RenewalWorks announces program for equipping lay leaders to be spiritual leaders

 

 

RenewalWorks is excited to announce a new program for lay leaders, called ReviveRevive is a discipleship program for active lay leaders to help them grow in confidence as spiritual leaders who love God and want to live a Jesus-shaped life.

The program is designed for lay leaders who have worked so hard in their church yet who often feel they do not really know God.

Lay leaders will join their ordained minister in a safe, small-group setting, where they will gain confidence in praying, understanding scripture and developing their sense of call. They will be able to share their spiritual experiences and grow in intimacy with God as a follower of Jesus.

All video and written material is downloadable and can be run as either an integrated year-long year program, or as three separate and independent small-group workshops.

RenewalWorks, a ministry of Forward Movement, has spent the past four years helping parishes (and the individuals in them) refocus their work on spiritual vitality. Through a guided methodology of self-reflection, sharing and workshop discussion, RenewalWorks challenges parishes to refocus on spiritual growth and to identify ways that God is calling them to grow.

Learn more about Revive and get involved at www.RenewalWorks.org/revive

Q & A: ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ Artist Kathrin Burleson

Kathrin Burleson has collaborated with Forward Movement and voices across the Episcopal Church to create For the Beauty of the Earth: Daily Devotions Exploring Creation. Kathrin has contributed beautiful creation-themed watercolor paintings to accompany 365 days of reflections. She also created Soul’s Journey: An Artist’s Approach to the Stations of the Cross.

Kathrin resides in Trinidad California, and her art has been shown across the US in museums, churches, and galleries. Her artwork can be viewed at kathrinburleson.com or on her Facebook or Instagram pages.

1) What medium did you begin with?

I drew before I painted. Pencil drawing, which I still love. It’s basic to everything I do. Drawing teaches you how to see and develop skills and ideas.

2) When did you start painting?

I started painting as an adult, in my mid-thirties and didn’t draw seriously till I was about thirty. I like to share that with people to encourage them to begin, at any age.

3) Were you creative as a child?

Not especially. I always enjoyed writing and it came easier to me than drawing or painting. An important moment in my childhood was when the principal of my grammar school told my first grade class that writing wasn’t difficult, that it was just like talking. I took that to heart and am forever grateful to that wise man. It’s something I like to pass on to art students—don’t let fear or second-guessing get in the way of what you are trying to say, whether with words or images.

4) What is your favorite thing to paint?

I like to paint animals of all kinds, but also like to develop visual interpretations of abstract concepts. Spending time with scripture trying to figure out how to express something that may be hidden in the literal is probably the most rewarding. It forces me to slow down, really read every word, explore other sources and try to see the different layers of meaning. And drawing people is endlessly satisfying. It all becomes an excuse to immerse myself in something beyond myself. To take the time to understand and to really see.

5) Do you have an absolute favorite painting that you’ve ever done? If so, can you share a photo with us?

This is an oil that was done over 25 years ago, and variations keep presenting themselves in one form or another. It may be my favorite because it expressed a break-through. While not immediately obvious, this relates pretty closely to the Creation Series—it’s all part of a continuum. 

6) How long does a watercolor painting take to do?

A watercolor can take three hours or three weeks, sometimes even longer. It just depends on how it goes. It’s great when everything flows and it seems to paint itself, but that doesn’t happen very often. Sometimes it turns into a wrestling match and the challenge is to not overwork it, or let the struggle become obvious. Other times, a painting develops gently over many days. That’s why I like to have two or three paintings going at any one time. I can move on when I get stuck, keep working, and come back to it with fresh eyes.

7) Can you describe your process?

I generally start out with thumbnail sketches—I draw little rectangles in my sketchbook and try lots of different compositions and concepts. It’s freeing since there isn’t that commitment and you can quickly try lots of ideas. I also use words, descriptives scribbled around the drawings which isn’t very elegant, but it works for me. Then I do a fairly complete drawing on drawing paper, which I then transfer to the watercolor paper. With a series like the Creation Series, the composition is very simple, so placement is critical. This allows me to adjust placement before committing to watercolor paper.  Of course, there are times when I just draw directly onto the paper.

Once I start painting, I do lots of washes and layers of paint, and try to work the entire painting as I move along. With watercolor it’s good to develop values rather slowly since once you’ve established the darks, they are there to stay. That slow process is what I love about watercolor and keeps me from switching to acrylics for this type of work. It has a contemplative quality that is a lot like meditation. You can’t rush it.

8) What inspired you to do a creation series?

The Creation Series embodies everything I love about painting—delving into scripture, working out interpretations, exploring nature, seeking out and expressing the divine touch in all of creation. Since I decided to focus on Creation in my corner of the world, I’ve begun to see the richness all around me that I simply hadn’t paid attention to before. And once you paint something, you see it differently—forever. For example, I’ve learned so much about the birds in my area and I never dreamed I’d paint raccoons (but I still don’t like what they do to my garden). It’s made my environment seem much more alive and I’m excited to keep on exploring what’s out there.

You can order a copy Kathrin Burleson’s For the Beauty of the Earth here.

Q & A: ‘I Witness’ Author Kate Moorehead

As many of our readers know, every advent we publish a new book of devotions for the Advent and Christmas season. This year, we are looking forward to releasing I Witness: Living Inside the Stories of Advent & Christmas, written by author and priest Kate Moorehead. I Witness explores the story of Christ’s birth—a story many of us have heard time and time again—through the lens of different witnesses—from Mary and Joseph to the shepherds, wise men, and beyond. We had a few minutes to chat with author Kate Moorehead about her writing.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing after I had my first child. As a parish priest and a mom, I would drop off my son at a preschool for just three hours each day. The preschool was across from a Barnes and Noble so I found myself hiding out at Barnes and Noble on my day off once a week. It was there that I began to write.

Which genre is your favorite to write? To read?

I love to write theological reflections, biblical analysis, scholarly work. I also love to write the true stories of what happens in church. I am very careful to change names, ages, and genders to keep the stories confidential!

I love to read theology but also I devour novels. I will read a good novel over and over and over again. My family makes fun of me. They will say, “Are you really reading that AGAIN?”

What’s your favorite book?

Well, of course the Bible is by far the best book. But beyond that, I suppose I would have to say anything that C.S. Lewis wrote.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? 

I think that the hardest time was limiting myself to the days of Advent. The season is a short one. I could have written a lot more!

What was your favorite part of writing this book?

I love to imagine myself within stories. This book was one great Ignatian exercise. I got to spend time living inside the characters that surrounded Jesus’ birth. It was an adventure, an exploration into a story that we have all heard. I was given the chance to take a deep dive into the heart of the birth of Jesus. There was so much to discover.

Which character’s view was your favorite to write from?

I loved thinking about Zechariah. In fact, I came to feel sorry for the old guy. It must have been tough to go from being a High Priest who was respected and whose voice was heard all over Jerusalem to being silent. God certainly did the miraculous work of both putting Zechariah in his place and, at the same time, giving him everything that he ever wanted.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I go to books, I visit with people and listen to their stories, I watch movies, I walk outside, I pray alone, I eat dinner with my family, I snorkel, I hike.

What would you do if you felt stuck while writing?

I would pray, talk aloud to God, walk around, scribble long-hand on a pad of paper, drink a good cup of coffee, take a nap…

Where do you typically write?

I write in coffee shops, at home at my desk by the window, in my office, even in the car…wherever I can find some quiet space. Coffee shops are my favorite—a general din of soft noise, good coffee, uninterrupted time…

What is your writing process like?

I pray and listen a lot first, but once God gives me some kind of inspiration, I am desperate to write and I write fast and furiously. I feel kind of desperate to get it all down. Footnotes and proof-reading are not my strong-suit. I am impatient to get the ideas onto the screen. Seeing the words gives me both joy and relief.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

I hope and pray that this little book opens their eyes to new dimensions and perspectives within this ancient story.

You can learn more about I Witness and order your copy here.

Forward Today: Admitting our shortcomings

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott considers a lesson from Matthew: If the disciples doubted, we can admit our own doubts, too.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today the church remembers Philip the Deacon. While his life and witness are very interesting indeed, I want here to comment on the assigned Gospel reading for this feast. The lectionary gives us a couple of verses from Matthew:
 
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip / Public domain

 

Now, we could talk about this all day long. We could talk about how Jesus has given us, as a church, our marching orders. Our first and primary task is making disciples. How are we doing at that? Or we could talk about baptism. Maybe we could have a lovely conversation about what it means to teach people everything that Jesus has commanded us. But I want to back up to the verses immediately before this assigned reading.
 
Beginning at verse 16, we read, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.” This all takes place immediately after Easter. The disciples had seen Jesus perform signs and wonders; he had told them he would be raised on the third day after his death; and here he was, in the flesh. How could they doubt?!
 
This is reassuring, is it not? If even those disciples could have doubts, maybe it’s understandable that we have doubts too. To their credit, they got on with it. They responded to new signs and new wonders, to the prompting of the Spirit. They didn’t dwell in doubt, but they allowed it to well up and be expressed.
 
St. John Chrysostom, in his sermon on this passage, observes that it is noteworthy how the disciples are able to share their doubts. They are able to be themselves. And Jesus does not chasten them. He challenges them, and they respond.
 
I hope that we can admit our own doubts and shortcomings. Jesus will not chasten us, but stands ready to embrace us and walk with us on our journey as disciples.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Today’s Wednesday sale item is Broken, the new essay collection by Ryan Casey Waller. Just $13.50, today only!

Forward Today: St. Francis, pray for us

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on St. Francis, writing that it’s not wrong to associate him with animals–but it’s missing the main point.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. We often think of him as the “animal saint” who is depicted with cute birds and such. He is often associated with animal blessing services this time of year. To associate Francis with animals is not wrong, but it misses the main point of his life.
 
Francis was born into a family of means. Over time, he gradually came to reject financial wealth and to embrace poverty. Once, while praying before an image of Christ Crucified, he heard a voice tell him, “Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” Though he first believed it was a command to repair that particular church building, he eventually realized it was a call to restore the church to its Gospel call.
 
To put it bluntly: Francis was a radical. He wanted the church – a place of wealth – to be concerned primarily with the poor and marginalized. Francis had a vision of Christlike living, and he didn’t stop with words. Though he was a lay person, he preached boldly and constantly, calling people to become committed disciples of Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus meant not following the way of material goods. Francis was a person who practiced what he preached. That is, he practiced and he preached.
 
I wonder what Francis would say if he showed up today. Looking at the challenges of our time – economic disparity, war and violence, racism, consumerism, fear – would he challenge the church to respond differently? Would his vision of a beautiful creation that praises God challenge us to respond more fully to climate change and environmental degradation?
 
Today, I encourage us all to look at our beloved church. Are we as a church fully committed to following Jesus? Do we favor things over people? Are we willing to practice what we preach? Do we need to repair our churches, not our buildings but the identity of our communities?
 
St. Francis, pray for us. We need it. The world needs it.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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For the Beauty of the Earth, Kathrin Burleson’s beautiful new book of Creation-themed daily devotions, launches today!

Ryan Casey Waller Interview: Part 2

“We are all broken and in need of God’s blessing. No one has it all together.” –Ryan Casey Waller, Broken

Last week, we ran Part 1 of Miriam McKenney’s recent interview with Broken author Ryan Casey Waller. (If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here.)

Today, we hear more about Ryan’s process and inspirations, along with his larger goals for both the book and his new ministry as a priest.

Was there a story to essay that was harder to write than others?

The very first essay, “help”, was really difficult for me. I was fortunate to have an idyllic childhood. My family is really close, and I’m still very close to my parents. About eight years ago, some things happened, and relationships were blown up – and they have not been healed. My ordination to the priesthood a few weeks ago was only the second time in eight years that my family of origin has come together. People looked to us as pillars in a small community, so for me to speak openly about the pain of what happened was hard. I didn’t like writing that, but felt like I needed to because it’s part of my story. So many people that I minister to have these broken family relationships, and it’s horribly painful. Its’ challenged me to question whether I really believe that God actually makes all things new, because I profess that God does, and I believe that God does. Yet as I sit here in this moment, I have trouble seeing how that’s going to happen. So to choose to continue to believe that is hard.

Who or what do you read that inspires you? Are there writers you would recommend to others?

I’m an eclectic reader, and I like all sorts of genres. Barbra Brown Taylor inspired me on my journey to The Episcopal Church. The poet Mary Oliver’s work is like magic. Her poetry is so powerful and honest. I also enjoy Irvin Yalom, who is the most brilliant psychiatrist that ever existed. He’s an existentialist, and he doesn’t believe in God, but he asks all the right questions. He goes to the essence of what it is to be alive. I don’t agree with him on fundamental things but I go back to him often. One of my favorite fiction writers is Pat Conroy for his lyricism. He can both write and weave a plot.

What’s your ultimate goal for Broken, and for your ministry?

What I hope to do with Broken is to lift the stigma on mental health, and bridge the gap between the church and the mental health community. Next month, we’re having a night of prayer here for mental health awareness week. Along with prayer, we will have four mental health professionals speak. I feel very much called to help remove this stigma and to think very seriously about how the church gets people the help they need. It’s an issue that hasn’t really been fully thought through and implemented. The church catches a lot of people, and that’s our job. If a person has a mental health issue, the first two people they’re most likely to tell are their primary health physician and their clergy person, which is good, because these are the people they trust. Sometimes the doctor doesn’t know exactly what to do, and sometimes the priest thinks they can do the counseling.

I want to challenge mental health professionals to work with me to bring these two communities together. Let’s figure out the system, so that people don’t fall through the cracks. I think we’re a little afraid of each other. The church thinks mental health professionals are two science-y, or secular. There’s bias from psychotherapists, where they think they know what we’re about, what we believe; that we’re anti-science. There’s so much misunderstanding between the two communities, and we need each other. That is a part of entering into these spaces of vulnerability and honesty to do the work that needs to be done for God’s people.

Talking about mental health is something that I feel called to, and I share in the book about my own period of having panic attacks. I found a great deal of healing when I began to see a therapist. It took me several years before I could share that with anyone. Being able to admit that has allowed me to have such deeper, meaningful relationships with parishioners. They come to me knowing I have no judgment; I’ve been through it. It’s often difficult  to understand for anyone who isn’t  going through a mental health issue, like depression or anxiety; it’s extraordinary painful. I feel called to speak into that and be open about those wounds in hopes that it might heal some others.

Interested in reading Broken? You can order your copy here.

And for further reading around mental health, you might find these resources helpful:

http://www.growchristians.org/2017/08/23/shining-light-in-dark-places-when-your-teen-mentions-suicide/

https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Illness-Awareness-Week

 

Forward Today: I will try this day

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes on A Morning Resolve, a prayer that has meant so much to so many. Have you tried this practice?


Dear friends in Christ,

 

As I travel across the church, I am blessed by many conversations with Forward Day by Day readers. Quite often, a reader will quote for me, from memory, one of two prayers. Regular readers will know that each issue of Forward Day by Day includes A Morning Resolve and For Today. They work well as devotional prayers to set us right each day. A Morning Resolve reads,
 
I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God. In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right. And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
I love the reliance on God’s gracious presence to live this vision of the Christian life. I love the specificity of it. I love the pledge to have a childlike faith in God, because I think this does not mean simplistic faith but rather a faith that is sincere and trusting.
 
Hundreds of thousands of people pray these prayers every day. (You can find For Today on the Forward Movement prayer website.) Any habit of daily prayer is commendable, and any habit of daily prayer will make a difference in our lives.
 
A Morning Resolve has made such a difference to many people. Some months ago, Patrick Allen asked me to write the foreword for a new book on this prayer, appropriately titled: Morning Resolve, To Live a Simple, Sincere, and Serene Life. I was delighted to do so, and I think his book could enrich the daily prayer experience of anyone who uses the prayer regularly.
 
Aside from book recommendations, I urge every Christian to have some kind of daily prayer life, whether it’s silence, the daily office, free intercessions, or the lovely prayers that accompany Forward Day by Day. These daily conversations with God remind us who we are and who we are called to be.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Morning Resolve, To Live a Simple, Sincere, and Serene Life is 25% off, today (9/27) only.

Ryan Casey Waller Interview: Part 1

This new book is really good.

It’s different, and I think people are going to love it.

I’d heard the rumblings around the office a few months ago about one of our forthcoming books, Broken, by newly ordained priest Ryan Casey Waller. When it comes to books, especially good books, I like to wait until I have a print copy to read. I finally got my hands on Broken, eager to see what the excitement was about. My colleagues were right. Broken will change you whether or not you’re going through a challenge, but I’m thankful that Ryan’s honesty and hope met me at  the right time, when I went through a difficult situation with my daughter, Kaia. So I was excited about the opportunity to talk with Ryan Casey Waller about his path to writing Broken, his new ministry as an ordained priest, and where he draws his inspiration. –Miriam McKenney

 

Why Broken?

I wrote Broken because I uniquely identity as a broken person myself. What I want to say to folks is that although I’m ordained, I’m just like you. I have all of the same issues, I’m as completely broken as you; we are all completely broken. Only God, who is not broken, can bring healing to us. In that identification I feel that people might be encouraged to say that we’re all in this together, and here’s a guy who is open about the struggles that he’s had, and yet takes his faith seriously. If he can have a relationship with God, I can too. I’ve always felt like God is calling me to a certain level of self-disclosure where it’s helpful. In Broken, I try to explore scripture in a self-revelatory way, it’s hopefully helpful to people, and inspiring to them.

How long have you been a writer? How does writing enhance your ministry?

I started writing for fun ten years ago, right at the end of law school. Instead of studying for a law exam, I opened up a Microsoft Word document and started writing what I came to realize later was a story. I fell in love with writing. I continue to write because of the joy in it. God ministers to me through it, so I would do it regardless of whether or not anyone read it.

Writing enhances my ministry in a couple different ways. The art of writing, the art of using words to be precise, helps my ability to teach and preach. That’s a big part of what my job is, to stand up and say something meaningful and accessible and true to people. Additionally, writing allows another venue to speak to people. I can write something and put it on Facebook, and provide hope and consolation to people who wouldn’t hear me preach otherwise. Jesus calls us to cast the seed; it’s not up to us to determine where it lands. We have to just continue to do it. I’ll never stop.

Tune in next week for Part 2 of Miriam’s interview with Ryan Casey Waller, in which he discusses which essays he struggled with, favorite writers, and his larger goals for his ministry. 

Interested in Broken? Order your copy here.

Forward Today: The Gospel isn’t fair

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on grace, writing that “the church isn’t a social club with membership tiers. The church is a grace factory where we never run out.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

This coming Sunday, the lessons include the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. You probably know the story: a landowner hires some day laborers. Some work all day, but near the end of the day, the landowner hired a few laborers. When it was time to pay them, they all received a day’s wages. Those who had worked all day were upset, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But the landowner reminded them that they too had received a day’s wages for doing a day’s work.
 
It’s a parable of grace. You see, in God’s economy, there is no zero sum reality. Those who worked all day got fully paid for their work, and there was still enough to pay those who came at the last minute. It isn’t fair, for sure. But it is abundant. There was enough for everyone. Thanks be to God.

 

If you start to work out the meaning of this way of thinking, it is astounding. When we repent, God offers forgiveness to all, no matter what we have done. That works for me, and it works for you, and it works for those whose sins we loudly or quietly condemn. The fact that God embraces someone else does not detract from God’s embrace of me.
 
The person who shows up to your church this Sunday looking for air conditioning or some free coffee or some good music or a moment of silence or whatever…that person has just as much claim on belonging in God’s house as the person who has been a faithful servant for decades. The person who knows the Bible and the prayer book and all the rules is no better than the person who isn’t quite sure about all of this and is seeking some kind of peace–those people are both beloved in God’s sight. The church isn’t a social club with membership tiers. The church is a grace factory where we never run out. All receive their share.
 
Today, think about how there is always more than enough. Ponder that in your own life, and look at those around you. God’s grace comes from a well that never runs dry. Drink deeply, and maybe you’ll offer an invitation to someone else who is thirsty. There is always more than enough.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Today’s Wednesday sale items are Jesus Movement car magnets and stickers.

Forward Today: Holy Cross, holy love

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on tomorrow’s Holy Cross Day, and his hope “that the Cross of Christ will be more than an abstraction for us.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Tomorrow, the church celebrates Holy Cross Day, a commemoration of events from the fourth century. It was on this date in the year 335 that the Emperor Constantine dedicated a large church on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. That building was ravaged by time and armies, but you can visit Jerusalem today and pray in a later (and now ancient) building on the same site.
 
When Constantine had ordered construction on the building, his mother, Helena, was entrusted with overseeing the work. During the construction, tradition says that fragments from the True Cross, that is, the cross on which Jesus had been crucified, were found. It sounds fanciful, and perhaps it is. What is not fanciful are the fervent prayers of pilgrims from around the world in that site every day.

 

Calvary Chapel, the traditional site of Jesus’ Crucifixion. scottagunn via flickr

Recently, the traditional site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection was renovated. During the construction, another miracle of sorts happened. It turns out that under more modern layers of marble, ancient, first-century stone was discovered. This is the latest in a series of archeological finds which support the idea that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the actual sites where the actual events of Good Friday and Easter Day took place. It is almost overwhelming.

I have had the privilege of visiting this church several times, and each time has been a profound experience. Speaking for myself, I think it’s tempting to think of the cross and the resurrection as abstract events. I know they are “real” but they are too amazing to sink in, as it were. When I visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, something changes in my heart and in my mind. You can touch the stone. You can pray where Christians have been praying for nearly twenty centuries.

Tomorrow is Holy Cross Day. I hope that that the Cross of Christ will be more than an abstraction for us. On the Cross, we see living and dying proof of God’s love for us and the whole world.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Today’s Wednesday sale item is John Ohmer’s Slaying Your Goliaths.