Sunday, February 20, 2022

Quotation of the Week: Vision

 


 "Vision is the art of seeing the invisible."

~Jonathan Swift

Vision is a word of significance. It's used in business, in personal and church mission statements, and, of course, the physicality of sight. The satirist Jonathan Swift defines vision as insight -- "the art of seeing the invisible" -- in other words, the ability to see beyond the present and into the realm of future possibilities, beyond what our eyes can see and our minds can know. 

I hate being asked to write a personal vision statement. The future is too amorphous, too beyond, to commit to paper, much less to share with others.

But I still like the heart of this quote.

Another thing I am trying this year, hopefully more successfully than my "go to bed by 11 PM" goal (she writes at 12:30 AM), is to try to not work (on Brave Writer or my grading business tasks) on the Sabbath. There will be times when I will need to, but I am going to try to get as much done on Saturday as I possibly can and try to leave Sundays for three activities: church, Dungeons & Dragons, and relaxing family time. 

D&D Session 84 Update: our intrepid party of storm sorcerer, rogue/ranger, light cleric, eldritch knight fighter, and a battle master fighter, killed the adult green dragon named Son Iru the Sly who has been trying to kill us since we killed her wyrmling (baby dragon) in self-defense in Session Five, almost exactly two years previously in our time, but about three months in-game. Son Iru has sent many assassins after us, and we managed to fight them off without too much trouble. My light cleric presented the party with a Heroes' Feast the previous night, a sumptuous spread of savory meats, succulent and exotic fruits, fresh bread still warm from the oven, decadent desserts, and rich red wines. Our sorcerer's pet (adjustable-sized) cockatrice Hei-Hei was presented with sparkling rock quartz in a bowl to consume since he eats rocks only.  

The Heroes' Feast provided our party with 24 hours of immunity against Poison and becoming Frightened, and gave us extra hit points. Considering that a green dragon's main weapons are poison and fright, the Heroes' Feast helped greatly. However, when our battle master fighter walloped her something fierce, the dragon killed him. Not merely unconscious -- he was dead. Fortunately, my light cleric had the required diamond and spell slot at hand, cast Revivify, and our fighter returned to the living. My cleric also cast Heal and added her Healing Hands, giving him 82 hit points so that he could continue the good fight. And it was a fight we won. Now what to do with a dead green dragon? 

Have a wonderful Sunday and week ahead!

Soli Deo Gloria,


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Quotation of the Week: February 13

 


"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer."

~Maya Angelou

Prayer is the heart and soul of my existence. I don't write this to sound all holier than thou-ish; I write it because I have no other choice. Prayer isn't anything more or less than talking with God. Because praying became too difficult when I first became ill with chronic pain, I found help in praying through the Book of Common Prayer in which prayers are written to be read aloud as a church body or by oneself in private prayer. 

I also found great solace in a slim little volume of prayers that I pulled out earlier today to pray from: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie. It's now out of print in its original form; an updated form is available on Kindle, but I only want Baillie's original book, not a revised edition. I've mentioned this book many times on this blog over the years, and it's a book overflowing with solace and peace. 

And gratitude. There's a book --  a very popular book -- a New York Times bestseller for over a year, that I can't recommend highly enough: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Counting our blessings -- the biggies as well as the little incidentals of our ordinary days -- this is truly the heart of following God and feeling His Love for each and every one of us. 

And Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, is truly, to misquote John Keats' poem "Endymion," "a thing of beauty and a joy forever." There's nothing quite like pulling up a chair on Ann's huge front porch to listen to her words of wisdom born of suffering, and the resulting joy of a life being lived perfectly imperfect, as we all are. 

And, ahhh! The pen of Maya Angelou is gentle one moment and militant the next -- calling out the wrong and lauding the right and with compassion for everything and everyone in-between. She is a Truthteller, Maya is. And she doesn't hold back her punches, no matter whose jaw she is aiming for. Yet her love conquers the injustices she rails against -- and she can be as gentle as this beautiful quotation I've chosen to share with you this week. 

I need to get to bed ... as soon as I post the new Collect for Septuagesima (the Third Sunday Before Lent) -- it's included in this week's sidebar -- to our Book of Common Prayer's Facebook group, copy down the verses of the Communion hymn I'll be reciting as poetry via Zoom for our Blessed Trinity Anglican Church's service tomorrow, and pray Compline before bed. 

Wishing you all a wonderful Sunday, whether you will be watching the big game or enjoying the unseasonably warm weather here in San Diego (it's supposed to be 83 here on Sunday) or doing whatever else you enjoy most on this day of relaxation and rest. The majority of my family will be trying to slay a green dragon in our 84th Dungeons & Dragons session. Here's hoping we survive until Week 85! 

Warmly,

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Quotation of the Week: Be Yourself

 


"No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself." 

~Virginia Woolf

I'll just leave this quote as it is, without explanations. It's an important quotation, though -- one I hope to learn to accept and embody as time goes on. 

Later today I'll be likely fighting a dragon in the guise of my part-angelic demon hunter character, Fionnlagh (pronounced Finlay) in our weekly Dungeons and Dragons session. Fighting an ancient green dragon is no joke, yet I believe that our party of five is as ready as we'll ever be. 

Because Fionn is a Light Cleric, she has access to a spell called a Heroes' Feast which will give us extra protection against the dragon for twenty-four hours after we feast. It also costs a jeweled bowl worth 1000 gold pieces which will be consumed by the spell. But being protected from poison (this dragon has poisoned breath rather than fire breath) and from being frightened when fighting a very angry ancient dragon whose offspring we killed (in self-defense) will be well worth the price of the spell.

Wish us well, and have a blessed week!

Soli Deo Gloria,


    

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Quotation of the Week ... and a Side of Dragons

 Quotation of the Week


"Wisdom begins in wonder."

~Socrates

It's been quite a while since I posted regularly to this blog. Life has become increasingly challenging and difficult, and writing wasn't something I had much time for, much less emotional strength and "brain" to make it happen. 

I'd like to start posting here again, likely in snippets, while the boat seems to right itself slowly and we all remain afloat. Sometimes that sinking sensation comes and fear rears its ugly head, but we are fighting it off, supporting one another, and finding strength in faith, family, and friends. 

And I get to kill bad dudes and monsters when we settle down on Sunday afternoons to play Dungeons and Dragons. That helps a lot. Especially since my character is an Aasimar Light Cleric named Fionnlagh ("white warrior" in Irish) -- basically, she's an angelic creature with an impressive amount of firepower in her pocket. And our party's master tinkerer actually made her a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (yes, given that our family's favorite movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we had to go there!), one for each vambrace, filled with holy water for fighting fiends and demons. We're now at Level 11, just having celebrated our second anniversary of this campaign on January 18, and we will be playing Session 82 today (Sunday). And we have a green dragon sending assassins after us. Our plan is to go in and attack her ... which should be interesting, to say the least. I'll let you know if any of us make it out alive ...

And if any of you know me, you know that I love to collect quotations. They're thought-provoking, illuminating, and FREE. And I'm now filling my third journal of quotations. So I thought that, if nothing else, I would share a quotation each week. It's not that much to do, and I'll write more if I can. 

Have a lovely week, everyone! 

Soli Deo Gloria,


Monday, January 10, 2022

The Wonder of Winter

 



I recently ran across a bunch of beautiful quotations on winter and filled up nearly a page of my quotation journal with them. This is one of my favorites ... 

Warmly,



Saturday, May 22, 2021

Wishing You a Joyous Pentecost!

 

An Eastern Orthodox icon of the Christian Pentecost. This is the Icon of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. At the bottom is an allegorical figure, called Kosmos, which symbolizes the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

A re-post from the Archives as I attempt to keep up with my wonderful Brave Writer families and students in Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night...

I just do not understand something. Why don't evangelical churches celebrate Pentecost? Because of COVID, we are still not yet attending church "live" but instead, I worship via Zoom with Blessed Trinity Anglican. Thus, I have no idea if this year was different and Pine Valley Community Church celebrated Pentecost during the church service. I hope so! It breaks my heart not to attend, but until we feel all clear with several of us having autoimmune challenges, I'll keep on Zooming. 


Scripture tells us that the Gift Jesus promised His disciples has arrived at Pentecost: the Holy Spirit. We read Christ's promise in the 14th chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, beginning at the 15th verse:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.... 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you..." (ESV).


Then on the Feast of the Pentecost, with Jerusalem filled with Jews from around the known world, Christ fulfilled his promise fifty days after His Resurrection. We read in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles:
2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.' 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine” (ESV).


Peter then preaches to the astounded visitors to Jerusalem (also in the second chapter of Acts), quoting the prophecy of Joel hundreds of years past as well as passages from the Psalms of David while also relating what he and the other disciples witnessed of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as well as the many sightings of Christ following His resurrection from the dead until His ascension to the right hand of the Living God. Peter concludes:
"32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" (Acts 2, ESV).
And then we read the response of the crowd listening to Peter:
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2, ESV).


The events of this Pentecost are simply incredible, and it is from this amazing Gift of the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit of God, that the Gospel of Christ first began to spread and the Church began to form. Why evangelical churches do not regularly celebrate Pentecost is a mystery to me. It always lands on a Sunday and thus it can be easily celebrated with Scripture readings, with praise songs and hymns about the Holy Spirit, with sermons focused on the Holy Spirit, and perhaps even with baptisms since approximately 3,000 people were baptized and added to the Church on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection in Acts 2. Pentecost is a Biblical holy day, and we can celebrate it Biblically, too, with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart[s]" (Ephesians 5:19, ESV).

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, one of the Collects (collective or public prayers) for Pentecost reads thus:

Almighty and most merciful God, grant, we beseech thee, that by the indwelling of thy Holy Spirit, we may be enlightened and strengthened for thy service ; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
And the Book of Common Prayer 2011's Collect for Pentecost (also in the sidebar of this blog):
"O GOD, you teach the hearts of your faithful people by sending us the light of your Holy Spirit; By your Spirit, give us right judgment in all things, so that we may rejoice forever in his holy comfort; Through the victory of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and rules with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen." (References: John 14.26; Acts 2.1-4; Philippians 1.9-10; Acts 9.31)
The Anglican Church has an interesting name for Pentecost: Whitsunday which comes from the white garments worn by those who are baptized this day, just as over 3,000 people were baptized on that first Pentecost in Acts 2. In the above hyperlink to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry of "Whitsunday," an interesting fact is given:
Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:8 probably refers to the Jewish feast. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday; besides it was so closely bound up with Easter that it appears to be not much more than the termination of Paschal tide [Eastertide].


So why is this important Biblical Holy Day, celebrated from the very earliest days of the Christian Church, hardly mentioned in evangelical churches, including my own? I don't know. I simply don't get it. But I pray that the evangelical churches will indeed start to celebrate Biblical Holy Days more and more in the future, pulling on the rich, 2,000-year heritage of Pentecost/Whitsunday.

I close with this quotation on the importance of Pentecost:

"Bethlehem was God with us, Calvary was God for us, and Pentecost is God in us."

~Robert Baer

Wishing you a blessed Pentecost,

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Christ Is Risen! Alleluia!

The Resurrection of Christ and the Women in the Tomb (c. 1440-1442) by Fra Angelico

He Is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!! 

The liturgical greeting for Eastertide is one that goes back centuries. But my favorite Resurrection Day hymn goes back only to the eighteenth century. Written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley the English church reformer, I miss singing this hymn today with great gusto and joy as it is being sung at churches around the world. These words and the soaring music truly expressed my Easter joy in a Risen Saviour!

1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! 
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! 
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! 
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia! 

2. Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia! 
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia! 
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia! 
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia! 

3. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia! 
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia! 
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia! 
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia! 

4. Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! 
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia! 
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia! 
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! 


Last night's Holy Saturday Vigil was so powerful. Lighting the Pascal fire from flint and steel, then lighting the Pascal Candle which is embedded with five small nails representing the five wounds of Christ, then praying together before Father Acker and Alice processed into the darkened chapel singing "The Light of Christ! Thanks be to God!!" They stopped to sing this three times, each time lighting more candles; we at home on Zoom lit our candles, too. Then we prayed by candlelight as Father Acker sang the ancient Holy Saturday liturgy in plainsong--it's soooooo beautiful!! 

The Paschal Candle, with the Greek letters "Alpha" and "Omega", the year, and the nails representing the Five Wounds of Christ

Then we read several long Scripture passages which tell our salvation history as God's people. We then re-affirmed our baptismal vows and celebrated the First Evensong of Eastertide!! With what joy did we greet the end of this amazing vigil, definitely my favorite service in the Anglican tradition. The candles, the incense, the Scripture passages, the vows, the prayers, and the joy of the Resurrection after the sorrow of Good Friday. Thanks be to God, indeed!! 

The Good Friday liturgy was equally powerful, but it was filled with sorrow rather than the impending joy of the Vigil. To read the Passion of the Christ from the Gospel of Saint John aloud ... to be crying out "Crucify Him!! Crucify Him!!" with the crowd. My heart was so heavy as I imagined His suffering so greatly ... for us! For me! For those whom I love! For every person ever created on this earth and every person who will be created in the future! His Love is that big!! Alleluia!! Thanks be to God!! 

The Crucifixion with Saints by Fra Angelico (141-1442), fresco  
 
The Collect for Easter Sunday from The Book of Common Prayer 2011:
EASTER SUNDAY or THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST
This Collect is prayed daily through the octave (Easter Week).
THE COLLECT:
ALMIGHTY God, who through your only eternal Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life; Grant that, by your mighty power going before us, we may die daily to sin and live with him forever in the glory of his resurrection; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Acts 2.24; John 9.25; 1 Peter 1.3; Hebrews 2.14-15; James 1.4)


He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!! 
Happy Easter!



Saturday, February 20, 2021

Celebrating My Favorite Artist ... Who Is Also a Saint!

Deposition from the Cross by Fra Angelico

Updated from the Archives...

While the art of the Pre-Raphaelites remains my favorite period of art, I cannot narrow down all of their talent to a single "favorite artist." And considering that my Master of Arts in English from Catholic University of San Diego was in Medieval Literature (with many courses taught by an amazing nun with a Harvard Ph.D.), it's not surprising that my favorite artist would also be from the medieval period.

Fra Angelico was born approximately the same year in which Chaucer died: 1400. Although he only lived fifty-some years, he produced an incredible body of artistic work.

Today the Church celebrates his Feast Day, and the following is from the "Saint of the Day" e-mail from AmericanCatholic.org:


Monday, February 18, 2019
Blessed John of Fiesole
(c. 1400-1455)

The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works. 

He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.

He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.

So let's take a look at some of his more famous works:

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
The Visitation by Fra Angelico
Madonna and Child by Fra Angelico
The Crucifixion by Fra Angelico
The Resurrection of the Christ by Fra Angelico

The last painting here was the one and only wallpaper I ever used on my first laptop computer. The colors, especially of the first three paintings, are still so vivid, and his figures are pre-Renaissance in their three-dimensionality versus the usual flat, two-dimensional work of the medieval period. 

So I hope that you will enjoy the work of this amazing medieval artist as much as I have and continue to do!

Artistically yours,


Friday, November 27, 2020

Getting Ready for Advent

 




This post is quoted directly from Life for Leaders, written by Mark D. Roberts. To view this post on the website, please click here: Life for Leaders; Getting Ready for Advent.

LIFE FOR LEADERS

Getting Ready for Advent

Written By Mark D. Roberts
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
      for my hope is from him.

Focus

The season of Advent is almost here. We’re coming into a time when we get in touch with our yearning for healing, justice, peace, and salvation. Most of all, Advent is a time for us to feel more strongly our yearning for God, even as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of the Messiah at Christmas.

We have two online resources to help you have a rich celebration of Advent:

Welcome to Advent: Discover the meaning and spiritual value of Advent. I share my personal experience of Advent, including “My Greatest Advent Discovery.”

Devotions for Advent: Five devotions, centered around the use of an Advent wreath. For individuals, families, or small groups.

Devotion

The season of Advent is almost here. In this devotion I’d like to help you get ready for a rich experience of God’s grace in this special season of the year. I have found Advent to be a time for deepening and enriching my relationship with the Lord. I’d love to help this be true for you also.

Officially, Advent begins this coming Sunday, November 29th, the first of four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. The length of Advent varies a bit each year because Christmas Day moves around in the week. In 2020, with Christmas Day on a Friday, Advent lasts for 26 days, beginning on November 29th and ending on December 24th, Christmas Eve.

As you may know, the word “advent” is derived from the Latin term adventus, which means “visit” or “coming.” During Advent, Christians focus on the advent of Jesus . . . actually on two advents. We remember the ancient Jewish longing for God’s salvation through the Messiah, the Anointed King. In this way we yearn for the first advent of Jesus. Also, we get in touch with our own longing for Christ’s return, when God will establish his kingdom and wipe away every tear. Thus, Advent stirs up our yearning for the second advent of Jesus.

Many people I know—including me—feel glad about the approach of Advent, much as we might feel about the pending visit of a dear, old friend. Yet, many others among my friends don’t really pay much attention to Advent. These include quite a few of my Christian friends, by the way. They really aren’t even sure what Advent is or why anyone should be excited about it.

Why do I love Advent? First of all, it is a season of preparation for Christmas. It helps us prepare our hearts for a truly joyous celebration of the birth of Jesus. Advent, though, isn’t just a kind of Christmas-lite. It has its own distinctive themes, moods, and colors. Christmas decorations feature red and green, backed up by white, silver, and gold. The major Advent color is, depending on your church tradition, either purple or deep blue, with pink as a secondary color. The distinct colors of Advent illustrate the fact that it isn’t only a time to get ready for Christmas. (If you want to learn more about Advent colors, check out Welcome to Advent.)

Above all, Advent is a season of waiting and hoping. Remembering what the Jewish people experienced as they waited and hoped for the Messiah, we also wait and hope for the two advents of Christ. Psalm 62:5 captures the spirit of Advent perfectly: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.” Even the mention of silence is an Advent sort of theme. Whereas Christmas celebrations can be happily loud as we belt out “Joy to the World” and or the “Hallelujah Chorus,” Advent invites us into a time of quiet reflection.

In a day where there is so much about our world that is broken, my heart is unusually eager for Advent. The pain in our lives stirs up my hope for God’s salvation. Plus, in this time, we are waiting. Yes, we are waiting for a vaccine that will stop the scourge of COVID-19. Yes, we are waiting for an improved economy and for a more just world. But, when we take time to reflect, we realize that we are waiting, most of all, for God. As we read in Psalm 62:1-2, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”

Reflect

What is your experience of Advent? What, if anything, does Advent mean to you?

In what way (or ways) are you waiting on God right now?

In what way (or ways) are you hoping in God right now?

Act

If you have Advent traditions that you cherish, then make plans to invest in those traditions this year. If Advent is new to you, consider adding an Advent practice in your life. You can find lots of ideas in my Welcome to Advent article.

Pray

Gracious God, as we come upon the season of Advent, I would love to draw near to you in a special way. I’d like to enter into this time of hope and waiting in a way the renews my relationship with you. I’d like to prepare my heart for a more meaningful celebration of the birth of Jesus. So I ask you to help me reorient my heart in the coming season. May I be more attentive to you and more in touch with my soul’s longing for you.

For you alone, Lord, my soul waits in silence; from you comes my salvation. You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken. Amen.
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Wishing you all a blessed and holy Advent season,




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