Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Grasping a concept or idea intellectually is one thing: having it become a real part of who you are is something different.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

I once heard it said,”Scripture contains the word of God in the way that the acorn contains the oak tree. It is all there, but its presence is made known to us little by little.” Living at God’s speed means accepting that my understanding of the way God works in my life will come to me in God’s time.  Sometimes the proverbial light bulb goes on in our heads and we learn something instantly, but most of the time real learning (spiritual growth) takes place slowly, over real time, as our life unfolds. This is especially important to understand in regard to the reading of sacred Scripture.

I had an experience I would like to share with you that might help to illustrate this point. I facilitate the operation of what is called the Relaxation Channel at the hospital where I work as a chaplain. The Relaxation Channel is a closed-circuit television system that is operated within the hospital. The channel is programmed with relaxing and spiritually oriented videotapes offering patients an alternative to commercial programming.

In setting up the system (prior to DVDs and digital technology appearing on the market), I had to make arrangements with a vendor to make copies of the original program tapes. The copies would then be run in a bank of VCRs that are used to run the channel so the original tapes would not get worn out from constant use. In all, I was was asking the company to copy about one hundred tapes, which I did not think would take very long at all. Having one hundred tapes made would provide enough copies to run the channel for about 5 years.

I imagined the vendor putting the original and the blank tape into a machine, then a button would be pushed and, zip, the tape would be copied in seconds. I figured the turn-around time to have the copies made would be a couple of days at the most. I was wrong. Making each individual copy would take two hours – the actual running time of the original tape. The vendor explained to me that every copy had to be made in real time.  The recording process was not zip as I had imagined.

This experience was a real eye-opener. It is a good illustration of the way God’s lessons (often found in Scripture) are revealed to us. God’s word becomes part of who we are – in real time – in real life, though we sometimes wish it were otherwise. It is through the interaction with life and the people in our life that we learn the really important lessons. It isn’t just a matter of reading it in a book. Even if the book is the Bible, experience with life matters. Here is another story:

Indeed there is a story about an intellectual youth who felt he could learn everything from books. He read about the stars and became an astronomer, he read about history and became a historian, he read about swimming and drowned. Some things we can only learn by wading in slowly, from the direct experience of the ocean lapping against our body. To enter this process directly is to participate in the healing we took birth for, is to become fully alive. – Stephen Levine, Healing Into Life And Death

The meaning of this story is not that you can’t sit in solitude with your Bible or some other spiritual book and gain valuable insight. If course you can. What it means is that some of the things that you read about will only be integrated into your life through your active participation. That is how God chooses to work. Scripture, if it is affecting us in a healthy way, if it is to be a source of lasting inner peace, will direct us to find God revealed within the created world, especially in our relationships with others. Usually this happens slowly, over the course of many years, in the everyday situations of life.

Connecting Point:  Grasping a concept or idea intellectually is one thing: having it become a real part of who you are is something different. The latter takes active participation in life and is realized in real time – God’s Time.

Prayer:  God of wisdom, grant that I may give sacred Scripture and other spiritual writing the respect that they deserve. Help me to read with humility, allowing the knowledge you bless me with to move from my head to my heart, that it may truly enter into my life. Amen.

This article is from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time.” A Traditionally Published book.

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The whole point of practicing a religion or of having a spiritual outlook toward life is to help us to connect spiritually with God, other people, and the world around us. 

This article is an excerpt from, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Timewritten by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

My father, Charles B. Sidoti was one of the most peaceful people I have ever known; he was also one of the most hospitable. On good terms with everyone, he always greeted people with a friendly smile. Everyone liked my dad. I think it was because he made them feel comfortable.

I recall times from my childhood when we would be on an elevator together or standing in line waiting our turn to get into some type of event. Dad would often initiate a conversation with someone standing nearby. He felt comfortable enough to speak to a total stranger just to be friendly. He would make a comment about the weather or some current event. Often the conversation included a corny joke and laughter. Most people responded to him so well that I would eventually have to pull at his hand to get him away from the person he was talking to so we could get to where we were going. In his own simple way, Dad was able to achieve almost instant familiarity with strangers by breaking the silence that so often keeps us apart. It was a sincere and natural form of hospitality that I try to emulate in my own life.

Much of our time is spent in close proximity to other people. Things like going to school or work, shopping at the grocery store, or going to a place of worship. All of these things bring us into close contact with others. Yet much of the time, we only really engage with those we already know or happen to work directly with. We may greet a stranger, but often that is just in passing, a fleeting acknowledgment while we continue on our way to something or someone else. To a great extent, this is completely natural and perfectly fine. We cannot expect to actively engage and interact with every stranger we walk by or happen to cross paths with. But it is worth some self-examination as to how open or closed we are to receiving strangers into our life. There is a strong spiritual implication found in the way we relate to strangers.

The whole point of practicing a religion or of having a spiritual outlook toward life is to help us to connect spiritually with God, other people, and the world around us. Genuine hospitality is one of the keys to authentic spiritual growth in that it helps us to connect with other people. Practicing hospitality leads to the expansion of our conscious awareness beyond our own familiar environment, reaching out to others in their world and welcoming them into ours.

People respond to hospitality. Have you ever experienced a day when you felt so good inside it showed on your face? Maybe something really good happened to you, or something you had been looking forward to was about to happen. For whatever reason, on that day you had a smile on your face, a distinctive glow about you, and you cheerfully greeted others. On such a day, the world seems to be a friendlier place. It isn’t your imagination; there is a reason why you experience the world differently when you feel good. Recall the old adage “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” Often dismissed as trivial or trite, most clichés actually contain a kernel of truth that can direct us to an important life principal. This one certainly does. When you feel good, you give off positive vibrations that people perceive, and they are therefore naturally drawn to you. When you are angry or otherwise feeling bad, you give off negative vibrations, and people are naturally repelled. Think about it; Do enjoy being around someone who smiles, is friendly, open and welcoming? Or do you like to be around someone who is often very intense, complaining, and frowning much of the time?

Important spiritual insights can come from all parts of life, even from the animal world. On my way to work one morning, I observed a bumper sticker that creatively focused on the importance of communicating positively with others. It said, “Wag more, bark less.” I instantly thought of a dog, as you most likely did. This simple statement contains a great truth that can be very helpful to us if taken to heart. Dogs have a way of winning people over. Not all people of course; there are some people who simply don’t like dogs, and it is okay if you are one of those people. But by and large, people like dogs. The reason is that dogs communicate unconditional love in the friendly affection they naturally give and so freely convey to humans. Dogs relate so well to people that they are used for therapy in hospitals and nursing homes. Petting a dog, or simply being around one, has been shown to lower blood pressure and lift the human spirit.

When a dog wags its tail in our presence, it is communicating with us in a visible and powerful way. It is conveying its inward happiness in a way that we instantly understand. Most often we respond by petting the dog or speaking kindly to it. The opposite happens when a dog barks or growls at us. It is conveying its displeasure, again in a way that we instantly understand. We react by moving away or by protecting ourselves in some way. As humans, we do the very same thing, just differently. We, like dogs, express our inner feelings in a visible way that others instantly understand. We do it through our facial expressions, body language, and speech; and they have the same powerful effect as the dog wagging its tail or barking.

In large part a dog’s hospitable nature is built in; they are hardwired, pre-programed, to be friendly. Compared to people, dogs are simple, uncomplicated creatures. But that does not mean we cannot learn a valuable lesson from them. For some humans, like my father, hospitality also seems to come naturally. The rest of us have to work at it. Learning to practice hospitality can be challenging.

One reason it may be difficult for us to reach out to others is that in our human brokenness, caused by past hurts or rejections, we may have come to believe that we have nothing to offer. We may believe that our attempts to reach out to others will be rejected. The truth is otherwise. This world is full of people who would love and welcome your expression of hospitality. It may take courage, and yes, there is always the risk of rejection. Not everyone responded favorably to my father’s hospitable nature, but most people did. There is certainly a risk involved in reaching out, but the benefits you stand to reap make it a risk worth taking.

God is hospitable. If it is true that hospitality is vital to human interactions and relationships, it follows that it would be an important part of how God chooses to relate to us. It is clear in many places in the Bible that God acts with incredible hospitality toward human beings. For instance, the book of Genesis (17:1-24) tells the story of Abraham, who at the age ninety-nine undergoes circumcision, and needless to say, has a very difficult healing period. Though he likely received many human visitors to help comfort him in his pain, the Bible tells us that he was visited by none other than God. In the story, God does not simply bestow a blessing, or even send a miraculous cure, but instead graces Abraham with a personal visit.

More than a moving story, this becomes the basis for the biblical commandment to visit the sick. Sacred Scripture is filled with examples of God’s hospitality toward humankind and all of creation. In Judaism, Rav Dimi Of Nehardea, in the Talmud, said: Hachnasat orchim, Hebrew for the welcoming of guests, “is more important than study, or even the worship of God.” The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once commented on the command to welcome the stranger:  “Love the stranger and the sojourner, Moses commands, because you have been strangers in the land of Egypt.” In Christianity, Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of God-like hospitality for us to follow. We can draw enormous personal benefit by finding ways to imitate God’s hospitality, found so often in Sacred Scripture, in our daily interactions with others.

God’s hospitality is not only found in the pages of the Bible, but is readily visible in the way the world is created. Sure, life is difficult and full of challenges, but it is also filled with things that did not have to be made so good, so tasty, so enjoyable, for any other conceivable purpose than to show God’s divine hospitality to the world’s inhabitants.

So much in this world seems to have been tailor-made for human enjoyment. The way something is created (designed) often expresses the hospitality of the creator. Consider something as simple as a banana. The potassium, other nutrients, and the relatively few calories found in this fruit could easily be provided in a tiny, tasteless berry that you could pop into your mouth. But instead, God wanted to put a lot more into the package. It is made not only to be healthy; a banana has a lovely sweet taste that does not have to be there. Next, any eater of a banana would need to know when it is ripe, so included in its packaging is a “high-tech” color sensor that tells you, to the day, when it is ready to be eaten. If you don’t have a plastic bag to protect your food when you toss it into your knapsack on the way to work, a banana has a built-in carrying case. It can be eaten by anyone from a baby to an adult human or a hungry monkey, due to its ease in being mashed up our cut into bite-size pieces.

There is a beautiful Christian song, written by Dawn Thomas, called “That’s How Much I Love You.” It’s like a love song by God to us, about how all the beautiful things in creation were made out of God’s love for us: “The mountains fair, the beautiful oceans are there to remind you I can satisfy your every need. That’s how much I love you, that’s how much I want you to know that you are my child, and you mean so much to me.” Max Ehrmann’s great poem “Desiderata” explores the individual’s place in creation, but it concludes with advice about the need for happiness:

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Do the best you can to put this advice into practice by reaching out in hospitality to others, in your own unique way, even though you may be hurting inside. This won’t solve all your problems, but it will not add to them in the way having a bad temperament or openly displaying a bad mood often does. When we “wag more and bark less,” feelings of isolation and separateness slowly begin to lose their grip. People respond to us differently because we are more pleasant to be around.

Connecting Point: Nurturing a spirit of sincere hospitality within yourself can be very helpful in discovering the wonderful person God created you to be. Hospitality is very much an attribute of God. Growing to be more God-like, acting in union (more often) with God’s creative love and welcoming spirit, can only lead us closer to God, to others, and to all of God’s creation.

Prayer: Gracious God, Creator of all that is, help me to hear and respond to your welcoming call, your gentle embrace in my life, and to respond with that same love toward others. Give me the courage to reach out to other people, in their world, and to sincerely welcome them into mine. Help me to realize that everyone I meet is truly my brother or sister and you are God of us all. Amen.

Living at God's Speed, Healing in God's TimeA TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOK

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Disenfranchised Grief is a term describing grief that is not acknowledged (or is trivialized) by society.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

At the hospital where I have worked as a chaplain for the past twenty years I was recently consulted to visit an elderly, chronically-ill patient.  I was informed by the referring social worker that the woman,”Lost her husband last week.”

The woman shared that her recently deceased husband spent twenty years in prison.  As our visit continued she further revealed that her husband had been in prison for the murder of her son.  The patient shared with me that she did not leave the marriage.  She waited for him to get out of jail and for he past five years cared for him at home until he died of cancer.  This was an experience of chaplaincy that I will never forget; it is also one of the most beautiful examples of inner-healing I have ever witnessed and been privileged to have a small part in.

Disenfranchised grief is when your heart is grieving but you can’t talk about or share your pain with others because it is considered unacceptable to others.

Disenfranchised grief is hidden grief.  Often, it is never revealed.  Some, for fear of not being accepted, take their painful secrets to the grave with them.  As a chaplain I strive to create a sacred spacean environment where the other person feels safe to share what they are experiencing inside and find acceptance in their vulnerability. I try to create a space where the person feels confident that they will not be judged, but listened to, and accepted for who they are.

The following are just a few of the countless examples of loss that may be experienced as Disenfranchised Grief: 1) A miscarried or aborted pregnancy, giving a child up for adoption 2) Loss of gay or lesbian partner 3) Rape or sexual assault 4)  Loss of a pet 5) Retirement  6) Loss resulting from suicide 7) Divorce 8) Families of incarcerated individuals.  9) Loss of a grandchild 10) Any grief that exceeds society’s preconceived time limit for grieving.  To find many more examples and additional information on disenfranchised grief click:  https://www.vision.org/visionmedia/grief-and-loss/disenfrachised-grief/2202.aspx

____________

Check out “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – By Charles W. Sidoti with contributing author Rabbi Akiva Feinstein – A Traditionally Published Book

 http://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

Listen to my live workshop presentation delivered at the 2017 Annual Conference of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains annual conference in Santa Anna Pueblo New Mexico.

The question and answer period of my workshop is very lively and even gets a little “dicey.” I welcome your feedback and comments after you listen to it!

One of the greatest examples of pursuing the unknown end is the very existence of the United States of America.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

You may be old enough to remember the 1960s television game show “Let’s Make a Deal,” hosted by Monty Hall. A hallmark of the show was that people in the audience would dress in silly and outrageous outfits trying to get the host’s attention in hopes of becoming the next contestant. The person selected to be a contestant would win a small amount of cash.  He or she could either keep the cash or risk losing it for, “What is behind door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3.” Often the hidden prize was worth much more than what the contestant had traded away. At other times, however, a worthless gag prize, known on the show as a “Zonk,” was revealed. Receiving a Zonk prize ended the game for the unlucky contestant.

The same type of drama behind the success of “Let’s Make a Deal,” namely, the need to let go of something, risking what we already have for the possibility of obtaining something better, often gets played out in our real lives. It happens when we agonize over important choices. We may need to decide whether to leave our current job to take another that we have been offered. A husband and wife may ponder a question such as, “Should we risk the money that we have saved for so long to start a business? What if it fails?” The decision of whether to leave a current relationship or to enter into a new one is yet another example of how the “Let’s Make a Deal” scenario gets played out in real life. The struggle we often face in making important life choices is that we must let go of something, trade it away in the hope of trading up, with the ever present fear of getting “Zonked.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words “Have faith and pursue the unknown end” does not mean that we should throw all caution to the wind. There is real risk involved in letting go of what we already have in order to take hold of something else; something that may or may not be better. Yet this is precisely how much of life works. We must be able to live and to act with enough trust to take reasonable risks from time to time, if our life is to be the adventure it is intended to be. Sometimes living out the words of this fortune will mean our choosing to actively pursue an unknown end. At other times it will involve allowing or simply accepting the fact that an event or situation has an end that is, at least for now, unknown.

The career decision to pursue board certification in professional chaplaincy meant my entering upon a path with an unknown end. I recall reading about the requirements for certification set forth by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). They seemed so lofty, and the road to meeting those requirements looked so long. It even appeared unattainable from where I stood. When I took my first step toward certification I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t know if I will ever get there, but I am going to do this anyway.”

One of the greatest examples of pursuing the unknown end is the very existence of the United States of America. The founders of our nation in breaking away from British rule and establishing “a government by the people for the people” could not possibly have known if their dream would ever be realized. Establishing a nation in which individual freedom, liberty, and justice would form the foundation of government was a radical and dramatic act. It seems that the older I get the more authentically patriotic I become. I am proud to be a part of the great experiment of democracy that is the United States of America. The freedom from tyranny that its very existence represents, and which we enjoy, is the fulfillment of a dream of those that came before us. It is the fruit born of those who labored long ago and had the courage to pursue the unknown end; the end result was our country.

Jesus’ life on earth bears powerful witness to living out the words, “Have faith and pursue the unknown end.” He once said to some unsuccessful fishermen on a lake, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5: 4). They reluctantly did as he instructed. The result was that they caught so many fish that the catch nearly sank their two boats. These same fishermen became Jesus’ first disciples. Most of us are not fishermen or women, and yet the words that Christ spoke to them speak just as powerfully and directly to us today. The term deep water is often used as a metaphor to represent the unknown, the mysterious part of life. In our life’s journey, if we are to discover what God has prepared for us, we must sometimes prayerfully discern putting out into the deep water and casting our nets.

Putting the words of this quotation into action will require accepting the reality that most of life is a mystery. Of the many paths you have already trodden, how many ends were actually known to you at the outset? The truth is we don’t really know how most things in life will ultimately turn out. Our vocation, our job, our children’s lives, practically every pursuit in life has an unknown end. Nothing is guaranteed. The words “have faith” in Holmes’ statement make all the difference. Faith provides us with confidence to live secure in the midst of all of life’s unknowns. Faith reveals the real presence of God at work in our lives. As we continue to grow spiritually on our journey through life, the “unknown ends” will eventually become less of a problem and more a source of adventure.

The Contemplative Connection: We walk down many paths throughout our lives, many of which, at least for a time, have an unknown end. Ask God to help you to accept the initial anxiety that comes with not knowing the end beforehand and to eventually replace that anxiety with trust.

This article is an excerpt from my book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.”  – Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers website: http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/ http://vesuviuspressincorporated.com/simple-contemplative-spirituality/

This book is “Traditionally Published

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If we can remain open in the midst of our inner struggle, the struggle itself can help us to change our mind about what life is about, and to take our proper place in the universe.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Learning to become a more relaxed and easygoing in life is a wonderful thing. However, if I hold on too tightly to what I think needs to happen before I can be happy, I find myself in a power struggle with the universe. This power struggle makes it impossible to live a harmonious, peaceful life. Unless something changes, this is how I live. If I were God, if I had ultimate control, there would be no conflict, but I’m not, I don’t, and there is.

The conflict, however, can be a good, even necessary, element in our personal growth. If we remain open to what the conflict has to teach us, our inner conflict can lead to a new awareness ow who we are and who God is. On the other hand, it can cause us to harden our hearts and close our minds. I often ask myself, “Do I really want peace…or is it that I simply ‘want what I want’?”

Nineteenth-century American author and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes made an important point when he said, “The great act of faith is when we finally decide we are not God.” This quote captivated me because this is exactly where our conflict needs to lead us. I believe this statement is the hinge on which real transformation, and therefore real inner healing, rests. While none of us consciously thinks of himself or herself as being “God,” our attempts to control life, manipulate people or situations, and the thousand other ways we try to force life to go the way we think it should, suggest that at a deep level we believe in our own God-like importance.

The good news is that the more hard-headed and persistent we are in behaving as though we were God, the more frustrated and tired we are likely to become. This can lead us to give up trying to be what we are not, and to finally surrender to the fact that we are not God, and become aware of God’s presence in a new way.

If we can remain open in the midst of our inner struggle, the struggle itself can help us to change our mind about what life is about, and to take our proper place in the universe. Our personal inner conflict can lead us to experience a radical revision and transformation of our whole mental process. It can help us to live with authentic humility.

Prayer:  Loving God, Creator of the universe, help me to know you as my creator and to respond with trust, accepting my proper place as part of your creation. Help me to let go of the things that are not my responsibility, those things that are not within my power to control, and help me to entrust them to you with confidence. Amen.

——–

Living at God's Speed, Healing in God's Time This article is from: “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time Buy it on Amazon $14.92  https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Listen to my live radio interview on “Open to Hope Raido” http://www.opentohope.com/charles-sidoti-topic-simple-contemplative-spirituality/

Each one of us has our own personal Egypt.  We are enslaved by whatever negative power grips our hearts, preventing us from becoming the people God calls us to be.

This article is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” by Charles W. Sidoti, BCC and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein.

One of the keys to a more peaceful life is learning when to allow oneself to be led and when to take life by the horns. Both of these inner-actions are necessary at different times. As we reach a point within ourselves where we are able to live in the middle, between the tensions of when to relinquish control and when to assume it, we will have reached a place where real spiritual growth becomes possible. We discover a kind of rhythm or dance of life in which we sometimes follow and sometimes seem to lead. In both actions we are active participants in life.

In my daily work coordinating a hospital spiritual care department, my job is to provide for the spiritual needs of all faith groups. The program serves patients, their families, and also the hospital staff. The hospital not having an official religious affiliation has been a source of blessing for me. Although I am Catholic, I have become knowledgeable about many spiritual traditions in order to serve each of them well. One of the most powerful insights I have learned involves the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Passover, also referred to in the Jewish tradition as “The Festival of Our Freedom.”

Through my association with Jewish friends and colleagues and in researching the significance of Passover, I have found great spiritual meaning in seeing Passover as a distinct action and gift of God in human history before the establishment of Christianity. Researching Passover has enabled me to see it from a different perspective, thus gaining a new appreciation for it.

The Jewish Festival of Passover is a joyful time, primarily retelling and remembering the story of the exodus of the Jewish people from both the physical and spiritual slavery of the Egyptians some 5000 years ago. The story is symbolically re-told in the Seder meal that is observed with the whole family during the festival that lasts several days.

The great Jewish phrase that captures the spiritual meaning is, “We were slaves to the Pharaohs in Egypt, but the Lord led us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 26:8). I have learned that the message of Passover, “God leads his people”, is not only about what happened in Egypt 5000 years ago. The message for us is that “Egypt” is in our own hearts. Each one of us has our own personal Egypt. The inner slavery of loneliness, depression, anxiety, addiction, jealousy, lust, hate, anger, prejudice, violence, abuse, and countless other chains can hold us in bondage. We are enslaved by whatever negative power grips our hearts, preventing us from becoming the people God calls us to be.  The same God who led his people out of Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” wants to lead us out of the Egypt of our own closed hearts today so that we may live in the freedom of the children of God. With God’s help we can open up and allow ourselves to be led.

As a Christian I have found it helpful and interesting to observe that The Last Supper actually occurred on the first day of the Passover Festival. I feel a special connectedness with my Jewish brothers and sisters as I wonder if at the Last Supper, Jesus was observing the Passover meal, sharing the Seder Meal with his friends for the final time.

Opening my heart to the Jewish celebration of the Festival of Passover has been powerful and insightful. It has been and remains a tremendous source of comfort and healing in my own spiritual journey.

Connecting Point:  The same God that led the Jewish people out of the slavery of Egypt so many years ago, holding out “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,” reaches out to you today. It is your responsibility to reach back (in prayer) to God in response. God wants to lead you into freedom from whatever grips your heart (fear, anxiety, anger, resentment), preventing you from becoming the person that God created you to be.

Prayer: Loving God, as you have always revealed your presence to your people, reveal yourself to me. Help me to reach out to hold the hand you offer to me. Lead me to the freedom of mind and heart that you desire to give me, and help me to accept it into my life.

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