Need an Office?

Newton E Lewis fishing

I remembered one of my father’s stories this morning…

When he worked for D.E.C. (Digital Equipment Corporation), one of his contracts was White Sands Missile Range. He had that contract because of his high security clearance from when he was in the Army.

One day the repairman for I.B.M. was bragging that they had an office there at White Sands and was rubbing it in that D.E.C. didn’t. My father, being how he was, laughed and said, “that’s because your computers keep breaking down and you NEED an office on site.”

He he he….

My father was a clever, witty man.

 

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Change of Direction

El Paso UTEP concert 022When I first began this blog, I told everyone that it was my effort to combat virtual schizophrenia. Maintaining multiple websites was contributing to a sort of fractured work life. And that worked well for a while. No, more than for a while…it really still works better than what I was doing.

However, as is the nature of the internet, anything which does not grow eventually dies. So even though this is better than what I was doing, I realized that there is something even better than this.

When I started this site, I was still writing all of my other websites from scratch. I wrote all of the PHP code and did all the database stuff myself. So yes, it was a LOT of effort to keep up with multiple sites.

One thing happened since then to change all of that. When new browsers no longer supported old HTML, I had to choose between updating all of our websites manually, or switching them to WordPress, like this one. So far, EddieLewis.com is now switched over to WordPress and eventually so will the others. The main reason to do this is to get the technology caught up to date. The most recent website technology problem was when Google began giving preference to more mobile friendly websites. Aside from this blog, Pearl’s website and EddieLewis.com, all of our other sites are using technology from the middle ages.

So, if the websites all need to be updated anyway, then it makes no sense to do anything other than WordPress for those sites as well. And if we are doing WordPress, then really, it makes no difference which site I’m posting from, not in respects to the effort it takes.

That means the coming months will see newly updated websites and the end result will be fewer posts on this blog. Trumpet, teaching and other music business posts will go to EddieLewis.com and religious writings will go to AnExpressionOfGrace.com.

This blog will be where I post the other crazy thoughts and ideas that cross my mind, of which there are plenty. The problem is that I don’t always have the time to invest into that sort of trivial tomfoolery. 🙂 He he he…

Well, that’s the big news for this blog. I won’t be taking any posts down or anything like that. In fact, my plan is to find a way to continue to make this the central hub of all my virtual goings on. So people who like the “everything in one pot” approach will still sort of get that. I just won’t be posting everything from here like I have been.

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My Politics

I am a Christian. If you read this blog, then you already know that. And I am the type of Christian who strives to do everything according to my beliefs, including the political stuff. I feel that our beliefs should dictate our behavior in politics just as much as they should in every other area of our lives.

The problem is that people make the mistake of assuming this means I will cheer for the home team. But when I don’t celebrate the conservative victories, the conservatives falsely assume I am a liberal. The truth is that I have been making a more concerted effort to stay away from either side. I am not a liberal nor a conservative, and anyone who knows me knows better than to ever call me a moderate about anything.

El Paso Phoenix Trip 150

Lukewarm Spewed?

Yes, I am aware that there are passages in the Bible to which some people have contrived political meaning. There is the passage in Revelations about being lukewarm (Rev 3:16). Then there’s the time when Jesus said you are against Him if you are not with Him (Luke 11:23). But to apply these scriptures to politics is to miss Jesus’ point entirely.

I do not believe there is anything in the Bible that says we should ever become political activists. Yes, we should take voting very seriously. Yes, we should vote according to our Christian beliefs. That is the right thing to do. However, I have never read anything from the Bible that suggests we should invest any effort into changing the way others vote (which is the biggest part of what activism is).

When Jesus told us that we are either with Him or against Him, he was not talking about political parties. He was talking about the way we live our lives. If we are “with Him”, we are living according to His commandments, and He specifically said that the greatest of all commandments was to love God and love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40).

The lukewarm to be spewed will be those who claimed to love Him but didn’t love Him enough to follow his commandment to love others. To insist that someone is lukewarm simply because he isn’t politically active is a misinterpretation of the scriptures. I do not need to choose sides between liberal and conservative, Democrat or Republican. Instead, I am to choose between Jesus and Satan, and Jesus does not practice party politics.

NOTE: If you disagree, please leave a comment giving an example from the Bible of Jesus recommending one “party” over another during His day. Or maybe examples from Paul, or Peter? To my knowledge they didn’t mix in politics.

The Power of God’s Love

That said, I believe that God’s love is far, far more powerful than any political movement. I believe that God is sovereign. He is all powerful. He can work wonders through His love that make no sense to us.

The idea that God needs more people on His political team so that He can squeeze a bill through congress just doesn’t gel with what the Bible says about His power.

Because I believe God reigns, I do NOT believe that any political party can threaten His righteous power. Conversely, I do not believe that any political party can boost His power. He doesn’t need our political victories. He does not require our political success. He is not in the business of nation building, but rather, kingdom building.

I believe that when we act out of love towards God and towards our fellow neighbors, we do infinitely more good for our nation than any work of political activism. Political activism is an evil act. Political activism is divisive, but love brings us all together to a common cause…for a common good.

That’s why it breaks my heart to see Christians become political activists. They have been conned into thinking that they fight for a good cause, but that fight has distracted them away from living a life of love. They think they are doing it for Christ, and for their faith. But evil actions do not produce righteous results.

In reality, even the smallest acts of love are more powerful than the greatest political movements. I believe that one person’s love can shape nations. Just one person practicing love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 can be more powerful in our world, even politically, than an entire political movement driven by hatred.

(And I believe that political activism is a form of hatred…actually…some would even call it witchcraft, depending on your definition of witchcraft. If you believe that manipulation is witchcraft, then political activism is most certainly a form of witchcraft.)

El Paso Phoenix Trip 150Who Is the Enemy?

In Ephesians 6:12, the Bible tells us that the powers of this dark world are our enemy. I believe political stuff falls into the “powers of this dark world” category. It says that the people are not our enemies. It is the political entities that oppose Christ. All political entities. Not the people within them, but the entities in and of themselves. That is my understanding of that verse.

Obama is not the enemy. Clinton is not the enemy. For those Christians who are more left leaning, Bush and Cheney are not the enemy. The enemy is the political machine itself.

How We Fight

The Bible gives us very specific instructions on how we are supposed to  be less lukewarm and fight on Jesus’ side. It says stuff like “pay your taxes” and “submit to those who are in authority over you”. The Bible instructs us to pray for our leaders. We are told to pray for our enemies (including political enemies I assume). We are to love those who hate us.

And yes, I will stand in solidarity with anyone who chooses to live this way. I will not, however, stand in solidarity with any particular political party just because they give lip service to Christian beliefs.

And that is where I have been criticized. I do not celebrate political victories that seem on the surface to be in favor of the Christian “cause”. I do not mourn the political losses that appear on the surface to harm the Christian culture.

Those things have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. When we allow ourselves to become distracted by the comings and goings of earthly powers, we tend to remove ourselves from the Kingdom. What profits the Kingdom of God is not the same as what profits the kingdoms of men. What profits the kingdoms of men does not profit the Kingdom of God. They are two completely separate entities.

1 John 4:5
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

So we fight those powers by removing ourselves from their realm and living, instead, in God’s will. And we fight this battle daily. With every choice in every day of our lives, we choose righteousness or sin. None of us gets it right every single time. I certainly don’t. But the war continues no matter how many battles we have lost along the way.

Needing to Belong?

I do understand that there is a drive to be more politically active in order to feel like you belong. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? It seems to me that there are a lot of Christians who feel a need to demonstrate their love for the Church by expressing their hatred for those who oppose the church.

My hope is that you will see why I cannot hate our opponents that way. It’s not Christian behavior. The very act of hating those who would destroy Christianity (as if they ever had the power to do so) is actually accomplishing more for them than it is for us. When Christians hate other people, then and only then is our cause a lost one. Ironically, our own hatred becomes our worst enemy. If it was left only to us, the whole of Christianity would be doomed.

1 John 4:20
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Grace

But we are not fighting this battle alone. We are not doomed. When we choose love over hatred, we have access to God’s strength and power and no longer need to operate in our own. We all make mistakes. None of us is righteous, according to the Bible (Romans 3:10). So I do not share these things as someone who has it all worked out and looking down on the rest of you. No not at all.

I am writing these things because I want you to know, as a man who strives to walk the Christian walk, why I don’t “take sides” in the politics of our time.

I am not suggesting that I am perfect. Nor am I suggesting that anyone else is doing it wrong. This is just my explanation of why I will not “stand in solidarity” with you against any political group.

I have made my share of mistakes. I am flawed. I have not always submitted to authorities when I should have. I have not always loved others as I should have. I do not pray for our nation’s leadership nearly as often as I should. In that way, I have a long, long way to go yet.

But through His grace, walking in His strength and leaning on His Word, I have chosen to fight for genuine righteousness the way that Christ instructed us to do, not through political victories, but by loving one soul at a time. It is my desire to love every person God places in my life. I want to love them through His strength, not my own.

No, I am not a “Christian conservative“. I used to identify myself that way. I will not lie. But I have since had a political baptism of sorts. I killed the flesh part of me that took pleasure in that stuff (Matthew 18:9) and made room for the Holy Spirit to operate in my life instead.

And that’s what you need to know if you think I oppose you politically. Just because I will not stand with you in that way, do not assume I stand for the other side. I stand for Christ and Christ stands for all the people of the world (John 3:16).

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Morning Prayer – Theme and Variations

So you may have noticed that my blogging on this website has reached an all time low. One of the reasons for this is because I sort of shifted gears in my daily schedule. I offer the story for you now, not as an apology, but just to keep everyone (my readers) in the loop.

If you look at the categories to the right, you will see “An Expression of Grace” at the top of the list. All of my Christian blogs fall under that category, including of the posts in the “Love Is” series and the “Life Builders” series.

Maybe you knew this already, but what you might not know is how I fit that writing time into my day:

Pearl and I wanted to do a quick trip into the Franklin Mountains before we left El Paso for Phoenix, so we stopped at Tom May's Park.

Matthew 6:33 – But Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to make God’s work the first work I do each day. This is different from prayer, reading the Bible and praising Him. Those things are important, but I don’t see them as work. The decision was to find a way to give God my “first fruits” of the day.

Matthew 6:33 was part of the reason I decided to do this. Read what the Bible has to say about worrying about our worldly needs:

Matthew 6:25-34
Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Put these scriptures into the context of my life. Most people do not stop to consider what it is like to live a life of a professional, freelance musician. I do not receive a regular paycheck. Pearl and I don’t know, with 100% certainty, where our money will come from one week to the next.

Consider that!

It is a sobering reality we live with every day of our lives. And even though we have faith in our Heavenly Father to provide for us, and even though He has, indeed, done precisely that without fail, yet we are made keenly aware of how much we rely on His grace in our financial lives….because of the way that we make our living.

Look at what the scripture says. If you seek FIRST His kingdom and live a righteous life, God will provide for all of your earthly needs. Looking at it that way, the idea of doing His work first each day makes a lot of sense. I realize that I am applying an overly literal interpretation, but there is value in prioritizing this way. What you do first each day will always get done. That’s not just biblical, it’s common sense. By making ministry work the first work I do each day, I am making sure that it gets done.

So that’s where the Christian blog posts have been coming from. I was spending a little time each morning doing what I have always called “ministry work” – before I did any work work.

Morning Prayer for Brass Quintet

Morning Prayer

Well, about five months ago, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging me in a new direction. Instead of writing blogs on Christian topics, I was to invest that same time and effort into composing music for a while. And that’s why the blogging has slowed down so much lately. I’ve been spending my ministry time writing music, not blog posts.

And the reason I’m writing about it now is because I just finished the first ministry composition. It is a brass quintet piece, a theme and variations based on a short piano piece by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky called Morning Prayer.

The work consists of seven movements. The first is the theme which is very close to the original piece. Then the next five movements are variations, each variation featuring a different member of the quintet as a soloist. Then the last movement is a recapitulation of the original theme, but in much grander fashion.

It won’t be available for sale, just yet. I want us to record it first with the Texas brass, but I’m still looking for finances to help make that happen. We are hoping to do a CD of some of my sacred brass quintet works and this new Morning Prayer will most definitely be on that recording.

Healing Patterns

Healing Patterns

That said, now that the Morning Prayer is done, it’s time to write something else in the mornings. The new project is going to be music for a video. The video is derived from a new coloring book for adults that Pearl just finished. She has been working hard on a book she calls “Healing Patterns”. The idea is for people to use the act of coloring as a stress release while meditating on healing scriptures.

She created a video of one of the healing images from the book. It begins in black and white, like a regular coloring book, but then gradually fills with color throughout the video.

My next ministry music project is to create music that will complement the concept of the book. With lots of help from the Holy Spirit, I hope to create some trumpet music that has stress busting, healing qualities while at the same time complementing the images in the video.

So yeah, that’s going to be fun, but also a lot of work.

Healing Patterns

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Respecting Michael Lynche

Hello everyone,

I’m sitting in the green room in the Bayou Music Center waiting to start our set with the Temptations. I’m using my iPhone as a hotspot to post this because I want to do it ASAP, just so I don’t forget about it later.

Before I go any farther with this, I have never seen American Idol before. I’m a social anomaly in that respect, the last professional musician to have never seen that show. Yes, I’ve been living under a rock. He he he… So I had never heard of Michael Lynche until I was approached about playing his show in Lufkin.

I don’t normally write about celebrities. As the Bible tells us, I strive to not be a “respecter of persons.” When I do write about someone, celebrity or other wise, it’s because I feel that they deserve to be acknowledged for the good they do.

Which brings me to my point. Last night, back stage at the Pines Theater in Lufkin, Micheal Lynche did something I have only experienced two other times in my almost three decades as a full time professional musician. The first time was with Jimmy Edward (tejano singer) at a gig in South Texas. The second time was with Fankie Valli, here in Houston for a charity event down town. Now, for only the third time in my entire career, I can add Micheal Lynche to the list, a list that I feel deserves our respect.

Just before the beginning of the show, Micheal called the band together, back stage, and lead us in prayer.

I’ve been playing shows like this since I was a college student, in the early 80’s. I’ve played literally hundreds of these shows for most of the biggest names in the music business. But only three times have they ever begun in prayer.

To me, this is more than just “religion.” It is a sign that these men have taken their roles as spiritual leaders just as seriously as their musical leadership. It demonstrates that these men are serving as genuine missionaries, taking their faith and beliefs into the world.

And the reason I’m writing about it is because, most likely, no one else will. I believe these men deserve to be supported just as much as other missionaries. I believe we should buy their recordings and attend their concerts because every penny we send in their direction helps them to reach more people for Christ. And like I said, as far as I’m concerned, it is a genuine form of missionary work.

So please, please, my friends and readers, support these artists. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are the lights that shine in what is often a very dark world (the music industry).

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Invitation to Church

easter_bannerI’ve never done this before, I guess because I’ve always sorta seen my “physical” world as being something separate from my “internet life”…in a practical, functional sense that is. The people who read this blog are mostly not Houstonians. You live all over the world. So the idea of inviting you to church never really crossed my mind.

So, if you do not live in Houston, feel free to skip this one.

What We Like About CT Church

Our pastor, Don Nordin, has specifically asked us to invite people to church who used to be church members but have stopped going. We are reaching out to people who feel disillusioned by their past church experiences. And for me to do this with confidence, I must tell you what it is that Pearl and I like about CT Church.

First of all, we do like our pastor, Don Nordin. If you follow my blog, you already know this because he was the subject of a recent Life Builders post [which you can read by clicking here]. The gist of my blog post about him basically says that, in his preaching, Pastor Nordin does not stray from the Bible. But I should also talk a little bit about what I like about the church itself, because there is more to a church than just its pastor.

Putting Love Into Action

When I left my parents home church the military church, Center Chaple One on Fort Bliss, one of the things I was looking for in a church was evidence that they were doing the kind of work, helping people in need, just like the Bible says we should. This was very important to me. 1 Corinthians 13 starts off by saying that all the other Church stuff is worth nothing without love. And to me, that’s a big part of how a Church should be expressing its love, through feeding and clothing the needy, etc.

And as I have said before, CT Church does more of this than any other church I have ever seen. If you go to the website and read about all of the things we do for the community, you will be surprised. I’m certain of it.

If that sort of thing is as important to you as it is to me, then CT Church might be the church for you.

Supporting Missions

As a church family, CT Church does a lot to support missions across the planet. I have seen the list of missions we support and it is impressive.

Personally, I am of the opinion that we should ALSO give to groups on our own. Pearl and I do this. I think that’s an important part of being a Christian…taking an active role in that sort of giving.

But that said, it is just as important that the church congregation, as a church family, set the right example by giving that way, too.

Holy Spirit Filled Church

This one falls in the “last but not least” category. Another thing I was looking for when I left my parents’ church, something that is just as important to me today as it was back then (1984), was a church that recognized, welcomed and moved in the gifts of the spirit. I remember reading the Bible and asking myself, “Why am I not seeing these things in my church?”

The way I see this, any “social club” can “do good things for the community.” I was in Boy Scouts for most of my childhood. You don’t need to be in a church to do the kinds of things Boy Scouts would do. For me to be a member of a church, that church has to believe that Jesus died on the cross for me, for all of us. That church has to believe that Christ truly did send the “Comforter” [the Holy Spirit] just like the Bible said He did. As far as I’m concerned, a church that sweeps this part of the Bible under the rug to be ignored or even hidden from public, such a church is not Christian church at all. It is really nothing more than a “social club” like the Boy Scouts. And even though this is, in and of itself, not a bad thing, it is not church. Not to me it’s not.

I am not suggesting that all non-penticostal churches fall in this category. In my career as a musician, I have even seen Catholic congregations who were more on fire with the Holy Spirit than any protestant church I’ve ever seen. So I am not suggesting that this is determined by the denomination of the church. No, it is determined by the membership of the church, by its congregation.

And CT Church gets that. No sweeping it under the rug here. No being ashamed because of what non-Christians might say. Nothing like that.

We Saved a Seat for You

CT Church used to have a slogan on their website and handouts. It said, “We saved a seat for you.” [or something like that] If you are between churches, disillusioned by your past church experiences, and would like to become involved with a church that does it right, you have my personal invitation to come join us at CT Church.

We have three different campuses with several different service styles. If you prefer Español…tenemos que! If you enjoy listening to rap and hip-hop…we’re all over that! If you like the old timey stuff, we have a traditional service once a month. And of course, we have a normal service too.

I know that most of you do not live in Houston. However, we do live stream some of the services online. I can’t speak for our church leadership, but I believe we prefer that you find a physical church home to attend in person. However, if you have limited options, then we welcome you to join us that way until you find a local church home.

Easter Trilogy

We have special services starting tomorrow (3/29/15) and going for three weeks. You can find more information about these special celebrations at http://ctchurch.tv/easter/

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El Paso Trip Reflections

I am back now from spending five days in El Paso, performing and speaking about music. It was a nice trip and I wanted to spend some time reflecting here on what happened while I was there.

This is the hotel where they put me up. Very nice, one of the best I've stayed in.

This is the hotel where they put me up. Very nice, one of the best I’ve stayed in.

Jawn Glass and Joe Barriga

The first event for me on this trip was a rehearsal with the UTEP jazz ensemble. Since most of the trumpet players from UTEP were at the Cancer Blows event in Dallas, I was asked to join Jawn Glass and Joe Barriga as subs in the section for the rehearsal.

Of course, why not!!!

It was wonderful playing in a jazz section again with Jawn Glass. Jawn and I were in high school together and did a few college years together as well. So it was very nice to spend that kind of time with him again.

It was also a nice opportunity to meet Joe Barriga, who is one of El Paso’s up and coming players. Apparently Joe knew me from a workshop I did at NMSU many years ago. So that was cool. He has developed into a fine lead trumpet player.

Jazz Gig and a Special Honor

On Tuesday night I did a jazz performance with the guys from our recent CD, A Not So Distant Pass; Ruben Gutierrez, Erik Unsworth and Ricky Malichi. Not only did we have a blast hanging out and making music together, but it was also a very special honor to have some special friends come out to hear us play. It was great to see Martin Huerta and Jeff Stevens.

Tuesday night gig in El Paso

I think the following video was shot by Jeff at the gig:

The biggest honor on Tuesday night was my high school friend (and reader of this blog), Devin Gray. Devin drove all the way from Albuquerque to hear us perform. If I remember right, that’s a four hour drive.

You cannot imagine how much I appreciate that anyone would drive so far just to hear me play my horn. That was the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a very long time. Thank you Devin!

Devin took some photos while he was there and I’ll be including them in the mosaic below.

KTEP Radio Interview With Dennis Woo

I also had the privileged to do a radio interview Wednesday morning. Dennis is not only a radio DJ. He is the current president of the El Paso Friends of Jazz, teaches broadcasting at the university and plays a bit of jazz guitar as well. So he had some wonderful questions for me that I enjoyed answering.

It’s nice talking to people who appreciate what you have to say. And if there is any one thing I would say about the interview, it would be that I definitely felt appreciated when it was over.

UTEP Performance

The concert on Wednesday evening featured four other bands besides just UTEP. The first of those bands was a very impressive junior high band from Indian Ridge Middle School.

Indian Ridge Middle School

This kids swing harder than most of the college bands I’ve heard. It’s amazing how mature they sound.

This was also a great opportunity for me to hear Roger Morgan’s son, Chandler, who is the jazz trumpeter for Franklin High School. Roger was my section leader in high school. He was always a very impressive, natural player. His son is obviously following in his footsteps.

The concert went well. I haven’t mentioned Dr. Willie Hill yet. He was the guest conductor for the UTEP jazz ensemble. I had the pleasure of eating lunch/dinner with him three different times and he is a delightful character. It was very interesting to hear stories about his work.

Dr. Hill is also a very good jazz educator. It is rare when I hear a jazz band director say pretty much the same things as I would have said. His sense of swing and overall jazz style is very similar to what I like to hear and teach to my own students (even though I haven’t directed a band in years).

Jazz Improvisation Workshop

The following morning I presented a workshop on the topic of “Musical Honesty in Jazz.” I shared with the students (and some teachers) my concept of Wholesome Musical Priorities and then demonstrated how those priorities can manifest themselves as individualism in the way we practice jazz. We talked about grammar in the context of jazz vocabulary and how to take traditional jazz motifs and practice them in a way that makes it our own.

I got such wonderful comments and feedback about the workshop, and that touches my heart. Really, I think it’s important to take everything we do back to the basics. Not just musical basics, but all the way back to who we are as a person. If we are not true to ourselves, even in the way we practice, then our performances will always be fake.

So it was good to hear that the students responded so well to what I had to share with them.

Thank You All

In summary, it was a very nice trip and I want to thank everyone who made it special. Erik Unsworth was a very good host and made my stay very comfortable. As always, it was a blast making music with him, Ricky and Ruben again. And I was so thrilled to hookup with so many dear friends while I was there. Thank you all for welcoming me back with open arms.

Here’s a bunch of photos from the trip:

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