Come To The Table

I can’t help myself. Everybody has weaknesses. I’m a pushover for having meals with people I care about, old and new friends; visitors from near and far; family members who can have their arms twisted to stop by for a meal.

Over the years, I’ve come to know a variety of people who hate entertaining. I also know people who would much rather dine out. I enjoy that too, but there is something especially fun, I think, about sitting around the family dinner table, recounting old stories, hearing spontaneous laughter, and just being together.

I have always loved inviting friends and family for meals as well as hosting dinner parties. Some people are pretty well allergic to this, but thankfully, my husband is not one of them.

The house we ended up buying was not our first choice, yet after having lived in it a bit, I believe it is the house that I’ve always dreamed about since I was old enough to love old houses. One of the best things about our 1855 house is that the grandest and most spacious room is the dining room.

There is plenty of room to stretch out my parents’ World War II-era dining room table to its full length making it possible to fit quite a few folks around the table. So far, at this house, we’ve only had eight gathered at the table. Over the years, this table has often served eleven; and done service as a buffet table serving many guests at parties, open houses, and receptions.

Yesterday evening, without the extra leaf, there were just four of us. It was perfect for a simple meal of pizza and salad, and eventually, a little ice cream. On Saturday we are having some new friends over, a young couple with children, whom we met at church. My husband and I look forward to getting better acquainted with them.

Some people write journals, or, heaven forbid, keep diaries. I have kept guest books, narrating what we served to whom, their food allergies, likes, and dislikes. There are also copies of our invitations to all manner of events, including baby showers, baptisms, confirmations, graduations, wedding celebrations, birthdays, or visits from family and friends, some making cross country trips to stay with us.

There were hard or busy times, over the years, when the books saw no activity. But my daughter presented me with an elegant new journal for use in our last house. This house. This 1855 house. There are already quite a few occasions narrated. Welcoming people to the table gives me great joy.

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A Test and A Gift

Amidst the junk emails that come to my personal email account are those few from friends and family with news or an article worth taking time to read, a story worth a listen, or maybe a few cartoons or photos that are intended to bring a laugh or warm my heart. My husband’s sister sent us two such stories that we have talked about, off and on,  ever since. They bring to mind a couple of questions: are we being tested, and if so, by whom?

One was a photomontage with a woman narrating what she said was a true story of a full-grown tiger who went to a man’s house to get help.  She said that this took place in a village in Russia.  The man was asleep, but odd noises in the night woke him, when they subsided he was able to go back to sleep. In the morning, he went to his front door to go outside, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t open the door.  Eventually, he went out of a window to see what was blocking his door. Much to his dismay, he found huge paw prints covering his yard. Then, turning the corner, he discovered a full-grown tiger lying in front of his door. Terrified, he knew there was insufficient time to get to safety. So he stood perfectly still, and in time the tiger padded slowly toward him.

He soon spied a steel ring around the tiger’s neck, which had pierced its skin and caused a wound that needed treating. The man was a paramedic, and so he helped the tiger. The tiger was patient and let the paramedic do his work. Some neighbors came and assisted. For two weeks, the tiger lived in a shed in the man’s yard. Throughout the next several weeks, they tended the tiger and kept him fed. One day the tiger disappeared.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. About two weeks later, the man discovered that once again, he was unable to get out his front door. He climbed out of the window and walked around to see what was blocking his front door. There were familiar tiger tracks in the yard, but it was not the tiger blocking his doorway.  Instead, he discovered that the tiger had brought him a gift of food.  It was the body of a deer that was now blocking his front door.

The second story was the story of a preacher from out-of-state, accepting a call to serve a church in Texas. A couple of weeks after he arrived in town, he had to ride a bus. Once the preacher found his seat, he realized that the money given to him for change was incorrect. He had received an extra quarter.  Should he forget it, it was just a quarter after all, or should he return it? What should he do? At the last moment, as he was exiting the bus, he turned back and handed the quarter to the bus driver and explained that he had given him too much change.

The driver asked him if he wasn’t the new preacher in town. Then the driver said he had been thinking about maybe going somewhere to worship. He mentioned that he wanted to know what the preacher would do if he gave him too much change. The driver said he would see him in church on Sunday.

“When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, ‘Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.’”

In your work, or personal life, have you ever had an experience that seemed to be a test?  Upon reflection, I can say that I have had quite a few.  If that is also the case with you, would you share with us briefly what it was and how you responded? Looking back on it later, do you wish you had done anything differently?

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A Cherished Memory Of A Gift in New Haven

Thirty-nine years ago, after finishing college, I bought a car and drove from Ohio to Pennsylvania to begin seminary. The following year I got married to a remarkably gifted student who was one class year ahead of me. After his graduation from seminary, we had to decide what to do next. Did we stay in Pennslyvania for a year so that I could finish school, or did we head to graduate school in Connecticut and let me finish my Master of Divinity degree long-distance? We sought and received excellent advice from trusted faculty, and we moved to Connecticut, where I was allowed to finish my last academic year, long distance.

We found a first-floor apartment on a quiet street not far from the Graduate Department of Religious Studies. As we got to know others, it often happened that my husband’s classmates would come over on the weekend for dinner and a movie. After that first year, when I finished my M.Div., I needed to find some temporary work in our new town, and I made an appointment to talk to one of my husband’s professors. His help eventually led me to a job, but before leaving that meeting, he said that there was something he wanted to discuss with me.

He told me how often students would talk to him about coming over to our apartment for a homemade dinner, good conversation, and a movie. He happily recounted that quite a few students had told him about their visits to our house, and then he asked me to remember something. He said that what we were doing was such an important thing and that if ever we couldn’t afford to invite my husband’s classmates over for an evening of food & movies — he would like to assist us financially to continue doing that.

We never needed to take him up on that offer. But it was an unusual kindness that has left me with a decades’ long memory, hard-wired on my heart.

That amazingly kind professor, considered hospitality and good conversation, over a homemade dinner, worthy of an investment.

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Ann Miko — an updated look at the Author’s page

My author page just got an update!  Please check it out!

When the River Won’t Flow: Ann Miko

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ROAD TRIP 2019: OHIO – ARIZONA – OHIO. 5750 MILES BEFORE THANKSGIVING

We got home on Saturday night after driving for five days, three of which were through rain.  We were thankful that we survived, and our car survived our epic road trip of five thousand, seven hundred and fifty miles – all of which was driven by AECRM.

Friends and family, along with readers of my blog, may be aware that Arizona is the adopted state of my husband and his sister and their parents. My husband’s father had severe health issues, and his doctor told him that he needed to go out west. So they left Delaware and moved to Tucson, Arizona, when my husband was a wee lad of five. Ron has lived there for most of the rest of his life. My husband brought me out to Arizona in about 2012, and we lived there until 2018 when he thought it might be wise to move us closer to my family. This is old news to regular readers of my blog, but a little back history is helpful to our present tale.

Sometime around 2018, Ron thought, given the differences of our ages, it might be prudent to move me back to my home state of Ohio, where I have brothers and cousins. But the transition to Ohio from Arizona was a bigger deal than either of us had counted on. We discovered that Ron’s old back injury is much worse in cold weather.  Combine that with sitting against a hard surface and sometimes he can barely do it.

Ron really loved the deserts of Arizona. We used to regularly picnic in Saguaro National Park East amid the cacti and the Roadrunners, Deer, Havalina, and the Ground Squirrels. We had a Bobcat stroll through our back yard, and we watched birds of prey fly low over neighbors’ yards in the early evenings looking for a tasty small dog or cat that could be carried away for a good meal. We took this picture just a few days ago of a hawk sitting on the wall behind his sister’s house. I don’t think Ron was expecting how much he would miss his beloved Arizona. Ohio is very, very different.

We headed out to Arizona to visit some friends of ours, particularly his old Hunting Buddy, Bob, along with many friends of long standing as well as some friends we made since moving there together.  We had a wonderful trip. We had meals out with lots of friends, we were invited to homemade dinners with several people, and loved getting caught up with people dear to us both. On a few days, we ate two meals out a day and definitely got spoiled food-wise. We stayed at the home of his sister and brother-in-law,  and when we didn’t have plans with friends, we were totally spoiled by the meals prepared by his sister that were delicious beyond belief!  Ron’s youngest daughter and her husband drove over for a visit from California, and we got time with them, which was a delight. We worshiped at our former church and got to catch up with so many folks.

But something else happened. We saw how, in just the last two years, the city had changed, both in the downtown and in all of the areas around town. New businesses coming to Tucson brought the need for new housing, and so large swaths of land have been, or are being, bulldozed for more houses. The view from our favorite watering hole was entirely different. Where we used to see a lot of desert and mountains, now we saw thousands of new homes. We lived southeast of Tucson, and we discovered that the massive influx of new housing had taken a substantial toll on the roads whose needed repairs has outpaced the city’s ability to upgrade them.

So, in addition to getting together with old friends, and visiting favorite restaurants, and sharing meals with people we care about – we also experienced a much different town than the one we left less than a year and a half ago.

After our 5750-mile road trip, something beyond just homesickness for his beloved Arizona had changed. My husband had changed. He was ready to head “home” to Ohio. He was eager to be at home in our little town of about 6500 residents. He was looking forward to small-town life again – despite the season of winter and despite the fact that many of our closest friends are far away from us.

Thanksgiving is days away. We are alert to our many blessings. We give thanks for all of our visits with friends and family. We are thankful that the folks we hoped to see, but couldn’t see because of limitations of time, have been understanding. We are grateful that we made our five thousand seven-hundred and fifty-mile road trip in one piece without any accidents, car troubles, or setbacks.

We are home at last. We are grateful for this beautiful United States and the gorgeous places we have traveled through, and the terrific friends and family who have shared meals and time with us. We are thankful for our little town – that welcomed us home.

We are looking forward to Thanksgiving with one of my brothers & sisters-in-law. There is much for which we are thankful.

We wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Blessings of Books, Friends and Family

Books have played a significant role in my life since before my arrival on the planet. My father, a lawyer, was addicted to reading, feasting on theology and history, but also enjoying art, woodworking, sculpture, gardening, historic houses, mysteries, wars, politics, biographies, and poetry. His tastes in reading were vast, and occasionally, his book purchases were surprising. Our home had built-in bookcases everywhere. Frankly, my mother was not a lot different, although she did show significantly more restraint in buying books. I laughed when Dad would inscribe a book to our mother, which was quite obviously something he wanted to read in the worst possible way.

My mother majored in English in college, and when I started kindergarten, she went back to school to get a Master’s degree in British and American Literature.  Not too long after that, Mom was called by the university to be a substitute teacher for two different professors. The happiest of those two occasions was when Mom finished a course for a pregnant professor whose doctor had ordered immediate bed rest. Later, the exciting news arrived that the pregnant professor had given birth to two healthy eleven-pound babies!

Most of my mom’s working years were spent teaching English to junior high and high school students. Years later, she taught reading to eighth-graders who were reading far below grade level. I admired her strategies. She always stocked her reading classroom with magazines that eighth-graders could take home and read without being embarrassed. The Hot Rod magazines were a big hit. By the end of each school year, the kids were reading at, or above, grade level.

Years after our Dad had died, when our mother finally sold the family home, we all got to pick out books for our libraries. Then she invited some friends in to take a look. A high school friend of mine recently found a book on her mother’s bookshelf that caught her attention. She sent me a couple of pictures, spine, and inscription, and asked if it had come from my parents. I recognized my Dad’s writing in a heartbeat and saw that it had initially been a gift about gardening for his mother. Weird how things turn up now and then. So thanks, Jan, for the memory of my parents and their love of reading.

I’ve had my last doctor’s appointment with the Cardiologist who was the one who met me in July when I went to the ER with chest pains. I am pleased to report that all is well and thus endeth my doc appointments since my Cholecystectomy a few weeks back. You can read about that here: Character — Be One and Have One.  It was when I came home from that appointment that I finally got started shelving the Lit books. A two-pronged blessing: having my books again and getting to flatten a whole slew of boxes and get them out of the house.

Frankly, I was surprised at how much my mental health improved once I saw our books again.  With the recently repainted bookcase for all manner of literature, I have discovered books that I haven’t seen in nearly two years. God is good!

To make everything fit in the living room, however, two bookcases, already stocked with books, had to be emptied and moved. Once again,  we have piles of books on the floor. We had overnight houseguests earlier in the week, but I couldn’t reshelve the books in time. Our 1855 house has wooden floors that aren’t necessarily level.  Thankfully our guests were not bothered by our wildly imperfect house.  But it won’t be for long.  Next week I will have shims and can get books off the floor.  This is all good.  I am a happy camper.

 

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Love. Times Three

One:

Today is July thirty-first, which is a very important day for my brothers and me, as well as for our children and grandchildren down the line. On this day, seventy-eight years ago, our parents were married. I have written about them before, but the telling of their love never gets old. They were each others’ intellectual equals; they were people of faith and thus believers in the Kingdom of Heaven; they loved history, literature, politics, picnics, and yes, they loved their children and grandchildren. They never ceased to be in love.

Two:

Today, July thirty-first has traditionally been an excuse for a celebration between my husband Ron and me on the occasion of our half-year anniversary. Historically, we have always celebrated on this day, usually with a picnic lunch somewhere. We had our own picnic table at Saguaro National Park East in Tucson, Arizona, almost always with little ground squirrels watching nearby.

Three:

But this year, these loving anniversaries are overshadowed by love and concern for one person very much on our minds and hearts. Sonja is a young woman we care about very much and whose parents are dear friends of ours. Both Sonja and her medical team need prayers. Her sister has started a Go Fund Me account to help with the medical expenses. Please read Sonja’s story, and if you can donate something, please do. If you know someone who would be willing to give something, please share this with them. If you are unable to provide financial help, nevertheless please pray. Please pray that the organs that she needs become available, that the double organ transplant is successful, and that she gets some financial support. I’m asking you to be a prayer warrior for our friend Sonja. I’ve never made such a request before – but then, I’ve never known someone in the position that Sonja is in. Open the link below and read about her history and situation. Please. Pray. Help. On this day – let us work together to show that love can triumph.

Sonja’s Double Organ Transplant

 

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Character — Be One and Have One

Some of my family and quite a few of my friends are real characters. They are unique – one of a kind, human gems. Some make you laugh or roll your eyes; a few tell very highly embroidered tall tales. They embellish the events du jour because they can and perhaps because they always have an audience. I guess I gravitate toward characters. I gravitate toward people who aren’t boringly predictable or, perhaps, who are predictable in outrageous or outlandish ways.

But in addition to those kinds of characters, I was taught that it is helpful to have character. To be the kind of person who tells the truth, who shows up when you’ve said you’ll show up, who takes time to take the right way rather than the easy way.

Being a person of character holds many benefits. When you tell the truth, you don’t have to try to remember some long, convoluted narrative you thought up to cover your tracks. If you like having people trust you, you need to be the kind of person that others can trust. We aren’t put into this world to figure this out for ourselves – although often-times the school of hard knocks teaches us a few of these lessons. But there are lots of rules and laws and guides for living. Some of them quite old.

The Ten Commandments are in two places in scripture, Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
3) Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
4) Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.
5) Thou shalt not kill.
6) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7) Thou shalt not steal.
8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.
10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

But they are not the only laws given to us. Rules abound. Our lives sometimes feel overrun with them: rules of the road; rules governing localities, county, city, state, nation; laws governing how we are to act regarding others, in public, and private places, respecting the property of others, etc. As a kid, when I watched Perry Mason shows on TV, I watched witnesses called to testify, stand and swear that their testimony was the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth.

And then there is life. Several weeks ago, on a Saturday and a Sunday night, I had successive nights with severe chest pain, burning up, difficulty getting my breath, in fact – very frightening. I thought I was having a heart attack. The first thing that Monday morning I went to my Doctor’s office, explained my symptoms to the nurse at the front desk and she told me to get to the Emergency room immediately. I did that and then didn’t get to go home again for two days.

Nursing staff explained that some foods could make matters worse: foods high in fat, spicy foods, etc. But I knew what had triggered my pain – it was my naivete. It was two political run-ins that turned ugly that were my undoing. You think you know someone until you find out that you don’t.

A childhood friend of mine told me recently that friendship and politics don’t mix. That hasn’t been my experience. In my parents’ house, growing up, we often had debates about subjects about which we didn’t all agree. The conversations were always civil, and if you didn’t agree, you were expected to explain why. I have many friends with whom it is quite possible, indeed typical, to have conversations on weighty topics over which we radically disagree with each other without the conversations spiraling down out of control. Our discussions are civil and engaging and not vicious or backstabbing.

After plenty of hospital testing, the cardiologist said that my heart was not the culprit. I didn’t have a heart attack. The pain I was experiencing was telegraphing something else. It turned out that I had to have surgery – which I had a couple of weeks later, on Friday the 19th. I had to have a Cholecystectomy, (koh-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-me), the surgical procedure to remove my gallbladder along with all the nasty little gall stones.

I have learned some painful lessons throughout these days. I learned that I could not deal with some forms of political disagreement. I have had to back away from some people whom I considered friends because I can’t deal with the viciousness, condescension, and personal attack with which they craft their arguments. I thought I knew these people. I was wrong. Two of those who blindsided me were pastors. I assumed that they would treat me with respect as I was treating them with respect. I was disagreeing with their argument but was doing so thoughtfully without venom. I naively believed that people could respectfully disagree as it was possible to do around the dining room table in my parents’ home. There I could hold a differing opinion but was expected to explain why.

So, the takeaway. I can prune social media lists, I can stay away from people I now know seem to find pleasure at kneecapping you – but life is never entirely safe.

Life is short, too short sometimes. It can be exciting, challenging, colorful, rewarding, thoughtful, but it is lived in the company of others.

All I know to do going forward is to try to live the way I was taught to live while being aware of potholes and kneecapping. Now that I no longer have my gallbladder, perhaps I’ll be lighter on my feet and more able to sidestep trouble.

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Freedom Is Not Free

July 4, 2019

About 18 months ago I asked my Facebook friends and family how many were themselves a veteran or active duty member of the military and how many had family members who were. Of the seventeen people who answered – there were thirty-seven people mentioned specifically, and several said that they had quite a few relatives that have served. I am the wife of a Navy Veteran (Vietnam) and the daughter of a WWII Army vet. In my extended family, there are quite a few more.

My husband and I are both readers – and we bought a book we both thought looked interesting. We inscribed it to each other for Christmas. The book we bought is called: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence. (Copyright 2009), published by Quirk Books, Philadelphia. It has the added benefit of a remarkable dust cover which can be opened up to give you a full-color reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. That provides good reading for this fourth of July.

June of 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings by Allied Forces as part of World War II’s Operation Overlord. If you want to read more – check this out: National WWII Museum: 75th Anniversary of D Day

There are seasons and struggles in every generation and over the decades various memories get ingrained in our minds. On June 12, 1987, the world stood amazed as our President, Ronald Reagan, spoke at the Brandenburg Gate and said famous words that all of his advisors told him not to say.

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. . . . Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar. . . . As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. . . .
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Then we listened as those words echoed through the communist world and as we watched as others broke free from the iron hand of Communism. The revolutions of 1989 stretched out and we watched as Eastern Europe became free. Now we have presidential hopefuls in America urging that we become a Socialist country. We are America where people died to make us free – and now we have people wanting to yoke us to a Socialist government.

On September 11, 2001, my daughter was eight and at school. I was at work when a colleague told me to step down the hall to see the news because America was under attack. We swore as a people we would never forget. But we have largely forgotten.

The book that I started this post writing about – is an amazing story. A story of a people yoked to another nation. A people who strove to be free and live free, to be self-governing, to live without a dictator, with free speech, with free elections, with freedom to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . .

Today, July 4th, is our Independence Day. It was hard won and in every generation we may be called upon to fight for it again. The 4th of July is not about picnics and parades and fireworks. Those things aren’t bad – but we need to teach our children that all of our freedom has been bought by many, over many generations, at a great cost of lives lost, and shed blood. We cannot count on anyone else to teach our children. Each of us has to tell the tale of what it has cost to become free and to live free.

If you are able — take your children to Washington, DC, show them the war memorials.  Show them the cost of freedom.  Take them to the local cemetaries and help them to place flags on military graves.  Get this book and learn about our founding. Read and re-read the Constitution of the United States of America. Teach your children.  Freedom isn’t Free. It comes at a great cost.

God bless and preserve these United States of America. Amen.

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Home Bound Christian

As readers of my blog no doubt know, I am a Christian who has attended and been a member of a Lutheran church.  We had education woes when our daughter was young, and for several years, we homeschooled our daughter and belonged to a local Catholic home school group in South Carolina.  Through that group, we came to know this Catholic family, and I have perhaps gotten to know them a bit better via shared writings over the years.

Mary Hathaway, author of the comments below, was writing in response to a particular article and I have decided not to share that article, but rather, I am just posting Mary’s comments which should be read by all Clergy — and frankly, by all the folks in the pews.

As a Catholic for whom missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, I kind of have a different take on this. As a Catholic widow to a man who even getting out of bed at times was an act of heroic virtue, having disabilities myself, and having children with disabilities, I would say parishes need to stop telling people with disabilities (or shut in for other reasons beyond their control) to *come.* And start *going* to them. Jesus didn’t stay in the temple all day waiting for people to show up. He was constantly going out. Mass ends with us being sent. But for most that means Sunday brunch, instead of driving to visit the shut-ins or the family with special needs for whom going to Mass wipes them out for the next 3 days. Or the family with a new baby. Or the person with autism or depression. Yes, welcome a disabled person if they can make it. But for the love of God, stop the sanctimonious behavior. We should have every capable person leaving to visit a person or family. Ditch the enormous Church picnics and suppers and have small group ones at people’s homes. Or keep them but go to the shut-ins with meals. Just because someone looks like they have the same disability does not mean they have the same extraordinary challenges. And if someone leaves Mass early or comes late, stop the horrid Judas comparison. Over the years, I don’t know how many times we had to leave because one of us was about to have an autistic meltdown, there was a diaper accident, or poor John ‘s pain was flaring, or he had stayed home and I was scared to death to leave him alone for long. Jesus gave us the 11th hour for a reason. Every parish has a membership list. If people aren’t coming, reach out and find out why. You could teach your kids a better religious education lesson by being an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and visiting homebound people on a regular basis than a 100 classes or 20 retreats.

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