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Rut

August 4, 2014
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I’ve been working at the same place for nearly 26 years. During that time, I’ve held three positions: CAD Draftsman, Programmmer, and currently– Document Control for our weld shop. I hired on for the first position. After going back to school at night and doing a lot of reading on my own, moved into the second position. I “got” the current position because the guy that was doing the job –“Jim”– died. He and I had been working on a database application to write / store / retrieve welding procedures. (Yeah, it’s as exciting as it sounds.)

I had never welded in my life. What I knew about welding, I had gathered from talking with Jim and from reading (you can learn a lot from reading). Jim died and I was thrown into his position almost immediately. I finished up the application, which is pretty nice by the way, and I went to welding school at night…still working during the day. I decided I needed to get some kind of certification, so I spent about a year studying for the American Welding Society’s Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) test. I passed. I’m officially a CWI, but I don’t inspect anything. Basically, the credential looks good after my name for our customers. In a nutshell, I shuffle a lot of paper…and I hate it.

I have a diploma in Commercial Art / Graphic Design. I took the CAD position for a change of pace, thinking I’d stick it out for 3 to 5 years, then move on. I stayed. They liked my work / work ethic. I got raises; eventually was offered stock in the company, along with a percentage of the profits. It’s been financially beneficial…but I hate it.

My day is filled with some of the most mind-numbing, redundant activity. Read emails from customers; write emails to customers; answer customer’s questions; test welding procedures; write welding procedures; test materials. Oh…and drink lots of coffee. Did I mention I hate it?

So why do I stay? Simple…the money. I’m not that far from retirement age and I don’t want to go somewhere else and start over. So I stay. I put money away for retirement, come in at 8:00 AM; go home around 5:00 PM. Stay pretty much to myself and look forward to weekends. I’m never more than 5 days from a weekend, so I’ve got that going for me.

I saw a sign on an old dirt road one time that said: “Choose your rut carefully. You’re gonna be in it for a while.” Yep. Now I know what that’s lke.

Thank You

November 1, 2012

There is a small sandwich shop not too far from my office that serves subs, 3-way chili, coneys, etc. I don’t eat there often, but when I do, I notice many of the same faces. The owner greets the “regulars” by name as they enter; they exchange pleasantries and ask about each others’ families. When they leave, the customers call out “Thanks, Omar!” Omar replies: “Thank you, Rick (or Bob or whomever)!”

I’m just “Sir.” “How are you today, Sir?” “Thank you for coming, Sir.”

The decor is nothing fancy. There’s a TV mounted to the wall and the channel is always on a news station when I’m there. Booths line both sides of the building and a couple of tables and chairs occupy the center. There’s a  picture of  one of  the owner’s family members hanging on a wall. There are a couple of dated awards for “Tulsa’s Best…” as well. It’s just a nice, clean, friendly place where you can get a good sandwich…or that 3-way chili. That’s probably my favorite.

Omar is always smiling and appears to enjoy his work. He seems like a really nice guy.

I stopped in the sandwich shop yesterday for a turkey/beef/cheese sub on wheat (the turkey and wheat make it a healthy choice…DON’T JUDGE ME!!!). As I was standing at the counter, waiting on my order, a young girl came in to the store. Her clothes were dirty and way too big for her. Her hair was unkept and she looked like she hadn’t slept much lately. As she approached the counter, she quietly asked, “Can I speak to the manager?” “What do you need, honey?” asked the woman behind the cash register. “I just really need to talk to the manager or owner if I could please,” came the reply.

Omar had heard the conversation and stepped over to where the two women were. “Can I help you?” he asked. Not looking him in the eye, the young girl said, almost in a whisper, “I’m really hungry and don’t have any money. I was wondering if I could get something to eat.” Without hesitating, Omar turned to an employee making sandwiches and quietly said: “When you get through there, make a ham and cheese sub.” Returning to the young girl, he said, “We’ll take of you. It’ll be a few minutes; why don’t you have a seat.”

The girl sat at one of the booths, never looking up–just staring at the floor. A few minutes later, one of the employees came out to where she was sitting and handed her a sack with her sandwich. I’d also seen Omar slip a package of chips into the sack. “Thank you,” she whispered as she stood and made her way out of the shop. I watched her walk down the sidewalk and disappear around the corner of the building.

The cashier called my number and I retrieved my order. Walking out the door, I heard the familiar “Thank you, Sir!” “Thank you!” I replied. Thank you for the good service. Thank you for the good food. And thank you, Omar, for being a picture of what kindness looks like.

Why Obama Will Win

September 12, 2012

Why Obama Will Win

(The following was taken from an editorial that appeared the Las Vegas Review-Journal on September 9, 2012. The author is Glenn Cook.)

The Pew Research Center recently conducted the following poll/quiz re: current issues related to the upcoming election. Without looking at the answers, see if you are smarter than the average respondent.

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1. Which presidential candidate is pro-life, that is, supports restricting access to abortion in most cases?
2. Which presidential candidate supports allowing many illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country? 
3. Which presidential candidate opposes allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?
4. Which presidential candidate supports raising taxes on income over $250,000?
5. Mitt Romney was the governor of which state?
6. Mitt Romney was the CEO of which company?
7. Who is the current Vice President of the United States?
8. The Republican Party currently has a majority of seats in: 
9. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?
10. What state did Barack Obama represent in the United States Senate, before he became President?
11. What does the term “super PAC” refer to?

This version of the poll/quiz is a bit harder than it was for the 1010 adults who took the test between July 26 and July 29; their test was multiple-choice meaning they had a pretty good chance of guessing the correct answer. 

Ready for the depressing results? 

Only 13 percent of the participants answered every question correctly; 44 percent got six or fewer questions right; and 3 percent got EVERY question wrong…even though they had a 25 percent chance of guessing correctly!!

Fifteen percent (or 150 people) didn’t know Joe Biden was the VP, including 5 percent who identified themselves as college graduates. Thirty-two percent didn’t know Obama wants to raise taxes on incomes over $250k while 60 PERCENT WERE UNAWARE that Republicans control the House–including 47 percent of college graduates. The breakdown along party lines? Republicans scored an average 7.8; Democrats scored 6.9 and Independents averaged 7.3.

Glenn Cook commented, “The worst news from [this quiz is] these were adults, many of them parents. If they don’t know John Roberts from a hole in the ground, do you think their kids do? Good lord, most college graduates can’t even pass basic civics test.” 

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Note: the original quiz considered “Obama” to be the correct answer to Question 2. The more correct response is “both.” In late June, Romney released his immigration reform plan which states: “young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children should have the chance to become permanent residents…”

An Anniversary Story

May 24, 2012

Our upcoming anniversary caused me to remember a story about one of my co-workers who can best be described as “cheap.” He would probably argue he is simply being frugal. He has proudly told this story on several occasions as being 100 percent true. You can’t make this stuff up.

Co-worker (CW) and his wife were approaching a significant wedding anniversary and she had informed him she wanted a particular brand of perfume. According to him, it was way too expensive–$60 per bottle–but he was willing to make the purchase to make her happy.

Shopping around for the best price, CW discovered the perfume on sale at a local department store–$15 per bottle below what other stores in the area were selling it. He went to the store and purchased three bottles of the perfume. (Stay with me here; it gets good.)

Taking the three bottles of reduced price perfume to a DIFFERENT store, he approached the Customer Service counter and informed the store employee he had “bought this perfume for several female members of my family, but I got the wrong brand.”  (Don’t miss it—he’s at a store where he DIDN’T originally make the purchase.)

“Would you like to exchange the perfume?” asked the store employee.

“No. Your store doesn’t carry the brand they really want. I’d rather just get my money back.”

“We’re sorry we weren’t able to help you. We’ll be glad to refund your purchase. Do you have the receipt?”

“No, I accidentally threw it away.”

“That’s fine. Our store policy allows us to issue a refund since you bought it here.”  (Had he said that??!!)

The store employee punched several keys on the cash register, produced a “refund” slip which CW signed, and then she handed him his “refund” $180. CW pocketed the money, drove BACK to the original store and purchased ONE BOTTLE of perfume for $45!!!

He never told his wife. That’s true love right there.

The Road.

May 1, 2012

Last year, my wife and I made a road trip to the Outer Banks, then down to Georgia. The main reason for the Georgia stop was to visit Macon. I am a fan of the Allman Brothers Band and Macon is home to the Allman Brothers Museum, AKA The Big House, so a stop there was mandatory since we were in the state.

The Big House is filled with all kinds of ABB memorabilia, i.e. one of Gregg Allman’s Hammond B3 organs, Berry Oakley’s “tractor bass,” as well as several guitars owned by Duane Allman, to name a few things. There are all kinds of photos, hand-written lyrics to several songs, etc. I took a few photos while I was there.

Duane Allman died on October 29, 1971 when the motorcycle he was driving struck a flatbed truck that stopped suddenly in a traffic intersection. He was weeks away from his 25th birthday. The band had released “Live at the Fillmore East” only months before. Berry Oakley died a little over a year later, also victim of a motorcycle accident which occurred only three blocks from where Allman had died. Both men are buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon where the band was known to have hung out in the late night/early morning hours. “Elizabeth Reed”, namesake to the ABB tune is also buried in Rose Hill.

AB-25I mention the cemetery, because I also felt the need to go see where Duane and Berry were buried. Their graves have become somewhat of a tourist attraction and iron bars have been erected around the graves (they are buried side-by-side) to prevent vandalism. Now, here’s the important part of this post. On Berry Oakley’s marker are carved the words: “…And the road goes on forever” which happens to be a line from one of their songs, Midnight Rider.

As I stood there at the foot of their graves, reading those words and recalling the tune, a sobering truth hit me. Having read quite a bit about the Allman Brothers during that time, it would probably be a safe bet to say that spiritual/Biblical things were not at the top of the band’s list. I’m obviously not the final judge, but I’m guessing neither man would have identified themself as a Christian. And yet, the words engraved on the stone marker make a somber statement: The road goes on forever.

Jesus said there are basically two roads in this life (Matthew 7:13-14). One road is narrow and the other is wide. The narrow road is the road that leads to salvation–and Jesus said “few find it.” The wide road is the one many/most people chose and it leads to destruction, i.e. hell. One road involves surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, putting your faith in His death on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. The other road is one of self-indulgence, a life lived in denial of God’s Word and His authority, a life that says “I don’t need God.” One road is in the light; the other in darkness. One road is difficult–it requires sacrifice and submission to God; the other road requires you to live life only in the way you see fit. One road leads to everlasting hope; the other road leads to eternal despair. One road leads to reward, while the other leads to punishment.

Everyone…EVERYONE is on a road and whether they realize it, acknowledge it, or not–that road goes on forever. Where is YOUR road leading you?

The Best Part About a Political Comment Moratorium

January 15, 2012

There are three of us “boys;” I’m the oldest. There are two years between each of us. I’ve always been the class clown with a passion for art and music. My middle brother, Kelly, was the serious student and athlete. Chris, the youngest, was the party-guy, everybody’s friend and had a heart as big as the moon.

We were typical boys growing up. Plenty of sibling squabbles, but for the most part, we got along rather well. I can’t say we were close. We had fairly diverse interests and friends, so we really didn’t hang around each other as we got older. I left home after High School and kinda lost track of what Kelly and Chris were doing. A few years later, I was out of college thinking of marriage; Kelly was finishing up college and looking at a career with Lockheed Martin (formerly Martin-Marrietta); and Chris was headed to basic training having joined the Navy.

Over the past 30+ years, we’ve gotten married, settled in Oklahoma (me), Texas (Kelly) and Alabama (Chris), had a few kids, and spent our time hunting, fishing, playing golf, cycling, serving in our churches, and lots of other stuff in between. Along the way we’ve managed to get together for a few of the major holidays, but it’s never been a yearly event. There’s the occasional phone call and/or email on birthdays and Christmas. Since this Facebook thing hit, we’ve done a little better at keeping in touch, but nothing regular.

So, a couple of days before Christmas, my phone rings and the caller ID tells me it’s Kelly. I said “hello,” he said “hey, what’s goin’ on?” and I said “not much. What’s up?” And then it was his turn again…”well, I’ve got something I’ve gotta tell ya,” he started.

“I had a physical today. Our company changed insurance a while back and now they pay for a yearly physical.”

“Yeah, our insurance is like that,” I commented.

“Well, I’ve been having some problems…” I won’t go into all the detail he did, but his final comment was “…and I’ve got colon cancer.”

I sat there for a few seconds as what he said sank in. Cancer….CANCER! That’s not good. He’s only 51. My grandmother died of colon cancer. My dad has Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (it’s in remission). I guess the odds were against one of us.

“How bad is it?” I asked. Kelly began to fill me in–they were sure he had cancer. They were pretty confident it was operable. If they could get it all, they were pretty sure he’d get back to life “as normal.” They didn’t know if there would be any chemotherapy. “I’m not scared,” Kelly said. “God’s in control.”

Kelly’s not only a great husband, father, and employee, he’s also a man with a very strong faith. “Yes, He is,” I replied. Kelly was to meet with an oncologist in a couple of days and they’d see where things went after that. In the meantime, I promised Dana and I would pray.

In a few days, Kelly called back to let me know the surgery was scheduled. The mass was bigger than they thought, but he was very upbeat. The surgeon was a Christian man that was a friend of a friend. He was on staff at a University hospital in the area and was regarded as “one of the best.” The surgery was as routine as a cancer surgery can be. They removed 40 per cent of Kelly’s colon along with 60 lymph nodes since the cancer had begun to grow outside the colon. The concern now was that other organs may be infected, but the surgeon kept up the positive outlook. “We believe we got it in time.”  Kelly, in the meantime, went from surgery to recovery with no problems. He was alert, feeling good the next morning , and even managed to sit up and walk a bit–less than 24 hours after the surgery.

We had been praying since the night Kelly called–and we continued to pray. Kelly’s church prayed. Dana and I prayed. I contacted my fellow Board members of the Pregnancy Resource Center and they prayed. High School friends prayed and co-workers prayed. On Saturday morning, I got a text message from Kelly’s wife, Amy.  The lab report had come back on the lymph nodes and EVERY ONE OF THEM WAS CLEAN! No cancer out of 60 nodes!! I’ve been told that in itself is a miracle. I believe it.

Kelly continued to feel good. The doctor originally told him he’d probably be in the hospital for a week, but only 4 days after the surgery, they discharged him! He was walking, having no pain, and was ready to get home to his own bed. A few days later he even had his oldest daughter drive him to the golf course so he could knock a few golf balls around the putting green.

A little over a week after the surgery, Kelly began to run a fever and that evening he was re-admitted to the hospital. The doctors feared an infection and immediately began pumping him full of antibiotics. At some point the fever broke and they determined his problem wasn’t infection, but dehydration and malnutrition. He hadn’t had a decent meal in over a week! SO…they hooked him up to some electrolytes and what Kelly described as a “bag of fat” (whatever that was) and 24 hours later, he was on his way home with instructions to drink lots of water and EAT!

Kelly’s doctor released him to drive this past week and he’s going back to work tomorrow! He was told he probably wouldn’t be able to go back to work for a month! I talked to him this evening and he sounded great. He meets with the oncologist this week to determine the chemo regimen. He thinks there will be only 4 treatments. They are confident they got all the cancer; the chemo is preventive insurance.

So what does all of this have to do with the title of this post? A day before Kelly called with the news of his cancer, a Facebook friend and I who love to talk/argue/discuss/dissect politics decided we were going to self-impose a moratorium on all FB posts related to politics. She told me (paraphrased), “I just want to focus on family, Christmas, feeling good about my fellow man and not be caught up in all the political stuff right now.” I thought it was a great idea…and so we vowed NO POLITICS until after Christmas…and through a series of challenges and conversations the goal became January 15. We made it by the way…and it’s kinda funny, but neither of us has posted anything political yet.

The best thing the moratorium did for me? It freed up some time…time I didn’t know when I accepted the challenge I would use to pray for my brother. I realized when Kelly called, that I spend too much time worrying about stuff I can’t change or fix. I makes me sad that it took something like my brother having cancer to kick me in the butt.

Since Christmas, I’ve been more aware of the time I pray and the things I pray for. I’ve become more aware of God’s goodness to me, my family, and especially Kelly. These past weeks have been a good lesson for me. They’ve also been a blessing. It’s been amazing to know that people who’ve never met Kelly have been praying for him. They’ve checked with me daily. Tons of text messages have been sent back and forth as Kelly’s surgery and recovery have been pleaded before the Throne of God. And God in His mercy has been gracious. We have rejoiced together at the good reports from the doctors and we’ve praised God for His healing hand.

Maybe we all need to take moratorium from time to time to remember and focus on the things that are really important.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Prayer

January 6, 2012

I believe in prayer. I believe God hears my prayers. I also believe prayer is more about me being conformed to the person God wants me to be than me getting what I want. Sometimes God answers my prayers with “yes;” sometimes the answer is “no.” And sometimes the answer is “wait.” (Those are the toughest ones).

Some people are afraid to pray, especially in public. That’s never bothered me. I’m comfortable standing in front of a crowd and I’ve prayed in public many times. I see it as just me, talking to God, and the others are either listening or praying their own prayers.

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how they should pray, He said: “Pray like this. Our Father who art in heaven…” and you probably know the rest. He didn’t mean we have to pray that same prayer every time. He was just giving an example, i.e. “here’s the nuts and bolts; you build on this.” So how should we pray?

“Our Father in heaven…” First of all, I think we have to acknowledge the obvious. God is in heaven; we are not. God is God; we are not. It is by God’s grace we are here and it is by that same grace we were able to get out of bed this morning and  draw a breath. God is the God of heaven and earth. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth…” (Gen 1:1) He is worthy of our praise, adoration, and our prayers. He is above all other gods. “For all the gods of the peoples are idols…” (1Chr 16:26)

He is not only the Supreme Creator, but He is also Father. He is our protector, provider, sustainer. A father loves his children and cares for them. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

Because He is our Father in heaven, we can confidently come to Him with our requests, our hurts,  and our fears knowing He is able to intervene on our behalf. He will never leave us or forsake us (Rom 8:28). We should pray, acknowledging God as the Creator, worthy of praise. We should also pray acknowledging our dependence upon Him.

“Hallowed be your name…”  The Old Testament uses many names for God, all of which point to His character. For example, He is called Elohim, the Creator God; El Elyon, “possessor of heaven and earth”; Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide”; Jehovah-Shalom,  “the Lord our peace”; and many others. Each of these names not only tell who God is, but also what He is like.

God’s name is to be revered. “Do not take my name in vain.” (Ex 20:7). In other words, don’t use it as a curse, don’t use it flippantly. God’s name is hallowed or “holy.” He is not the “man upstairs” or your “homeboy” or “the big guy in the sky.” His name is “I am!” He is constant, unchanging, and unwavering and to “hallow His name” means to pray with honor and reverence.

“Your kingdom come…”  There’s nothing wrong with asking God for things, i.e. health, provision, safety for our families, etc. but we should ask in light of GOD’S WILL being done. As Christians, that should be our desire, that God’s will, His plan would be accomplished. Is there a chance that won’t happen. No. “Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘ My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; ” (Isaiah 46:10) It’s more of adjusting our mindset to pray: “God, make my desires match your divine plan.”

When we pray “your kingdom come,” we are praying for the same thing Jesus preached while he was here on earth (Luke 4:43). The kingdom encompasses those who will be saved, so we pray for the salvation of others. But the prayer for the kingdom also looks forward to the day Jesus will return. “Lord Jesus come quickly.” (Rev 22:20) We should pray for/look forward to Jesus’ second coming when He will put an end to all evil, gather His church and take us to be with Him for all eternity.

“Your will be done…”  God WILL see His plan/desires to completion. We are to pray that God will mold–and change when necessary–our desires to line up with His. We also pray that His will prevails over all the earth, just as it does in heaven. And again, it’s not a matter of questioning whether God’s will is or will be accomplish. It’s more an affirmation that God is sovereign in ALL things. “Your will be done” is a praise, acknowledging God’s power to accomplish ALL He has determined.

“Give us this day…” Bread is not only our food, but all of our physical needs. Clothing, shelter, rain, health, etc; everything necessary for life. All of this things have their beginning with God and we are to acknowledge and thank Him for his provision. It is God who cases to rain to fall on the crops that are harvested and ultimately end up on our tables. It is God who gives us the ability to work, have the talents we have, to earn a living that buys our clothes, our home, etc. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;” (Acts 17:24-25)

“Forgive us our debts (sins)…” Let’s face it–none of us are perfect. When God saves us, he saves us completely, but that doesn’t mean we don’t continue to struggle with some areas of sin in our lives. Jesus’ example of how to pray calls us to confess those sins, acknowledging our falliness and our dependence on Him to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Obviously, God already knows what we have done/what we do. It’s not a matter of us revealing anything unknown to Him already. It goes back to what I said earlier–it’s a matter of acknowledging God’s absolute holiness and confessing our failure to meet His standard. We can/will sin less when we focus our thoughts, actions, desires on the things that please God.

Coupled with the confession of our own sin, is the command to forgive others. How can we expect God to forgive us if we aren’t willing to forgive people who have offended or hurt us? “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” (Psalm 66:18). The Apostle Paul also instructs us: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:32) The good news is, as we pray and confess our sins and live in obedience to God’s Word, He empowers us to forgive–to overlook the offenses that divide us and cause strife. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was that the Apostles and all believers “would be one, even as We are [one]” (John 17:11).

“Lead not into temptation…”  God doesn’t cause people to sin. The heart of what Jesus is calling us to pray is that God would guide us by His Holy Spirit in a way we would avoid danger/temptation/trouble that sin creates. That said, there will still be times we get caught in temptation to sin, to waiver from what we know is right in God’s eyes.  When that happens, the proper reaction is prayer. God has empowered believers to overcome temptation/sin. Paul outlined the tools available to us to overcome sin in Ephesians 6:10-18–

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

God has not left us alone in this world. He saves us and equips us to live a sanctified life, i.e a life set apart from the world and all it’s temptations/destructive lifestyles/selfish ambitions/evil intents, etc.

So there you have it. Jesus’ instructions on prayer; His outline of what we should pray. But HOW do we pray? You can pray out loud, driving down the road in your car, silently, quietly, long prayers, and short prayers. You can pray laying down, standing up, sitting at your desk, or walking in the woods. You can pray anytime–in the morning, afternoon, before meals, after meals, or before you go to sleep. You don’t have to sound like James Earl Jones or speak in perfect “King James English.” (Why do people who don’t normally use words like “thee”, “thou”, “hast”, and “thine” insist on using those words when the pray?) Prayer is a conversation between you and God. You talk–He listens.

You don’t need an appointment; He is always available. Just do it. “…you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:12)