A Prayerful Thirst

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“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 17:6

From the outside the prayer life of a Christian, particularly those in ministry, may incorrectly be assumed perfect, and yet how could it ever be? For, if it depends wholly on us, broken and fallible as we are, alas our words and petition will always be lacking. And yet, God yearns to meet us where we are, making up for the host of imperfections and sinful ways we have become accustomed to. So then, prayer cannot begin from a self assured position of deservedness but with a humble desire to seek. There need not be a multitude of words (Matthew 6:7) or the right selection

 

Dryness in prayer

There are, however, times we cannot seem to hear God’s answer amidst the din around us, the circumstance itself or even over our own continuous cries for help. We may very well ask ourselves, just where has our heavenly Father gone? Or better still, what has been done or not done to cause Him to withdraw his favor and presence?

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray…The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” CCC 2725

Digging Deep and Reaching Out

Remaining centered on Christ when our prayer is arid can be difficult at best.  Yet, if we do not then everything else that we do, while perhaps humanitarian, is insufficient and even fruitless for we are lacking our source for wisdom, strength and guidance. It is like a tree with a great expansive reach but very shallow roots. This tree cannot weather the storms that blow us this way and that, or seasons of dryness where showers of blessings seem scarce. Conversely, deep roots sourced in Christ guide us to where we can find new strength and grace when the world around us has changed.

When prayer is difficult..Pray More.

St. Ignatius does not provide easy words for us here and yet it is the very thing we are being asked to do. The sadness, and longing we feel is what St. Ignatius calls spiritual desolation. It can appear at times as boredom, dissatisfaction, frustration or as complete abandonment. While it is often said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, for the prayer seeker it is not only an undesired course but therein can lie a fear that it may never be found again. For, intimacy in prayer is such an priceless treasure, that once experienced and lost even in the smallest way or for the shortest time is deeply missed. These are the moments we long to return to when we suddenly become aware of our distance from God or sense that we are seemingly grappling about in the dark. We cannot, however, begin to pridefully think that we were deserving through our own efforts.  And still, it is not solely the journey of the forlorn disciple as the saints too walked this arid desert path of prayer on occasion. What most assuredly is the defining factor is our resolve to trust in God’s will and perseverance in the struggle .

St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed in her private letters (Come Be My Light)  her own spiritual desert that lasted over half a century. 50 years of coming to prayer waiting to hear God’s voice yet instead experiencing silence and solitude. Many a would be follower of Christ might have considered giving up by this time. But this, as she grew to realize, would be her cross one that would help her begin to glimpse the suffering that Christ endured himself. And while his voice was quieted, God met St Teresa in the faces of the poor and marginalized in the streets of Calcutta. Her work would, as she noted, allow the graced opportunity with the daily interaction with the Christ before her.

In Ordinary Time

We can learn much from the remedy that St. Teresa exemplifies through her time of spiritual emptiness and darkness. The “light” that she would find would not be found in lofty highs of prayer but in the everyday moments of ordinary time. Time spent with a priority of making space for God through devotion with the Blessed Sacrament and the prayers of the rosary became the guide for their work and the source of strength and encouragement to continue on.

“Where will you get the joy of loving?-in the Eucharist, Holy Communion.  Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day, He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that adoration.”

In this meditative stillness, we may also more readily discover the invitation to better discern our own spiritual inclinations and motives. Ask yourself:

  • What is it that is occupying my head and heart space these days? Have I invited God into these instances or sought to limit his presence in my life to where I would like him to be?
  • How do I receive this time of testing? Am I seeking only that the pain be taken away or am I trusting that though I cannot see the purpose or way forward that God does?
  • Even in this time of dryness, what do I have to offer through my daily interactions with others that I perhaps have not considered before?

“Teach my heart Lord to pray as you would have me pray. Let me not seek merely the consolation and intimacy of your love. Yet knowing that you work all things for good, and according to your purpose let me rest assured in your will and presence in my life. And when I cannot feel you near and am tempted to despair, let me trust in the unseen.”

Peace,

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“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

 

 

 

Thy Will Be Done

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Lately these four words have spoken profound volumes in my life. With the busy fast paced work of collaborative parish life, my own vocation as wife and mother, and the decision of putting our own house on the market,there is such solace in this simple prayer. In an Ignatian practice of pause, time spent in contemplation of each word prayerfully leads us to consider what God’s word means for our lives today.

Thy

All that is within creation is God’s alone. From the smallest grain of sand to the tallest mountain, from the fiercest storm to the most placid waters it is all His and in His control. From the tiniest spark of life placed by the Creator, to the life nearing the end of its days- God is present and attentive to our cry.  In awestruck wonder I stand amidst it all and offer my gratitude both for the grandeur of all I see, but also for my place in His plan.

This week my cousin was fatally killed when struck by an automobile while crossing the street. His childhood was a difficult one growing up on the outskirts of Chicago, and he fell easily into a life of addictions as did his sister who died early of an overdose.On and off again homeless, he did have moments of stability but none lasted very long. With his mother and father now gone too from cancer, there were but a few that were close to him. Though he too, I believe, was loved dearly by his heavenly Father, he longed for that sense of belonging here on earth. The reported images of his passing, struck and laying dead in the middle of the road left me immediately heartbroken. Yet, how could I let my grief consume me when I know the certainty of the love and mercy of God’s embrace? He is Yours now Father. May his struggle here meet your joy and forgiveness, and may he know that he is truly missed.

Will

Here there is a beautiful recognition that God is God and I quite simply am not. Truthfully, I do not want my life to follow my own inclinations, despite my repeated attempts to persuade or otherwise take the reins at times.

This week in bible study we turned towards Genesis-walking in the peace of the Garden, and experiencing the pain of our disobedience and prideful use of will. Do we too desire to have the wisdom of God? Whatever would we do if we did? I do not know about you, but I haven’t always made the best decisions when I have acted on my own. What are the consequences even when we have achieved our immediate desire? The key can be found in the search itself- the longing for happiness.  So often, we look for happiness not eternally, but rather satisfy ourselves with temporary happiness. Those things which pacify us but disappear quickly are our forbidden fruit. In consuming them they give us a feeling of self-empowerment, and control and cloud the reality of our utter dependence on God.

Oh, Lord please help my will to align with Yours! Please make straight my crooked paths and set everything right when I have forgotten your loving ways. Though I do not know the way ahead, I trust that you do.

Be Done.

Release of the outcome to the One in control of it all is essential in a life directed towards God’s will. His time, His direction, His edits and our “YES!”. Are we saying yes daily but our more accurate response is a maybe?

As anyone who has gone through the process of selling a home can attest to..one wishes not only for a good price but for the pain to end quickly. Living in a constant state of readiness and cleanliness is a work of wonder with a family of boys and a playful German Shepherd. Only week two and I who began this quest in an open surrender am already petitioning God to walk the right family through our home. I know, that God’s answer might be yes..but it may be a no, or perhaps later. After we do all that we can do to prepare each day, what remains for each of us is for the resolve of the situation to “Be done”.

Reflect: How do we respond when situations are slower than unexpected, or end unfavorably for what we would have desired? Can we let God who has the big picture take the lead? If not, what could we do differently?

Peace,

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The Gift of Retreat

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Last weekend I experienced the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations was enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longed to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

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The Scent of Her Presence

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“An awareness of smells can illuminate our present. It can help us live more mindfully and gracefully. It can help us recognize that God’s goodness saturates the world, in scents that are both obvious and subtle.”

Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Taste and See ( Loyola Press)

Early morning dew, the scent of grateful peonies and roses greet me.
The aroma of homemade strawberry rhubarb and blackberry pies cooling midday meet me.
Nighttime breezes carrying a day well spent at play, leave me ..the promise of yet another summer day in the South.

My Grandmother’s house was my favorite place to be as a child, particularly in the summertime.  What might appear as lacking in structure or activity, each day was abundant in hidden treasures that could only be discovered by a slower pace and ready spirit. All this I too might have missed had I not been seeking- albeit anticipating- God’s respondent grace and presence. Grandma’s hard work in the garden wafted through her small home as she baked and canned the fruits of each day’s gifts. Receiving the present she also prepared for the future, when these would not be as easily gathered. Mindful also that nothing given should ever be wasted.

Indeed, there are so many indelible memories forever tied to the smells of my childhood spent with my Grandma. Sunday mornings brought an even more unique scent- as my Grandma readied herself for church service. Not accustomed to wearing makeup or perfume during the week, grandma was on this day a delightful combination of Ivory soap, Jergens lotion, Covergirl makeup and Emeraude perfume. How I loved this smell, so much so that I would take it all in as I cuddled close before church. Infused with the understanding that Sunday’s were intended to be special, she put forth her best for God.

Many years later I would smell that smell once again, over 1, 400 miles apart. Then 33 and in my third trimester I could not travel as she feel seriously ill this time. My heart was nonetheless with her, and almost without pause I found myself praying for her throughout the day.

“Lord let her know how very much I love her, let her know that though I cannot be there in person that I am truly beside her. If I could carry her as she carried me all these years, I would.”

God heard my prayer, and knew the close bond he had established between us would not end in death. Only moments before the phone rang, God gave me an otherwise inexplicable gift-my Grandmother visited me. In the shower, I suddenly and overwhelming experienced the all enveloping scent and presence of my Grandmother. It was all around me, permeating every space with love and memories. As tears of joy and grief streamed down my face, I said my goodbyes- for now, fully embracing the gift of being with her again. Profoundly aware that God was allowing me to experience this sacred moment of my Grandmother’s passing from this world to the next.

Then just as suddenly as she had come, she was gone. Though I tried to recover the scent for an instant, I knew that she was no longer there. As the phone rang, with my cousin who had been sitting with her in these last few moments on the line, I knew her words before they were spoken.

“Liz, Grandma just left us..”
“I know..she was here..and just left too.”

I then shared with her how I knew and the unbelievable love that I had felt in these last moments.Together we cried tears of joy for the gifts given to be with our grandmother all these years. Though eleven years have now passed- the fond memories of growing up through every season infused with the scent of her presence will forever remain, evidence of the world unseen .

 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Writing and Spirituality

With so much going on around us these days, have you ever found yourself in what seems to be the consistent cycle of playing catch up without the necessary time for all the things you love?
Do you feel that you lack the time to reflect on the essential elements of your day or shed those things that should be omitted altogether?
 Who has time for this, much less to write?

Yes, even those in those in the “faith” endeavor, are reminded that they have, at times, neglected to reflect prayerfully on the many things they are called to do and reassess. While I have been attending to these things in prayer, there is something concrete about putting pen to paper. There is an incredible release of all that our hearts and minds have been occupied with to now leave open for God to fill.

Writing, be it journaling, blogging, or correspondence with others can be an indispensable way to assess where you are, how you got there, and where you feel God is leading you today. It need not be lengthy, in fact it could be as short as a sentence. “I really enjoyed my walk today”. Which then might lead to an awareness to make time in your life for that more walks, and lead to the deeper question as to why you enjoy this time so much. Do I need this solitude as a break for the otherwise busyness of life? Is it that I feel close to God out in nature? Do His works remind me of the newness and recreation of the world around me and my place in it?

1.Let it be an honest dialogue with yourself and God. Invite the Spirit to open your heart to ponder and the strength to make even the smallest of changes. In the midst of God’s presence, wait. Let this pause then be your invitation say thank you for the very gift of this moment.

2.Where was God in my day? Was I greeted with the morning sunrise, or in the smile of a friend? Was he with me at the bedside of a friend, or in the consoling words of another?

3. Review your day, attentive to the times you were happiest, and the times that did not go as expected, both your successes and failures.

 

4.What was thought, said or done? Was there a missed opportunity to grow closer to God? If so, talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the courage to be aware, step forward and accept his offer the next time.

5.Tomorrow is a new day, and God is already there waiting for YOU. There is profound hope and grace in knowing each day is made anew and we too are recreated in this love. Commit to using this gift by striving to be attentive and open to direction.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Where Imagination is Key..My Ignatian Contemplation

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

What is it to pray with our imagination? Rather than seeing our imagination as problematic, St Ignatius encourages us to invite ourselves into the scripture scene using all our senses. Can I see myself as one of those in the biblical passage? If not why? What might I be feeling if I were? Praying in this way may seem strange at first, but allows us to wholly engage with scripture in a meaningful way all our own!


Where Imagination is Key: My Ignatian Contemplation

As I sat in mass this morning, I was pulled into imagining the scenes that would accompany this scripture. What followed was an afternoon of playful visual creations and ongoing reflection!

Luke 12:1-7

The corruption around us is often pervasive, difficult to see and more difficult to avoid. Following Jesus, there is trust involved, a leaving of the known to embrace the unknown. Yet, I cannot seek to have a foot on both paths, but I am being asked to make a choice.

Just as we cannot keep our light hidden in the darkness..so too will our thoughts and words spoken in darkness be brought into the light. Are there moments, thoughts or words spoken that I wish would remain hidden?  Am I courageous enough to follow Christ without fear and to speak truth in the face of persecution? Listening to Jesus, it hits me..no room for duplicity..it just got real.

Being present here, I begin to feel the excitement of being able to share the beauty of the Gospel openly. On housetops? When have I felt so impassioned of the love of Christ that I desired to live it “out loud” to the world?

I matter to God. So much so, that he is aware of even the most minute detail about me. Are my fellow disciples thinking the same thing as I am now? I am not alone but have the protection of the One who knows and loves me best…better than I know myself.

Wait..do not be afraid? Again, Jesus is reminding me that I need not fear of witnessing the faith. Though most certainly here in this moment it could hold the promise of death. Am I ready to die for the faith? Can I see God’s continual loving protection and grace in the challenges, obstacles and crises in life..big and small?

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: 10/5-10/9

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of A Friendship Like No Other  by William Barry, SJ(Loyola Press) or Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena by Marge Fenlon
Drawing runs 10/4-10/11 Click to enter..

Discover a well rounded spirituality of contemplation and action-

William Barry, SJ joins us with A Friendship Like No Other, also Michael Seagriff of Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation, Mary Amore of Mayslake Ministries 

And The Ignatian Solidarity Network to speak on the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice on November 7-9th.

Update:Fr. Barry will be joining us on 10/19-Encore w/ Fr. Kevin O’Brien
Monday
: William Barry, SJ.
, is a veteran spiritual director and author who is currently serving as tertian director for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus at the Campion Center in Weston, MA. A native of Worcester, MA, Fr. Barry entered the Society in 1950 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1962. After earning a  Ph.D. in clinical psychology, he taught at the University of Michigan, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and Boston College.  Fr. Barry served the New England Province in a variety of leadership roles including provincial.  Fr. Barry is the author and co-author 15 books. He currently resides at Campion Center where he continues to write and direct retreats. His many works include Letting God Come Close, A Friendship Like No Other, Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand, Seek My Face, and God’s Passionate Desire (Loyola Press), and God and You.

Tuesday: Michael Seagriff a former prosecutor, criminal defense attorney and Administrative Law Judge for 30 years, Michael now retired is able to more fully pursue his vocation as a Lay Dominican. This vocation created an insatiable desire to learn, study, live and share his Faith. For more ten years he led a Prison Ministry program and has spent the last decade promoting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, serving as coordinator of that devotion in his former parish. Michael blogs at Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation and is also the author of several books Pondering Tidbits of Truth (Volume 1&2), I Thirst For Your Love, and Forgotten Truths To Set Faith Afire! Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct.

Wednesday: Dr. Mary Amore,Executive Director holds a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Liturgy and Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Catholic Theological Union. Dr. Amore is the author of Primary Symbols of Worship and the Call to Participation, as well as the creator of the DVD Series: Eucharist: Pathway of Transformation, Healing and Discipleship published by Pauline Media.  A Cardinal Bernardin Scholar and distinguished member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, Mary has been a presenter at the RE Congress, University of Dallas Ministry Conference, Diocese of New Hampshire Ministry Conference, as well as conducting parish missions, retreats, and adult faith formation programs.  A monthly blogger for CatholicMom.com, and a columnist for Ministry and Liturgy magazine, Dr. Amore  serves as the Executive Director of Mayslake Ministries. 

Thursday: Marge Fenelon is a Catholic author, blogger, speaker, and longtime contributor to a variety of Catholic and secular publications and websites, including Our Sunday Visitor, National Catholic Register, Catholic Digest, and Catholic News Service. Her column, The Whirl, appears in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, and her blog, Catholic to the Core, is on Patheos. Fenelon is the author of a number of books related to Marian devotion and Catholic family life, includingImitating Mary.Fenelon is a regular guest on Catholic radio, including Relevant Radio’s Morning Air and EWTN’s Son Rise Morning Show. Marge will be joining us to discuss her latest book Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena . 

Friday: The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN): a national social justice education and advocacy network inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola will be discussing the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice to be held November 7-9 in Washington D.C. ISN was founded in 2004 and is a lay-led 501(c)3 organization working in partnership with Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes, along with many other Catholic institutions and social justice partners. Executive Director, Chris Kerr and intern Grace Donnelly will be joining us to share their passion for social justice at work in our communities today.

Connections: Writing and Spirituality

With so much going on around us these days, have you ever found yourself in what seems to be the consistent cycle of playing catch up without the necessary time for all the things you love?
Do you feel that you lack the time to reflect on the essential elements of your day or shed those things that should be omitted altogether?
 Who has time for this, much less to write?

Yes, even those in those in the “faith” endeavor, are reminded that they have, at times, neglected to reflect prayerfully on the many things they are called to do and reassess. While I have been attending to these things in prayer, there is something concrete about putting pen to paper. There is an incredible release of all that our hearts and minds have been occupied with to now leave open for God to fill.

Writing, be it journaling, blogging, or correspondence with others can be an indispensable way to assess where you are, how you got there, and where you feel God is leading you today. It need not be lengthy, in fact it could be as short as a sentence. “I really enjoyed my walk today”. Which then might lead to an awareness to make time in your life for that more walks, and lead to the deeper question as to why you enjoy this time so much. Do I need this solitude as a break for the otherwise busyness of life? Is it that I feel close to God out in nature? Do His works remind me of the newness and recreation of the world around me and my place in it?

1.Let it be an honest dialogue with yourself and God. Invite the Spirit to open your heart to ponder and the strength to make even the smallest of changes. In the midst of God’s presence, wait. Let this pause then be your invitation say thank you for the very gift of this moment.

 

2.Where was God in my day? Was I greeted with the morning sunrise, or in the smile of a friend? Was he with me at the bedside of a friend, or in the consoling words of another?

 

3. Review your day, attentive to the times you were happiest, and the times that did not go as expected, both your successes and failures.

 

4.What was thought, said or done? Was there a missed opportunity to grow closer to God? If so, talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the courage to be aware, step forward and accept his offer the next time.

5.Tomorrow is a new day, and God is already there waiting for YOU. There is profound hope and grace in knowing each day is made anew and we too are recreated in this love. Commit to using this gift by striving to be attentive and open to direction.

Peace,

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