Dear Lilka, 11-4-2016, Stepping Onto the Bridge

Dear Lilka,

In your letter to me last week you asked four questions, the first of which was, “How can I hope to bridge the gap and promote meaningful conversation in regard to race?” While I don’t have THE answers, I will attempt to respond to this question and the remaining three in a way I think may serve to bridge that gap, rather than divide.

pakistani-suspension-bridge

Sometimes the bridge you speak of may take us into unknown territory. Sometimes the crossing may feel precarious or fragile. Yet we both know the journey is imperative if we are to establish, heal and restore relationships.

It’s important for us to continue to ask questions, to be honest in our responses, and to be kind and compassionate, just as you have done in your letter – as we and our readers have done so far in this conversation. We must make room for a diversity of responses and do our best to understand the cultural view and experience of the other. And we must speak from the foundation of the love and grace of Christ.

 “How can I make my white brothers understand what a black mother fears these days?”

Truthfully, Lilka, I don’t know if our white brothers have a desire to understand this, just as I honestly don’t know if they have a desire to understand what women in general fear or are concerned with. I believe our conversation must start with women: mothers, sisters and daughters. We then must identify both men and women who are free in Christ, who have received His grace and are able to see beyond their own agenda, who are willing to allow the Spirit to transform their hearts and minds.

We must work to gently open men’s hearts one step at a time; we must be vulnerable with them, even though this, in and of itself, can be intimidating. I only know anger does not work. Anger begets anger and leads to marking territories. If we are able to take them by the hand and look them in the eyes and see their hurt, and see each one as God sees him, I believe we may have a chance.

Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, let God transform you from the inside out by renewing your mind and changing the way you think. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and what God finds good, pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

“When a man chooses to take a stand, or in this case, a knee, why is he ridiculed, threatened and viewed with disdain? Why can’t people see there is a difference between an ‘idol’ and respect?”

We have seen this before (and have written about it previously) regarding the flag and the pledge of allegiance. As Christians, our memory is short. We forget we are to have no other God before our God. Yet we make the same mistake as the Hebrews in Exodus who worshiped the golden calf; we worship many things as our idols, and become angry when others fail to worship them. A flag, a song, a candidate: none of these are God; none of them has the power to save.

Didn’t Jesus speak for the broken-hearted, for those who received unjust treatment? Are we to turn a blind eye because we refuse to take the time to understand the neighbor who Jesus said to love? Do we automatically scoff when our friends jeer and mock because it’s all too easy to ridicule what we don’t understand?

Yes, it’s sometimes hard work to get to know someone, to take the narrow road to find out who they are and what they think, why they experience hurt and pain and anger when we don’t. It’s so easy to shrug our shoulders and say something sarcastic or dismissive. But Jesus tells us otherwise, and I like the way Eugene Peterson interprets his words in The Message:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up! You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:44-48)

“I understand if you think it’s not ‘your problem.’ But the problem arises when you don’t object; you permit injustice to continue and entrench itself even further. Is that what America has become?”

Lilka, as I said last week, the first thing we need to do is what God expected Cain to do – become our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. I fear our country is becoming more and more “hands off” – not only from other countries but from each other. There was a time it seemed things were moving forward. We seemed to care about people in other countries or states suffering from disasters, we cared about our neighbors, we cared about our families. There was a time great movements happened that changed history for the better.

Now it seems we have folded in upon ourselves; we have become afraid of looking outward. We must become courageous once again.

bridge-in-fogWe must first get to know our brothers and sisters who we see as “not like us.” We must be willing to start the hard conversations. We must be willing to validate the experiences described, take them at face value, and call them what they are: injustice. We must step onto the bridge, even when we don’t see the destination. If we do anything less, we discredit and negate the stories of people of color. For these are not random stories; they are a monumental and statistically significant collection of incidents that make up a system of injustice.

We must then take the hands of our brothers and sisters and take a stand with them. We must see these systems for what they are and work together to change them.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend the documentary, “13th.” You can view it on Netflix.

(Addendum: Please be sure to read Pete’s comment below.)

37 comments

  1. […] one of our Friday letters on race,Tom who blogs over at realchange4u reminded me about the relationship between the Jews and […]

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  2. Susan, I am still stirring it and thinking. It takes me a long time. And I’ve learned to lean on that because that is the way the He made me. So don’t be surprised if it comes from nowhere when the light turns on. Thank you for including me.

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  3. So much to ponder and reflect on!!

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    1. Oh, please ponder, let it settle, and feel free to come back and add your comments to the conversation. 🙂

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  4. Susan,

    Like the bridge you have pictured above, real dialogue on race takes courage. Meaningful conversation has the potential to take us from where we are to where we need to go but we must be willing to take those steps.

    It may look frightening, push us out of our comfort zone and leave us feeling “out there” especially when those around us may have such strong views, but as you stated above we must GROW UP and move from immature Christians only seeking grace into mature lovers of our brothers and sisters, willing to dispense it.

    Growing up requires that we are obedient in loving one another when we don’t “feel” like it. I think if we were all honest and took an intense look at the grace each of us has received, we would be more inclined to live graciously toward others. But again, the heart must be willing, we must cast off judging people by appearance and label. We must all be willing to take that “next step” whatever that may be for each of us. We must choose to be a part of the solution one positive interaction at a time.

    I do agree anger begets anger. Only love can cast out the fear that increases tensions. “Perfect love gives us the courage to extend ourselves and broaden our thinking. Perfect love equips us to listen. We can do all things through Christ, even loving our brothers and sisters.

    The question remains, “Are we as a society willing to?”

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    1. “I think if we were all honest and took an intense look at the grace each of us has received, we would be more inclined to live graciously toward others. But again, the heart must be willing…”

      So well said, Lilka. I think we have to begin by seeing and doing and even reading our Bibles in ways we haven’t before. And that will be a huge struggle for some. As we step out for the first time, that bridge will feel very shaky. Yet progress always feels uncomfortable at first, and perhaps even a little alarming. But we’ve got to drop our baggage of accusation, fear, anger and deeply-rooted mind set in order to move toward unity and reconciliation. If we don’t, that bridge will swing and sway under the weight of our unwillingness to change and seek blame instead of solutions.

      And I believe in order to change as a society, we have to change individually, crossing the bridge one person at a time.

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    2. This am Carolyn and I where having breakfast at a local restaurant. Two gentlemen came in and set at a table next to us. Over of them was talking to the other in a voice that carried. Therefore I could hear their conversation. In just a bit the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray with them. So I excused myself and went to their tabel and asked them if I could pray with them, I had over heard their conversation. They had some family issues. They said absolutely. I prayed for them, then in turn they prayed for me. A lot of lookers. A great moment for missions and Jesus to shine. All About unity. Turns out they where Christians. Father and son. Anthony and Tony. Anthony is a ordained minister and heads up a community outreach. I got his number and pray we hook up. That is building bridges. They just happened to be black. Still made in God’s image, full of the Spirit. One day I will write about God’s image. It might clear some thinking up folks have.

      Much love Tom

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      1. Great story, Tom. A true way to let the Lord’s light and love shine for all to see. Thank you for sharing it. ❤

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      2. LOVE!!!
        Heeding the Spirit to “love one another.” May more people have ears to hear and hearts to obey.
        Building bridges one person at a time! 🙂

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  5. Susan & Lilka I agree that there is a race relation issue in America today. Particularly and most importantly amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. This cannot continue to happen if we are to be united in any way.
    I am not so sure race is a problem on the level you good folks see it. While it is there, division amongst blacks and whites, again in my heart. I truly believe it not to be a issue that just exist between the blacks and whites.
    For this reason I have to ask then what is it, that causes so much fear and division. The answer I always come up with is sin.
    This world we live in belongs to satan for now. Therefore for now those that don’t know Christ, they are under his rule.
    All around us men and women of every color and race are divided and fear one another that don’t know Christ.

    On the other hand those that have a real relationship with Christ relieze that to remain divided is not Christlike, for where there is light there is no darkness. Its like the word pride. Most of us no what pride is yet we do nothing to control it or keep it from our life’s. When God straight up said he opposes the prideful. There is a answer and we want even see it. How prideful is that. Even more so today we set and discuss how to address the issue of race between blacks and whites when its not a issue between blacks and whites it a issue between man of all colors and creeds..

    If we really believe that we can get down and on our own merit solve the world problem of race by addressing just the issue of blacks and whites, then I believe we are being blind sided again by satan. No it is a world wide problem. Let us make man in our image. We must realize that God doesn’t just want the blacks and whites untied . He wants his whole church united. While it is honorable and seems worthwhile to try and unite folks that are unsaved with ones that are, it will prove futile unless they are saved. Today the house of the Lord is full of folks that call theirselves christians yet would divide God’s church. Blacks ,Whites,Indian,Chiniese,Asian,Afican, these races where there are real christians are God’s church. This is what God is wanting to see united.

    No man or government on earth can separate God’s people from him. They must be his people though. We can change the way we do things and begin at a place where we see race issues as world wide and view it as God’s church instead of two groups of people and God will honor that attitude and go before us. How small is it when we say gee God will you help us fix the issue between blacks and whites and then we will talk about your church and the rest of the world.

    God is a big God this is his creation. He spoke it with words into existence . He is more than able to change my heart and the hearts of every man woman and child in the world that will come to him.

    I purposely tried to steer clear of just whites and blacks and unfair treatment of women today Susan and Lilka because when you start talking about a group of just to races you start talking about their problems and when you have exhausted that topic, you then say how do we fix it?

    Jesus is the answer one person at a time one day at a time.In my area of Oklahoma we have been praying and fasting for many years for God to help us unite the congregations ,all of them black, white charismatic, baptist ,methodist, nazarene ,non denominational,If they are God’s church let them be united.

    John 17:22-24 22I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one— 23 I in them and You in Me — that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me. 24Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, that they may see the glory You gave Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.…

    This did not happen over night we had to change our own hearts from a heart of 1 to a heart for others. One that is pure and Holy as he is pure and Holy. Seeking God’s will not ours. I always go back to God’s promises and his word. They all will be fulfilled . We are in a broken world that will either be picked up and have a need to be restored or we will be be scattered as dust to the wind.

    It is not a blame game or one races responsibility. We will fail approaching so. It is a heart issue. A relational issue and a sin issue. In my humble opinion focusing on my own heart and God’s will leads me to unite my community, some 100 plus churches of whom we have 8-10 now coming together to pray, doing outreach together, encouraging each other, making disciples and trying to reach the lost.

    We don’t want to stumble right now. Stay focused on our own hearts and God’s will and set back and watch darkness be pushed back as light goes forward. Just think about the men and women, we don’t say black and white. That is not our identity. That no Christ that never would short change or hire someone based on their color of skin, but on their own merit. What about all the brothers and sisters that see not color but a child of God when they pull them over. Or would feed them and cloth them because they have need. That would tell them the truth instead of giving them false hope.

    We can make more laws and give more government subsidies and programs. Tell the whites that the blacks are going to get this or that because of their skin color and the sin in this world. Make more blacks and whites depended upon government programs. Make laws that tell folks what one man and one woman is and then define it and justify it. Ignoring the bible and we are going to get more of the same. Solomon asked for wisdom and was given it. He just didn’t use it very well.

    God has given us his word and his Holy Spirit as a promise to his word. This is where we will find our answers to the issues of race and division and unfair labor practices. We are to daily take up our cross and bare it. Yet we want a perfect world and everything just right. Solve all the issues then we will be happy. Happy is a state of mind and temporary. We want joy. It will be there when we are carrying our cross. Daily I carry mine. I see and perceive many injustices in my world. I give them to God and intercede for those the Lord puts on my heart. I and my brothers and sisters in Christ are eternal not finite, All we do has eternal purposes. It does not matter to this world. They do not understand. We pray and intercede for the lost and offer hope and salvation, that they to would live with our master for eternity. This however is their choice , their own free.Will they will hear his call?

    Ours is daily take up our cross and go and make disciples out of them. Living our life before them allowing Jesus to manifest himself through us, that they to would know Christ. I pray that God strengthens and goes before you two ladies.You have a task at hand that you cannot do. Only Jesus through you will do it. Seek his will and word. Stay in prayer much. Search your hearts and God will speak to you. It is important and God’s work you are trying to do. I also pray that you will try and see my heart it this topic. I want to see God’s people united and treated right also.

    Much Love Tom

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    1. Tom, you have said so many good things here – loving things – and I want to address all of them.

      Let me begin by saying I agree wholeheartedly with you; we can never solve this on our own. We need to abide in God and follow His lead of unconditional love. We need to allow Him to use us as His vessels to reach out to those gripped by the enemy’s fear, pride, anger and hate. And yes, I agree too that “the house of the Lord is full of folks that call themselves Christians yet would divide God’s church.” All cultures and racial backgrounds come together to make up Christ’s church.

      Yet, race is a problem on the level we speak about. We cannot ignore its existence. And you are right again – “it is not a blame game, or one race’s responsibility. It is a heart issue. A relational issue and a sin issue.” Which is why, as you said, we must first search our own hearts. See first the log in our own eye. And we must read the Bible with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, not use it to point fingers at anyone but to help ourselves become more Christlike.

      Christ wants us all united, and to do that, we must continue to make disciples. And yes, it is a choice people make – to be free or continue to be fastened to the chains which bind them to fear, anger, resentment and hate. God uses us to carry out His purposes, to be His light in a dark world. In order to do that, we must be willing to see from the perspective of people experiencing injustice, just as Jesus did in His day. It is the only way we can step into His will and become His hands and feet.

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      1. I agree with all you are saying here Susan. We must stand up for injustices.

        Blessings to you Tom

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  6. Very good Susan!

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    1. Thanks, Andy. Any thoughts it brought to mind while you read along?

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      1. Well Susan, speaking from a white mans point of view, my response to Lilka’s first question is this: There is not a white man who will ever understand what a black woman fears simply because we cannot relate to any mothers fear at all. To us, unless it breaks through our thick skulls that it’s dangerous and it will indeed harm our children, we have a tendency to calm the fear within us, and others, as to diminish its affect. I guess because we want to feel like we are in control. A white man will never understand what any woman fears. Being Black intensifies her fears because of the many more things that come against them, than do whites.

        The white man has had this “superiority complex” forever. Because of this he refuses to listen to what hurts our black brothers and sister and brushes it aside. I don’t blame them for getting angry., but I don’t know what to do other than pray.

        The only solution to what another race fear is in our heavenly Father. He died to bring us to peace. Trouble is, in mans rejection of Christ, he rejects the peace, love and compassion that is available. I want to understand what Lilka fears, especially since I live in the heart of Dixie where there is tremendous disparity. But I struggle because of the protected world I live in. I want to ease her fear but how? Someone needs to tell me how. As Christian men, white or black, it is our responsibility to lead and calm fear. To love and share with our fellow Christian regardless of race. As long as there are those who do not accept Christ, and the understanding He offers, there will always be this fear of each other.

        I am fortunate in that our church is racially diverse. I love my black brothers and sisters. But I will never completely understand their fear. We can only depend on God thorough our prayers for them that their fear will be eased.
        Lilka’s second question is in our news daily now. It’s not that a man takes a knee. Oh no, no, no. He has every right to do so. I have been to Washington DC three times in the last two years to visit my son. Each time I go to some of the monuments. The one I love the most, but gives me the most grief, is the Viet Nam Wall. The first time I went I completely fell apart. I mean I lost it. I ran to get away from it. The second time I went I just walked past it in a hurry and left in tears. The third time I walked the path around it. There will not be a fourth time. These are men who would now be my age of 66 enjoying life and family. They died in a senseless war wearing our flag, the US Flag, on their shoulders. My heart breaks for them. As I drive across the Potomac to Arlington Cemetery I am reminded of the thousands who sacrificed themselves, and that of their family. I don’t know why I continue to go, I only know I thank them for their sacrifice to our freedom.
        So understand, it is never about taking a knee. Lilka needs to understand that we do no comprehend how a man can disrespect the very one who gave that right. It is about those who died. It is about those of us who have seen our friend’s heads blown off and can never get it out of our minds. It’s about walking around with a plate and pins in my leg. It’s about those who came home with no arms and legs. No, it’s not about taking a knee, it’s about respecting those who gave of themselves so that he could take a knee. Those who have never experienced war cannot understand what it does to those of us who survived when see our friends tromped. Our Flag is our unity, and to disrespect it is to tear the fabric of our nation.
        Lilka’s third question.
        As Christian’s, all that you said is right Susan. We should have no other God’s before us. Not even a flag. But we should love and respect each other enough to not take a knee when it hurts someone else, just as we should not speak ill of our black brothers and sisters, or cause them harm, or stir up racial hatred because it hurts them. I mean it really hurts them.
        With the thought of one not understanding war, a white man can never understand what a black woman fears, because he has never lived it. Teach me to understand. I want to understand. Help me understand Lilka so that I can ease your fear and love you as Christ loves you.
        Thank you Susan for asking me my thoughts. I hope I didn’t write too much.

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      2. “but I don’t know what to do other than pray. I want to ease her fear, but how?” I think what we are suggesting here is to talk 1:1 with a black family in your church. Invite a man to coffee; invite a couple to dinner. Step onto the bridge and begin to have these conversations face to face. This is what else you can do. By knowing someone’s heart, it will be easier to understand, easier to speak up, easier to see another point of view. This is what gets us to meaningful conversation and relationship; to healing and reconciliation.

        I don’t think we have to agree on everything, (i.e., taking a knee), but as we speak about it without anger, together and 1:1, we can understand what it means, why it hurts, and why it’s important. We can begin to connect with our common concerns for our children, for each other as men and women in Christ, and for the future of our country. We can be vulnerable with each other, as you have here, and offer each other our hearts, as we cannot do when we are angry or prideful.

        And no, you have not written too much. If anything, my friend, you have written a blessing. You have written what is on your heart in a loving way, and have contributed much to this conversation.

        Thank you.

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      3. Thank you Susan! I think our world is seeking the answer to come all at one time by a leader who will do it. You are so right that we need to be 1:1 and do things together. 1:1 starts the motion! Love ya sis!

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      4. One leader can’t do it. We all need to cross the bridge, being God’s light, and His hands and feet.
        And back ‘atcha, bro!

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  7. Trying to get men to understand women? Now there is a daunting task But not impossible. I have come a lot closer to understanding my wife in the last 8 years (we have been married almost 38) thanks to the words of a former pastor. He told me that he word helpmate in the Genesis account is a similar word to the word Comforter used in the New Testament for the Holy Spirit. He explained to me that my wife was given to me to help me see my shortcomings so that I could grow into the man I should be.

    For 30 years I had thought was someone special, and was full of pride. I ended up taking a hard fall from that perch, ending up at a Christian ministry in Kentucky for 8 months that deals with church leaders that get caught up in pride. I learned a lot about pride there, and knew I had to suppress it – it does not go away. when I returned, I sat on the pew for 2 years and learned all over again. This was when Ii got that adviser from the pastor.

    Since that time, I have allowed my wife to point out when my pride is getting the best of me. I have also recognized what a very strong women she is in her faith and in her wisdom. I did not even see that before, Now she is my caregiver as I battle cancer, and I am absolutely amazed at her abilities.

    I share all this because as men, we have a natural tendency toward pride, and it must be dealt with if we are ever going to understand women, especially those closest to us. We have to determine we will look at things through their eyes, not our own. We have to recognize that they are just as in tune with God as we are, maybe even more. Unless we curb or prideful tendencies, it will be very difficult for us to understand where they are coming from, or where our black brothers or Muslim brothers and sisters are coming from.

    Pride will always get in the way if we don;t deal with it.

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    1. Wow, Pete, what a blessing God gave you in that time in Kentucky. And what a powerful and humbling testimony. I pray everyone who reads this post reads your comment. In fact, I’m going to add a comment of my own to ask everyone to do so. I believe you are someone who has, by allowing the Spirit to work in you, traveled the road of Jesus’ transformation of heart and mind. You have come away as a loving, listening and compassionate brother in Christ.

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      1. You’re too kind. Believe me, pride is still there and it rises up occasionally. It’s hard work to keep it under wraps. I could share more about the lessons I’ve learned about pride if you’d like. Thanks, Susan.

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      2. I’m willing to hear any lessons you have to share, Pete. We can all benefit from this. And really, we cannot carry our pride onto that bridge if we have any hope of reaching the other side of healing and reconciliation.

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      3. So true. Pride has no place in reconciliation. I’m work on it.

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      4. Me too, Pete. Me too. 🙂

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      5. I have finished a first installment on pride. It is rather long. Do you want me to post it on this thread?

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      6. Go ahead and post it; while in moderation, I’ll read it over. If it’s super-long, I may edit for salient points if that’s ok with you.

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      7. Ok. It will be here soon

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      8. Susan, I have finished one piece on pride. It is fairly long Would you like it posted in this thread, or should I post it on my blog and you can put a link (I.m not sure how to do that)

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      9. Oh, that actually would be terrific! Than I can even use some quotes!

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      10. Ok. It will be here soon

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      11. It has been posted

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    1. Thanks, Susan. Any other thoughts to add? Agree/disagree?

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