Sunday, December 31, 2023

Friday, December 15, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Store

store storefront
Five Minute Friday :: Store Linkup

Here's an older one that already says what I'd like to say today:

Stored Value: from Lent 2005

Retail stores are places that hold a fair amount of stuff. These days they come in brick and mortar and virtual. Maybe your family practices food storage in case of need or disaster? That type of store always is wise, particularly in more remote rural areas.

Pantries store or hold canned, boxed, and other ingredients at the ready. Whether a place to shop, or a location to gather fixings for a meal, we fully expect all those stores to be depleted and later restocked. After all, even food that's dry needs to be fresh. When we consider non-food items, clothing, household d├ęcor, outdoor supplies, and other "stuff" rotates seasonally. Besides, clothes you bought for yourself a few years back may be seriously out of style, may not fit, and if it's your kids' apparel, they've plain outgrown it.

No stored physical provisions last forever. But we have stores of gifts in the Holy Spirit that are eternal and expansive. They don't need restocking or restoring. In fact, you may have noticed the more you gift others out of your store of love, mercy, compassion, and grace, the more your stores of those spiritual gifts expand and grow?

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Friday, December 08, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Turn

Scott Ward Nary

Five Minute Friday :: Turn Linkup

I love to write about Advent! I love Advent music! I love Advent's promise of hope, of God among us is such a paradoxical way, God's promise of the end of the world as we've known it: the end of death, destruction, empire, violence, exploitation. The dawn of hope and possibility. Last week on FMF I wrote, "Hope for the death of death starts with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth."

In the wilderness alongside the Jordan River, John the Baptist preached a "baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins." Repent, turn around, the day of the Lord is at hand is classic prophecy. And "after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news [gospel] of God and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news [gospel].'" Mark 1:14-15

"Turn around and repent" is our daily action of turning toward the sunrise and trusting God through the new day. It may or not be factual, but have you heard how reformer Martin Luther reminded himself "I am baptized" as he washed his face every morning? Repent. Turn around. Umkehr. Metanoia. Live into your baptism!

During Advent, we hear Mary's Holy Spirit-inspired canticle called the Magnificat you can read in or sing from Luke 1:46-55. You may be aware of how well people memorized scripture – literally taking it to heart – two millennia ago; although we have the words Luke wrote, it's very likely Mary sang a very similar song because this passage is closely based upon Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Mary would have been able to recite and make Hannah's words her own.

Paraphrasing Mary's Magnificat, Canticle of the Turning announces the world is about to turn! God turns toward us! God turns and comes even closer to earth! This is global change! As the world turns, the whole world changes!

Because so many YT videos aren't there forever, I no longer link to any, but you easily can find many wonderful solo and choral versions to enjoy. Maybe you've sung Canticle of the Turning in a choir or as a solo? Maybe your church musicians have sung it or you know it as a hymn?

Canticle of the Turning

1 My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
and my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant's plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
so from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn.

2 Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
and your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
you will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn. Refrain

3 From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
there are tables spread, every mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn. Refrain

4 Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
till the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around. Refrain

Gary Daigle, Rory Cooney, and Theresa Donohoo
© 1990, GIA Publications, Inc.

Mary Icon by Scott Ward
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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Left

five minute friday left empty plates
Five Minute Friday :: Left Linkup


Much more often than not I illustrate my blogs with my own photographs and art, but sometimes I don't have the right stuff, so I search the interwebs to find something that fits. I believe Kate usually sources from Unsplash for FMF, and how excited I was to see this week's was one of my faves I've used here at least twice: with the caption "absence" that only a scant three months ago illustrated my FMF on September 1st; five years ago, it headed my August and Summer highlights that I captioned full futures… empty plates.


The word "left" has quite a few connotations. Many people seem to view my political stance as pretty far left, but I consider myself only a little left of center, or "left-leaning." Historically left has related to the latin word for left that's "sinister." But a keyboard score that includes instructions to play a passage with MS – or mano sinister feels not only benign but helpful. Yet keyboard instructions to play a section with your right hand or mano derecha uses language of just and righteous, though in the piano case it's simply a location on the opposite side of left and doesn't assume any particular value.

After a loss, we often consider "how much is left now?" What remains? Enough to work with, to grow a future from? Sufficient leftovers, too. Many culinary leftovers are much tastier than the original meal or dish they derived from, though some seem scant and feel like a last resort "this is all we have left for lunch." At least in some of those situations of [almost] empty plates, can we find or invite another ingredient or another person to augment or even complete the meal?

After a loss, we often consider "how much is left now?" What remains? Enough to work with, to grow a future from? What have you lost? Your dreams? A friend? A family member? Your way in the world or around this neighborhood? How does something or someone being absent relate to whatever's left, whether it's a person, a home, an opportunity, garden produce, or a meal ingredient? But is anything left? A memory to inspire and motivate you? A still reasonable career plan? A nicely-done center portion inside the meal you singed on the outside?

As the church opens wide a new year of grace with the season of Advent, we know, we acknowledge, we announce, we sing, "hope is left." Hope for a new creation, hope for new ways of being that subvert the old. Hope for the death of death starts with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Run, come, see! Little baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem. Run, come, see! The stone rolled away. Is anything left? God's presence, God's love and mercy is left. In the promise of resurrection, God's future is left. And did you know we don't need to see it in order to believe it? Amen? Amen!

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Thursday, November 30, 2023

November & Autumn 2023

November 2023 header
• A Flurry of Bracelets on Olvera Street
• West LA Municipal Building waiting for a new tenant and a future
• Red Benches in Chinatown

September 2023 Highlights

October 2023 Features

Urban Wilderness / City Paradise for November

National sandiwch day 2023
• Friday 03 November meant another National Sandwich Day at another Subway

thanksgiving day in West LA
• Thanksgiving day in West LA again! This year for the annual West Side Community Dinner.

Olvera Street Los Angeles
• An actual semi-formal outing (or at least an official one) with a house guest to a couple of tourist spots I hadn't visited! Here's Part I at Olvera Street.

Chinatown Los Angeles
• Late November Sunday outing Part II to Chinatown.

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Friday, November 17, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Result

garden greens and supplies in West Los Angeles
Gardening supplies for sale on the west side of Los Angeles

Five Minute Friday :: Result Linkup


When you search the internet, eBay, or Amazon, you get a results page or list that's supposed to relate to your search terms. If you know how to construct a search string, your results (theoretically) will be better focused and more usable. But theory and reality often diverge.

As they say, the best way to predict the future is to create it. I've spent my life preparing to serve the inner city, an adult lifetime preparing to serve the urban church. And my call to free-range rather than continuing to pursue more settled, authorized ministry hasn't gotten many responses. Both overall result and discrete results have been disappointing and disconcerting. How can my actual life results converge with my intentions, my dreams, and my sense of call?

How to Get Results

As an earthbound lover of creation seeking to live more locally and better steward gifts the Giver has showered on you, you identify good and easily accessible land or someone offers you a plot. You prepare the soil, you plant, you weed, you water, or the skies send rain. Maybe you test the ground and the water and add nutrients. How's the air quality? You wait. Together we hope for good results. Results that previous experience and quality inputs lead you to expect.

When we pivot from horticulture and agriculture to the results we aspire to as humans seeking to contribute to the greater good, quality – and relevant – inputs still are key. But sometimes you need to go with what you have and trust the Spirit.

Via the prophet Jeremiah, God charged the exiles in Babylon to bloom where they'd been planted by working for, planning and preparing for, and therefore expecting the well-being of that strangely foreign place where they'd been sent. Because my neighbor's welfare is my healthiness is your wellness is all of our well-being. But similar to when we interact with earth and dirt, we sometimes need to tweak or add to inputs so they'll be more compatible with our desired results.

How many times here have I observed esperar in Spanish means hope, expect, and wait? When our actions align with our hopes, we can expect results that validate our waiting.

Sometimes you need to go with what you have and trust the Spirit. In fact, it would be unusual for anyone to possess everything they imagine would lead to the best result. Your geography might not be optimal for containing your ideal results. The local population may be too small or in general have a perspective that doesn't "get" your aspirations. Because of finances and location, the only place you easily can get needed education and skills right now maybe is okay but not top tier. Given that theory and reality often diverge, often you need to approach desired long run results with small steps filled with possibility.

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Friday, November 10, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Maintain

five minute friday maintain
Five Minute Friday :: Maintain Linkup

Originally I read the prompt as mountain! That would be apt for our host Kate's words about her struggles with pain management and medication-related weight gain. It's not unusual for meds to affect a person's weight, plus it takes relatively few extra calories to cause natural weight gain and what is more, even when a person does well shedding pounds and changing their overall eating patterns, the final ten often is tough to budge because you've reached what someone called the "set point" your body wants to maintain because otherwise you might starve yourself (according to your body's logical rationale).

As it turned out, when I went back to copy the link and get the picture, I discovered maintain is this week's actual prompt. Over on my scripture blog I often write about freedom, obedience, community, and common-wealth.

Exodus 19:1-8

On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.

Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites."

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do." Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.

You know the story! Out of Egypt, still far from promise landed liberty in the place God first promised Abraham, technically Israel was free, yet after God quenched their thirst and filled their hunger in surprising ways, Israel received the Sinai Covenant with guidelines and boundaries as gifts that would help them stay free.

Scholars consider both the nomadic desert lifestyle and the commandments constitutive events for God's people Israel, similar to how the constitution of an organization or a country defines its heart and substance.

God gifted Israel with the ten Words or Commandments after they'd been liberated from slavery, been freed from production quotas. Out of imperial Egypt, into the exodus desert, on their way but not yet at the promised land, they'd learn to maintain that freedom by keeping covenant. Slavery to empire no long would be their frame of reference; instead they would reverence God by serving the neighbor.

Just as for Israel, especially heeding the sabbath command helps us remember bondage, helps us appreciate freedom and maintain resolve to stay free. In a world of political and commercial empires, Sabbath reminds us to make life as gift a possibility for others.

"This is freedom. This is a weapon greater than any force you can name. Once you know this, and know it with all your being, you will move and act with a determination and power that the federal government cannot ignore, that the school boards cannot overlook, and that the housing authority cannot dismiss." Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, 1966

In the chapter after today's we find the Ten Words or Decalogue that outline how the people can maintain their freedom—what Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann calls God's Working Papers for living together in community—for Israel's, and for ours, as well. God's people whose bounded freedom helps maintain life and avert death.

You also can find the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant in Deuteronomy 5:5-21.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Season

five minute frodau seaspm

Five Minute Friday :: Season Linkup


It's always reassuring to remember our lives have seasons similar to creation's. In addition to clear "life seasons" of struggle, growth, plateau, reversal, and glory like the weather outside, we also experience hints of different seasons within any current one. Have you ever had a sunny July day turn into a horizontal downpour with near zero visibility? Or been surprised by mid-February melting snow and bright crocuses when you know the calendar says spring is weeks away? I've mentioned human seasons enough in this blog; for this Five Minute Friday let's conside our planetary winter, spring, summer, autumn. Their necessity, their interrelatedness, their gifts. This week's five minutes hasn't turned into a book, but the subject of season was so fun I kept on writing.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no vegetation of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground, but a stream would rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground—

then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.… Genesis 2:4b-9

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. Genesis 2:15


While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Genesis 8:22


Five Novembers ago I blogged Bulbs Roots Beauty about the gift of winter. When I lived in places with cold, snowy winters, though going outside to work, school, or other activities often was a major challenge, I enjoyed the coziness of being inside looking out, especially if I didn't need to go outside soon. Related to winter I love warm sweaters, and (of course) body and spirit warming savory soups and hot drinks. What are your faves?


Spring's colorful new growth—how did this happen after winter?

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and reburied; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

In his Reading the Parables, pastor-professor Richard Lischer quotes from a sermon he happened upon: "When Jesus was taken from the cross, they hid his body in a tomb and then sealed it lest someone find him. For 3 days, Jesus himself was the Treasure hidden in the field; for 3 days he was the seed lying dormant in the ground. Jesus was a human parable of God's love and power."

A seed of God's love and power…

What are your fave things about spring? I especially enjoy lighter brighter colors in our natural surroundings and in spring clothing. They both remind us spring is a beginning of new life that hasn't grown or developed much into what it will become.


Always my favorite! From spring greens intensifying as days grow longer and then shorter days but more sunshine, more parties, more fun, and better times. I don't want summer to end because I love the hot days, now and then cloudbursts, bright, light, mostly casual clothes, sometimes spontaneous get togethers and outings. What are your summer joys?


Autumn is my most real and best new year, because back in my day and back when many others were younger, that's when school started again. New beginnings, a new classroom, new teachers, books, (notebooks, pencils, pens, markers, crayons) classes, and activities. And there's even something new and novel as the natural world starts to slow down, bright summer colors fade and mellow, life at the same time deepens and broadens. Despite summer being my best season, I always appreciate fall's sense of wisdom and maturity, of knowing what battles to choose and which ones to ignore, of getting into warmer clothes that somehow always look like better quality and better styling. How about your autumns?


…Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher).
John 20:14-16

Supposing him to be the gardener??

But Jesus is the gardener. Jesus is the seed that is the Word of God that is the seed. Without a seed, without a beginning, (without the Spirit,) there is no growth or life or resurrection from death.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden … [and] made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…

Yahweh is a fertility God! Created in God's image, God calls us and we become people who care for the land, protect creation's integrity. Without a seed or source there's no growth, no fruit.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

The earth, the land, the garden first was gift of grace before it was a covenantal charge and endeavor. Earth and land and garden are gifts for all four seasons, earthbound realities for every one of our summers, springs, winters, and autumns.

What's your favorite and best?
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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October 2023

october header fig leaves dup
• Some of the overgrown fig leaves some people have been commenting on create a lovely autumn duo for October's header.

Urban Wilderness – City Paradise for October

Roxy Easter
• Roxy left earth on Wednesday 11 October. Here's one of the pictures in her beautiful Easter bandana.
emoji subwat art at Vermont Wilshire Metro Station
• A trip downtown through Vermont Wilshire Metro Station (the one with the long escalator) on Thursday 12 October and a visit to Angelica, not all that far from MacArthur Park. Here's some of the emoji art on classic subway tiles.
twin valleys festival
twin valleys fall festival
• Photo collages from Twin Valleys Fall Festival on Saturday 14 October. Fab autumn-Halloween decorations, tasty BBQ, and a beyond fabulous jazz band.
decorated mini pumpkins
• For Reformation Sunday in West Los Angeles we had an al fresco potluck and decorated small pumpkins. Look at this fun and fancy array!
Reformation Rose
• Today, 31 October is Reformation Day 2023.
trick or treat
• All day today, 31 October is Halloween. Though I didn't keep a visitor tally, I handed out four packages of fun size candy bars at 2 per person, including several parents. The last few trick or treaters got Halloween Oreos I actually remembered. Happily they loved the cookies!
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Friday, October 27, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Strive

be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Five Minute Friday :: Strive Linkup

As we approach Reformation Sunday / Reformation Day with its glorious affirmation of salvation by grace not works, it feels especially apt to consider this week's strive prompt. Of course we need to be diligent, work hard, make quite a lot of effort for our lives to bear fruit that benefits others and offers us the warm glow of achievement. In short, we do need to strive. We need to strive and try and sometimes cry, but if we don't first recognize life as God's gift of grace we'll get tied up in knots of anxiety and for sure we'll be less productive.

For churches that follow the lectionary for their scriptures, every year's readings for Reformation are the same:

• freedom that is ours when we continue in God's word and abide in Christ – John 8:31-36
• justified before God by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – Romans 3:19-28
• the new covenant promise of God's law on our hearts – Jeremiah 31:31-34
• Psalm 46 that Martin Luther loosely paraphrased to create his hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

Have you seen Psalm 46:10 formatted:

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still

God created us human beings and not human doings. We first claim our identity as icons or images of God with simple being. After that, with less anxiety, more confidence we absolutely can strive to do and succeed in doing whatever work God calls us to because…
Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city, she shall not be shaken;

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

10 Be still, and know that I am God;

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
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Friday, October 20, 2023

Five Minute Friday :: Clarify

five minute friday clarify plants with sun
Five Minute Friday :: Clarify Linkup

You don't get much clarity about an object or situation if there's not enough light to show the details. Ever since God said, "let there be light," and there was light, we've had a front row seat that clarifies the glories of creation.

As our host Kate said, we try different ways to clarify the life path ahead, and with good reason. Looking at all the inputs as best as possible helps reveal how we might contribute to the planet's greater good and give God the glory. We talk about transparency in financial and other transactions, in our everyday family and workaday interactions.

Those of us in the church have a habit of trying to clarify God's attributes and actions. Although we have God's words in scripture, some of those need interpreting to clarify them. Then again, we have the best interpreter of scripture, the incarnate Word Jesus Christ, who makes God's written word clearer than it otherwise would be. Some have called the sacraments "visible words," that also help clarify God's presence, God's ways, and God's will for creation.

Similar to ways God communicates with words and the Word, we humans interact with one another with speech and with symbols that sometimes are plainly familiar, sometimes need interpreting and clarifying by spoken explanations or with visual illustrations. Don't be obtuse and opaque! I really can't see through you. But is word not symbol in itself and is symbol not a kind of speech?

Whatever you call it (if anything at all), you probably interpret your context – neighborhood, workplace, church, school, or city – literally all the time. You read signage and other indicators that clarify where you are, the purpose or safety of a venue, if you want to eat in or take out from a particular eating place…

You almost definitely interpret wherever you are in order to discover and discern and clarify—what's the quickest route home?

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Friday, October 13, 2023

Five Minute Friday:: Anticipate

anticipate human in boots ready to travel
Five Minute Friday :: Anticipate Linkup

If FMF wrote to an image prompt and not to a word, Kate's picture of boots ready to start an adventure would be perfect. How fun to write about and anticipate the always unknown we walk into.

Lately I've been reminding myself a lot that the best way to predict the future is to create it. And I wonder what on earth happened when so little I anticipated came to be. I haven't said much about that recently, but my "life stuff" tag leads to some I dared make public.

With yet another devastating war filled with unimaginable violence and horror, what can we anticipate? More of the same or similar? This week for my scripture blog on Philippians 4:1-9, I'm writing on God's presence. I'll link to it here when it's live.

Pentecost 20A on Urban Wilderness/City Paradise

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and petitions with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will protect your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Carly Simon's "Anticipation" opens with "We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway (autocorrect just now changed my error to antiwar. Wow!) Anticipation the song ends with "These are the good old days" and I know I'm engaging in irresponsible eisegesis to align those lyrics with today anticipating a better unknown future, but you know about poetic license.

As I prayerfully and fearfully (fear in the sense of anxiety, not in the holy awe meaning of Martin's Luther's explanation to each commandment in his Small Catechism, "We should fear and love God above all things") anticipate the future of planet earth, particularly my current small slice of creation, more of Carly's music and lyrics encourage and remind us into God's future.

Let the river run. Let all the dreamers wake the nation. Come, the new Jerusalem.

We're coming to the edge // Running on the water
Coming through the fog // Your sons and daughters

We the great and small // Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire // Through the darkening dawn

God's sons and God's daughters! Let's trust God's presence and anticipate the unknown in our sturdy boots. Let's blaze a trail of desire. Let's predict the future and participate with God in the adventure of creating that future we anticipate. Amen? Amen!

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