Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

It’s hard to believe December is already here! You are reading this on December 2nd, but I’m writing it on December 1st. Already this morning I have initialed and dated school assignments for my daughter and was mildly alarmed at the fact that I was writing 12/1/17 on the page. Where has the year gone? Before we know it, this month will end and a new year will begin.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle that is typical of the Christmas season, I am thankful for the theme for this week’s photo challenge. It’s good to pause, breathe, and remember the serene moments of life before returning to the busy schedule on the calendar.

What is more serene than a quiet afternoon on the porch swing with Grandpa and Puppy Love?

swinging with grandpa

“Princess” Alysa with Grandpa and Puppy Love

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Cee’s B&W Photography Challenge: Fences

With so much to do today (this entire month), I simply had to take a few minutes to pause and participate in Cee’s black-and-white photography challenge: Fences and Gates. In all honesty, I was hooked by her photo of the squirrel on the fence. Since I often sit outside write—with my camera handy, of course!—I happen to have quite a few photos of birds and squirrels who just happen to be on the fence. So although there are other photos I could share for this challenge, I decided to keep it simple by focusing entirely on the squirrels. (This gives a whole new meaning to “ADHD—squirrel” doesn’t it?)

Squirrel hopping 2

Caught this guy in mid-jump from one fence to another

 

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Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

 

female-cardinal-singingby Joachim Neander, pub. 1680
transl. by Catherine Winkworth, 1863

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Psalm 42:11  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

This hymn sang to me as I participated in the congregational singing in church last Sunday. If I could write with half the eloquence of Joachim Neander, I would be blessed beyond measure. He has such a way with words.

But enough about the instrument. The focus of this hymn is on the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation.

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Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Psalm 93:1  The LORD reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded himself: the world also is established, that it cannot be moved.

Ruth 2:12  The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

Psalm 37:4  Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

This stanza is chock-full of truth. God reigns in the affairs of men, no doubt about it. We don’t always understand the purpose of suffering, but it is just as necessary to us as the times of ease, if not more so. Drought causes the tree’s roots to go deeper in search of water, which results in a stronger tree that is capable of resisting the winds of the storms. And in those storms, God offers protection so that we will not be overwhelmed. And the Father grants us our desires, particularly when we delight in Him.

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Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Genesis 39:23  The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.
Psalm 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

God alone is the source of my strength and the author of my victories. I can do nothing at all without Him. His goodness and mercy surround me every day, giving me blessings I don’t deserve and withholding from me the punishment that should be mine. “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” God can do anything—anything but fail. And He has befriended me with His love. He loved me before I even knew Him.

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Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Mark 4:35-41  And the same day, when evening was come, He saith unto them, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

What else can I say? God is good all the time. He sends the storms to make us trust Him, to show us His power over them. Not just squalls on the sea, but spiritual storms as well. He is never surprised by what is happening, never alarmed, never out of control. What a comfort it is to know that God is watching over me, even in the storm.

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Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

John 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

The world does seem to be growing darker by the day with a spiritual darkness and oppression from the enemy of our souls. Right seems wrong and wrong seems right. People plummet to lower moral depths with each passing day, and they dare anyone to tell them they are in the wrong. This is not new. Luke 17:26 says, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” But God is neither blind nor deaf. He sees and hears the depravity of man. Why does He do nothing? My friend, He is not doing nothing. He is waiting for the perfect moment to make all things right. And He will, in His time. In the meantime, He is calling for all men everywhere to come to Him in repentance of their sins. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And He has not left us to stumble in the darkness. He has given us His light through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Praise to the Lord, oh, let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him;
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Psalm 106:48  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise ye the LORD.

We often use the word amen to conclude our prayers, but what does it mean? Consider this definition from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary: “As a verb, it signifies to confirm, establish, verify; to trust, or give confidence; as a noun, truth, firmness, trust, confidence; as an adjective, firm, stable. In English, after the oriental manner, it is used at the beginning, but more generally at the end of declarations and prayers, in the sense of, be it firm, be it established.” So in the context of this hymn, we are enjoined to confirm or verify the teachings of God’s Word. We are to trust God, placing our confidence in Him and Him alone. Our faith in Him should be firm, for He never changes. He is the solid rock upon which our faith is founded. Gladly forever [for aye] we adore Him.

Have you learned to trust Him? Do you rest beneath the shelter of God’s wings? Have you tasted the water of life? If so, then please join me in praising Him today. And if not, why not? Come to Jesus today and experience His great love for you.

Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let him that heareth say, “Come.” And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

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Lyrics from Timelesstruths.org

Photo taken in Milton, Florida, 2017.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

One of the best things about purchasing a new camera is getting to experiment with the many settings. My camera could not be considered “new” anymore, since I’ve had it almost a year, but I may never stop learning the various features and capabilities that it possesses.

Experimental 1

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 200, exp. bias -0.7 step, focal length 300 mm

A few weeks ago, while sitting outside on the back porch, I took a break from my writing to look around me just to see what I could see. Standing next to our patio is a tall, though young, oak tree. This time of year it is dropping scores of leaves and acorns on the concrete slab that serves as my outdoor office floor, so my broom is getting a lot of use. But that day I happened to look up, and my eye caught a bit of color. I put the zoom lens on my camera and pointed it at the bright spot in the tree, getting as close as possible. It looked like a flower, but it’s more likely to be a cluster of new leaves, coming in to take the place of the old ones. This is northwest Florida, and last year (our first year here), the oak tree was never barren. So I suppose that’s the way it is in a moderate climate such as we have here. The amazing thing about our climate is that we see spring, summer, and fall all at the same time. Even in this photo, there are brown leaves, green leaves, and the brand new yellow-gold leaves.

 

Experimental 2

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 125, exp. bias -1.3 step, focal length 300 mm

Since my glasses desperately need an upgrade, I needed a good quality photo in order to see what I was looking at. I decided to experiment with some of the manual settings on my fairly stationary subject, and I ended up with 57 shots, but only 6 of them are here.

Experimental 3

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 500, exp. bias +0.7 step, focal length 300 mm

Experimental 8

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 250, exp. bias 0 step, b/w, white filter

Experimental 9

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 320, exp. bias 0 step, b/w, blue filter

Experimental 10

Canon EOS Rebel T6 – f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 320, exp. bias 0 step, b/w, red filter

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Life is all about experimenting. We experiment with recipes, with hairstyles, with clothing fashions, and even with friends.

God wants us to experiment with Him too. He invites us to “taste and see” that He is good. I have tasted of His goodness, and I am here to tell you He is all that! Do I always get what I want? No. Do I always understand His purposes? No. Do I always get an answer to my prayer the moment I lift up my petition? No.

But such things don’t happen in life either. And things certainly didn’t always go my way as I was growing up. Sometimes the choices my dad made were hard for me to understand. Sometimes he made me wait for an answer to my questions. And sometimes the answer was ‘No.’ My dad did what he did according to what he believed was best for me and for the family. My heavenly Father is just like that—only He never makes any mistakes. He always knows what is best for me. I trust Him.

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed [happy] is the man who trusts in Him.

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Photos taken in my back yard, 2017

 

All Creatures of Our God and King

 

 

High Contrast 06

 

by St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1225)
translated by William H. Draper (pub. 1919)

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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This song of praise was already on my list of favorites, but then I found some stanzas that I’d never seen or heard before, and now I like it all the more. The first three stanzas refer to the elements of nature, while stanzas four and five speak directly to man. The Bible does tell us that nature praises God.

Psalm 97:6 The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory.

Psalm 50:6 And the heavens shall declare His righteousness: for God is judge Himself. Selah.

And perhaps the most often quoted of all the passages is Psalm 19.

Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them has He set a tabernacle for the sun.

It is fitting that so much of the hymn would be given to the praise that nature offers to God, for it is mentioned much in the Scriptures as well. Even Jesus Christ Himself said that if we who know Him were to hold our tongue, then the rocks would immediately cry out in praise to God.

Luke 19:37-40 And when He came near, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, “Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, “Master, rebuke Your disciples.” And He answered and said unto them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”

God will be praised. He will be magnified. Why? Because He alone is worthy.

But this stanza, which I had never seen before, was particularly meaningful to me. Look again at the words….

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

Wow! Isn’t that beautiful? First forgive others, then come and worship the Lord. The precedent for this is in Matthew 5:23-24….

Matthew 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

And as for those who long pain and sorrow bear, do not turn inward, do not focus on your troubles, but instead turn your eyes upon Jesus, casting all your care [worries] upon Him, because He cares [loves] for you.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you.

If that isn’t reason enough to praise God, I don’t know what is.

Tell me, what do you have for which to give thanks to God?

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Sources:

Timelesstruths.org

Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003. pp. 10-11.

Photo taken in Chesapeake, Virginia, 2011.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Temporary

There are perhaps a gazillion ways to illustrate temporary situations, for even the things we think of as permanent will pass away at some point in time. Babies quickly grow into childhood, then adulthood, and then they pass off the scene. The long weeks of recovery from a serious injury may feel like forever, but when the crutches are set aside at last, the swelling is gone, and the therapy is over, all the pain and misery is forgotten. Pregnancy is like that too. Baby teeth fall out and permanent teeth take their place, but sometimes even the permanent teeth have to be replaced. Meals that take hours to prepare are consumed in less than twenty minutes. We anticipate a special event for weeks, but in an hour or two it is reduced to a memory. Fireworks explode and vanish in the blink of an eye. Sunrises and sunsets, though they appear every day, last for but a few moments each time. Rain storms, even when they last for days, do eventually come to an end. Laughter turns to tears, and sadness to joy.

While I do have many photos of babies, children (even toothless ones), grandmas and grandpas, graveyards, smiling faces, rounded bellies of expectant mothers, laid-aside crutches, rainbows and fireworks, sunrises and sunsets, and plenty of delicious meals, there is something else entirely that I’d like to focus on today: temporary dwellings, and in particular, tents.

tenting-in-kentucky

It was Stacie’s turn to cook dinner for the gang.

 

Our family loves the outdoors, and while we do sometimes stay in a motel while on vacation (especially when just passing through a place), and we have also stayed in resorts, there is nothing more fun than tenting. Of course, sleeping in a camper or cabin is nice too, but for now I’d like to recall some of the times we went tenting.

tenting-in-the-rain

With the food prep area and clothes line protected from the rain, time to relax.

Both photos above were from a home school field trip to Kentucky. Three ladies, including myself, took a group of about twelve teens to see the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Since we were close to Cincinnati, we also went there to see some other sights including the Harriet Tubman House. It rained every day that we were there, and the teens learned a very important lesson about not touching the sides of the tent while it’s raining, and about keeping the entire fly closed, even across the bottom! Let’s just say that the air mattress under the women’s (our) sleeping bags became a raft during the first night and was the only reason we stayed dry. The poor girls, who had the other side of the tent, spent the rest of the night in the van. But the flooded tent situation was temporary, because the next morning when the rain stopped, we bailed out the water and got everything as dry as possible. As you can see in the second photo, the young men did an excellent job of installing coverings for the cooking area and another area where we could hang our clothes and towels to dry.

 

Here is a tent of a different sort. This one helps to keep us cool in the Florida sun and dry in the Florida rain. On the left, we had just purchased the tent and set it up in the front yard, mostly to be sure my daughter and I could do it on our own, since she is my chief assistant at craft fairs and art shows. In the photo on the right, though still in Florida, that particular day was neither rainy nor hot. It was early fall, but a cold front had come through and we were thankful for every minute we got to spend in the direct sunlight.

By the way, here’s a short commercial break. If you would like a closer look at the things you see on display in the photo above, go on over to Etsy, where you’ll find Encore! Old Pianos. You can also view more photos and read stories about the art on my website.

New York 2006

Family reunion in upstate New York

This camper is parked at my brother-in-law Billy’s house, and we stay in it when we go up to New York to visit my husband’s family. This particular year, the boys wanted to sleep in their tent. I slept out there with them the first night. Though it was summer, the temperature dropped down to the 40s during the night, but they (we) had nice sleeping bags and stayed toasty warm all night long. If that looks like a lot of food, it is. 🙂 And it’s not the half. My husband comes from a large family.

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Many people in Bible days lived in tents, including Abraham and Sarah, their son Isaac, and their grandson Jacob, with their wives and children.

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should later receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but he himself never took possession of it. He was a stranger, a traveler, until the day he died, as were his son and grandson after him. It would be four hundred years before his descendants would take possession of the promised land. Why? Because God was painting a picture for us.

All of us who know God as our Father are strangers and pilgrims in this world. We may have our name on a title to property, but in reality it all belongs to God, and we are His stewards. We are not here permanently, we are just passing through on our way to that heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God. Everything here is temporary. The only thing permanent is our soul, which will live somewhere forever.

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

I mentioned this verse last week, but it is just as appropriate this week. My “permanent address” is for a brick home, not a tent. But one day this brick home will no longer be my home, and one day it will be gone. The home Jesus is preparing for me in heaven, that home is permanent.

Where is your permanent address?

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Photos taken in Upstate NY 2006; Petersburg, KY 2010; Milton, FL 2017; and Fort Walton Beach, FL 2017

 

Holy, Holy, Holy

 

1833 SR 92

lyrics by Reginald Heber (1826)
music by John B. Dykes (pub. 1861)

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

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All this month, in honor of Thanksgiving, we will be featuring songs and hymns that give praise to God. This first one, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” is a great place to start. All this month, in honor of Thanksgiving, we will be featuring songs and hymns that give praise to God. This first one, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” is a great place to start.

Reginald Heber studied poetry at Oxford University and became good friends with Sir Walter Scott. After graduation, he returned to his birthplace, the English village of Hodnet, and assumed the role of vicar in succession to his father. His dream was to publish a collection of high-quality hymns corresponding to the church calendar to be sung in liturgical churches, but the Bishop of London rejected the idea. Undaunted, Reginald Heber wrote fifty-seven hymns during his time as vicar at Hodnet and used them in the worship of his own small congregation. In 1822, he was appointed to oversee the Church of England’s ministries in India. The hymns were set aside, and Heber devoted the remainder of his life to missionary work. After his death in 1826, Heber’s wife found the manuscripts to the hymns and had them published.

The inspiration for this particular hymn came from Revelation 4:8-11, which says,

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”

God alone is worthy of our praise and worship. The angels in heaven worship God, but not just the angels. All those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb will worship Him in heaven one day, but let’s not wait until then. Let’s give Him glory today!

Sources:

hymnary.org

timelesstruths.org

Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2003. pp. 98-99.

Photo taken near Skyline Drive, Virginia, 2014.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Peek

 

Sherman Tank (5)

Imagine getting to peek inside the barrel of the gun on a Sherman tank! My son noticed the tank parked on the side of the road and wanted to stop for a photo shoot. He and I took turns with the camera, and when we were back on the road, I went through the previews to see what we had come up with. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I came to this stunning photo, for which all the credit goes to my 19-year-old son.

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Our Incomprehensible God ~ Psalm 36

 

breathtaking-nc-mountains

Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains;
Thy judgments are a great deep:
O LORD, Thou preservest man and beast.
How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house;
and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.
For with Thee is the fountain of life:
in Thy light shall we see light.
O continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know Thee;
and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

Psalm 36:5-10

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