a word of thanks, the grandmother wrote her to make sure that she received it, “I hope you liked the dictionary I bought for you?” Her granddaughter wrote back, “Yes, and I just can’t find the words to say thank you.”

Just as she had the words literally given to her by which she could have given thanks, so has God given us talents and treasures to use in saying “Thanks!” to Him. If we will just do it! There are really no excuses to our negligence or procrastination. December 31 is just around the corner and each of us as individuals will close the books on another year. What will our ledgers say about our faith and faithfulness in 2014? When you’re passing out thanks this coming week, don’t dare forget the One who gives you eternal life. One young man said to his father, “Guess what? I can say please and thank you in Spanish.” His father asked, “How come you never say it in English?” Let’s use every language of the heart, soul, and body to offer our praise and gratitude to God. Christ is King! Give thanks!

Money Where Mouth Is


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/putting-my-money-where-my-mouth-is/

Nov 13 2014

A Potter's View: Holiday Grace

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/holiday-grace/


Christmas panic is already here! I am grateful for all those who give of themselves in worship leadership: music directors, clergy, worship committees, altar guilds, choir members, musicians, ushers, acolytes, crucifers, band members, and thank God for good sound technicians. With worship it literally takes a village and that’s the point. True worship focuses on God as the audience, the congregants as the actors, and everyone connected to worship leadership as the stage hands that facilitate the worshiping gifts of the congregation toward a Holy God. Too many worship experiences have devolved into a feast for the parishioners, and a spectacle for spectators. The use of religious language and music has too often become a “production” for show-and-tell entertainers for consumeristic congregants whose primary interest is what’s-in-it-for-me.

Why is this on my mind right now? Well, it’s not Thanksgiving yet and already Music and Worship people have that “look” on their faces about Christmas. It’s a cross between glee, panic, and frustration because in so many ways music does carry the season. I sympathize with all the people who are doing their very best to make sure the holidays are bright and worshipful for everyone. My gratitude for all of the stagehands that help us offer God our best worship should go without saying, but I must say it. I must say it now before Advent and Christmas seasons arrive because the aftermath leaves these selfless people with too little energy to even embrace a hearty “Thanks!”

So I say, “Thank you,” ahead of time. It is Thanksgiving season after all! There’s a great story of the depth of meaning that comes from offering the Christ Child as a gift every Christmas to a world that so desperately needs Him. It is a message of how poignant and important our yearly offering is:

It was Sunday, Christmas. Our family had spent the holidays in San Francisco with my husband’s parents. But in order for us to be back at work on Monday, we found ourselves driving 400 miles back home to Los Angeles on Christmas Day.

We stopped for lunch in King City. The restaurant was nearly empty. We were the only family and ours were the only children. I heard Erik, my one year old, squeal with glee: “Hithere.” (Two words he thought were one.) “Hithere.” He pounded his fat baby hands – whack, whack – on the metal high chair tray. His face was alive with excitement, eyes wide, gums bared in a toothless grin. He wriggled and chirped, and giggled, and then I saw the source of his merriment…and my eyes could not take it all in at once.

A tattered rag of a coat – obviously bought by someone else, eons ago – dirty, greasy, and worn…baggy pants – spindly body – toes that poked out of would-be shoes…a shirt that had ring-around-the-collar all over and  a face like none other…gums as bare as Erik’s.

“Hi there baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster.” My husband and I exchanged a look that was a cross between “What do we do?” and “Poor devil.” Our meal came, and the cacophony continued. Now the old bum was shouting from across the room: “Do ya know patty cake? Atta boy…Do ya know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo!”

Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hithere.” Every call was echoed. Nobody thought it was cute. The guy was a drunk and a disturbance. I was embarrassed. My husband, Dennis, was humiliated. Even our six-year-old said, “Why is that old man talking so loud?” Dennis went to pay the check, imploring me to get Erik and meet him in the parking lot. “Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik.” I bolted for the door.

It soon was obvious that both the Lord and Erik had other plans. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back, walking to side-step him – and any air he might be breathing. As I did so, Erik, all the while with his eyes riveted to his new best friend, leaned far over my arm, reaching with both arms to a baby’s “pick me up” position. In a split second of balancing my baby and turning to counter his weight I came eye-to-eye with the old man. Erik was lunging for him, arms spread wide.

The bum’s eyes both asked and implored, “Would you let me hold your baby?” There was no need for me to answer since Erik propelled himself from my arms to the man’s. Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship. Erik laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, and pain, and hard labor – gently, so gently, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment, and then his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, “You take care of this baby.” Somehow I managed, “I will,” from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest – unwillingly, longingly – as though he was in pain. I held my arms open to receive my baby and again the gentleman addressed me. “God bless you, ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.”

I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik back in my arms, I ran for the car. Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly and why I was saying, “My God, my God, forgive me.”

God bless every worship leader this coming holiday season. Every year you graciously give “your baby” – “The Baby” to a world that needs to hear the Incarnation’s message afresh. Thanks to you we each receive our Christmas gift. Bless you and thanks for all that you do!

Baby Picture


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/holiday-grace/

Nov 06 2014

A Potter's View: Jesus, Narcie, and a Topsy-Turvy Week

Original post at http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/jesus-narcie-and-a-topsy-turvy-week/


Every week is an adventure! Who knew that last Saturday, November 1, we would have the earliest recorded snowfall in South Carolina? I ended up driving through a rough stretch of it to get to my brother who was hospitalized with a heart attack. Since Saturday he’s had a total of two, his renal function needs to improve, and God bless his wife. She is literally the best thing that has ever happened to him!

Last Saturday was also my first Apple Fest at St. John’s and it was unbelievable. What an amazing gargantuan task to turn the church into a mall with crafts, treasures, jewelry, casseroles, baked goods, apples galore, clothing for sale, and a silent auction. I suspect that $20,000 was raised for missions. Saturday night was frigid and I was unfortunately on hand to see my SC Gamecocks humiliated by Tennessee. Sunday was wonderful with an attendance of 1061 as we celebrated the Saints and had a baptism!

Monday was the day for my brother’s second heart attack and oral surgery for me. I have been loopy to say the least. My brother is improving, but slowly. Caleb is home from visiting a friend which is grand, but along the way this week there have been 3 flat tires, a hack on my bank account, Cindy locked her car keys in the car at work an hour away. Oh well, the list of the ups and downs could go on, but…!

I am grateful. When I make my pledge to the church this Sunday the most important Bible verse in my mind will be I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t mean that the topsy-turvy circumstances are God’s will, but giving thanks is! Saying, “I’m doing okay, under the circumstances,” sounds pretty good, but as Christians we are never “under” the circumstances. Thanks to Christ we are more than overcomers. Romans 8 reminds us that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love and care. My giving needs to reflect just how grateful I am for a God who helps us overcome our circumstances!

Yesterday afternoon brought the best news of the week. Our daughter, Narcie, went for her usual 3-month MRI on her brain tumor. She’s had two brain surgeries in the past 4 years and the prognosis hasn’t been a good one. Her doctors have been very blunt, but she’s a fighter and full of a realistic faith. Yesterday she had the MRI and then met with the oncologist. He gave her good news that the tumor was not growing then she asked the question she had not been wanting to ask, “Has my prognosis changed?” Originally they were thinking 3-5 years, but the doctor said yesterday that he thought he could conservatively push her survivability out another 6 on top of the four. We are ecstatic!

I know that there are situations where there is despair beyond hope and I commiserate with those of you who live in chronic chaos, pain, or dilemmas of any kind. I also know this: No matter what we go through or how down we feel, Jesus is more than ready to hear, listen, and respond. Sometimes we don’t get the response that we prefer, but we have a friend in Jesus who has been to the grave and back to set our course on the path to hope and heaven.

I don’t what this week has done to you, but in all of our topsy-turvy lives, Jesus remains constant. Hang on to that, no matter what. Thanks for your prayers for Narcie. I am grateful more than words can express.

Almost Plucked Rooster

 


Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/jesus-narcie-and-a-topsy-turvy-week/

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