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Lord's Prayer wisdom youth group

Just Do It

Blurred picture of a white egret in flight over Conwy Beach as the tide recedes on  spring day. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Egret flying over Conwy Beach Saturday 18th March 2023 Photographed by myself

Last Sunday I was leading the discussion for our Church youth group. We are working our way through The Lord’s Prayer. [If you go back through some of my posts you will see I am a bit “into” the Lord’s Prayer] This week’s couplet was “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

As always the young people are much less religious than adults and have reach a point of trust with me and my co-worker so they aren’t saying what they think we want them to say. There were some great things that came out of them about the closeness of God’s kingdom and the ease of doing God’s will.

I will paraphrase one girl but it was the bit that stayed with me. She said something along the lines of “God’s will being about trust and if we trust God then we can just do it, just go out and believe that God will make what we do God’s will.” Basically trust that what we feel in our hearts is God’s will. Too often we get into weighing up and judging and then disbelieving, sitting back, not doing.

Of course there are things we should not do, things we should run by those we love and trust – and that means we do need people in our lives that we can be open with and trust with our dreams, our desires, our hopes. So I suppose firstly we need to build up those people around us.

But at the same time as doing that we need to build up the trust in our own hearts. I am getting more and more to a point where I trust my heart and am aware when I’m not “feeling it”.

With these words of this wise thirteen year old girl in my head and a feeling in my heart that I had a space that needed filling in my day I went on Indeed to job hunt. I wasn’t overly serious because I had set myself quite firm criteria – children/young people and afternoons. Well up popped an job in an after-schools club in my town. I scrolled on past but couldn’t get it out of my head so in the end applied. I’ve got the job. I start next week. But when I was at the trial afternoon I felt my heart settle for being there, felt that it was a safe place that I was going to for the right reasons.

Then yesterday I was telling the vicar I co-run the youth group about the job and about how much this girl’s words had impacted me and I realised that this job was totally of God. It stops me from taking on too many things because I will be tied to work every afternoon but also if I want to write I won’t be able to do much during the day. I do have a couple of commitments but that is ok too.

So I did trust my heart, trust that my heart was hearing God/the Universe’s will for my life and I “just did it” and then it appears that I was given a reassurance that I had done right.

So yes it will be tough fitting everything I want to do in to my morning, and will be odd being committed every afternoon and only have weekends and holidays to roam randomly. But that doesn’t mean it is wrong to do. In fact it all feels very right.

Sometimes we do just have to trust and do it

Photo by Lucas Allmann on Pexels.com
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Champions peace

Champions

I was doing a writing exercise with HerStories, a US group of mid-life women writers, about our Champions. It was an interesting follow on to one that came from one of the workshops about thinking about who you imagine you are writing for. Some of those you imagine are champions but some are negative detractors. We all have voices that we hear from those who often love and care for us but who tell us writing isn’t a “proper job”, is a “nice little hobby”, and even with life about how that “oh that’s nice dear” can sound so condescending.

This lovely friend was one of my champions and of course is sorely missed. I have a couple of other friends who have died who used to root for me. But it is easy to miss things too. I was talking with my husband saying I had applied for a part time job and his first response was “make sure you still have time for your writing”. Sometimes with a comment like that one can see it as a negative; you won’t have time, you are doing too much, etc, etc, etc. But that is that bundle of negative voices hassling around in your head that can miss it so easily. So sometimes we have to listen properly to our champions.

Champions come from all sides but we can miss them so easily. Those that have hurt us at times with a comment but who have changed their ways and really do want to support. But what we remember are those voices of the past and so we are wary of what they might “really mean.”

I think to have good champions in our lives we need to take what is said at face value rather than weigh it with what has been said before.

With my church youth group last night we were looking at what God’s Kingdom was like. And I would say the bottom line from all of them was that it is inside of us and is that place of safety and calm. Yes I know from the QEC work I have been doing and reading about traumas that this is not always easy. But the exciting thing I have realised is that it is deep inside each one of us and we need to unwrap it from the hurt that has been done it to.

So as we slowly unwrap our hardened hearts we can see that we have that place of safety, calm and peace to be our own champions and to hear those encouraging things that people want to say to us. It takes time and it takes wanting to but it will come if we do that work.

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Listen to my heart not as they seem

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

I have been reading this book about Betsy Cadwaladyr, an amazing Welsh lady, who worked as a nurse in the Crimea but was never as famous as Florence Nightingale. What has struck me through reading this is how Betsy is pigeon holed as a “Balaclava Nurse” and yet she did so much more. She left home before she was 10 and hired herself out as a maid. She leaves North Wales in her teens and works as a maid, cook, lady’s maid, and more, in London. She is still under 20 when she is hired as a lady’s maid and general dogsbody on a merchant ship. She sails to Australia. New Zealand, Singapore, India, South America and more. She doesn’t just stay on board ship but takes up any opportunity to travel inland in these various countries. She is bold enough to tell her different employers what she thinks and will take no nonsense from anyone. She gets various offers of marriage but turns them down because she wants to travel. She doesn’t accept anything that distracts from her vision of traveling. She isn’t afraid of anything.

There is so much more to Betsy Cadwaladyr than being a Balaclava nurse. I am nearly 3/4 if the way through the book and Betsy is back working in London after losing lots of money and being called a liar by her merchant boss. She doesn’t put up with nonsense there even if that means she has to stop traveling. She has not yet got into nursing or gone to Crimea.

It got me wondering how many people we judge on what we see them as at a certain moment in time. For instance I love the people who attend my writing groups because meet these people who live in my town, who are often over 60, often seem set in their ways, then as they get to know each other, as they write, as they share, the tales appear of their past lives, of the amazing things they have done before getting to my dining table to write. It would be so easy to judge them as they are but that is not who they fully are.

It can be too easy to box someone, to stay they are – as in Betsy’s case – a Balaclava nurse but to miss the strength of character that got her to that point. So let us all please be careful in judging what we see at the moment – whether it is people we think we know well, people we meet in passing, people we hear about from others, and remember that everyone has a past that has got them to their present. We need to be open to hear more than what their biggest achievement is. Though I am tempted to wonder if going to nurse in the Crimea was really Betsy’s biggest achievement. Maybe it was walking out of a good employment because they were rude to her, turning down offers of marriage because she wanted more than, maybe it was saying Yes and saying No to things and following her heart. Yes that is the thing I notice most in Betsy’s story; she followed her heart each time.

So let us not judge,. Let us really listen to others when we talk with them. Let us really see what they have done. Let us also do that with ourselves. I might be here and now but I have a huge past behind me that has led me to here too.

But most importantly also let each of us be brave enough to follow our hearts and not do what we think we ought to do.

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Not Easy simple

Simple Christianity

Renly on a beach walk. Photographed by myself on a lovely January day in 2023

Always if I want to write about something simple I will put a photograph of my dog in. This is because, as you’ve seen from other posts, he has a simple view of life. His biggest decision he had to make this morning was whether he ran across the park to get a treat from someone he knew or not. In the end he decided it was a bit too far for just a small treat. But he appeared content with his decision.

Anyway I’ve not been to church for a long, long time. I try church on and off and then find that it all gets too much for me. I can’t do it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t hang out with God, don’t ponder the whole faith things – again as you will have noticed in these posts. But it is the complexity of the whole church thing I find hard work. [Interestingly I was reading a post on Facebook this morning that asked if maybe we knew too much and that from reading ALL the letters in the Bible we knew things that were never meant for us. An interesting thought. Perhaps we should only ever read the gospels and talk to God??]

So yesterday I was pondering, praying and planning for the series I want to start with the youth group I co-lead looking at The Lord’s Prayer so that the young people see The Lord’s Prayer as a template and not something you rattle through as fast as possible. [If you look back through my posts or search “Lords Prayer” you’ll see I’ve looked at a lot of this before] What struck me was the simplicity of it all.

Basic tenant – you have to believe in something not just bigger but beyond your understanding who created the WHOLE universe and also not only cares for you but loves you unconditionally just as you are. You are loved unconditionally by the Creator of the Universe. This Awesome Creator gives you everything you need each and every day for whatever situation you are. Not what you think you need or think you ought to have but the simplicity of what you need. But also you have to believe that what you get is what something/someone greater than you knows to be right.

I think that’s why Jesus said we were to say “Abba Father” because a good parent knows their children’s needs, especially when that child is under 10. Remember too that in Jesus’s culture children were moving into adulthood from their early teens and being expected to make their own way in their world, not as we treat children!

So this Amazing Creator thinks we are awesome just as we are and loves us just as we are. But we will make mistakes. The Creator knows that and doesn’t love us any less for it. Though we can love/like ourselves less when we make mistakes and not believe we are loved unconditionally just as we are. This, I believe, is why we have to forgive regularly. I have to forgive myself for each time I mess up, each time I lose it, each time I am fearful, each time I just don’t live up to who I truly am, etc, etc. And for me if I know that My Creator loves me unconditionally even when I screw up it is so much easier to forgive myself.

But then comes the hard bit – or at least I find this bit harder – I then have to forgive others. I am working on this and it is an ongoing process. But I also think it is why Jesus told Peter to forgive 70×7 or whatever the sum was. Because it is an ongoing thing not just for different offenses but often for the same offense. But if I believe am loved unconditionally then so is the person that hurt me. If I can be forgiven then so can the person who hurt me.

Just the other day I got hurt really badly. It hit on an old wound and reopened it. I wanted to lick it for a while. Instead I took this hurt to God and was reminded that I was going to be doing this whole Lord’s Prayer thing with these young people and I realised I need to forgive. It wasn’t easy because the person couldn’t see what they had done wrong. They felt justified in what they had said and done. But that didn’t matter. I still have to forgive. I had to let go.

I noticed I hadn’t forgiven when I was writing an email to someone and started to put my moans into it. Thank goodness I didn’t press send because I was able to delete it all and write something more uplifting.

No where though in this forgiveness process have I felt some heavy hand telling me I “Must“. It has been a gentle thing inside of me. I often wonder if because we are made in God’s image then there is a part of God inside of each and every one of us. And I do wonder if prayer is as much tapping into that as it is speaking to something outside of ourselves.

So Simple Christianity – I am loved unconditionally just the way I am, I can ask and receive what I need each and every day, I can be forgiven each and every moment of every day once I realise I’ve screwed up, BUT I need to let that flow outwards to others,, which means I have to love them unconditionally and be willing to forgive them every moment they do something that hurts me.

SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY

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angels gender

Does The Gender of Angels Matter?

Take at sunrise on the Hill of Tara St Patrick’s day 2016. A sun angel

My lovely young youth group and I were looking at Angels in the Bible the other Sunday evening and wondering about what gender they were or if they were any gender at all.

The story of when the angels visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, which is often used as one of the key stories to condemn homosexuality doesn’t make sense when looked at regarding gender. So the angels turn up, the men of the town want to have sex with them, Lot is says No but then offers his daughters. Now surely if these men of the town were homosexual being offered women wouldn’t quite hit the mark for them. So I wondered if this story was being used out of context, like too often happens???

The vicar who supports me with this youth group said that he thought that the original languages didn’t have genders and that these came in with Latin translations. But he couldn’t remember for sure.

The two things that struck me were that

One we are now obsessed with gender with there being numerous different gender types that people can identify with. Is this a throw back to things like this? Things like when it was important for spiritual beings like Angels and God to be defined by a gender, by a certain sex?

Two that biblical angels were powerful, strong, mighty warriors, faithful messengers, obedient. All traits that are often associated with men. Not so long back women were seen as weak, easily manipulated, unfaithful, disobedient, needing protection.

So I do wonder if those in the Church who wanted power made sure that all the traits to aspire to were “male”, so both Angels and God had to be male. Also I do wonder if our obsession with the myriad of different genders is because we are searching to get back to that place where people were people and gender didn’t matter, but because there is such a strong emphasis on the male/female divide that for now there has to be these other things to identify with.

Imagine if we didn’t care about gender, if we just let people be as they are – strong/weak, faithful/unfaithful, able to protect/needing protection, etc etc. What would it be like if no one worried if you were male, female, trans, queer, asexual, and more? I wonder if we could all live much more at peace with ourselves then too.

So reread some of those stories and try not to see the Angels as male and see how you get on

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death Worst

The Worst Illness

Tessa at Weymouth beach, October 2022, photographed by me

I haven’t posted for 10 days because I have been down South visiting this friend here who is in her last days now of cancer. She is more than ready to go and is just waiting. I’ve also been staying with my Mum and her husband. Mum is 83 and her husband is 88 and has Parkinsons and is moving into early dementia. Mum is his chief carer.

I’ve had a few dear messages from people regarding my friend, most of which saying a version of “cancer is the worst”. Then I talk with my mum who is deal with deterioration of her husband and has seen other friends lose husbands to dementia and she is saying a version of “dementia is the worst”.

I think if we worked on it we could all come up with a way of seeing a friend or family member die as being “the worst”. Those poor people who got shot at that Chinese new year party in LA might be thinking that’s the worst.

But from watching my friend who is dying well I would say the worst way to die is to not be prepared and to fighting it all the way. My friend is at such peace, as is her husband and her son, and so that radiates on to the rest of us. She is calmly saying goodbye, tidying up her possessions, doing what she can and sleeping a lot. She isn’t of any faith at all but she has made her peace with the world and is ready to go.

Of course I am going to be sad when she goes but she has set me a good example, in her life as in her death. I don’t know when my time will come, though I am planning to make it as near to 100 as I can get. But when my time comes, whether it is slowly like cancer, quickly like a bullet, or many of the ways in-between, I want to meet it with peace, with knowing that all will be well, knowing that my estate is in order, that I hold no grudges, that I am at peace.

So I would say the worst death is the death you aren’t ready for whatever that is, which is also why I think we should keep short accounts, try not to hold on to anger and resentment, try not to spend our time going over our past and wonder what we could have done differently,trying not to put too much hope in the future, and just be our kind, open and naturally authentic selves.

And for myself to keep as close to the God of Creation as well as I can.

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time trust

Time Poor?

This photograph of my dog has no relevance to this post – apart from him never being time poor or time rich – but it for one of my readers who told me how much she loves my posts but especially the ones with photos of Renly, who she knows personally!

I was a meeting the other night and there were people there who kept saying they were “time poor“. I had heard the expression before but not really engaged with it. I think what they meant was they were doing lots of things and so were busy.

I response in my head in the meeting was to think that maybe they should be thinking about what they are meant to be doing and asking their hearts if this was what they should be doing. And then my next thing was to want to boast and say that “now I’m healed/healing I am time rich“. But then I realised that both those responses are wrong. I am comparing and being proud. Neither of which is being respectful to the people I was with who are working really hard for my little town.

As I pondered it and did some journaling around my thoughts I realised I often panic that I don’t have time to do things and that this is what is stopping me getting some work that I should have because I’d be great at it. But I am also worried that I won’t have that allusive “enough” time to do all I think I ought to be doing. So in reality I was no better. I still think I could be “time poor“.

So more listening to my heart, listening to God who Created the Whole Universe, listening to the Universe. Then I realised that if I listen to my heart then I do have enough to do each day the things I am meant to do each day – whether that is keep house, run workshops, visit an ill friend down south to relieve her husband, see my mother, have coffee with my friends, be in school to do the things I am great at doing there. I will do what I am meant to do with the energy and time I need to all that.

So not “enough” as in the worrying that there isn’t enough but trusting that each and every day what I choose to do from listening to my heart will be what I am meant to do, and that I will not do too much or too little, will not be too busy, too time poor, but will glide through calmly knowing that I am being what I’m meant to be with enough time, energy, resources, experience, etc that I need. And then like my little dog I can enjoy the moment, seize the day, and live life to the full of who I am and what I love to do.

An aside – too often we see “living life to the full” as being super busy, but I am finding that the more I listen to my heart, to God, to the Universe, the more I am filled with deep joy, deep contentment, deep peace and a freedom to trust, the more I know that I am living life to a fullness that I never had when I was busy.

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respect unconditional love

What Does It Look Like To You?

Newborough Beach Boxing Day 2022 taken by myself

Who has not looked at clouds and seen shapes, dragons, spaceships, incoming rain, promises of sunshine? The worst thing is when someone says “no that’s not right”. It is your imagination seeing the things. You know they are just clouds but are enjoying what you are picture.

I was thinking about both Respect and Unconditional Love and thinking they can look different to each one of us. I don’t think there is a one size fits all of respect or unconditional love.

I was walking with someone this morning who is struggling with something and I felt I had got the handle on it, but just as I was going to say my bit she said how hurt she’d been about people telling her why they thought she was dealing with this. I closed my mouth and listened to her. I did not say these friends of hers were wrong. I did not say they were right. I did listen and say that her feelings were her feelings. I gave her the respect she needed at that moment in time. Perhaps I could say I did not feel respected because I didn’t have my rant but actually that would not have been kind and helpful to her.

Perhaps Respect and Unconditional Love come when we lay aside our needs and wants and listen to the other person. Perhaps if we believed we were loved unconditionally by God, by the Universe, by something more than us, then we could let go of our needs and allow others to feel respect, to feel really loved.

How will this work with those who are striking? Who are asking for more money but who say they feel their jobs are not being respected, are not the caring jobs they signed up for? Money is not the answer if they are still expected to work in the conditions they are working in. Those in government, those in management, those with power, need to bend a bit, show these people they are important to the workings of this land.

I wonder if those in power, in government, in management, also do not feel respects, do not feel unconditionally love. How often does the media run down the government? With the latest words for the Prime Minister all that followed was complaints and criticisms. How would we all have felt if we put forward an idea and got it slated? But then those lower down do not feel respected.

So how do we change? One of the things that strikes me with the Lord’s Prayer – which I don’t think was meant to be read parrot fashion but was a serious of ideas we should be looking at – in “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” that this means us. You and me. For that to happen we need to be giving respect, giving unconditional love, listening and respecting the person we are with at the time, caring for our planet, our world. Caring firstly for those nearest to us.

If each of us showed respect to the person we met and then they showed respect to the next person they met and so and so forth, but the end of the day so many people would feel better about themselves, and I think towards each other. I don’t think it is about “making people Christians” but is about showing unconditional love, showing respect.

You know Jesus never told anyone to convert. He did tell them to change their lifestyles but he also showed them respect, unconditional love, and told them that the Kingdom of God, that true place of peace and deep joy, was nearer than they thought, was actually deep inside of them, but sometimes they just needed to let it out. And letting it out comes, I think, knowing our self-worth comes from within not without, that we are loved by something so much bigger than ourselves and that we have nothing to lose by being nice to others.

So today I will try to believe I am loved and respect and pass that on to others. That I really do not have anything to lose by being kind.

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NHS respect

Respect

This view from my window this morning does not show the magnitude of the rain or the ferocity of the wind

This is a bit of a ramble from my thoughts this morning. I might do something more coherent in a few days! Maybe!

I was journaling around this word “Respect” and about the strikes and a WhatsApp conversation I had had with my son last night around him leaving the army this morning as I listed to the rain throwing itself at the window and the dustbin men emptying this bins at 7am.

He is leaving the army, along with many others, because he does not feel respected. When one really listens to the NHS staff on the picket lines, as in really listen, the main issue is the lack of respect. When we used to do Airbnb, because we lived within five miles of our local hospital, we had lots of junior and trainee doctors and nurses along with other hospital staff staying, and all were struggling with the lack of respect they were receiving – from their management and from the expectations of the public. One instance was when there was a call for doctor’s to be working all over the weekends, and one young woman told us that for that to work the doctor’s canteen would need to be open, the laboratories would need to be open, and there would need to be more doctors to cover all this.

A friend who worked on the railways was saying that most rail-workers contracts include having to do overtime and that most contracts are Monday to Friday and very few for the weekend and yet people want to catch trains on the weekend.

It made me think of the line from The Jam song “Going Underground” – “the public gets what the public wants” and I do wonder if this is what is going on. The government are so desperate for votes that when those they see as important voters ask for something they get it whether it is supporting the people who work in that area or not. But it is all done without respect for the workers – or even for how much it costs.

It is this respect that is the big thing though. I remember my Mum saying that they would always give the tradesmen – dustmen, postmen, milkman, paper boy – a tip at Christmas. Ok so I do remember her saying that with the dustmen it was more for fear that they would not pick up their bins in the new year but it was still done. It was till saying “thank you for being out there in all winds and weathers to do a rubbish job. I appreciate it”.

I know there was the clapping for the NHS during lockdown but then all was expected to go back to “normal” after a few weeks. And actually normal, as I had heard when doing the Airbnb prior to lockdown, was overworked staff, was ambulances outside hospitals for hours, was someone who phone for an ambulance for her father having a heart attack being told to get the town’s defibrillator and then drive her dad to hospital because the ambulance would not be there for over six hours. The news about all this is not news. It has been going on for years and years.

But I believe it is from years and years of lack of respect. I don’t think it is money really that is wanted. Though a decent wage for a hard job would be a start, but I think it is the need for those in power, and for us the general public, to show respect to those doing these jobs and stop expecting more than they are able to give.

I’d just like to end with this that I saw on Facebook this morning which I think sums things up

Thanks to Gaz for sharing
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end of 2022 Reflections

Reflections

First published on GodspaceLight.com on December 28th 2022

Scotland, May 2022 photographed by myself on an early morning dog walk

This is the time of year when we are encouraged by almost everything that passes through our inboxes and magazine reading to “reflect on the past year”. Even in churches we’ll be encouraged to think about that. But when the disciples ask Jesus what is the most effective prayer, he gives what has now become known as The Lord’s Prayer. One of the lines in it tells us to ask for our Daily Bread; not yearly, monthly, whatever, but daily. In other places Jesus is recorded as telling us not to worry about tomorrow, but to cast each day’s cares onto God. He also tells a story about a man who builds a barn to store his grain in which sounds like a really good idea, but then the man is dead the following day; it was a waste of time for him to reflect on his great harvest and plan too far in advance. 

There is a practise I have been into which I think is Benedictine, and it is to reflect on my day as I get into bed. As I ponder and reflect on my day I can ask for forgiveness, can forgive others, can see what I need to sort for tomorrow [though I always recheck the tomorrow things the next day to check I’ve got that correct]. It also means if I have done something that I feel I need to put right I can do it the following morning. 

There is a multi-million dollar/pound/euro industry of self-help books that talk about living in the moment, living in mindfulness. But you can’t be “mindful” if you’re reflecting on something that happened a few months ago. Surely that is contradicting their own teaching. And as Christians if Jesus is saying ask for what we need daily, then do these practices not contradicting our theology?

Also, when it comes to remembering, even during that same day we put our own filters across our experiences: negative, self-blaming, accusing, condemning, positive, etc. But the further we are removed from an event the more we blur it, the more we put our own emotional memories into it. So if we do the reflecting the same day and get the rubbish cleared out, then each morning really does start as a new day – really does start with us being able to truly live out our daily bread

The other thing we are encouraged to do this time of year is set goals. Hands up – who then feels disappointed in themselves by February, or sooner, that they haven’t stuck with their very well intentioned goals? Goals are again like the man who builds the barn; full of great intentions but we don’t know what’s round the corner. We don’t know what the world will throw at us. Loads of things I am doing as this year ends I couldn’t have envisioned, and other things I thought might happen didn’t. So no goal setting for me because like I say for one it isn’t leaning on God, isn’t living in the moment, and also leads to disappointment. 

Instead, I do have some things I would like to come to fruition in the coming months so I am doing some QEC work around them. And there are other things that I need to ponder, check my heart about, talk with God about, and see what becomes of them. 

Though I realise as I come to the end of this post that I do tell a little lie to myself and to you, my reader. I do have a goal. Quite a big goal. It is to continue clearing the junk out of my heart so that I can hear it properly which will mean more QEC, more working with God. This will lead to trusting myself in a deeper way, trusting the Universe in a deep way, and trusting the Creator of the Universe in a deeper way. 

All of which can only come about through daily forgiveness of myself and others and daily asking for those things I need to nourish me throughout each and every day.