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Summer

W

With the walrus and whale hunting over, Okfagit and his family prepared to move to their summer camp, loading their tent and other supplies into the boat. Early in the morning they all climbed aboard and after paddling away from the shore, raised the sail. The heavily loaded boat cruised slowly through the water, thanks to the good design the Eskimos had developed.

Ayit looked around him as he sat in the bow. The sun sparkled on the water, the small waves with their whitecaps were running before the wind. He looked at the mountains rising from the land, tree covered and fresh in their new springtime greens. “What a wonderful place we live in,” he said to himself. “The good creator God certainly does love beautiful things. I think He must be very nice.”

When Okfagit’s family arrived at their summer camp site, they unloaded a pile of skins from the boat and with them set up their tent. Then Ayit and his brothers set to work cleaning the food storage cave, a hole dug down to the permafrost.  This was a natural freezer for the meat they would harvest which they didn’t want to dry or smoke.

With summer came numerous sources of food: birds and eggs on the cliffs, large fish in both river and sea, wild plants on the tundra, and strange “fruit” from the sea along with seals. If the Eskimos were to survive, now was the time to gather in preparation for the coming winter.

The first birds to come were the snow buntings which were not edible but were the harbingers of others. Then came geese, ducks, cormorants and puffins, all of them tasty and desired. The men shot the birds and the women gutted, skinned and prepared them. Sometimes a hunter would bring home as many as 50 ducks in day. This kept his wife and daughters very busy.

After camp was set up, Okfagit immediately took his sons fishing. With the run of salmon and other fish going on, they had to take as many as they could while it was happening.

Okfagit led the way to the river carrying two poles while his older sons carried a net and Ayit carried several skin bags to put the fish in.

“Here,” said Okfagit, “this is where we will put in the net.” At this point the river narrowed some and ran smoothly over a bottom of sand and rock.

The two sons holding the net walked into the water, stretching it out. Their father and Ayit each carried in a pole which they lodged in the bottom and tied the net to it, stretching it to the river bottom. Ayit looked down at the clear, clean water rushing past his waterproof sealskin mukluks. He could see the strong, sleek bodies of the pacific salmon as they pushed themselves forward with powerful thrusts of their tails. More beauty, he thought. He gave thanks to the fish for coming and he thanked Apa for sending them.

One of his brothers worked with Okfagit at the net, stooping to pull the slippery bodies of the fish out of the net and tossing them onto the shore where Ayit and his brother cleaned the fish and put them into seal pokes.

When the pokes were full, the boys carried them back to camp where the women flayed them and put them up on drying racks. Then they went back to the river where there was another stack of fish awaiting cleaning. They worked well into the evening, it being light until almost midnight. After carrying the last pokes full of fish back to camp, they had a quick supper and slept. Their mother and sisters worked a bit longer, hanging the last of the fish to dry. The next few days passed in the same way. Then the run of salmon slacked off.

“Tomorrow we will go seal hunting,” said Okfagit.

“And we,” said his wife to her daughters, “will go to collect greens.” They all went to bed satisfied with the good start they had.

After breakfast, Nisana and her daughters took seal skin bags and set out on the tundra in search of the greens Eskimos love so much. First, they found willow roots and collected a whole bag full. Then Nisana show the girls another type of green, almost like spinach. These also filled a bag. Some of these they would eat fresh, the rest would be dried for use in the winter.

Okfagit took his two older sons with him in the boat for seal hunting while Ayit went with his other brother to the cliffs. First, they collected eggs, bracing themselves against the constant wind. They knew that strong gusts could come, sending the unwary egg hunter plunging as much as a hundred feet to his death.

After they had collected two pokes full of eggs, they took a net and used it to catch some of the smaller birds. These they took home for their mother who would stuff them whole—beaks, feet and feathers—into a freshly killed seal skin poke, which Okfagit would hopefully bring home today. She would then leave them to “ripen” for months while the seal oil worked through the birds. In the winter, the stuffed poke would be cut into thin slices and eaten whole. Everything would have dissolved and jelled into what they considered a delicious treat.

Okfagit and his sons came back with three seals, two ring seals and one large bearded seal. After offering the dead seals fresh water to honor their spirits, the women cut up the ring seals, while the men cut up the bearded seal. This was traditional division of labor.

The family continued their harvesting of food until the weather cooled in early August and then moved back to their home in the village

picture: summer skin tent

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Psalm 30:4-6

Psalm 30:4 “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.”
 
[YES! This must be our response to you, Lord, singing and praising you for your marvelous character, which is displayed in your holy name, Yahweh. You are sinless, separate, and strong; you are glorious, gracious, and great; you are worthy of worship, worthy of praise, worthy of our surrender, love and obedience. To you be honor in song, glory in praise, exaltation in thanksgiving.]
 
Psalm 30:5 “For his anger lasts only a moment,”
 
[Praise you that you are angry with sin, that you move to justly judge and properly punish, that you don’t draw back from chastening us. And that your anger ends when your desire is accomplished.]
 
“but his favor lasts a lifetime;”
 
[You are the God of forgiveness, of grace and of goodness, pouring out your undeserved favor on us forever. As it says in Psalm 18:19, “He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because he delighted in me.”
 
Praise be to you that you can delight in your redeemed but still crooked children. We rejoice in your favor, we exalt in your goodness, we revel in your love, we bask in your grace. You are wonderful, you are marvelous, you are incredibly, unbelievably, beyond-conception-good!]
 
“weeping may remain for a night,”
 
[You do take us through loss, disappointment, difficulty and heartbreak, but for good and wise reasons. Some of them are to mature us, to shape us, to deepen us that we may be more useful for you, share more in your glory and earn a greater reward in heaven.]
 
“but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
 
[Weeping in the night, especially the weeping of repentance, is followed by joy in the morning as we see what you have done, how you have forgiven, how you embrace, accept and love us. As we move out of the darkness of our limited understanding into the light of your deep and broad wisdom, we are able to comprehend more of your great and marvelous mind.
 
To you be glory, O Lord, to you be honor, to you be trust, praise and thanksgiving, for you are worthy of worship at all times, in all circumstances, in all outcomes. May you be honored today in my heart, my mind, my soul and my strength. Amen.
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Psalm 30:2-3

Psalm 30:2 “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” (This for me is quite relevant as I was pronounced positive for Covid 19 yesterday!)
[You, O Triune God, are revealed in your names: you, Yahweh, are the final authority; you, Elohim, are the infinitely Powerful One; you, Adonai, are the absolutely Faithful One.
To you I can call in my distress, for I know that in your authority, power and faithfulness you answer in wisdom, goodness, and grace. Although I don’t deserve it, in your wisdom you answer, you act, you help, you heal—immediately, or in time, or in eternity. Praise you that you are real, you are loving, you are present and you are powerful. I can trust you in all.]
Psalm 30:3 “O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.”
[You can heal when all hope is lost, you can restore when no possibility remains, you can give life when death is imminent. I praise you for your grace in preserving with us when we deserve destruction. And you can take us to be with you when the right time comes.
To know you is to have a rich life, a full life, eternal life; to trust you is freedom from worry, fear and anxiety; to rest in you brings true, lasting and powerful peace.
I give you glory for your goodness to me, Lord, for the certainty of your activity in my life, and for the joy of a future with you. I am so blessed, so filled with your goodness, so gifted with joy and knowledge and experience with you, so privileged to be able to join you through prayer in what you are doing.
To know you, Father God, King of Glory, Lord of the Universe, to be your child, to be given a place at your table, in your family, in your Kingdom, to have instant access to your heart and attention, to be called to join you in your work—these are great and powerful privileges, undeserved, totally from grace, wonderfully bestowed, gratefully received.
Lord Jesus, may you be exalted in my life today; Heavenly Father, may you be pleased with my life today; Holy Spirit, may you be honored through obedience in my life today.
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(Untitled)

I’m a bit late with this post because both Barbara and I have the corona virus. It doesn’t seem to be too serious, but we both certainly lack energy. So here at 11 am on Sunday I’ll make this post.
 
Chapter 23 Revival on the Island
Both villages on St. Lawrence Island had a Presbyterian Church. My friend Sig was the pastor of both, and divided his time between the two villages.
 
Sig had a vibrant spiritual life himself and the Lord used him to bring a revival to the Island. Eskimos who were growing believers shot ahead in their spiritual lives, while those who had been weak made new commitments and unbelievers were swept into the Kingdom.
 
Although alcohol was banned on the island, it was easily smuggled in and drinking was a big problem as the Eskimos were quickly and powerfully affected by liquor. The revival helped some who were caught in the habit to stay sober.
 
Edward, the husband of Ora, the kindergarten teacher, began to compose original hymns. He had taught himself to play a small organ, and now pecked out new tunes to go with the words he’d written in Eskimo. He was prolific in this ministry, encouraging the believers in their revitalized faith.
 
I was sad to hear some years later that Edward had frozen to death on the trail when his ski-do broke down during a big storm.
 
The island actually had had a reasonably long history of spiritual input, starting in the early 1900s, so the majority of Eskimos were church attenders, if not believers. The shamanistic practices continued, but were followed by only a small minority.
 
One Eskimo who was born in 1890 told me of how he had come to the Lord. “I was raised in Siberia,” he related. “It was a beautiful land with high mountains, great forests, and many animals.
 
“Our leaders there were the shamans who had great power and could do miraculous things. They could stab themselves, put their hand over the cut and when they took it away, the place was healed. They could play a drum and cause a tiny fox to appear which would run around the rim. They could fly and they could put curses on people.
 
“They were the ones who communicated with the spirits–now we know that those spirits were demons. They told us that they had created the world, but even as a young person, I could not believe that.
 
“Many of the things the demons did and told the shamans to do were ugly and cruel. How could such ugly beings have created such a beautiful world? I thought that there must be a good creator God who is as beautiful as the world he has made.
 
“Then when I was in my late teens, I went with a hunting party to this island. Here I met a believer who opened his Bible and told me about the God who had revealed himself to us.
 
“As he told me more about God, I said to myself, ’Aha, this is the true and good Creator God I have been looking for,’ and I became a follower of Jesus Christ.” And here, in his 78th year he was still faithfully following Christ.
 
God is at work everywhere to bring the message of life to those who are searching. We later found out that many Eskimos in Siberia were being drawn to Christ during the time when I was on the island. The Christian radio station in Nome, KICY, had an Eskimo program which was beamed towards the island, but it also went beyond to the coast of Siberia.
 
On this program the Eskimos sang songs about Jesus in Yupik, explaining the gospel in a way which the Soviet Communists could not understand and therefore they did not jam these broadcasts.
 
After the fall of communism in the 90s some of the Eskimos, along with Dave Shinen, went over to Siberia and found the Eskimos there ripe for the gospel. God is faithful to reach those who want to know.I went trapping with Edward for white foxes; it was 50 below zero

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Psalm 30:1b

A good word for today.
 
Psalm 30:1b You “did not let my enemies gloat over me.”
[I praise you, Lord Jesus, that you do not want my enemies–primarily Satan and his forces–to gloat over me, so you are consistently at work to deliver me at the right moment. You will, at times, allow me to suffer enough to learn the lessons I need, but it will certainly be far less suffering than I deserve!
You, Lord Jesus, are the Great and Powerful One, the Mighty and Wise One, my Rock, my Fortress and my Defender. You persistently reach down into this world of sin and evil to protect your children. I praise you that in the day of trouble you will keep me safe in your dwelling, you will set me high upon a rock and exalt my head above the enemies that surround me (Ps. 27).
I praise you that as I commit my way to you and trust also in you, you will bring the best to pass, you will bring forth the righteousness you’ve given me as the light and my judgment in your forgiveness as the noon day sun (Ps. 37).
I praise you that you give us your Shield of Victory, that you support us with your Powerful Right Arm, that you stoop down from your Throne to make us great as your children (Ps. 18).
To you be glory and honor and praise, O Lord God, the Triune One, the Perfect One, the Powerful One, the Most High Ruler of all. To you I bow down today, for you I rise up to live in obedience so that you may be honored. Give me the direction and wisdom you know I need for this day, O Lord, and I praise you now for what you will do.
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Psalm 30:1

Psalm 30:1 A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
“I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths….”
You, O Triune God, have lifted us out of the deep depths of the dominion of darkness where despair, depression and discouragement reign, out of death, out of the dungeon of our evil desires and selfish rebellion.
 
You have brought us out into your Light, into your Love and into your rich, eternal Life where we will live forever. You have made us your children, your partners, your friends.
So I exalt you, Lord Jesus, for you are a majestic marvel, a magnificent wonder–too good to be true, yet you are Truth itself. I exalt you for cleansing us in your blood, washing us with the water of the Word and lifting us above the waters of the nations, setting us high upon the Rock.
You are worthy of praise for bringing us out from the shadow of sin into the light of your love, into the warmth of your delight, the acceptance of your grace and the wonder of your goodness.
You brought us out into a spacious place because you delighted in us, even before we believed in you; you did this because of your great love that works against all reason, against all odds, against all human idea of justice.
You are worthy of exaltation, Jesus, for you are the LORD Yahweh, the King of glory, the Savior of the world, the Shepherd of the redeemed and Leader of all who will follow.
Help us this day, this week, this month, this year, Lord, to live in the light of your goodness, to be your disciples by denying our natural selfishness so we can live in otherness. And by obeying your Word, taking up our cross daily and following you with all our hearts. May we run with endurance the race you have set before us, looking to you so that you may finish our faith and glorify yourself in the process.
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Being Weak

Here’s an entry in my worship journal from several years ago during a difficult time of my life and it is relevant to today.
Lord, we are weak; in ourselves we are defenseless against the wiles of the enemy. You are the only One to whom we turn, for you are our Rock, our Fortress, our Defender. You are our Shelter, our Shield, our Strength and our Stronghold. Help us to quickly seek refuge in you when trouble comes, to trust you, to join you in what you are doing and to be more than conquerors in you.
Lord, there are a number of difficult situations going on around me now that weigh on my heart:
–A previously successful team has been torn apart by internal conflicts
–A newly married wife has left her husband.
–A leader is under great pressure personally, in his work and in his leading.
–A disciple is being hit with multiple disappointments and injustice.
I pray for each one with these thoughts from Psalm 37 and 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
–May each person involved hear what God is saying and heed Him.
–May they “trust in the Lord and do good.”
–May they “delight themselves in God” so that He may place proper desires in their hearts and then “give them the desires of their hearts.”
–May they “commit their ways to the Lord and trust in Him.”
–May He “bring forth their righteousness as the light, their judgment as the noon day sun.”
–May they delight in their weaknesses so Christ’s power can come on them.
–May they willingly be broken (learning to trust in God, not in themselves).
–May God thwart the plans of Satan in each person’s life.
–May there be repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation on every level.
–May God be glorified rather than shamed by the outcomes.
I praise you, Father, that in each case you are there, at work, chastening and protecting, shaping and guiding, exposing and shielding. Lord, help each one to turn to you, to follow hard after you, to embrace their suffering, disappointment and pressure, to take up and use your grace.
I praise you that our eyes must be on you, for we know not what to do. To be weak is unpleasant, but it is good when we are driven into your arms, into your truth, into your goodness, into prayer and into your Word. May that be my response and that of each one involved in these difficulties.
I praise you now, Lord, for your gracious provision before I see it worked out. You have a plan in each of these problems, and will bring it to pass. Thank you, that you are the Almighty One who breathed the stars, who holds every atom together, who loves your children and answers prayer. To you be glory for what you are doing in each of these people–and in me.
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Whaling

I’ve decided to move the Add-on Eskimo series to Wednesday, so here’s the next installment. Hope you enjoy it.
 
The years passed and Ayit celebrated his 16th birthday in 1906. Having killed his first bearded seal, he was now ready to join his father’s crew for the Spring whale hunt. This was the biggest, most important hunting activity for them. If the villagers could get a whale, they would be well set up for the coming winter. Such a hunt took teamwork, and all the boat crews from the village would go out together so they could all cooperate in pulling the whale home—if they got one.
 
To ensure a successful whale hunt, on the first full moon in February the boat captains would begin a month-long series of ceremonies which they hoped would influence the spirits to make the hunt successful.
 
Okfagit led his crew and their families in offering sacrifices to their god, Apa, thanking him for the food he had provided in the year before, and asking him respectfully for provision of good hunting for the coming year. Okfagit also put on the required feast for his family and crew, a kind of thanksgiving meal, celebrating what they had gotten in the previous year. He also visited the graves of his ancestors leaving food for them.
 
Now for the first time Ayit was allowed on his father’s boat for the whale hunt. The eight boats of the village all shoved off from the beach, launching out into the Bering Sea. The crews paddled in rhythm until they were far enough out to raise their sails. The captains manned their tillers and the strikers sat in the front of each boat with their harpoons at ready, looking for surfacing whales.
 
The harpoon they used was a wooden shaft tipped with an iron point which swiveled so that when the point entered the whale, it would turn sideways, making it very difficult to it pull out. The men also brought their rifles in case they came across any other game.
Okfagit knew the best places to find whales. As they drew near the area, a whale surfaced and blew, but was too far from them to attack. Then suddenly, a whale surfaced just a few yards from the boat. The man in the bow stood and drew back his harpoon and thrust it with all his might into the back of the whale. It didn’t flinch, just continued swimming on, with its sleek, black, monstrous and magnificent body coming and coming until finally its great tail emerged and splashed down on the water.
Okfagit’s boat was now being pulled by the whale as it swam away. The contest between man and beast had begun. The harpoon stuck fast, and the whale swam on, bleeding as it went.
 
Other boats threw lines and were tied to Okfagit’s, creating a greater drag. Ayit hung onto the side of his boat as it surged through the sea, eager for the whale to slow down. Even in this tense moment of the hunt he had time to look about and see the beauty of the sea and the distant shore, the surging of the waves, the harpoon line cutting through the water.
 
The whale surfaced again to breathe and went under, but not before it was struck with a second harpoon. Again, it seemed unperturbed, but the men could see that it was slowing.
 
Fortunately for the Eskimos, the whale was swimming parallel to the shore, although away from the village, but not directly out to sea. As the whale grew weaker and weaker, they reeled in the line and were able to put another harpoon into it. Finally, it drifted to a halt and floated to the surface, still now in death.
 
The boats gathered around to reverse the process, pulling the whale instead of being pulled by it. First, they tied floats onto it to keep it from sinking. Then all the boats fastened onto the line of the first harpoon in the whale, ready to take their prize back to the village. It took all of them paddling and pulling to get the whale moving, but once it was gliding through the water it was easier. The boats strung out in an arch and made their way slowly down the coast to their beach.
The whale was far too large to pull up out of the water, being 70 feet long and weighing as many tons, so they dragged it in as far as they could get it to make it easier to butcher the great beast.
 
The whole village gathered on the shore, excited and glad to see this catch, which would assure them food for a long time. As the men turned to work, the children played and slid down the slopes on baleen sleds, while the older ones watched to learn some of how to harvest whale meat. The women brought tea and food and circulated them among the returned hunters.
 
In spite of their tiredness after all those miles of paddling, half the boat crews immediately began the process of butchering, as the meat spoiled quickly. The other boat crews went home to rest for three hours, then they would come back and work the rest of the night.
 
First, using long handled knives, they set about cutting off the skin in long, thick slabs that were laid aside. Ayit was glad to be among them, doing his work as a man.
 
Next the fat and the whale meat were harvested. These were put in underground food storage rooms, dug down to the permafrost which never melted, a natural freezer to keep the meat from spoiling.
 
The second group worked at it all night, then another shift of men took over, working the whole day and others worked the whole night again to finish the monumental task.
 
On the last day they harvested the more durable items: baleen to make sleds, household utensils, combs and other items. The ribs and fin bones were for building houses and boat racks. And if the whale had them, teeth for carving. The remaining unusable parts where dragged to the beach where the dogs could gnaw off whatever scraps were on the bones before they were returned to the sea in respect to the whale. Nothing useable was wasted.
 
The Eskimos celebrated by eating thin strips of skin with a bit of fat on it. To them it was like candy although it was not sweet but rubbery and tasted like the sea. They immensely enjoyed this delicacy, available usually only once or twice a year. The men then slept for 24 hours or longer after the long hours of paddling and butchering. They had the sense to recover after being over extended.
 
When Ayit finally woke from his deep sleep, his mother had food for him. She praised him for his good work.
 
“You are now a man,” she said and patted him on the shoulder. Ayit beamed.
 
Later in the day, Okfagit and the other men from their boat crew took Ayit to the beach, stood him by the water. Okfagit said, “You have killed your first bearded seal, you have joined in catching a whale. You are now a man,” then he struck Ayit hard on each cheek, welcoming him into village life as an adult.

Picture: whale hunter in skin boat,  note the harpoon propped up in the front left. I took this picture when going on such a hunt myself

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Psalm 29:11

Psalm 29:11b, “the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
[You, Lord Jesus, are the Prince of Peace, the Purchaser of Peace, the Purveyor of Peace. I praise you that, in your willing sacrifice for our sins, you opened the way for a three-dimensional peace—peace with you, peace with ourselves and peace with others.
Thank you that you have placed in our hands the power to provide peace through forgiveness. With this might we can move against the way of this twisted world where we would naturally seek revenge, hold grudges and strike back.
Instead, we can be both grace receivers and grace givers—as in the picture below, drawn by Nat–receiving your forgiveness as we confess and repent; extending forgiveness to ourselves and then to others as you have forgiven us. In this way we are passing on your grace by doing what is healing and gracious, freeing and equipping.
In this you have richly blessed us, displaying your marvelous love in your kind, transforming forgiveness, offered to all, efficacious to everyone who receives it.
I praise you for your love that is higher than the heavens, wider than the universe, longer than eternity, deeper than our imagination.
I praise you now for what will come to pass today and what will not, for success and failure, for opportunities to forgive myself and others, thereby giving you glory and passing on your blessings to others.
You are worthy of our worship and love, our praise and honor, our surrender and obedience. May we live in these continually, exalting your name before the nations, before the unseen hosts of angels and the domain of the devil.
May our obedience to what we know to be right bring you honor in all, Lord Jesus, as we confess our sins to you and receive your forgiveness, as we forgive ourselves and forgive others, bringing peace to all around us.
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Psalm 29:10-11

Psalm 29:10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;”
 
[You, O Yahweh, as Creator, Sustainer and Ender of all, sit above the flood of time, the flood of events, the flood of nations and peoples.
 
You are unchanging, without age, without growth or alteration, for you are timeless perfection itself. You are mighty, all knowing and all seeing, for you dwell outside of time, you reign over time, and will end time, ushering in eternity. You are the Most High, the Almighty Creator, the Everlasting God.]
 
“the LORD is enthroned as King forever.”
 
[There is no end to your righteous rule: your dominion extends through all eternity, your power will never diminish, your plans will always work out. No one can defeat you, no one can fool you, no one can out think you. You are our Savior forever, the coming Judge, the wholehearted Forgiver and the Good Shepherd. To you belongs all honor and glory and awe.]
 
Psalm 29:11 “The LORD gives strength to his people;”
 
[You in your good graciousness draw us into your embrace and share your power with your people, even though we deserve the opposite. We are by nature rebels, evil, worthy of punishment, failure, suffering and death.
 
But in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called, cleansed, claimed as your people, commissioned and equipped to special service and cherished as your children. You pour your strength into each area of our lives: spiritual, intellectual, volitional, emotional, physical, social and financial. Therefore, we can continually move forward even when all human resources fail.
 
Praise you, Lord, for all your gracious love and provision. You are totally worthy of honor, of worship, of obedience, and I bow before you today, to walk in happy submission, joining you in what you will do, praising you in and for all.
 
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