Are You a Salt or Sugar of the World in 2019?

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According to Matthew 7:15, Jesus cautions us by saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Frankly, I did not realize that adage originated from the Gospels. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Thinking about this phrase I have come to realize that Jesus is speaking not only to humanity in general, but directly to me! I need to be consistent in my love toward God and my fellow man in order to avoid turning into that same false prophet I am called to be on the look-out for.

Jesus spoke with such clarity and used tangible examples. I am not going to “reinvent the wheel” regarding today’s topic. During his Sermon on the Mount discourse in Matthew 5, the Good Teacher charged his followers to be the salt of the earth. Above there are two pictures: one is salt the other is sugar. At face value both appear to be indistinguishable—similar to a wolf donning lamb’s fleece is camouflaged from its prey. Salt and sugar play a significant part in our life. Both add flavor to otherwise dull food. Excessive amounts of sodium and sugar lead to health problems. What I want to focus on is the dichotomous relationship between salt and sugar? Am I the salt or sugar of the Earth? Let’s see!

To preserve or not to preserve…that is the question

Aside from flavoring bland dishes or enhancing taste in already good meals, the main purpose of salt is to preserve food against deterioration. Salt draws out excess water from foods and dehydrates it. This process allows for increased storage times—especially in cases where food is in abundance and needs to be saved for later periods. Jesus used the example of salt because of its universal application and practical usage in daily living. He calls Christians to act as theological relish and preservative to society.

Sometimes a little salt goes a long way in improving the taste of food. We need not feel defeated if it feels like we are moving against a seeming endless tide of negativity from the world. Holiness is what all Christians are called to—look at the saints and the witness they provided a world in despair.

Deny Yourself and Follow Him

In high school, I took chemistry and became fascinated with the various atomic structures of elements, molecules, and compounds. I found a certain beauty in their ordering and design. Below are picture of the atomic structure of NaCL [sodium chloride- table salt] and C₆H₁₂O₆ [glucose- a common sugar].

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From a microscopic vantage point, a clear distinction may be made between these two common household items. Both are composed of entirely different elements [hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen in Glucose] and [sodium and chloride in salt]. Along with the having different building materials, sugar and salt are fashioned with different types of bonds—covalent and ionic respectively. Covalent bonds are stronger because the shared electron is what keeps the elements held together whereas in an ionic bond one element loses an electron to another causing one element to become positively charged and the other to become negatively charged such as in the case of NaCl or table salt.

In other words, the elements in table salt lose an electron to effect the ionic charge of the sodium or chloride molecule. Initially, losing may be viewing negativity [no pun intended!]. One may think that due to the stronger nature of the covalent bond in sugar that it should be preferred to salt. The New Testament does shed some light on the reality of loss and rejection. Luke 9:23-25 turns this notion on its head when Jesus says,

“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me. 24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?'”

Christ’s words elicit a sense of paradox, yet allure within my mind. Interesting, I gain life when I serving other’s needs above my selfish desires. In my weakness I am stronger! Through a theological ionic bond, Christians act as holy seasoning to embolden our world.

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Instant Gratification Leads to Decay

Dentists frighten me. Not in The Exorcist or The Shining sort of way. Still, I get apprehensive, anxious, and move toward hypochondriac-like behaviors when the subject of dentists come up. Perhaps, it stemmed from my penchant as a little kid for losing my teeth quickly and easily. Or maybe my periodontal panic happened due to my need for braces– not once, but twice in my elementary school years! Regardless of where this toothy torment began, I recognize that when I limit my sugar intake life is much easier during my semi-annual check-ups.

Thing in Excess Destroys

Excessive sugar proves damaging to both our physical and mental well-being. Unhealthy attraction to sugar is simply a euphemism for the sin of gluttony. Our society suffers from the belief that instant gratification is better than self-denial or self-control. I am as guilty of this vice as anyone. I have made it a point to limit my sugar consumption and practice fasting– to help me both spiritually and physically. Jesus choose not to use sugar as an example to relate to Christians because he understood the appeal and temptation this food item poses for humanity.

While sugar and salt look similar in outward appearance the two are vastly different. How do we distinguish between the two? First, we learn to trust the authority of the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of these products. We trust that the packaging is correct. When a box at the grocery store says “SUGAR” it really is sugar and not salt. A second way to learn is more difficult– through the school of experience. Maybe sugar is housed in a clear container in your home. If you forgot to label it only tasting the substance will you determine if it truly is sugar and not salt.

How Will You Season the World?

The same may be said about temptations and goods sent our way. Oftentimes, Satan dresses up sin as “sugar” to enhance its allure. This makes is easier to fell prey to his trap. Our adversary disguised sin under the costume of a juicy fruit– see Genesis 3 for the story of the Fall. May we continue to rely on the tradition of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scriptures, and testament of the saints for guidance in our journey toward holiness. Let us be the salt of the Earth and preserve society! There is more to you than meets the eye.

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The Curious Case for St. Thorlak’s Patron Sainthood

St. Thorlak

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my oldest son was diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum a couple years ago. This journey toward an answer to helping our son has been filled with both joys and struggles. One of the fruits of this process is my wife has discovered her calling as a special education teacher. Another benefit of her knowledge is that it helps my cousin who is experiencing similar trials as my son. Recently, my mom was doing research on saints who assist with people on the autism spectrum. She came across St. Thorlak who is currently being considered as a patron saint for people with autism spectrum disorder.

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Born in 1133 A.D. Thorlak received the sacrament of Holy Orders at a young age. He was ordained a deacon at age 15 and became a priest when he was 18 years old! Eventually founding a monastery based on the rule of St. Augustine, Thorlak lived a monastic way of life for a several years. Thorlak was ordained a bishop of the Icelandic diocese of Skalholt. He continued to carry out the reforms instituted by Pope Gregory VII. St. Thorlak die in 1193 at the age of 60.

Relatively little information is known about Thorlak compared to other Catholic saints, such as Augustine, John Paul II, Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, etc. Despite this, my review of the website that is championing his cause for patron sainthood provides some insight as to how Thorlak could be a relieving guide in both my son’s life and our family in general.

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Rigidity in manner

Being unbending in his moral expectations, St. Thorlak demonstrates a parallel to children with autism that commonly sees the world in terms of black/white dichotomy. My son for example, is a “rules kid” and will follow our household law to the letter.

Failure to Initiate or Reply to Social Interactions

According to http://mission-of-saint-thorlak.weebly.com/patron-of-asd.html, the Icelandic saint said little during the discernment process for him to become bishop.  St. Thorlak displayed reticence in social situations as well. Many times children with autism spectrum disorder are non-verbal when it comes to communication.

Ritualized routine

Although a lot of Catholic tradition relies on daily routine, St. Thorlak adhered to a strict routine of fasting and prayer—especially in his time of founding and living in the monastic community. Similarly, my son thrives on a strict and regular routine.

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To be clear asking saints for help is not an easy solution to daily turmoil that medicine or therapy fails to soothe. Rather, I look to saints for guidance and relief for my personal trials or family strife. In regards to St. Thorlak, I believe based on the information I learned about his life that he would be a great role model for my son to look to when it comes to the challenges a child with autism faces on a daily basis. I found this concise prayer [see below] that I printed off and taped to my car dashboard to prayer on my morning commute to work. I am grateful for the witness of St. Thorlak and I hope his life gives insight, joy, and relief to individuals and families of those with autism spectrum disorder!

“Holy Thorlak,

Cut with the scythe of your workings

the thorns casting shadows

in my unclear mind!”

Related Links

https://www.mission-of-saint-thorlak.com/patron-of-asd.html

http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/THORLAK.htm

 

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3 Ways Hope Can Overcome Despair

According to the great English writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, “Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” When I first discovered this pithy quote by the creator of Middle Earth, I paused and pondered his words’ truth. More often than not, the seed of hope gets planted within the soil of my loneliness. Over the past year, my wife and I experienced spiritual highs and lows. Currently, I am in a period of stability—a time where hope is my guiding light! Reflecting back on my personal valleys, I realized that the times I felt distant from God, my friends, and even my wife. Oddly enough, this become an opportunity for me to turn to the virtue of hope! Since I placed my hope [and ultimately greater trust in the Lord], I am better anchored in my faith—even in the midst of continual strife.

Mahatma Gandhi once declared, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” Hope defends against despair, especially hope in truth, goodness, and beauty. According to Mike Pacer in Mercy and Hope, “Hope guides us through the darkness. It assures of the light that is just beyond our sight.” Along with this profound insight, I discovered three easy ways which helped shift my mindset away from despair and towards hope.

Larger Piece of the Puzzle

Growing up my mom and I used to always work on jigsaw puzzles during hot summer days or cold winter months. Five hundred and one thousand piece puzzles seem daunting at first. What helped alleviate any anxiety is knowing that I was not alone in figuring out how the pieces fit together. A second key aspect to putting together puzzles is forming the outside frame first. Finishing the perimeter provided hope that the puzzle could be solved!

Getting lost in the shuffle of life is analogous to navigating through a massive jigsaw puzzle—without borders and helpers it is easy to lose hope and give up. Puzzles provide a concrete example of how different pieces fit together perfectly to create a completed picture. Knowing your place in the world—as a piece to the larger story of life—may be helpful in lessening anxiety and orient us towards hope.

Hope Our True Consoler, Not False Optimism

Dovetailing off the previous point, the virtue of hope is a true helper. According to Mike Pacer, “The key to hope is to acknowledge our feelings and separate them from reality (Mercy and Hope p.121). Hope should not be reduced to wishful thinking or mere pseudo-optimism. A realness exists with hope. The virtue of hope does not procedure a placebo effect like false-optimism.

Hope is a gift granted by God, most especially by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity—the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 691, “When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”

Heaven—the Final Frontier

Referring to St. Paul’s assertion for our yearning for Heaven in Hebrews 13:14, Mike Pacer declared, “We are not living in our permanent home. Rather, we are on a journey. We have a definite destination (Mercy and Hope pp. 134-135). Put another way, St. Augustine’s axiom, “Our souls are restless until they rest in thee [God].” All the material possessions, power, and control in the world do not offer long-term and lasting fulfillment. Humanity keeps yearning for something greater, and greater, and greater!

St. Therese of Liseux famously summed up this truth using a nautical example, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home!” Earthly existence is a pilgrim journey. The virtue of hope allows us to don our theological lens to view more clearly that Heaven is the final frontier!


O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

Thank you for sharing!

3 Titles of Mary that Give Me Hope

I have learned that the more a person learns about a particular subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple appellations for my children as well.

Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her too. After I taught a lesson on Mary, I learned that she has over 2,000 titles! I will barely scratch the surface of this topic by reflecting on 3 specific titles of Mary that provide me hope on a daily basis.

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Undoer of Knots

This is a relatively new devotion toward Mary. I became aware of this unique title through my reading of a biography of Pope Francis- shortly after his election to the papacy. Mary as Undoer of Knots is his personal favorite Marian devotion. Below is the prayer associated with this nascent devotional practice:

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.

There is something tangible and raw and this prayer. Life is messy. Sometimes due to my own fallen nature, and occasionally because of the sinfulness of others, my life becomes knotted. My personal struggles develop into a Mobius strip of suffering. Reciting the prayer and asking for Mary as Undoer of Knots to help straighten me out is both a peaceful and confident feeling.

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Star of the Sea

Along with Undoer of Knots, Mary as Star of the Sea is new title I am now assigning personally to our Blessed Mother. Historically speaking though, this title is as ancient as the sea. Early Christians associated Mary with this appellation. Throughout the Holy Scriptures the sea and oceans viewed as dangerous waters to transverse.

During the night, stars helped to guide sailors to safety. In an analogous way, Mary acts as a guide, not our source of salvation [that is reserved for God alone!] toward salvation. Mary as our Mother is a protector of us, her children, against the tumultuous waters of life. According to the great Early Church Father, St. Ephraim, Mary is “the safe harbor of all sailing on the sea the world.” Centuries later, Pope Leo XIII uses similar language to describe Mary. He called her “safe harbor of travelers.”

Traveling is a universal experience among mankind. Mary as Star of the Sea reminds of the importance of reliance on others, to guide in times of strive and tumult.

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Refuge of Sinners

Because the first woman, Eve, is associated as the bringer of suffering into the world through her fall in the Garden of Eden, Mary is traditionally seem as the New Eve. Together with being Star of the Sea and Undoer of Knots, the third Marian designation that fills me with hope is Mary as Refuge of Sinners. The word refuge originates from a French word meaning “to flee”. It makes sense for us to connect this title to the person of the Mother of God. Moms are people who their children flock or flee to in times of suffering or distress. As the most perfect and universal mother, Mary is a sure person to seek refuge from against the prowess of Satan and temptation.

According to St. Louis de Montfort, [Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” The beauty of the Catholic Church is the great diversity that exists within its universal walls.  Marian devotion is a gift to help bring us closer to God. I hope that I have shed some light on the significance of these three titles of Mary. Through the intercession of Our Spiritual Mother we grow closer to the Light of the Son!

Thank you for sharing!

3 Reasons Lent 2019 is a War with Satan

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War, battles, and conflicts have occurred through the entirety of human history. From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the religious war of the Reformation era people do not get along. According to Guinness World Records, World War II took the most lives of any war in history!


Note: For more information please refer to the link in the resource section at the end of this post.


While the atrocities of the last century still linger, a large portion of society may not believe it is possible for our new more civilized 21st century to fall into such incivility, cruelty, or violation of human rights on the scale of the Holocaust. Philosopher George Santayana, warned ,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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Without knowledge of previous failing it is quite difficult to equip ourselves sufficiently for the battles that lie ahead. Today Catholics, and Christianity as a whole, around the world  celebrate Ash Wednesday— the beginning of the 40 day Lenten season. Being marked on the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross, Christians will be reminded, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This phrase actually is a reference to Genesis 3:19. Shortly after Adam and Eve disobey God the side-effects of sin involve an earthly death. Going back to the start human history we get reminded that the Devil, the prime Adversity of both God and humanity, sought conflict and that spiritual war continues into 2019. This post will examine three specific reasons we know war with Satan is guaranteed this Lent!

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  1. For the Bible Tells Us So:  Genesis 3 involves the Fall of humanity from original communion with God into a separated sinful state. Verse 15 specifics points out the divisive between the offspring of the Woman (prefigured to be Mary) and the serpent (symbolic of the Devil). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 497, “After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall.304 This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.”

While the victory over Satan is guaranteed through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the war still continues for Christians on an individual level. Salvation history from Abraham to Moses and David to John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. The manual on how to triumph over Satan began with the Bible and continues to be safeguarded by the Church. Next, we will examine how the Catholic Mass demonstrates the war is not over with the Enemy.

 

2. Learning from the Liturgy: While the entire Mass contains spiritual riches including the readings, homily, and reception of the Most Holy Eucharist, a simple prayer at the beginning of the liturgy, known as the collect, is something you may want to pay attention to next Sunday. The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) as this to say about the Collect prayer,


54. Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions. Then the Priest pronounces the prayer usually called the “Collect” and through which the character of the celebration finds

time for war.jpg

War, battles, and conflicts have occurred through the entirety of human history. From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the religious war of the Reformation era people do not get along. According to Guinness World Records, World War II took the most lives of any war in history!


Note: For more information please refer to the link in the resource section at the end of this post.


While the atrocities of the last century still linger, a large portion of society may not believe it is possible for our new more civilized 21st century to fall into such incivility, cruelty, or violation of human rights on the scale of the Holocaust. Philosopher George Santayana, warned ,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

gandalf prepare for battle.gif

Without knowledge of previous failing it is quite difficult to equip ourselves sufficiently for the battles that lie ahead. Today Catholics, and Christianity as a whole, around the world  celebrate Ash Wednesday— the beginning of the 40 day Lenten season. Being marked on the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross, Christians will be reminded, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This phrase actually is a reference to Genesis 3:19. Shortly after Adam and Eve disobey God the side-effects of sin involve an earthly death. Going back to the start human history we get reminded that the Devil, the prime Adversity of both God and humanity, sought conflict and that spiritual war continues into 2019. This post will examine three specific reasons we know war with Satan is guaranteed this Lent!

for-the-bible-tells-me-so-htbnt-mber-blrlin-ibatae-8858900

For the Bible Tells Us So

 Genesis 3 involves the Fall of humanity from original communion with God into a separated sinful state. Verse 15 specifics points out the divisive between the offspring of the Woman (prefigured to be Mary) and the serpent (symbolic of the Devil). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 497, “After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall.304 This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.”

While the victory over Satan is guaranteed through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the war still continues for Christians on an individual level. Salvation history from Abraham to Moses and David to John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. The manual on how to triumph over Satan began with the Bible and continues to be safeguarded by the Church. Next, we will examine how the Catholic Mass demonstrates the war is not over with the Enemy.

Learning from the Liturgy

While the entire Mass contains spiritual riches including the readings, homily, and reception of the Most Holy Eucharist, a simple prayer at the beginning of the liturgy, known as the collect, is something you may want to pay attention to next Sunday. The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) as this to say about the Collect prayer,


54. Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions. Then the Priest pronounces the prayer usually called the “Collect” and through which the character of the celebration finds expression. By an ancient tradition of the Church, the Collect prayer is usually addressed to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit,[56] and is concluded with a Trinitarian ending, or longer ending, in the following manner:

• If the prayer is directed to the Father: Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever;

• If it is directed to the Father, but the Son is mentioned at the end: Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever;

• If it is directed to the Son: Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The people, joining in this petition, make the prayer their own by means of the acclamation Amen.

At Mass only a single Collect is ever said.


Read the following Collect from today’s Ash Wednesday Liturgy and pay attention to the theme of war/conflict with evil:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

I highlighted key words and phrases that stood out to me as the priest recited the Collect. Those of you steeped in video-game culture will recognize the term campaign. Defined as a “series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective, confined to a particular area, or involving a specified type of fighting” to here Lent referred to as a campaign is intriguing. Prior to this year, I never truly would think of fasting as a WEAPON against spiritual evil! I have always known the benefits of fasting for growing in the spiritual life, however, hear phrases such as “may be armed with weapons of self-restraint” really takes the spiritual battle and makes it more tangible and digestible to understand.

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Advice from Saintly Soldiers

 Along with Sacred Scripture and the Mass, the saints throughout history support the notion that Lent is a time of war with the Devil. According to St. Philip Neri, “There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.” Prayer is listed as the first of the trifecta of weapons to overcome evil during Lent. St. Alphonsus De Ligouri also spoke of the how gluttony (the inverse of fasting) acts as a doorway to other sins, “He that gratifies the taste will readily indulge the other senses; for, having lost the spirit of recollection, he will easily commit faults, by indecent words and by unbecoming gestures. But the greatest evil of intemperance, is that it exposes chastity to great danger.”

St. Teresa of Avila had this  to say about fasting, “Our human nature often asks for more than what it needs, and sometimes the devil helps so as to cause fear about the practice of penance and fasting…My health has been much better since I have ceased to look after my ease and comforts.” For the sake of brevity, I will stop here. As you can see though the saints in unison with the Bible and Sacred Tradition reiterate the importance of fasting and prayer to battle the Evil One! Be careful to not boast of your Lenten sacrifices as Jesus warned in today’s Gospel. Instead, ask the Holy Spirit for the virtue of humility as you don the spiritual armament of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in the War on Satan this Lent!  

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Resources/Related Links:

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/highest-death-toll-from-wars/

https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/06/07/satan-past-present-and-future/

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal/girm-chapter-2.cfm

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/02/28/say-yes-to-the-no-practicing-self-denial

 

 

Thank you for sharing!