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Voracious

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Dear God, my hunger for You is voracious. I consumed four romance novels in 2 days, my heart yearning for those passionate love stories of brooding, powerful dukes who free-fall into love with bookish, potent damsels. Then I consumed another four books about GeneKeys over another 2 days, my mind racing to learn about the Golden Path, which confirmed my vocation to write, and play, and unleash a tidal wave of Liberation through the creative action of embracing grace. And thus (Enneagram language here), my lusty 8 wing continues to fuel the fire to move me out of my 9 dream state.

Connecting the dots looking back, the path written for me from birth has been written on my heart, planted as a seed in my vocation verse (Matthew 10:8), and watered by all the words written and spoken across time and space that set my heart ablaze.

In the cauldron of my human heart, it’s Your refiner’s fire that allows purification without destruction. Because in the midst of Your fire is sacred solitude, safe space, and sabbath.

And for those participating in life with me… ah, we change the world as we live into the fullness of who we are, transformed.

Will I embrace grace in order to fulfill the sacred dream, revel in the unending dance, ecstatic in my aliveness?

Will I participate in the Trinitarian Flow? The Word (God, formless) was made flesh (Jesus, formed), and dwelt among us (Spirit, relationship). Will I embrace the grace that invites me into this Divine Dance?

Does it truly matter- the how or why? In the end, being able to clearly see what IS becomes the answer. Seeing with Your eyes, Lord, the pure, precious possibility in each incarnated soul bearing witness to the agony and ecstasy of life.

I don’t see-saw between “happy-sad.” Rather, I fly through the infinite space of agony and ecstasy. My physical body is tied to this particular time and space, but my heart is expanding, and my soul… dear God, there is a liberation of my soul traveling through time and space as my life interweaves with fellow travelers on this journey!

It feeds my voracious appetite for You, and fuels the desire for the superabundance I taste with each expanded experience of You.

I envision a day where I can distill all the ideas with simple clarity into 20 minutes or less. Where there’s neither this written, nor verbal, deluge.

Where instead, there is, simply, Love.

Love so fully incarnated in me, no words are necessary.

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Making Sense

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Lord, I know that without You, none of this makes sense, so I’m grateful for the certainty of You. You who are Love-in-Relationship… however that looks in the day-to-day of the particularities of our lives.

Love that looks like joy or sorrow, but that somehow is Love when we bring it to You for redemption.

Always, all of it, laid at Your feet when it doesn’t make sense, or when the burden is heavy, or when control makes all of it fall apart even more.

Always, all of it, laid at your feet when the hidden wholeness is revealed, or when the burden is lifted, or when surrender allows for a greater surrender.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense if there’s not faith in something greater- some overarching order than can encompass both the known order and the witnessed disorder, and holds it with meaning that offers a reason to persevere in the midst of the chaos.

Still, it’s not a simply laying of all of it at your feet –

it’s the release to You of the need for certainty,

and it’s the receiving of Your Spirit to guide us in discerning the next step necessary.

It’s that passionate love affair with You that regards the rules with a transformed heart and in every encounter, shows us the path of unconditional Love.

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Information Overload

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We are flooded with information. So much of life tells us what to do and how to do it. Yet the same information is filtered through personal perspectives resulting from different lived experiences.

One size doesn’t fit all.

So contemplation (sabbath time) is critical, crucial, and non-negotiable in the journey of the awakening heart.

Rules don’t change hearts. Only Love has that power.

Only Love.

And you have to sit with Love, and savor Love… in order to trust enough to surrender fully to Love.

For people of faith- deep, authentic, transformed faith- there are rarely perfect words to bear witness to the experience of living in the presence of Love.

While radicalized politics create polarization, radical faith reveals the hidden wholeness present in every moment.

There’s no pat answer to a reality perceived through the eyes of Love, because Love sees all the layers and recognizes the mystical body that connects every single person … the mystical body that transcends and includes time and space until what’s left is timelessness and spaciousness and One-ness.

For every loud voice proclaiming certitude, there are a multitude living out the very personal journey of uncertainty, bearing witness to the ever-surprising discovery of God-who-is-Love-in-relationship.

So why give in to despair?

Do the Work that is yours to do.

Stay faithful to your journey and to your awakened heart.

And you’ll participate in the greatest love story ever told.

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Physician, Heal Yourself

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Physician, Heal Yourself

I know what’s on your mind. I know the press and stress that haunts you when you wake with dread and collapse with exhaustion into a restless sleep. I know inside you’re aching for escape, that you want to give it all up. And maybe you’re biding your time, making plans already.

It’s never enough, is it?

You can’t see enough people.

You can’t do enough work.

You can’t care enough.

You can’t be enough to everyone who needs you.


Your words fall on deaf ears.

Your orders may or may not be followed.

At day’s end, what else is there to give?


Oh, and let me not forget- will you show some compassion to your patients?


Oh I know, Physician.

It’s never enough.

You can be an expert,

You can complete all your work,

You can see everyone.


But it will never be enough.

The need has always been great, but now in the midst of systems gone awry and fear filtering through every thought,

What you give right now will never be enough.


Because you’re giving out of your pain. 

You’re giving out of your suffering.


And all that does is feed the pain.

All that does is fuel the suffering.


Physician,

If you want to run and hide,

If you want to avoid or numb,

If you want to lash out,

If you want to give it all up and start anew…


Please let me share this with you before you go.

I’ve been waiting for you,

creating something,

holding space for you,


For when you’re ready.

If you desire it.


In a system that tells you that you’re powerless; remember, you have power.

You earned your authority through every sacrifice of time given to patients, at the cost of relationships that took a backseat in your life so you could heal patients and strengthen their relationships.

In a system that tells you that you have no control; remember, you have self-control.

You’ve lived that control over years of education and training, and hours of work completed after patient care is complete.

In a system that tells you that you have no compassion; remember, you have love.

And it may be hard to believe or trust in this part- but you have Love.

And the Love isn’t only for you to give others and for others to take at your cost.


You, too, are Beloved.


I promise, this – You, too, are Beloved.


Physician, there’s another way, and I’ve paved a path for you.

A path where you remember who you are as a healer.

A path where you can offer your very special gifts.

A path where the healing goes both ways and renews itself.


Why did you become a physician?

What drove your mind, and heart, and body to do the work to reach this goal?


You were not given a spirit of cowardice, Physician.

You were given a spirit of power, and love, and self-control.


Come walk with me, Physician.

Come walk the path of Love, which shifts the current paradigm of power and self-control into a radical new existence where high service and surrender heals you.


Physician, Heal Yourself.


You are Beloved.

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Power. Love. Self-control.

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Power. Love. Self-control.

It’s a hard-won war, a series of battles where the victory is in the surrender to You.

You’re not always obvious, though, because finding You means the destruction and creation of a new heart… and that’s not created in or or two choices… it’s created in a radical upending of my internal and external compasses. It’s found in a clarity of vision that understands a unitive consciousness rather than a piecemeal parsing into palatable bits.

Love, true Love, comes in many forms, from all directions.

Love, true Love, is free and unconditional.

Love, true Love, is received and given without cost.

But freedom is a tricky thing when you’ve never been free. Liberation feels like an endless trap of lies and dead ends and death.

But trusting in You means trusting in Your Love and my Belovedness.

And in the unraveling of what imprisonment and freedom really means…asking, “Where is Love in this?”

  • Is the only question that gives me courage to move forward in those experiences that are inevitable, yet indescribably dark and scary
  • Is the only question that allows me the strength to sit with an experience as it unfolds to reveal its layered nuances of answers

So it’s not a matter of doubting in Love.

It’s a matter of finding where Love is and allowing its revelation and freedom in the midst of circumstances in which Love seems impossible.

Because all things are possible in You.

And when You are in me, I AM Love working to make the impossible, possible.

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A POEM: Valentine’s Day

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I saw You, and I knew life would never be the same.

My heart caught You, and the world inside me shifted, never to return to its prior axis.

It’s the moment all the writers speak about, yet is never fully understood until its experience…

Love’s inception.

Divine Love

Holy Mystery

The agony and ecstasy held together as One-

neither feeling blunted,

neither feeling blurring into a pale shadow of itself.

Where once, each day was a bland linear repetition of external expectations from birth to death,

Now, each moment is a kaleidoscope of possibility…

where Love endlessly reveals its Mystery,

where untamed hearts revel in Love’s searing bliss,

where timelessness & spaciousness weave into time & space.

Expansion.

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The Work of Love

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I do the work of Love. It’s wonderful and awful, life-giving and sacrifice. And during the hard times, when I can’t stand myself, knowing You love me, Lord, and remembering the times I’ve felt Your love, make the desolation bearable enough that I can hold on until my heart is made anew.

The path is not easy. It’s messy, complex, nuanced, layered, and complicated- because Love is about relationship, and relationships are hard. There’s just no getting around it- loving any other one person, let alone many, is hard, hard work. We hurt one another in so many ways, and the task of Love is to be able to sit with the hurt together until the hurt heals – rather than deny, avoid, suppress, distract, and lash out as protective walls covered with resentment are built and wounds fester.

Even knowing all this, I still hurt the people I love in big and little ways – not wanting or intending to… and yet my own needs for love and fulfillment found only in answering Your call, Lord, lead me on a path completely my own – both treacherous and safe.

So, I know how hard it is to say yes to You, and to continue to say yes in the midst of all the levels of uncertainty and through all the layers of discernment. I can’t think or see my way through the darkness. Instead, it’s an instinctual movement to the next step. And I can’t even take the step with a judgment of right or wrong, it’s simply the next step You’ve asked me to take on the journey, the next step on my narrow path home to You.

We often judge what will be as if we’re perfect, then look back and see how grace and mercy held us in our imperfect humanity.

It’s not about perfection (although how I wish I were perfect!), it’s about participation, which is hard when there’s lots of failure and imperfection and pain when I actively engage in the fullness of life. My expectations of the world and myself fall short again, and again, and again. Still, in the midst of all of it, You tell me I am Beloved.

How can it be?

And yet, with each breath I take, You say it is so.

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“Follow me”

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What does Jesus mean, when he says (Luke 9: 23) “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

What does it mean to walk the path of self-sacrificing (“he must deny himself”) love?


Remember when Jesus asks Peter three times (John 21:15-17), “Do you (truly) love me (more than these)?”
Peter replies, “You know that I love you!”


So what? What does that love look like to Jesus? – “Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.”


Yet, notice, Jesus’ love isn’t conditional. He doesn’t say “If you love me, you would do this for me.”
Jesus asks, simply – “Do you love me?”
And only after Peter says “yes” freely does Jesus share what it looks like to love him.


So we don’t have to say to one another- “If you love me (or Jesus), you would do/say/believe these things for me.”


Rather, we proclaim to God alone – “You know that I love you!” and no matter what, every day I promise You that I will “feed Your sheep,” “tend Your sheep,” “feed Your sheep.”


Our love for Jesus is ultimately expressed in our love for others.. those seemingly part of the flock and those seemingly lost.


He loved us unto death.Yet He died so that we could Live.


He asks us if we love Him, and when we freely say yes to Him, He asks us to Love one another – feed one another, tend to one another, feed one another.


Even in the hard times, when it’s a cross to love one another. When we feel like we’re being crucified.


When we follow the path of Christ, we follow the hard and narrow path of the new commandment (John 13:34) “Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another.”

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Asking for what we need

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Dear MWHC family,

I hope these first weeks of January are life-giving, in the midst of inevitable challenges.

I already find that as I live into my Word, “Heal,” I am also living into its opposite – “Wound.” Still, it makes sense- how can we ever know the fullness of the light without acknowledging and addressing the shadow? How can we grow in our capacity to hold the glory if we haven’t been emptied in despair? Living into a word for the year means experiencing both the word and its opposite, and learning how to hold the tensions between the extremes in a centered and grounded way. So, don’t be discouraged if you have a word and for the first 9 (or 11.99) months you are assaulted by its opposite. That’s part of the growth. That’s why even just one word can be transformative. That’s why we often don’t want to settle on just one word – because it really is that hard.

But we don’t have to do it alone.

I send this out as a reminder: 1) I am here for you, and 2) I’m here in all my imperfection.

1. I am here for you.

This practice was created on a deep desire to offer health and wholeness founded on love. But love always invites, it doesn’t force. Love is always partnership, it’s not authoritative. Many people participate in this practice because of the recognition that I’m willing to have conversation and I’m willing to listen. You see yourself as a knowledgeable, experienced individual who knows what you need and wants personalized care that respects your opinions and self-understanding.

You want to get to the root cause, and I’m willing to go deep with you. And the depth doesn’t end at the biochemical imbalances – it doesn’t end at the right diet and exercise plan, and mix of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical offerings, and specialized testing.

It goes to the deep darkness of emotional and spiritual wounds that cut deep and still fester- wounds that the world acknowledges as traumatic, as well as the small cuts that have collected over a lifetime like paper cuts all over you.

And my tendency is always to go deep. Not that I’m a psychologist or psychiatrist or a counselor. But I know full well how suppressed hurt, avoidant tendencies, and disconnection of mind-body-spirit lead to unforgiveness, anger, and protective walls that lead to destructive choices, distant relationships, and a survival mode of living.

And I also know the freedom that’s possible when even one seemingly small wound is allowed to heal completely.

2. I’m here in all my imperfection.

Just like you, I’m navigating my understanding of what’s happening in this world and trying to find a balance between how to offer medical care in a world where physical touch is scary, and when the implications of spending longer than 15 minutes with a person in a small room could have potentially significant repercussions on myself, my staff, and my family.

Part of why I am writing to you more, with all these words, is the hope that when I write from this heart-felt space in me, that it offers you comfort and consolation. Even if you don’t always see me in person, you know I am here.

And integral to our relationship is my hope and belief that in keeping this practice small and allowing for multiple modes of communication, that you feel free to ask for what you need.

And that you will continue to ask for what you need until you receive it.

Just like you, when I’m “in the flow” and healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually, my capacity to be fully present and engage with you (and sometimes even anticipate your needs) is abundant.

And, as an Enneagram 9, when I’m stressed, I disconnect and am more emotionally distant. (That’s part of my healing work).

So if you reach out initially with modes like texting or Spruce messaging or emailing and you’re not getting your questions fully answered – simply have Randi set us up for a time to talk with a phone call or by Zoom. Or if you truly feel that you need an in-person appointment for an acute medical issue, then ask for it.

And if you notice that it’s time for a refill and you wonder if it’s time to have labs and a med check or an annual physical, ask.

So yes, I’m here to be a conventional physician, and an integrative provider, and finally a witness to your journey- all of it.

If you need me, I am here. I’m here in all my imperfection.

Ask for what you need. I will always do my best for you.

Peace, health, and wholeness,

Arlene

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REFLECTION: NOURISHMENT

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“The pulmonary system is primarily involved in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are vital to the production of the energy needed for metabolism at the cellular level. This process [is] known as respiration…” 

– Medical Conditions in the Athlete, 3rd edition, Flanagan and Cuppett

We often think of nourishment in relationship to food, yet the definition of nourishment is “the food OR OTHER SUBSTANCES necessary for growth, health, and good conditions.” 

At the most basic, we need oxygen for nourishment. So this begs the question – how fully do you breathe? Do you inhale fully to receive oxygen (which nourishes us), and exhale fully to release carbon dioxide (which contributes to free radical formation and oxidative stress)?

“Humans are “belly breathers,” and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air. “It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in air flowing into your lungs.” – American Lung Association

Respiration is  “vital to the production of the energy needed for metabolism” at the very building blocks of our bodies, our cells. The most common type of cell injury in clinical medicine is ischemic (through reduced blood flow, as in a stroke or heart attack) and hypoxic (reduced oxygen availability) (Robbins and Cotran, Pathologic Basis of Disease, 7th Ed).  Can you make oxygen fully available to your body if you are not taking full, deep breaths? 

When we injure our cells, we adversely affect processes like the Krebs cycle (the key to cellular respiration) which transforms fuel into energy. This one cycle includes 10 chemical reactions requiring multiple substrates, nutrients and cofactors (including stress-dependent B vitamins).

In a world where we are wound tight (tight shoulders and aching backs are dismissed as “normal” aches and pains), and we hold our breaths scurrying from one task to another trying to figuratively keep from drowning in the endless “to-do” and also hold our collective breath awaiting the next seemingly inevitable disaster, is it possible to take a full, deep breath in and out?

Over a lifetime, as our minds are increasingly  disconnected from our bodies through years of education, professional expectations, and relational overgiving, are you even aware of your breath?

So over the years, as increasing responsibilities weigh heavier upon us, as we tense and hold without releasing, as we breathe ever-more-and more-shallowly, we create an environment where oxygen becomes less available. A physical environment of chronic hypoxia. A physical state of chronic cell injury.  And over time, we suppress our ability to breathe fully and nourish ourselves at the most basic level. Is it any wonder we’re always tired?

So breathing, and specifically belly breathing, is fundamental to our physical nourishment.

 And attention to the belly also brings us to the body (belly)-centered intelligence trio of the Enneagram, types 8, 9, 1 (which I dub the types of passion (8), passivity (9) and perfection (1)).

Over the next few months of Embrace Grace, we will focus on breathing and these 3 enneagram types. 

Three months of attention to breathing, you may ask? 

Yes! No matter how good our “diet and exercise,” if we’re not breathing fully, we cannot be fully nourished, and we cannot fully live. 

(Sidenote: I was watching an anime series with my son, called “DemonSlayer”. After intense training, the final thing the hero had to learn in order to access his fullest capacity as a warrior was: Total Concentration Breathing. He had to learn to breathe fully all day, every day, while he slept and while he was awake, in order to increase his stamina, his energy, his reflexes, his mental focus, his strength, his power. The ultimate key to his success was his breath.) 

So, Yes! After how many decades of not fully breathing, imagine how 3 months of fully breathing will nourish you. 

When I “prescribe” medicine of any sort (supplements or prescription), I start with a 3 month trial to determine its full effects. The most fundamental medicine we take for granted: oxygen.

So, for the next 3 months, let’s sit with our bodies and learn to breathe again for physical transformation, and let’s pay attention to the body-intelligence centers of the Enneagram for spiritual transformation.

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Rest

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I had heard of Centering Prayer, but was strongly encouraged (gently forced?) to regularly engage in the practice when I started the Living School last year. I had some misgivings, because while I have a dedicated morning practice (1 hour when I’m tired, 2 hours ideally, and up to 5 hours on some truly incredible mornings) filled with journaling, sacred reading, meditation, petitionary prayer and inspired creation; the one thing that is NOT included is REST.

“I’m not made for rest, I’m made for Fierce High Service,” I muttered to God. “I’m a physician and I have to take care of patients! I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an entrepreneur, a creator, I have things to do!”

And I love how God is so good and the Spirit replied, “OK, do it your way.” (Oh, free will!)

So I continued to get up and work during my morning practice, and work at work, and work at home until I fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

And then the COVID and George Floyd and elections came, and uncertainty piled upon the work, with no clear end. 

And I continued to work during my morning practice but with increasing uncertainty, and work at work with increasing uncertainty, and work at home with increasing uncertainty until I fell into an exhausted, increasingly restless sleep. 

And since my word for 2020 is Transform, I knew that the falling apart had to come before the re-creation, so I tried to make the falling apart pieces of uncertain work and restless sleep fit into a comprehensible new creation. But the pieces wouldn’t fit quite right, because the falling apart never stopped long enough.

And I muttered to God, “Can’t you stop the falling apart now so I can create something new?”

And God is so good, and the Spirit whispered, “Will you rest in Me, so I can love you? Will you surrender 20 minutes when you wake and before you sleep to Me, and receive the gift of not having to do anything, be anything, prove anything, control anything? In the midst of all the falling apart outside, will you let your heart rest in Mine, allow Me to hold you in My Love? And in the safety of My Love, will you bear witness to the something new that I’m creating from all the falling apart pieces of all the lives in all the world?”

It took until these last 2 weeks of December, but I’m more consistently getting that first 20 minutes of Rest in.  I’m still wrestling with the idea, though. Rest, then work, then rest before I go to sleep? It’s such an unfamiliar rhythm. When work, then work, then work before I collapse has been what I’ve always known.

But God is so good, because something is starting to happen in even the small shift in rhythm to rest, then work, then work before sleep. There’s this idea that’s emerging regarding my 2021 Word of the Year, Heal. And the idea is to allow Healing through Rest … Resting and being held in Grace, Resting and hearing the invitation to participate in the *Divine Dance of the Trinity, Resting and bearing witness to the continuous self-emptying of a limitless, loving God into a multitude of expressions in the created world. 

Resting and recognizing that I’m not in control, I’ll never be in control, and I don’t have to be. Control is about manipulation and power plays. Control rejects Grace.

In a Grace-filled world, it’s about surrender and love play. That’s the Gospel, the Good News!! The invitation we are all given! Believe it! Receive it! Embrace it!

In a Grace-filled world,  I’m called Beloved, I’m invited to Be Loved, and I’m called to Be Love. 

It’s that simple. And still, it’s the journey of a lifetime.

Peace, health, & wholeness – Arlene

* read Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr; or The Shack by William Paul Young

Trust

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“Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love; because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.” – Wisdom 3:9

What does it mean to trust God? What does it look like when we surrender?

The invitation is to pray always… to turn every thing over to God.

The wisdom of God is often the foolishness of humans. In a twist, what we view as selfish (self-care) become selfless (God-care).

It’s ok to sit and feel ALL our feels (spiritual and emotional self-care that doesn’t suppress), and then intentionally release these burdens through contemplative and petitionary prayer.

It’s ok to physically release our pent-up frustrations (cardiovascular activity and stretching exercises, fueled by nutritious foods and time set apart for sleep), so that the Holy Spirit can work through us as instruments of peace.

The surrender never ends – it only goes deeper and wider and higher. Surrender expands our capacity to Love, and Love has no limits. Surrender asks us to pray always.

Before, in the midst of the joy and the sorrow, prayer was a frantic mental mantra with attempts to self-console – Is God present?… Is God present?… Is God present? ….

Now, with expansion and recognition of great joy and deep sorrow held as one, prayer is a spaciousness held between the raw emotions and an unwavering, steadfast knowing – God… is… present.