Did I Preach That?

How many of you remember Steve Urkel? He was a fictional character on the ABC/CBS television sitcom Family Matters. Aside from being annoying and always capable of messing things up, he had a unique catchphrase: “Did I do that?

UrkelI was reminded of Urkel when I happened to listed to a sermon I preached last year. You see, I had asked Siri to randomly play music on my iPhone while I was driving (I wasn’t talking). After a few random songs came and went, a sermon I preached a year ago queued up.

I posted this message a while back, but I am going to do it again. As I listed to it I almost had the feeling of listening to a totally different person – not me. It was almost like, “Did I preach that?” But, that’s how the Spirit works sometimes. I may have not needed that message for myself until just yesterday.

The following sermon was recorded while we were remodeling our sanctuary. We held services in our gym. This sermon was second in a series through the book of Ephesians. The part of the sermon that really spoke to me this time was the part towards the end…”But God…

“The Holy Spirit in Ephesians”


To bring you up to date, I am now doing a study through 1 Corinthians on Sunday evenings at Riverside. The following was preached  on March 23, 2014.

1 Corinthians 2 (Mysteries)


As I see it, I may never be able to travel the world preaching God’s Word, but as long as we still have the internet I’m gonna take advantage of this opportunity. I’m not the greatest preacher, and certainly not the only one you can access online, but at least I’m getting the “message” out to some, right?

God bless you, friends. Have a great Lord’s Day!

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A “New Age”

It Was the 90′s

It’s the dream of many young people to have a garage band. A few of them actually put a band together that can crank, get in gear, and drive out of the garage.

rockersBack in the late 80′s and early 90′s my sister and I had a band called “Mirror Image.” We came on to the scene at a time when musical styles were in the process of changing and popular Christian music was still trying to find itself. Stylistically, we were either too early, too late.

Nevertheless, our final incarnation, consisting of my sister, Rebecca (keyboard & vocals), Steve Castlen (drums), Jody Gould (guitar), and myself (bass), was a locally popular band that, at least, made a small impact on eternity. Our music was original (either written by Rebecca, myself, or the group), fun, and intended to reach a younger generation with the gospel of Christ. As a result, more than a few young people came to know Jesus as their Savior.

A Different Century

mirror image bandIt’s now 2014, Mirror Image is no more, and all of the band members have gone on to other things. Rebecca is now Rebecca Gomes and lives in Germany; Jody Gould owns Battlefield Recording Studio and runs sound for the influential Brainerd Baptist Church; Steve Castlen is a certified apologist in Nashville; and I am here, preaching and remembering our youth.

But even though it’s been over 20 years since Mirror Image was rock’n the stage, those of us here in the States (sorry, Rebecca), have teamed up again. This time we are working on Katie’s (my daughter) first single.

Despite our age…despite my lack of hair…despite the fact that Steve (Captain America) is more “built” now than then – which is irritating…the creative forces which drove our talents in the early years have only gotten better. Maturity has it’s benefits.

An Old Song

You are going to be unbelievably impressed with Katie’s song, “It’s Beautiful.” Our intent is to have it receive national attention and airplay, who knows? But in the meantime, I have something unique and special for you to listen to. Click on the link below and listen to a song Mirror Image recorded – believe it or not – on a cassette recorder in a brick-walled Sunday school classroom.

The song (which I wrote) is called “New Age.” It talks about how many religions and cults point toward a coming day when the world will enter a “new age” of peace, understanding, and oneness. The only problem? All those who dogmatically worship one God must be “taken out” of the world, one way or another. The New Age, the Paradigm Shift, none of it can come as long as Christians are still in the world. Ironically, Christians believe the same thing.

“New Age”


(Written by: Anthony Baker; Performed by: Mirror Image)

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Thursday Thoughts (Frogs and Fears)

What in the world does a preacher think about on Thursdays? Let’s find out!

Does water fall sideways?

My wife and I were taken to dinner the other day by a very nice couple who appreciate fine dining – they took us to Cracker Barrel. While in the gift shop, I noticed two frogs continually spitting into a small pond.

photo (24)First, what is so attractive about a fountain with spitting frogs? I mean, do frogs spit? And if they do, wouldn’t that much be a sign of impending kidney failure and death? What would make an amphibian with projectile saliva be your first choice of lawn decoration?

Secondly, notice the water. The little stream from froggy on the right is obviously falling at an angle due to the position in which he/she is sitting. What might not be as noticeable is that the one on the left, as I was standing there watching, was really, literally falling to the left, i.e. NOT straight down! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

So, another couple walks up behind me and I say to the husband, “Does the water coming out of the frog’s mouth on the left look like it’s falling straight down?” “Huh, no it doesn’t,” he said.

Then the man’s wife walked up and asked what he was looking at. He asked, “Doesn’t that water look like it’s falling to the left? How’s that possible?” No joke, the wife replied, “Well, it would if the hose was curved.”

I looked at the guy and asked, “Can I quote her on that?

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Thinking about the frogs and the crazy water, I was reminded that our eyes can play tricks on us. In reality, based on what we see, our understanding of the world can be very misleading.

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God.” – Isaiah 50:10 NLT

That is why, even in the darkest nights of life, I trust God: He knows what’s really going on.

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What to Wear to Church? (2014)

“What to Wear to Church?” has consistently been the number one search entry leading people to this site. What does that tell you?

If you’ve never read my thoughts on this before, this is the post all the search engines bring up. Originally written in 2010, it has been updated for today.

Clothing

A while back I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while I almost always do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine. Therefore, I will compromise – I will probably wear a sport coat, khakis, and flip flops…not really.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that unless you’re totally too liberal, or don’t go at all, you wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

It’s Not About You

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Or, in other words, don’t dress like you’re the star – going to church shouldn’t be a fashion show.

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in most cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Some Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals God’s glory, while the second implies God’s house is no different than anywhere else.

Here’s a couple suggestions. Try going to a White House dinner looking like a hobo or a hippie from the 60′s. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bona fide rock star, or simply Bono, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King? Is God not greater than Obama? (clear throat)

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist, nut jobs. In both cases someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is spiritual behavior and what is not. That’s LEGALISM!

Believe it or not, the most modern, non-denominational, praise-and-worship-style congregation can be just as legalistic as the narrow-minded traditionalist. I may not prefer to preach in blue jeans on Sunday morning, but I’m not going to condemn someone who does. Likewise, when I don’t wear a suit and tie on Sunday night, I am not going to condemn someone who dresses like he’s going to a funeral.

Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries. Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV

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My Definition of Marriage May Change

I give up; I know I can’t fight it anymore.

Even though for so long I have believed that marriage is supposed to be the holy union of a man and a woman, as God designed, my opinions based on ancient texts must change. Otherwise, I will never be able to run a bakery, work at Home Depot, get preferential government bids, or dress up like a unicorn riding a rainbow (and you know how much I’ve wanted to do that).

Therefore, I am going to revamp my definition of marriage in order to fall in line with society at large. After all, love is all that matters, right? So……

Marriage, is not the union of of just one man and one woman, it is the union of two people, male or female, who love each other…wait, that can’t be right…that would be too narrow…let’s try again…

Marriage, is the union of however many people who love…wait…

Marriage, is the union of two…no, one person and one animal…wait…

Marriage, is the union of human to human or animal…DANG IT!…wait…

Marriage, is the union of human, animal, and/or plant that love each other…What?

How do we know if the dog that married the woman really wanted to go through with the vows? How can a dog vow anything? Or a horse? Or whatever? I don’t get that one.

Anyway…

Marriage, is the union of two or more living and breathing beings…Oh, good Lord!…WAIT!

Marriage, is the union between two or more living and breathing beings, AND/OR amusement park rides…(Seriously? Yep.)…wait…just wait!!

How do inanimate objects abide by a covenant, express love, raise a family, etc.? For that matter, how do animals and humans reproduce?

Good grief! All I am trying to do is be fair and open to all forms of love, you know? I mean, as a Christian I am not suppose to judge how other people express their understanding of love and marriage; I’m just supposed to accept them.  Marriage, therefore, should be left up to whomever and whatever feels some form of attraction – and who am I to call it anything but pure?

However, the more I try to be open and inclusive, the more Pandora gets upset that I’m breaking the lid on her box. Once we open wide the redefinition of marriage, where to we stop? Who is to say another person’s opinion is wrong? Who is hypocritical enough to label someone else’s nuptial wishes perverted or insane?

So, let’s try this again…

Marriage, is the union between a man and/or a woman, and/or an animal, and/or, a piece of construction equipment, and/or a child…

WAIT!

A CHILD?!!

(They do it in Africa all the time. And who’s to judge the loving folks at NAMBLA? Who do we think we are, God?)

Marriage, is the union between a man and/or a woman, and/or an animal, and/or, a piece of construction equipment, and/or a child…wait…

What about those diagnosed with multiple personalities? What about family members who really, really love each other? My God! The possibilities are endless!

The ethical ramifications of all this are insane!

The way God intended - period.

The way God intended – period.

Oh, I don’t know…maybe I should just go back to the way God designed it (Genesis 2:24). It sure would be a lot more simple, wouldn’t it?

Now, let the hate mail commence.

Links:

Woman marries dog.

Animal Marriage.

Woman Marries Ferris Wheel.

Child Marriage.

Woman Marries Herself.

Here Come the Polygamists.

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Filed under Culture Wars, current events, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Do not judge, General Observations, Relationships and Family, World View

A Dream of Prayer

I Had a Dream

Last night, maybe because I went to bed early, maybe because I was sickly (still am), or maybe because I ate home-made salsa, I had a lengthy, detailed dream.

We all dream to some degree or another, don’t we? How often to you have dreams that cause you to sit up and take notes so you won’t forget it? Well, last night was one of those times.

A Stressful Start

Have you ever had times when you are so stressed about something, like a term paper or work project, that you dream about it? Last night’s dream started with me doing something I need to more often: prospecting.

I have been doing some work in the credit card processing area for about a year. However, I haven’t been very successful (made a lot of money) because I haven’t been seeing enough people. In other words, I could be more successful and bring in more income if I would only knock on a lot more doors, so to speak. But, as with most sales careers, prospecting is the worst part. So, I’ve been stressing.

Anyway, the last night’s dream started out with a guy I work with and myself going into a business to talk about their credit card processing options. That’s when things got interesting.

The Prayer

There in the main office area of what seemed to be a print shop, an advertising firm, or something like that, we walked up to the counter and begin talking to a lady. My friend asked, “How have you been doing, lately?” (as if there had been some kind of previous relationship). The dark-haired, middle-aged business woman solemnly replied, “I was diagnosed with cancer this week.

Normally, if it were any other time, I would let my partner (the more experienced one) continue with the conversation. But this time I said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but would you mind if I pray for you?” The lady looked puzzled that I would even ask such a question, and sort of recoiled. I said, “It’s OK, I’m not asking you to do anything…I’m not talking about anything crazy…I just want to pray for you.

Sensing I was sincere, not kooky, the lady complied with my request and said, “OK, sure, I would appreciate that.” At that moment, I turned around and faced the other people in the office to ask if they would like to join us. As soon as I turned, there was a man standing beside me, reaching to put his hand on my shoulder. Others got up from their desks and came to the the counter, each holding hands or placing arms upon shoulders. “We would like to pray with you,” they said.

I started praying for the lady, but here’s where things got weird. I started asking God to bless or heal those with certain needs, but as soon as I did, anytime I would mention the type of need, someone in the office would speak out a specific name! For example, I would pray something like, “Lord, there may be someone here that is discouraged,” and that’s when a man on his knees would speak out “JIM!” I would then continue with the prayer, saying, “Lord, encourage Jim with your grace and mercy. Let Jim know You love him.”

This went on and on until my partner, along with other people that were with us (I didn’t know there were more than two of us), left me alone and went out to the car. I don’t know how much time went by, but I finally had to say, “I’m sorry, but I have to go.”

What started out as a business visit ended in a prayer meeting.

The Point

I don’t know what to think, but trying to interpret dreams can be dangerous, if not simply an exercise in foolish hypothesizing. However, there was something about this dream that pointed to a truth worth pursuing: people need prayer.

Bi-vocational pastors praying for each other at a conference in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Bi-vocational pastors praying for each other at a conference in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Not long ago I felt the Lord leading our church in a slightly different direction. Instead of going out and knocking on doors, asking the usual questions, or smacking anyone in the head with a 2-pound Bible, I feel He wants us to take prayer to the streets, prayer-walking a different street each week. As we meet people, the simple goal is to ask if we can pray with them about anything, letting the Holy Spirit set the pace and direction. Praying for someone let’s them know we care.

Believe me, a lot can happen when you begin with prayer. Maybe the dream I had was the result of too much jalapeno and habenero salsa. Maybe, as my wife suggested, I’m missing opportunities to minister by not prospecting. But, on the other hand, maybe the dream I had was simply a confirmation to my spirit of what the Holy Spirit wants to do through those of us who are willing to simply ask…

Could I pray for you?

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Thursday Thoughts (Peppers, Perps, and Protesting Preachers)

Another Thursday has leaped/lept upon us with all the fury and fluff of a rabid Care Bear. What am I to do but share a few thoughts with you?

Peppers.

My little girl loves hot peppers. When she eats pizza, she literally, and I do mean literally, covers it with crushed red peppers. I don’t know how she does it, either.

habaneroWell, today she decided to follow a recipe for grilled chicken that included freshly sliced Habanero chili peppers. I have no idea what it will be like, but when I got home from work she proceeded to describe to me the pain she was experiencing. It would seem that while slicing and dicing the peppers, she got some under a finger nail. Now, she is in pain.

I am not looking forward to the chicken.

Perps

Earlier this week I read of two punks who beat up a 98 year-old woman in a nursing home. The two females involved were working at the home when they decided to film themselves on a cell phone while slapping an old lady. They thought it was funny.

teenage-caregivers-mugshotsSo, what happened to the scumbag-etts? They were fired, thankfully. And, OH!…they lost their cell phones. Jail? Naaah! I guess somebody figured losing the ability to share their animalistic joys via Snapchat was punishment enough.

I think they should be tied up and released to a room full of grannies with hickory switches.

Protesting Preacher

Yes, it’s a sad day for the Phelps family, but the families of fallen soldiers whose funerals have been protested can rest a little easier. Oh, I’m sure the good folks from Westboro Baptist will one day be back out in force with all their colorful, creatively-worded signs detailing why people have died, but for now they must concentrate on picketing at home.

Fred_Phelps_10-29-2002There are many who have decided to rejoice at the death of Fred Phelps, Sr. Others have chosen the high road and have called for all of us to rally around the Phelps family and pray. I am somewhere in the middle.

My desire is that all people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, thereby having their sins forgiven, avoiding the terrors of eternal damnation. But on the other hand, I’m glad Mr. Phelps is finally getting to hear firsthand from the God he so hatefully represented.

After all the funerals Westboro Baptist and Phelps protested, I wonder if anyone is guarding his? Sad, I must say.

 

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I’ve Got a Mighty, Mighty Friend

Tough Times

A few minutes ago I was reading a post from a friend. He expressed several needs, yet praised the Lord for being in control (Romans 8:28). Aren’t you glad we serve a Mighty God?

All of us are living in tough and troubling times. For some of you, the road you’re on has far more bumps and potholes than the roads of others. Yet, all of us will agree, wherever we are, that the world is not getting any better. Times are tough, and are only going to get tougher.

But…

But, I have a Mighty Friend who is not affected by the whims of men or the winds of time. As a matter of fact, my Friend is the One who created man and started time.

Several years ago (2007) I wrote a song for my little girls to sing. Not long ago, while preparing for a banquet in our church gym, I listened to a recording of the song …and shouted…literally, I kicked up my heels, pumped my fists, waved my hands, and shouted “Praise GOD!

Maybe you need some encouragement? Just read the lyrics I have included below, and if God is your friend, don’t worry (Matthew 6:30-34).

Mighty Friend

Well I may not be as tall as a building or strong as a big ol train
I may not be as smart as a scientist doing things I can’t explain
But I know the One who made the tallest mountain and can whip up a hurricane
And the very One who invented gravity says He even knows my name.
 
Well I may not know what’s comin’ in the mornin’, or what the day may bring
Good or bad, I’m not gonna worry, ‘cause Jesus knows everything.
So I’ll do the best with what God has given me as long as there is time
‘Cause the One that got the clocks a-tick’n told me it’ll all be fine.
 
When the devil acts like a bully, putting on a scary show
Before you run away and hide in a corner there’s something you need to know
The One who spoke the world into existence is standing by your side
And if you look close the devil’s knees are shakin’ cause he knows he’ll lose the fight
 
Chorus:
Cause I’ve got a Mighty, Mighty Friend who watches over me
And He’s the Mighty, Mighty Savior who died to set me free
Well I may not be the greatest at anything, but this one thing is so
The God that is the greatest at everything loves me, this I know.
 

© 2007, Anthony C. Baker (BMI)

Katie is going to hate me for doing this…

…but I am going to include the recording I was talking about. This was recorded back when she (Katie) was only 10 or 11 years-old. It’s not Nashville quality, but it’s precious. So, as so many people say before they sing in church, “Don’t listen to how we sing, just listen to the words.”

“Mighty Friend”


 

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Ode to Irish Hymns

All Things Irish

Normally, I don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. But since all the beer companies are boycotting the St. Patrick’s Day parade, I figured today would be a good day for green.

IMG_0823

March, 2010

Somewhere in my ancient past, somewhere beyond the reach of genealogy software, I know there must be some Irish blood. It’s not something I can prove, but I do look good in green and turnip greens are one of my favorite foods. I also like green grass, the beauty of a rainbow, pots of gold, and Lucky Charms breakfast cereal.

Irish Hymns

But if there is anything Irish that makes a chill run up my spine, it’s the ancient hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.” I consider it one of the “battle hymns” of the faith: every time I hear or sing it, I am encouraged to draw my Sword and wage war with the Devil.

I had not been pastoring long when in 1996 I went to the Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a rare three-day event featuring a once-in-a-lifetime lineup of speakers; everyone from Chuck Swindoll and E.V. Hill, to Jack Hayford and Tony Evans, just to name a few. 40,000+ ministers came from all over the world to this event, including 200 Native American pastors who took 2 months to walk from out West. Believe me, it was incredible.

Towards the end of the gathering of all these men who had dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord, all 40,000 men stood to sing what was to be the first time I had ever heard “Be Thou My Vision.” The power…the chills…the call to do battle with the Enemy was nearly overwhelming. 40,000 pastors singing “High King of Heaven…” could make the deadest doorstop of a Christian stand to his feet and shout!

So, after searching YouTube, I found this video with a stirring rendition of the Irish hymn I love so much. Along with the song, there are pictures of great preachers and missionaries of the church. The only thing is that it ends with a picture of John MacArthur, so if you are not a MacArthur fan, just close your eyes, OK?

On this St. Patrick’s Day, please keep in mind something else…theology! Here’s another little video you should watch ;-)

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When the Muslim Woman Inhaled My Baby

Anthony Baker:

I don’t usually “reblog” other people’s posts, but today will be an exception. This article, though a little lengthy for a blog, was absolutely powerful. It immediately resonated with me. However, it was also convicting. I would encourage you to read it.

Originally posted on Lamp on a Stand:

AmeliaWe live in what some call a side-by-side.  It’s like a duplex, I suppose, in which one house is split into two separate homes, but also a bit like a townhouse or whatever name you call entire houses worth of living space that are physically connected. (Oh well, not the point of this post.) We’ve lived here for two years now, and during that time we have shared this whatever-you-call-it building with a Muslim family from Bangladesh.

Our relationship with our neighbors is rarely more than functional. We share things — the garage, the yard, the driveway, garbage cans – which leads to some logistical conversations every now and then. Who should put the garbage out? Who gets to use which parking spaces? And our most recent topic: Who is responsible for clearing snow?

Like siblings squabbling over household chores, some of these things have at times led us to bouts of complaining, annoyance, and blame…

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