A Miscellany of Encouragement

I’ve been meaning to blog for some time, but this is the first time in a while that I’ve given myself the time to do it. I’m glad I have, because, having some difficulties with returning to work after illness, additional encouragement is most welcomed; in the process of looking at a couple of pages for this scrapbook, I’ve followed the classic internet trend of one page leading to another, and another… all encouraging me in my journey.

I’ll start with one that inspired me to clear thinking on some reasons why I am not a strict materialist (believing only matter exists/ is important), particularly commendable in that it was an apparently popular BBC magazine article that celebrates a long forgotten author and a philosophical approach to life.

The next is a piece of music, I want Jesus to walk with me, sung by Eric Bibb, here on youtube.

I want Jesus to walk with me
All along my pilgrim journey
I want Jesus to walk with me
When I’m in trouble walk with me
When my heart is almost breaking
I want Jesus to come walking with me
In my trials, walk with me
When my head is bowed in sorrow
I want Jesus to come walking with me.

I came across this song as one accompanying this version of common prayer. As I often find it easier to find accompanying music to listen to via youtube, I searched and came across a version where Eric Bibb explains his love of this song, and then via that to the song itself. There are many things I appreciate about this song, including its long history as a negro spiritual from people in much more concrete hardship than I have ever faced. I love the simplicity, the rhythm, the cadences, but mostly I love that straightforward call for Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us.

It echoes back for me to the May Bank Holiday weekend. I really wanted to have the opportunity to celebrate Calan Mai, especially with the beautiful weather, so I (ironically?) ended up spending the weekend in England with family. We spent plenty of time outside, and went for some lovely walks. Me and my Mum managed to come across a church doing ‘Al Fresco Church’ in a beautiful place. Entirely random in some ways, and yet it felt made to measure in others. The theme was the tapestry God weaves (for Good) through all events in our lives, good and ill. We sang the (beautiful, but impossibly high for most female voices) song composed by Matt Redman, Blessed be your Name. And I weaved a piece of dried up prickly blackberry thorn into a group ‘tapestry’, chuckled at the beautiful ‘singing’ of the many accompanying dogs, and marveled at the divine providence that brought me to that very beautiful sunny place for that time. Emmanuel, in the times good and bad.

On the Monday evening, I managed to share with my Mum and sis a delightful fire and food (with more accompanying dogs in hope of sausages or sticks) that felt like my own May Day celebration. (Fortunately our BBQ didn’t lead to the same chaos as this Beaker Folk One). I had really appreciated this thought and prayer from the community of Aiden and Hilda for the first of May, and that day with my family felt like a way to celebrate it fully in action:

Happy Beltane! The Celtic celebration of the start of summer and the time the light is the strongest. May the Sun of Righteousness rise upon you this Beltane with healing in his wings!
A Beltane prayer:
May the Light rise to guide you,
May the sacred fire cleanse you,
May the wealth of heaven be poured out upon you
And may you know peace

Which also leads neatly on to this poem, by Sally at Eternal Echoes, that I think catches the spirit of Calan Mai for me this year (and also Pentecost!)…

” Set your fire within my soul…”

I came across it after looking at another post or two from the Beaker Folk. Firstly this one on thoughts on days of clear blue skies (for people not from the UK, I’ve no idea how you came across this blog, but hiya, thought I’d just clarify that in the UK, days of blue skies and sun are such a rarity that they are considered a very precious commodity). There’s one part that particularly clarifies my kind of optimistic pessimism:

“I’m going to believe there’s a deeper Magic below the prosaic surface. I’m going to assume that, random and scary though this life is, the point is buried in there somewhere… I’m going to assume that our hope and futility meet at a cross made of wood on a hillside under a darkling sky. And I will be amazed, and awed, and apprehensive. But I will not be afraid. At least, not all the time.”

I found that this poem/ prayer from Sally at Eternal Echoes, like many of the psalms, just the right one for me in the days following on from the Blue Skies, and a good way to pray through tougher days,

“so I am knocking,

no I am railing against heaven’s door,

will you answer…”

And I will end this rather lengthy extended scrapbook session, with this answer from the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley, about Ascension Day.

But there’s one thing we now know. Pierced by thorns, slashed by a whip, holed by nails, cut open by a spear, dirtied by three decades of wear and tear on this abrasive planet – there’s a human being on a throne in heaven. As we fight and fall ill, abuse each other and die, those wounds we suffer and inflict are already made glorious in heaven. It makes our present sufferings not an ounce lighter – and it doesn’t reduce the damage we do one little bit – but it gives it meaning, an end, a resolution, a redemption. Your hurts, my hurts – they’re all wrapped up into the world-ending, eternal, freely-carried hurts in the place where hurt shouldn’t be able to go – tied into the sufferings of the God who can’t suffer, raised from the death of the God who can’t die. It may not stop the pain, but somehow it makes it feel like it’s shared.

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Samhain Small Ritual

Following on from the utter carnage of pumpkin carving on Sunday (pubchurch families with 8 children plus many adults crammed into our house trying to gut and carve pumkins without extreme injury), this evening was the Eat & Pray/ Samhain small ritual… except with small people added, not quite as many people as anticipated and nobody when/where they were expected; it was chaotic and all over the place and messy… and good. Time spent with each other, talking about our lives, looking after each other & one another’s children doesn’t seem peripheral to me, it’s kind of the main point of it all. For the record, below is how the evening had been planned, but in practice most of the long wordy bits needed to be cut into brief explanations in between activities that everybody could join in with. Delighted with way kids engaged with the activities so well, even though they were tired and experiencing sugar high/lows by this point!

Samhain Small Ritual 2012

 The beginning of the year in the Celtic Traditions

The beginning of winter, after the harvest & animals have been gathered in, a time of waiting

A time to gather and draw strength from a community around a fire

A time to hope that the stores last the winter, that spring returns in time

A time for remembrance for loved ones departed and for spiritual awareness

A moment to pause and reflect and celebrate

The Turn of the Year

 

Reader:             Be still
Be attentive to the divine presence                     

(silent pause)

God of death and resurrection

as the seasons move into winter

All:                   We come to you

Reader:             in the midst of death
All:                   We welcome your life giving Spirit
Reader:             as mortals made in your image
All:                   We welcome each other

(Steve Hollinghurst, Communities of the Mystic Christ Samhain Ritual)

 

*We Light the Candles*

 

All:       The Love of your creator be with you

Reader: God’s blessing be yours,

And well may it befall you;

Christ’s blessing be yours

And well be you entreated;

Spirit’s blessing be yours,

And well spend you your lives,

Each day that you rise up,

Each night that you lie down.                              (from Carmina Gadaelica)

All:       We have been loved by God from before the beginning           (Julian of Norwich)

Reader: We are not alone

We live in God’s world;                                       (Iona Community Worship)

All:       And so everything has being because of God’s love.               (Julian of Norwich)

 

*We Share Food Together*

(One place is left empty and the chair decorated with autumn leaves. This is to remind us of absent friends, & also of the [invisible] presence of God with us this evening)

 *After Eating, we sit together (probably in an approximation of a circle) with our candles.*

 *We light the incense & place on Myrrh and Frankinsence*

 We begin by remembering all those we wish to recall to mind this evening, perhaps those who have inspired us and those who have died; people whose absence we feel.

You may wish to place autumn leaves afloat in the bowl of water as a way of remembering your loved ones and giving them to the care of God.

(Music: Mumford & Sons – Timshel)

This season, a season of waiting, a season that grows in darkness by the second, becomes a time for us to grow in our practice of stillness, of silence, and of listening. (Teo Bishop)

*We Keep One Minute Silence*

 The Night Stair by Alison Swifen ( A meditation on the Yew Tree)

A silence like no other

Is ne’r day in the

morning. The world is

sleeping off the ill

effects of the

old year and

it is too soon to

speak any

story into the new.

 

Quiet as thick

flakes of snow. Quiet

as the rising and falling

of a child’s sleep. Quiet

as the sleep of

the dead,

under the yew.

 

Quiet

as the abbey church at

candlefall when

Amens are said,

and on the air,

before the latch drops,

behind the night stair,

the last echo of God

breathing in our

prayer.

 

Brief Breathing Meditation (Wind in the Trees)

(Music:  Enya- Athair Ar Neamh)

Settle into a comfortable standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your legs straight, but not locked; a slight bend at the knee is often more comfortable. Let your arms rest gently by your sides. Let your back adopt an upright and relaxed position.

Bring your awareness to the physical sensations of touch, contact and pressure as your feet are in contact with the ground. Spend a minute or two exploring these. Let your feet settle into the ground like great roots of the trees.

Now bring your awareness to the changing patterns of physical sensations in your nostrils as the breath moves in and out. Focus on the vivid sensations as the air moves.

There is no need to try to control your breathing in any way, simply let your body breathe by itself. As best you can, also bring the attitude of allowing to the rest of your experience – there is nothing that needs to be fixed, and no particular state to be achieved. As best as you can, simply surrender to your experience as it is without requiring that it be any different.

And on the next in breath, notice how the air moves on from the mouth and nostrils to the back of the throat. Notice how it feels as it moves in, and out. Let your awareness rest in the movement of the breath.

Now bring your awareness to the changing patterns of physical sensations in the belly as the breath moves in and out of the body. Focus your awareness on the mild sensations of stretching as the abdominal wall gently expands with each in breath and on the sensations of gentle release as the abdominal wall deflates with each out breath. As best you can, stay in touch with the changing physical sensations in your abdomen for the full duration of the in-breath and the full duration of the out-breath, perhaps noticing the slight pauses between an in-breath and the following out-breath and the following in-breath. Feel the patterns of the movements of the air.

When you are ready, on an in-breath, feel or imagine the breath, not only entering your lungs and stretching your chest and abdomen, but reaching down your arms to the tips of your fingers. On the out-breath, feel or imagine the breath rolling all the way up the your arms and out through the nose. Continue this over several breaths. Now allow your awareness to expand to the sensations experienced in the tips of the fingers, perhaps tingling or the temperature of the air. Experience the sensations as the breath moves in, and out.

On the next in-breath, stretch your awareness right down to your feet, rooted on the ground; And on the out-breath imagine the breath moving out through your upper body and arms, like wind through the branches. Continue this for several breaths, on each out-breath bringing your awareness to the tips of your fingers, lightly resting them like branches of autumn leaves. When you are ready, on an out-breath, imagine the wind shaking the leaves from the branch.

Spend a few moments being aware of a sense of the body as a whole and of the breath flowing freely in and out of the body. When you are ready open your eyes and bring your awareness to this space and this gathering.

(Davina, with lots pinched from mindfulness practices by Jon Kabat-Zinn)

All:         Lord God,
who in Christ lived among us
and is the way for us to follow in life and in death,
we thank you for your love and faithfulness
to those who have gone before us in the journey,
we thank you for the inspiration they have given us
We ask for your healing of difficult memories
and the pain of separation.
Be with us on our journey
till all are re-united in you.

(Steve Hollinghurst, on Mystic Christ Samhain Meditation)

Romans 8v22-39:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption…, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?…  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God…

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Extracts from Pauline Warner’s meditation for Samhain (from mystic Christ blog) – on the presence of ‘black madonna’ statues seen in many European churches.

 …that is the point of why some of us yearn for the presence of Black Madonnas in church. The Divine cannot be neatly tidied up and packaged. There is something dangerous and uncontrollable about the Spirit… maybe that is because we are feeling that former certainties and nice, neat tidy solutions just do not work. Everything is in the melting pot or the mixing bowl, or ‘the cauldron of transformation’… All true growth starts hidden in darkness – babies, bulbs, creative ideas – all take their time to form.

That is why the darkness of winter is such an important time. Growth happening under the soil when everything is apparently dead and muddy. The season of Samhain…begins that time of darkness. New life will come. In its own good time amidst the swirling mysterious chaotic forces, through patient waiting and decisive action, new life will come. But first there is darkness.

 

We pause in silence to recall and remember thoughts, words, and deeds which we would rather leave dead & buried in the old year. We also bring to mind our hopes for ourselves and our world for the coming year.

In silence we bring these to God in our hearts and place more Myrrh and Frankincense on the incense block.

You may also wish to bury a bulb in the pot as you consider the death of the old and the beginning of the new.

(Music: Gungor- Dry Bones & Beautiful Things)

Romans 6 v3-10: …all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his… Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Lord of light
who walks with us in darkness
you wove creation
from the darkness of the void
and so the gifts of earth are yours
We thank you for these gifts
of bread and wine
food and drink to sustain us
in Body, Mind and Spirit

We thank you Lord of Creation

You are the mother and father of all life
Our day and night
Life and death
In Jesus you renewed your image
Shone in the darkness
And opened the path of new life

We thank you Lord of creation

The night before Jesus died
He took bread and wine
And giving thanks to God
Broke the bread saying
‘take and eat, this is my Body broken for you’
And took the wine saying
‘this is my blood poured out to cleanse the world’

We thank you Lord of creation

So now lets us share together
In these Gifts of creation and of God
Eat and drink that the life of Jesus
may renew your life
and lead you to wholeness,
restore our broken relationships
and heal our world.

(Steve Hollinghurst, on Mystic Christ Samhain Meditation)

The Body of Christ broken for you.

The Blood of Christ shed for you.

 

Galations 3v26-28

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

*We light the Fire/ Central Candle*

God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbour,

To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,

To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,

O Son of the loveliest Mary,

From the lowliest thing that liveth,

To the Name that is highest of all.

O Son of the loveliest Mary,

From the lowliest thing that liveth,

To the Name that is highest of all.

(Carmina Gadaelica)

 

*We extinguish all candles but the central one*

All:       God help me and encompass me,

            From this hour till the hour of my death.

                                                                                                                        (Carmina Gadaelica)

Reader: We are not alone.

We live in God’s world.

All:       We believe in God,

            Who has created and is creating

            Who has come in Jesus to reconcile

            And make all things new.

Reader: We trust God,

All:       who calls us to be the church;

            To love and serve others,

            To seek justice and resist evil,

            To proclaim Jesus,

            Crucified, dead and risen;

            Our Judge and our hope.

Reader: In life, in death, in life beyond death,

All:       God is with us: we are not alone.

            Thanks be to God.

 

*We write on pieces of paper something we want to change over the coming year, whether a habit we want to break, or a new venture or hope. Burn these in the central candle and offer our hopes and desires to God.*

 

Reader: With the whole realm of nature around us,

With earth, sea and sky,

We sing to you.

All:       With all the angels of light who envelop us,

            With all the saints before and beside us,

            With brothers and sisters, east and west,

            We sing to you.

Reader: And with our loved ones,

Separate from us now,

Who yet, in this mystery, are close to us,

We join in the song of your unending greatnes.

All:       Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.

Reader: Kindness in our face

And the Spirit’s grace

Wisdom in our speech

As we speak to each;

O Lord Christ, thou art

Love within the heart;

In love may we greet

Though a foe we meet.

(Carmina Gadaelica)

 

St Patrick’s Breastplate

 

I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the three in one, and one in three.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the three in one, and one in three
,
of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Creator, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation:
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

And May the blessing of the God of life and death
In whom the seasons grow and fade
In whom all of us are held in love
Our Father and Mother
Our Savour Jesus
Our Sustainer the Spirit
Be upon as at this time
And in the times to come

Go in peace, God is with us

 

Steve Hollinghurst, on Mystic Christ Samhain Meditation)

 

Autumn Equinox Small Ritual

Following on from our walk together, we decided to get together this evening for a meditation on the season (pics to follow, please). Here is the guiding text we used for this, and the music was from CDs by Alison Eve & Liturgia/ NChant.

Autumn Equinox Small Ritual

(part shamelessly pinched from Bruce Stanley at Forest Church)

 

WELCOME to this circle and to this meditation.

Begin by bringing your awareness to where you are … now.

Take a moment to become present and invite God’s Spirit to inspire us.

We’re all on different spiritual journeys … but

today we find ourselves together on this same

path for this meditation. May God’s Spirit be with you.

And also with you.

 

At Autumn Equinox we witness, and participate with, the convergence of four great stories …

The Sun’s Story

The great turning wheel of the heavens says that this is a very significant time of the year. It is one of the four solar festivals which are marked by the sun’s position and movement across the sky. At the equinox the sun will rise and set due east west and from now onwards the sun will rise to the north of east, eventually rising 23.5º north of east on the Winter solstice.

The Food story

In the food story, which is linked closely with the story of our lives and survival, it marks the end of the growing and harvesting season and the possibility of rest but also of the dark, lean half of the year. To mark this we will share together two different deserts, one more fitting from Summer, and the other decidedly Autumnal in flavour.

(cue time to tuck in to strawberries & cream and rhubarb, apple & blackberry crumbles, and also sup tea and chat more about our everyday lives and events)

God, who made a home among us,

knowing the comfort and the challenge

of routine and family. Inspire in us love

and peace, and light for this dark half,

by your Spirit’s dwelling with us.

Nature’s story

There is a lot changing around us in nature. What have you observed?

(We share our objects, photos & inspirtaions from our walk and experiences of the season)

The fourth story is our story

Food producing peoples especially mark this time as part of harvest. Druids call this time Alban Elfed which means Light of the Water or Light of Autumn, the time of fulfilment and achievement. On the circle of the year it is at the west, the place of the setting sun. Autumn can resonate with the onset of middle age in a person’s life.

Following this harvest theme we take time to meditate on the following questions:

What fruit can you give thanks for in your life?

What hasn’t grown as you wanted it to?

As you think about the next six months, what divine help do you need?

3000 years ago a Hebrew King wrote a line of a song,

‘Unless Adonai builds the house, the builders labour in vain.’

Great Spirit – Adonai, help us let go for a moment to recognise that we cannot make a masterpiece of our working lives without your blessing.

Some Christians celebrate Michaelmas near this time on the 29th. Saint Michael the Archangel is the most senior of angels and represents overcoming evil and chaos and protection from darkness and destruction. You may also be aware of other themes …

At the equinox the day and night, light and dark are balanced which suggests that for most of the year light and dark are normally unbalanced. Is being in balance, a rare thing? Perhaps it is a good idea to explore your balance; and an opportunity to let go of striving and enjoy the harvest and prepare for the dark half.

A Psalm which follows this theme of good overcoming despite much evil, and also this cycle of the heavens, is Psalm 74.

Forever holy men and women have heard the call and sought out wild, lonely and mountainous environments as unique places to be spiritually formed and to hear from the Divine – to be prepared to reenter the world carrying something new, rebalanced to bring light into darkness. God of the wild and untamed, the mountains and the valleys, keep us ever mindful of your call and ever open to your light.

Agnus Dei (music)

We take time now to remember Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice has won the ultimate harvest over sin, death and destruction.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

 

We share the bread and the wine in honour of his sacrifice, and in anticipation of celebrating a great harvest festival with him in glory.

(sharing of a cup made from the juice excesses from the crumbles & some bread

The blood of Christ; The body of Christ)

The changing of the seasons makes friends of us all.

May the circle be unbroken.

Autumn Equinox Walk

This year, I’ve been celebrating the autumn equinox more purposefully & deliberately than other years, perhaps because with all the overtones of light and dark, and changing seasons, it resonates with my life at present. So I thought I’d share the guide that was given for our walk on the day of the equinox & some of the photos from our day.

Autumn Equinox (Multisensory) Walk

Autumn Equinox occurs when the axis of rotation of the earth (i.e. the line from the N to S poles) is exactly parallel to the direction of motion of the earth around the sun. This also then means that the length of the daylight and the length of the night-dark are approximately equal (The name is derived from the Latin aequus =equal and nox =night). After this point the nights become longer than the days, so it is a good marker for us of the move from summer into autumn.

People all over the world have marked out time passing and the circle of the year by movements of the sun like these, and a poet and musician from many hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth said this to God,

“The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.” (Psalm 74)

Another such poet encourages everything that exists to praise God with everything that they have (Psalm 148) – including us.

So… on this walk we’re going to use all our senses to find things which tell us about the summer which has been (albeit soggy!) and other things which tell us about autumn coming.

EYES – look – what things remind you of summer? Or autumn? Point them out to other people so we can see what you’re looking at. If you have cameras, take pictures to share these.

NOSE – what can you smell that reminds you of summer? What smells tell you about the coming autumn? What does autumn smell of?

EARS – What sounds can you hear? Are there any birds around that come in the summer and go at this time of year? Are there any other birds that come here in the autumn and winter?

MOUTHS – Can your parents help you find some things which people can eat at this time of year? [Nobody to eat anything without an adult checking it’s not poisonous many things look similar!]

HANDS – What can you find to touch that tells you about summer and autumn? Maybe you can find one thing for each to take home (but no picking wild flowers and plants without checking – some might be special and need protecting).

Celtic Inspiration

I was asked by a friend a little about the background to my celebration of the celtic year… most of that story is not to be found on the internet, it is found in flesh and blood, earth and stone, fire & sea & sky, parchment and wind… and a much loved camper van.

Having said that there are a few pages that I have found really interesting, thought provoking and inspirational. I keep losing the list s of them though, so I am going to store some of them on here… from these I can often find others:

ReJesusonCelts

SallysBlog

TheBeakerFolkofHusborneCrawley

PaganChristianMoot

SteveHollinghurst

MattStone

ContemplativeFire

CommonPrayerforOrdinaryRadicals

PrayingThroughCelticYear

NorthumbriaCommunity

Iona

CommunityofAidan&Hilda

InTheMastersLight

JesusRadicals

SquareNoMore

JohnMorehead

Wildhunt

GusdiZerega

NewWayMinistries

CillDaraMinistries

This is also a most interesting group that I have heard about: TheOrderoftheBlackSheep and linked to this, a Johnny Cash song defending the link between being goth and Christian: ManinBlack.

While I was looking for the pages above, I also came across these which look interesting, so I am marking them out for future perusal…

NottheReligiousType

NadiaBolzWeber

3SidedWheel

OneHandClapping

OrdinaryPractice

TheCostofCommunity

sustain:if:able:Kiwi

Sound&Silence

JonnyBaker

RachelHeldEvans

VirtualAbess

Bilgrimage

Pumpkin Art