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Posts Tagged ‘betrayal’


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tissot: The False Witness

James Tissot: False Witness before Caiaphas

Luke 22 – The Plot to Kill Jesus

Over and over again we read frightening lines like this one: The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.   The leaders see that they will lose influence and power because to Jesus offers compassion and healing to those who suffer.  The leaders also worry that Jesus’ actions might attract the attention of the overlord Romans, and they do not want to encourage another Jewish rebellion.  They search for a way to do away with this troublesome rabbi who asks piercing questions.  Jesus – who presents a way of finding timeless peace and healing restoration – is eliminated by those who offer far less.  The paradox is that this cornerstone that is rejected becomes a salvific force which redeems not only friends but enemies – if only these adversaries might put down their weapons and return to the goodness to which they are called.

Today we continue with our theme of dark schemes and wicked conspirators, and we look at how events around Jesus’ last hours unwind . . .

While Jesus and his followers prepare for Passover, the shadowy plot of murder unwinds; these two activities coil around one another in a twisting dance of darkness and light.  This serves to remind us that in this world goodness and evil often walk side by side unremarked . . . almost accepted.  We fool ourselves into believing that all around us must be perfect.  Who is the reaper who knows to sort the grain from the chaff?

A foreshadowing of Peter’s denial sends a frisson of consciousness through us . . . we too have denied Christ when we are under pressure.  Jesus reminds us that we need nothing for our journey save his protection and guidance.  We fool ourselves into believing that we make our own way and earn our own bread. Who is the source of our talents?

Jesus prays.  Judas betrays.  The faithful scatter.  The powerful take over.  The odd dance of inversion continues as those with arms believe themselves to be the strongest.  We fool ourselves into believing that we can exert pressure to win arguments by overwhelming knowledge when overwhelming goodness is the true strength.  Who allows himself to be made weak so that he might be strong in the creator?

Arrest, denial, rejection.  Jesus stands innocent before Pilate and Herod.  He is beaten and sentenced to death.  He carries his cross, he is crucified and dies . . . and he awaits the resurrection he has been promised by the Father.  We fool ourselves into believing that this story was lived once by a man two thousand years ago.  Who suffers each day with each of his billions of sisters and brother?

There is no plot Jesus does not comprehend.  There is no darkness he has not experienced.  There is no pain he has not suffered.  There is no mockery, no betrayal, no rebuffing, no murder he has not survived.  Jesus experiences all, and Jesus wants to save and restore all . . . if we only rely on him.

When the situation is bleakest, when the plot is thickest, when the hour is darkest . . . this is where Christ stands.  This is where he waits . . . for he knows that we will need him because we take nothing else with us on this journey – no purse, no bag, no sword.  We take only Christ, for he is all we need against any evil, against any plot . . . against even murder.


Adapted from a Noontime written on November 18, 2009. 

Image from: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/tis-trial-caiaphas/

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Haman, Ahasuerus and Esther

Edward Armitage: Haman, Ahasuerus and Esther

The Story of Esther

What do we teach ourselves and others with our lives?

The triangle of Esther, Ahasuerus and Haman is a delicate one.  The young Queen has hidden her ethnic origin and fears discovery and death.  The King has followed the advice of his trusted vizier Haman and now finds that he has been betrayed.  Haman has allowed jealousy to consume him to the point of his own destruction.  Where do we see these characters in our lives today . . . and who are we in the scenarios that play out around us?

In the workplace, a plot slowly brews until an awful truth comes forward to appall or disgust us.   Betrayal, slander, back-stabbing, false accusations fly and we find that we have sudden choices to make.  How do we determine where we stand?  Where are we in this scenario?  How do we react?  What do we do? What do we learn?  What message do we teach with our lives?

A family member or close friend has become depressive and negative and looks not for companions in grief but for compatriots in gossip.  What do we do in this circumstance?  Do we gently rebuke?  Do we comply with this gentle slide into evil? What do we say?  What do we learn?  What do we represent with our lives?

We have recently been invited to join a group we have wanted to be a part of for some time yet now we discover the price of admittance is our unquestioning, fanatic loyalty.  What role do we play in this picture?  Do we quietly escape and think only of ourselves?  Do we warn potential victims and look for an authentic, loving response?  How do we decide? What do we learn? What do we embody with our lives?

As we allow this story to trickle through our thinking to reflect back to us little mirror images of who we are and what we do, is there some new idea that comes to us?  Some thought we want to share with others?  If so, enter your comment below.


To read this story in an edition of the Bible other than the one you already know, click on the scripture link above or go to: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Esther+1-10&version=GNT;NRSV;CJB;MSG 

Image from: https://www.jewishboston.com/long-live-the-queen

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Easter Monday, April 13, 2020

John 18:12-27

The Difference

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of the Apostle Peter

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of the Apostle Peter

What makes Peter different from Judas? Why is Peter “The Rock” and Judas “The Betrayer?”  When we begin to reflect on this question we see how the Easter story holds so much importance for us.  Looking closely we find that Peter repents and allows himself to remain open to Christ. Judas slinks away, suffers remorse, returns the money he received to the chief priests and elders and then hangs himself. (Matthew 27:3-5) He does not seek God. He is so paralyzed by the sudden truth which he sees that he takes his own life. For whatever reason unknown to us, he is unable to allow his pain to bring him to God through purification. He cannot suffer.

Peter moves through his pain back to Christ. He believes Jesus who says that when we repent we are forgiven and restored. Always. Without fail. Judas does not. Judas suspects that Jesus is false. Why?  We have no way of knowing but modern psychology tells us it is likely because Judas himself is false. Judas cannot believe the words of Christ because he himself lies, so he expects that Jesus lies as well.

The restorative part of this story is found in the last chapter of this same book which we have examined all week.  We may want to return once more today to read this portion of John’s Gospel as one full story for when we do it becomes more than a story.  It begins to come into focus as our own story and as an expectation of all that is in store for each of us.

What have we come to understand in this week of Easter?  Not only does Jesus return to sustain the weary disciples as they struggle to more fully understand the real meaning of his Easter resurrection, he returns to sustain them in this life and in the eternal next.  Yet not only does Jesus restore us, he gives us each an assignment: “Feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep.”  Jesus returns to renew the promise of liberation, the assurance of salvation, and the gift of eternal love.

We may balk, as Peter did, at the requirements of our covenant with God, but God will patiently await our turning with openness.

We may be anxious about how or if we will fulfill God’s hope in us but God is waiting to restore; God wants to fulfill our heart’s desire; God asks us to live in intimacy with him.

We may worry, we may doubt, and we may fail; yet God does not reject us for God is determined to love us into goodness.

We may rest in the Lord, believe in the Christ, and remain in the Spirit.

Betrayal or return; this choice is ours to make.  And this choice makes all the difference in the world.

Tomorrow, coming up with nothing . . . 


Adapted from a reflection posted on April 13, 2013. 

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Psalm 55: An Intimate Companion

Fyodor Bronnikov: The Head of Judas

It was you, my other self, my comrade and friend, you whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

For they will not mend their ways; they have no fear of God.  They strike out at friends and go back on their promises.  Softer than butter is their speech, but war is in their hearts.  Smoother than oil are their words, but they are sheathed swords. 

Treachery, deceit, mischief and evil.  Oppression and fraud.  Death.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest. 

Rocked with grief, his heart pounding, the psalmist retreats, full of fear, shuddering and trembling into himself.

Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert.

No one goes to the wasteland. Surely there will be no one to betray him there.

I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.

The horrible events that encircle the psalmist will not follow him to the wilderness.  Perhaps there he will be able to collect himself into prayer.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

On this Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper of the Lord, a meal in which he shares himself most closely with his most intimate friends.  And yet one of these has already made the decision to betray Jesus.

If my foe had viewed me with contempt, from that I could hide.  But it was you, my intimate friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in procession in the house of God. 

Jesus faces his foe head on, sharing a meal with him on the evening before his death, handing a morsel of bread, of himself, to this close companion (Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:21-23, John 13:21-30).  The evangelist John closes his accounting of the exchange with these four word: And it was night.  Betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Terror and violence within the city walls.

Jesus withdraws to the gardens on Gethsemane in prayer.  Jesus hands himself over to the plans of his creator.

At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

It is likely that each of us will suffer an act of betrayal at the hands of an intimate friend.  Perhaps we have been the betrayer in a trusted relationship.  God does not promise that he will keep us from such deep deception but he comes to each of us in the person of Jesus to instruct us how we might act and how we might behave.  He remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to teach us wisdom.

If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and rest.  Far away I would flee; I would stay in the desert. I would soon find shelter from the raging winds and storm.  At dusk, dawn and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.

And so we pray.

When trouble stalks us, let us retreat into the Lord.

When we suffer at the hands of an intimate friend, let us pray at dusk, at dawn and at noon.

When we believe that all is lost, let us remember that our prayer will be heard.

Amen.


This week we have been looking at the story of Jerusalem to see what the events of the city’s life might tell us about our own. Today we spend time reflecting on the effects of betrayal and how we might recover from both internal and external division.

Image from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/fyodor-bronnikov/the-head-of-judas-1874

For other reflections on Betrayal, enter the word in the blog search box and choose a Noontime. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

John 13:21: Collapse from Within

Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.

Jesus and his apostles

Jesus and his apostles

Not all betrayals come from alien people or places.  Not all deception arrives from beyond.  Often, perhaps too often, betrayal springs from within, from the roots of denial we plant early in life, from a core of duplicity and infidelity that we consciously or subconsciously nourish.  We are quick to blame others for our downfalls, slow to admit responsibility for our actions.

The southern kingdom of Judah took in refugees from the north when the kingdom of Israel was overrun by infidels from the north.  They foolishly did not see their own fall that the prophet Micah predicted for them; they stayed their course of iniquity and kept to their corrupt ways believing that their vices were well-hidden.   Jerusalem’s walls expanded to take in the exiles; the city welcomed home those they judged as fallen yet even this apparent act of generosity did nothing to soften hard hearts or weaken stiff necks.  The people of Jerusalem ignore all the warning signs that she will become uninhabitable once their southern kingdom is taken.  Like us, Jerusalem is quick to criticize others for their misdeeds while we quickly ignore our own.

I am always stunned by the candor with which Jesus speaks about Judas’ impending disloyalty. (John 13, Matthew 26:14-25) He mentions no names but hands a morsel to Judas, plainly giving the apostle permission to follow his corrupt heart.  Jesus knows that this closest of companions has already turned against him.  Betrayal cuts deepest that cuts so close.   Disgruntled with the kingdom as he sees it, Judas is quick to blame Jesus for what appears to be a lack of willingness to take a stand . . . and slow to see the mystery of the kingdom in the person of Jesus.

Hezekiah's Jerusalem

Hezekiah’s Jerusalem

We have signs before us each day, telling us where to go and what to say and do; yet we – like the people of Judah – pride ourselves for not falling away from the rules as they believe the Israelites have done.

We are given warning signs regularly, recommending that we mend our ways, and soften our hearts and minds; yet we – like the people of Judah – believe our defenses and resources are formidable as the Israelites do.

We are given permission to hate or to love; we are treated with tenderness and care, and yet – like the apostle Judas – we choose the quick and comfortable route to temporary comfort . . . while we leave behind genuine and infinite happiness, while we too frequently betray the very love that would save and protect us.

Today as we reflect at noon, we might choose to spend time with the story of Jerusalem following the fall first of Israel in the north and then Judah in the south.  Or we might choose to spend time with John 13 to contemplate our own potential for collapse from within.


Images from: http://sortlab.blogspot.com/2011/04/tuesday-of-holy-week.html and https://thelonghaulwithisaiah.wordpress.com/tag/pekah/

To read another Holy Tuesday reflection, click on the image of Jesus and his apostles above or go to: http://sortlab.blogspot.com/2011/04/tuesday-of-holy-week.html

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Saturday, February 1, 2020

John 13:1-5: Holiness

john-of-the-cross[1]This week we have been considering the concept of betrayal – in particular betrayal by one near to us and well-loved.  Plots to kill prophets, a cherished teacher turned over to authorities by a well-respected disciple, betrayal at the deepest and most sensitive core.  Years ago a colleague wondered aloud if he ought to alert a supervisor of a co-worker’s laziness and lack of loyalty.  My thinking was that our supervisor already knew: “This will cut deeply when the truth is known,” my colleague observed.  “Yes,” I agreed, “And all the more because they have been such close friends”.  We nodded to one another in quiet understanding.  Months later the truth came to light, so did the pain, and – fortunately for all of us – the suffering was accompanied by holiness.

Robert F. Morneau writes about holiness at such a time as described by St. John of the Cross: “Essentially, this way of holiness was the doing of God’s will and a refusal to live a life of self-interest and self-indulgence.  Holiness is more than an intellectual assent to what God teaches through Scripture and the teachers in the church.  Holiness is actually doing faith, putting into action the decrees of God.  But there must be a radical awareness that one’s holiness is rooted in one’s relationship with God, fostered by prayer.  Only when disciplined prayer and the offering of one’s life in service come together are we on the road to holiness”. 

IM000314.JPGIn today’s Noontime we see Jesus as the consummate servant leader.  He not only washes his followers’ feet, he gives over his life so that they . . . and we . . . may live forever with him.  This, of course, we can easily see as holiness.  The more difficult task is to be the servant leader to even those who wish to see us fail.  We remember that Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve who lived with Jesus and then betrayed him.

Jesus knew that his hour had come . . .

He loved his own in the world, and he loved them to the end . . .  So during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power . . . Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

Jesus, the consummate servant leader, puts his faith into action.  Radically aware of what he is meant to do, he hands over all to the Father . . . and he kneels to do the simplest of tasks.  He cleans the feet of those who follow him.  He loves his own, and he loves them to the end.  And so must we tend to those who follow us, even those who betray us . . . for this is holiness.  This is the way through and beyond the deepest betrayal.


DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS: WAITING IN JOYFUL HOPE 2010-11, Robert F. Morneau, 38-39.

Written on December 14, 2010. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on John of the Cross, click on the link or images above or go to: http://www.doctorsofthecatholicchurch.com/JC.html

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Friday, January 31, 2020

1 Maccabees 12:39-52: Convolution

Tryphon

Tryphon

Below is a site which makes an attempt to unravel this highly complicated plot we see unfolding in 1 Maccabees.  It is difficult to sort through the intricacies of this period in Jewish history just prior to the arrival of Jesus.  All of these double faces and double plots with their twistings and turnings are sometimes too difficult to witness, too difficult to watch . . . and yet we ought to spend here.  We must observe, witness and learn from what we experience. These convolutions may well be too close to home.

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Diodotus_Tryphon 

This betrayal, capture and murder of Jonathan paint a clever piece of political strategy which – – – in the end – – – backfires on Tryphon.  His life terminates in suicide.  This is an old story, an old theme, with characters familiar to all of us.  We see this drama played out in our families, in sensational headlines, in history books, in memoirs, and sometimes in our own lives.  Tryphon presents himself as a reasonable friend while plotting to use Jonathan’s trust to his advantage.  This is a story repeated in big and little ways daily.  Hearts are won and then broken.  Promises made and then abandoned.  Lives buoy upward on the tide of events only to be ruined.

What do we do when we too frequently find ourselves the victims of the Tryphos in our lives?  Do we cease to trust and go within to barricade ourselves from danger?  Do we resort to revenge and add to the violence and atmosphere of mistrust?  Or do we pray for those who harm us, hope for an impossible but just outcome, and place our faith ultimately in God?

Isolation leads to our own depression and suicide.  Violence ushers us swiftly to our own corruption and brutal end.  The sign of our spiritual development is that we are able to ask God to convert hard hearts and stiff necks, that God right an immense wrong, and that God abide with us just as we struggle to abide with God.

We can predict our own ends when we examine this story and ourselves.

Verse 39 reads: Tryphon was determined to become king . . . When we determine our destiny without consulting God we enter into a dark convolution of self.

Verse 40: Looking for a way to seize and kill . . . When we first seek to do away with opposition rather than listen to disparate voices we create a crooked image of God.

Verse 49: Tryphon sent soldiers . . . to destroy . . . When we enlist our friends in a warped plan of retribution we give ourselves over to a darkness that is ultimately overcome by light.

Our lives are repeated patterns of options from which to choose: life or death, light or darkness, mercy or violence, justice or destruction.  We are moving toward Lent and later Eastertide.  We will witness the promise fulfilled; we will be rescued.  In which direction do we steer ourselves?  Onto the straight yet narrow paths of light which lead to completion?  Or into the dark convolutions of a distorted sense of self?

We know the road signs.  We know the feeling of despair when we suffer the little deaths of self through betrayal that escort us to our own destruction.  We also know the sensation of love, the exhilaration of hope and the power of faith.

Let us witness and watch . . . and let us become accustomed to looking for the light that pierces the darkness . . . and steers us away from the convolutions of darkness.


First written on April 24, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To read more about the Selucids and others, click on the coin image above or the citation.  

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Jeremiah 40 & 41: Being Quiet Amid the Storm

gedaliah[1]Nebuchadnezzar’s forces invaded Jerusalem on the ninth day of the ninth month in the eleventh year of Zedekiah (586 B.C.E.) This Jewish king had entered into an alliance with Egypt and in doing so he aggravated the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar who took the land of Judah by force.  The Jewish nation had been a kingdom paying tribute to Babylon.  Now they had become part of a greater empire, and many of her citizens were sent in exile to the place we today call Iraq.

In today’s Noontime we read about how Jeremiah, Zedekiah’s prophet who had urged the king to commit himself to God instead of doing evil in God’s sight, is at first given the freedom to go where he likes after the invasion.  His overseer is Gedaliah and we can find out more about him at this site.

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Minor_Fasts/Ideas_and_Beliefs/Tzom_Gedaliah.shtml

What we find to be intriguing about this man Gedaliah is that he had received a warning about Ishmael’s plot to kill him.  Believing the rumors he had heard to be only slander, Gedaliah welcomes Ishmael instead of being wary of him . . . and then dies at the betrayer’s hand.  Gedaliah is remembered as both the one who releases Jeremiah from prison and the one who dies through betrayal.

It is believed that Jeremiah is later whisked away to Egypt with fellow Jews who seek asylum there.  Zedekiah is forced to watch the execution of his sons after which he is blinded and deported to Babylon along with thousands of his people.  These are stories of such violence that they are difficult to comprehend; and yet they are stories that give way to hope despite their ugliness.

The prophecy of Jeremiah is one through which we understand that we are each called into a personal relationship with God.  In the following chapter we hear these words of comfort from God: If you remain quietly . . . I will build you up; not tear you down; I will plant you, not uproot you; for I regret the evil I have done you . . . for I am with you to save you, to rescue you. 

Everywhere we go there is danger on all sides, Jeremiah warns.  Yet there is safety deep within where God has planted the law by which we are to live.  Today we read about betrayal in the middle of a prophecy which brings hope.  Today we read about assassination in the midst of a prophecy about life.  Today we read about flight in a prophecy about nearness to God.  There is always a place in the darkness in which we might close our eyes, be still, and listen for the voice within.

If you remain quietly . . . I will build you up; not tear you down; I will plant you, not uproot you; for I regret the evil I have done you . . .

Let us pray that in our times of deepest stress that he have the sense to remain quiet . . . so that the Lord might build us up.  Let us pray that in our times of greatest darkness that we have the confidence to remain quiet . . . so that the Lord might plant us anew.  And let us pray that in our times of most piercing pain that we have the strength to remain quiet . . . so that the Lord can undo the evil that has been done.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Image from: http://sephardicguy.com/2011/10/02/gedaliah-who-is-he-why-do-we-fast/

Written on March 7, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as  Favorite.

For more on Ishmael and Gedaliah, go to: http://professorwillis.blogspot.com/2011/07/ishmael-and-ammonites-murder-gedaliah.html

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2 Corinthians 1:3-11: Encouragement

I am so touched by the number of times Paul uses the verb encourage and the noun encouragement in this citation.  As I read through the opening of this second letter to the group in Corinth, I am struck by the idea that as Christians we need to be encouraging one another as we move along the path of life – this is the mark of a Christian: to exhort, to pray, to urge, to praise, to support, to bolster . . . to encourage.  How many times do we browbeat, do we demand, do we undercut, do we deceive, how often do we judge?  Perhaps we put distance between ourselves and others because we are afraid of betrayal at an intimate level.  Perhaps we are afraid to trust.  If this is so . . . we have a place to turn for understanding.  We can examine John 13.

Picture1Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.  The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.

Perhaps we have sensed when someone close to us was about to turn against us.

One of his disciples . . . was reclining at Jesus’ side . . . He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, Master, who is it?”

Perhaps we are too afraid to look closely at circumstances; we may be too anxious to begin a conversation that needs beginning.

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it”. So he dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. 

Jesus teaches us that we must remain calm in the face of treachery.

After he took the morsel, Satan entered him.  So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly”.

Jesus shows us how to remain open and honest in the midst of our enemies.

Now none of those reclining at the table realized why he said this to him.  Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. 

We understand that betrayal is deep-rooted and far-reaching. 

So he took the morsel and he left.  And it was night.

We remember that even for Jesus . . . there is darkness.

Picture3When we are betrayed we find relief and support in the encouragement of others.  We find compassion and mercy in Christ’s example.  Psalm 55 describes the anguish of betrayal at the hands of intimate friends; Jesus teaches us how to withstand the pain brought by this betrayal.  Christ brings us encouragement.

And so we pray . . .

We look for healing and restoration in others . . . let us give healing and restoration in all we do and say.

We look for openness and honesty in others . . . let us act openly and honestly in all our actions and declarations.

We look for constancy and fidelity in others . . . let us be constant and faithful in all our deeds and words.  

We look for justice and mercy in others . . . let us live justly and mercifully all our days and all our nights in Christ.

And let us give thanks for the encouraging companions God sends to us as we journey on our way.  Amen.


First written March 18, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

To explore words of encouragement for children, click on the image or visit: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/words-of-encouragement-for-kids_00402209/#gref

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