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Posts Tagged ‘prayer beads’

As the daily news gets worse and worse, I keep thinking back to the hopefulness of the inauguration, especially to the beautiful prayers of Rev. Gene Robinson, Rev. Rick Warren and Rev. Joseph Lowery. I have also been inspired and comforted by the prayers of Jewish, Hindu and other Christian leaders who wrote inaugural prayers at the request of Religion News Service. A couple of lines from each of these prayers have been sounding within me over the last two weeks, and I finally decided to lay them out as a set of prayers for my prayer beads.

Before I share this with you, let me say that I believe, above everything, that prayer has an enormous power to unite us and should never divide us. In that belief and spirit, I link together the prayers of these leaders, even thought they come from different faiths and certainly have different interpretations of God, His/Her will and what our purpose here is. It is my hope that all of us can find common ground in the spirit of these prayers. Perhaps in joining them all on one strand of prayer beads we can put aside our differences as well all pray for our country. You, of course, are free to pick and choose the prayers you like and discard the ones you don’t.

The first instruction is for the Anglican rosary and the second is for the Catholic rosary. I identify the author of each prayer by their initials: GR (Gene Robinson), RW (Rick Warren), JL (Joseph Lowery), WDJ (Wilfred de Jesus), BH (Brad Hirschfield), SR (Samuel Rodriguez), AGL (Anne Graham Lotz) and RZ (Rajan Zed)

This is what I came up with:

On the Cross, Crucifix or Other Terminal Charm:

Almighty God, our Father,
Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone.
It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory. (RW)

On the Invitatory (Anglican Rosary) / First Our Father Bead (Catholic Rosary):

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land. (JL)

On the Three Hail Mary Beads (Catholic Rosary Only):

1-3 Peace, peace, peace be unto all. (RZ)

On the First Cruciform / Second Our Father Bead:

The Scripture tells us, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made. (RW)

On the First Set of Weeks / Decades Beads:

1 – Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility,

2 – the courage to lead us with integrity,

3 – the compassion to lead us with generosity.

4 – Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

5 – Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans–united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

6 – When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you–forgive us.

7 – When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone–forgive us.

8 – When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve–forgive us.

9 – And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

10 – Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. (RW)

On the Second Cruciform Bead/ or Third Our Father Bead:

Lord God Almighty, you are the author and initiator of change. Humbly, we ask for the strength to put our hands on the arc of history and bend it once more towards the hope of a better day – one of freedom and peace. (WDJ)

On the Second Set of Weeks Beads / or Decades Beads:

1 – And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

2 – Help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

3 – We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

4 – Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors,

5 – when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

6 – For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, [and] mend our brokenness,

7 – heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

8 -Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

9 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

10 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen. (JL)

On the Cruciform Bead / Our Father Bead:

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will… (GR)

On the Third Set of Weeks Beads / or Decades Beads:

1 – Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

2 – Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

3 –Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

4 –Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

5 –Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

6 –Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

7 –Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world. (GR)

8 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

9 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

10 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen. (JL)

On the Fourth Cruciform Bead / Fourth Our Father Bead:

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States. (GR)

On the Fourth Set of Weeks Beads / Fourth Set of Decades Beads:

1 – Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

2 –Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

3 –Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

4 –Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

5 –Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

6 –Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

7 –And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace. (GR)

On the Fifth Set of Decade Beads (Catholic Rosary Only):

1 – Known by many names and called upon in many languages, we stand before You, God, as one nation.

2 – The Psalmist declares that the heavens belong to you, and that you have given the Earth to humanity. Strengthen this president, vice president and each of us to be good stewards of the this planet and our country. (BH)

3 – Thank you for our freedom which has not come easily, and is even now being defended by the courages sacrifice of those willing to lay down their lives. May we never abuse it or take it for granted.

4 – Give our new president a powerful, fresh encounter with yourself, so that on your behalf, he would exercise kindness, justice and righteousness in this nation and in the world. (AGL)

5 – [May] we stand against the voices that attempt tp draw us appart and commit ourselves to focusing on what holds us together: our love of God, family and country.

6 – Let this generation arise as the firewall against the spirit of violence, poverty, death and injustice. (SR)

7 -May we be protected together. May we be nourished together.

8 – May we work together with great vigor. May no obstacle arise between us.

9 – United [in our] resolve, united [in our] hearts, may our spirits be at one that we may long together dwell in unity and concord.

10 – Peace, peace, peace be unto all. (RZ)


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One of the many excuses – I MEAN REASONS – I have for not blogging as much as I would like to is now up and running at Faith and Leadership, a new online magazine published by Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. I contributed an article about the spiritual practices of several Christian leaders and a couple of  sidebars, one detailing these leaders’ spiritual practices, and one on a successful book about Christian spiritual practices.

I really enjoyed working on this piece because prayer beads are, of course, a spiritual practice. But I was mildly surprised to learn that only one of the leaders I interviewed – Phyllis Tickle, who I have written about here before – actually uses prayer beads. (Phyllis greatly helped me with Bead One, Pray Too)I guess maybe I can’t see the forest for the prayer beads  – they loom very large to me.

What I loved about reporting this story was getting ask leaders I really admire – Jim Wallis, Anthony Campolo, Richard Land and Phyllis – about how they regularly and routinely spend time with the Divine every day. I particularly admire those who perform the prayer of examen at night. You have to be really brave to tackle this – not afraid to face all your failings and shorcomings on a daily basis – and then find sleep right afterwards! Yikes.

I also interviewed a couple of university and seminary professors for the piece, and in the process turned up some great resources for people interested in Christian spiritual practices, of which prayer beads are a form. One of the profs is Dorothy Bass, director of the Project on Education and Formation of People in Faith at Valparaiso University. Bass contributed to and edited Practicing Our Faith, a book about Christian spiritual practices that is the subject of one of the sidebars. Be sure and check out the website she maintains about Christian spiritual practices – it has tremendous resources. I also spoke with Elisabeth Koenig, a professor of ascetical theology at General Theological Seminary. She teaches course for seminary students about spiritual practices, including the Anglican rosary. I particularly liked what she had to say in the story about how  it is important for seminarians to spend time in spiritual practices while studying or their entire seminary education can be one cerebral expercise – not good preparation for a life serving the church.

One of my favorite parts of the interview process was asking these leaders why Protestants are returning to spiritual practices. I for one am not unhappy about the repudiation of some forms of Calvinism. John Calvin does not seem like I a guy I would want to sit next to in a church pew, you know? I think it’s a good thing to bounce back a bit from that extreme.

Take a look at the stories and the entire issue of Faith and Leadership and let me know what you think.

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bead-boutique-rosary-1I hope you have noticed that one of the lists I keep on the right side of this blog is of local bead stores in the U.S. that offer classes in rosary and/or prayer bead making. I was updating the list about a week ago – sadly, two or three stores had not only stopped offering the class, they had completely closed their doors! – and I sent out a query to all the remaining stores asking them to send me pictures of their rosary/prayer bead samples. I also said I would welcome any pictures of rosaries/prayer beads made by students in the classes.

So far, the great women of Bead Boutique in North Canton, Ohio are the only ones who have gotten back to me with pictures. Hey, what is it about Northeast Ohio and prayer beads? Some of you may remember a post I wrote about the fantastic women of Bonita Bead Boutique in Maumee, Ohio who hosted a trunk show of the prayer beads pictured in my book in their store last April. LOTS of prayer beading going on up there! Anyway, Bead Boutique’s Kathy, Jen and Megan sent two pictures of the samples they use to promote the class and promised to send some of their students’ work after the next class. So today – Christmas Eve – enjoy these pictures! I hope they inspire you to make some prayer beads today. I am particularly fond of the aurora borealis strand! bead-boutique-rosary-2

Tonight, I head off to church for the “midnight” service, a time I always look forward to. As usual, my prayer beads will go with me.

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winter-solstice-stonehengeToday is the winter solstice – the shortest day (and longest night) of the year. I have been thinking a lot about light and dark in the last couple of months. I think the doom and gloom of the general news – the continuing wars, the sinking economy, the bombings in Mumbai, the layoffs of many friends, etc. – has made me focus too much on the bleak side of life and I want to make a choice towards the light. And I don’t have to look far for inspiration at this time of year when so many religions focus on the light. Jews commemorate Hannukah, the Festival of Lights, at this time, lighting one candle on the menorah every night for eight nights. Pagans, too, have long celebrated the birth of sun at the midwinter solstice, in a festival they call Yule. And Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, their light of the world, at this time, too.yule-log

So on this darkest day of the year, I want to share with you some prayers from several faith traditions that focus on rebirth, light, life and the renewal we all seek and hope for at this time of year. I hope there is something here for every form of prayer bead – the traditional Catholic rosary, the new Anglican rosary, the various pagan prayer beads and the malas of the Eastern traditions.

[Try this one on the Anglican rosary – say the first line on the Cruciform beads and the rest on the Weeks beads]

God of all creation,

of bare forest and low northern skies,

of paths unknown and never to be taken,

of bramble, sparrow and damp, dark earth.

We thank you for loss, for the breaking of the dimming year,

We thank you for light, even in its seeming midwinter failing,

We thank you for life, for its hope and resistance,

Like a seed dying and living.

Rachel Mann


A Midwinter Prayer [This would be great for a Catholic rosary – say the first two lines on the Our Father beads and the rest on the decades beads]

From the rising of the midwinter sun to its setting,

Scatter the darkness with the light of your love, O Shining One.

Make me short on mean thoughts, long on offers words of comfort.

Make me short on being driven, long on paying attention.

Make me short on focusing only on my own, long on looking beyond.

Make me short on obsessive lists, long on spontaneous acts of kindness,

Make me short on mindless activity, long on time to reflect.

Make me short on tradition as a habit, long on rediscovery and re-owning.

Make me short on rushing a tiring, long on walking and wondering.

Make me short on false, festive jollity, long on stilling and rooted joy.

Make me short on guilt, long on being merciful to myself.

Make me short on being overwhelmed, long on peaceableness as I set forth this day.

-from The Celtic Wheel of the Year by Tess Ward

Winter Solstice Prayer [This one works on the decade of a Catholic rosary, or perhaps on a set of pagan prayer beads, or a mala]
Dear God, help me embrace the darkness of this day, knowing that from the very deepest dark comes the brightest Light.
Help me to feel my own darkness, where fear resides inside, within my wounded child who is scared of being on Earth.
With your love, I may use the darkness of nature on this day to hold my wounded child close to my breast, letting her tell me all of her fears.
She will tell me how I scare her; I will ask her to tell me how I abandon her.
I will use this darkness to let her cry; and with her final tear she will begin to sense the Light.
I will use this day to go to the depths of my own dark places because I know you are with me always, and that only by going into the darkness may we see the truth of our Light.
Thank you, God, for giving me life so that I may explore the darkness and the Light.
Thank you for the cycle of creation.
Thank you for my breath, my heart, my body and my mind.
Thank you for the Light of my soul, where, though I sometimes forget, I long to always be.
Winter Solstice Prayer to the Inner Child, by Nancy Swisher
And because Hannukah begins on Sunday, I want to include this prayer said over the lighting of the menorah:
Blessed are You,
Our God, Creator of time and space,
Who enriches our lives with holiness,
Commanding us to kindle the Hannukah lights.
Blessed are You,
Our God, Creator of time and space,
Who performed miracles for our ancestors,
In the days of lng ago. And in this time.
Happy prayers and love to all!
who enriches our lives with holiness,
commanding us to kinkle the Chanukah lights.

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There was a great article in Friday’s New York Times’ Escapes section on people going to Hindu ashrams and Buddhist monasteries to take a break from their bust lives. That in itself is not a new story. What is new – and fascinating – is that vacancy is way down at these places because people who are not Buddhists or Hindus – and in some cases are not even aware that the ashram is dedicated to a spiritual leader – are attracted by the simplicity of the meditation, chanting and work that make up the daily routine. So, take a look at the article – by Shivani Vora – and maybe make a trip to an ashram, monastery or other spiritual retreat near you. You can take your prayer beads – Buddhist or Hindu mala or Christian rosary or any other kind you like – and spend part of your free time there with them. Or take them to one of the chanting sessions and give it a try. I wish I could go!

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Last week, after my post about how blue I was feeling around Thanksgiving, I received the following delightful comment from a reader named Rod who lives in Alabama:

Firstly, may your blues rise unto the sky and provide the landscape for the clouds to live. Secondly, thanks for sharing such a wonderful prayer. Thirdly, Thank you for such an exquisite book. I have no doubt that your treatment of this subject, the making and using of prayer beads, will enhance the spiritual lives of many folks from different denominational and religious backgrounds.

My wife and I are making the commitment to return to the Episcopal Church after a hiatus of ten years. Your discussion of the Anglican Rosary has already enhanced our path. I’m looking forward to using the Anglican Rosary in my daily life.

This will involve making a small change in the beads in my pocket. You see, I’ve carried malas with me for over 20 years as I’ve practiced and lived a bi-religious path: Buddhist-Christian. Not being Catholic, my experience with the Catholic Rosary has been rather superficial. However, having been a practicing Buddhist for over 27 years, and discovering malas 7 years into the journey, I thought that I’d only carry malas with me for the rest of my life.

My wife and I were confirmed in the Episcopal church 26 years ago this month. Yet, “way back then”, I had never heard of an Anglican Rosary so all of my beads were Buddhist. My Buddhist path moved from the study and practice of Zen, to the borders of Tibetan Buddhism in 1989. The first of a number of initiations followed shortly thereafter. It was a little over 10 years ago that I took refuge vows and became a “card carrying Buddhist”.

Living as a Christian and a Buddhist simultaneously has been an interesting experience. In fact, much of my academic training ( I received a B.A. in Philosophy & Religion from Western Kentucky University in 1980) led me to believe that this was an impossibility. However, I was able to walk within both paradigms at the same time…..never far from my malas.

As you may know, within Tibetan Buddhism, various initiations (wongkur) require the repetition of various mantras. Some of the required mantra repetitions are in the hundreds of thousands. For my guru yoga practice I had one mantra to repeat 250,000 times. I had one mala that was only used for this practice. It had two strings of counter beads attached to the 108 bead mala. Using the counters I could keep track of up to 10,000 repetitions. At that point I had to fall back on some small stones, each one representing 10,000 mantra representations. Then I could start my 10,000 count again up to 20,000, and so on and so forth.

I look forward to reading more of your book and delving further into the use of the Anglican Rosary. Blessings – Peace – Happiness,

Rod

Rod’s message chased all the blues away, and I was captivated by what he wrote about his own faith journey – so many different stops! – and how he uses his mala. 250,000 repetitions of a single mantra????? WOW! I wrote him back and asked him a few more questions about his prayer bead use. Here is what he had to say:

Over the years I’ve settled into carrying two types of malas. One, with all wooden beads on a string with a single tassel like the one in this picture:

rod-mala-1or a bone mala, similar to the one in this picture: rod-mala-21

The mala that “stays at home” is the one with counters on it, similar (but not exactly like) the one in this picture:

rod-mala-31

I had practiced Buddhist meditation methods ( a dozen or more different types of meditation) for more than a decade before agreeing to take refuge vows. However, the process takes some time. I attended 6 one-day long retreats held at one month intervals going through the Foundation Series. This series acquaints you with the basics of Buddhist thought and practice. The Series ends with the opportunity to “take refuge”. This link shows you the new (5 part) series taught in Atlanta at Drepung Loseling….by the same teacher who taught our class in 1998.

On February 1, 1998 I took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This formalized my Buddhist commitment and identity. What I like about the Geluk school’s Refuge ceremony is that it is rather straight forward and easy to understand. This link will fill in a lot of details about what it means to take refuge.

What do I do with a mala in my pocket? I do several things: first, I’ll finger them one at a time while matching my breath. This I do off and on all during the day. Just touching the beads while breathing reminds me of the time I’ve sat meditating and brings me closer to a relaxed open minded and open hearted response to life. Secondly I’ll run though some of the mantras I’ve used over the years:

1.) Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha!

2) Om mani padme hum!

3) Om Vajrapani hum!

4) Om muni muni maha muniye soha!

5) Tayatha Om bekanze bekanze maha bekanze radze samung gate soha!

What I’ve done over the years is do a round of 108 repetitions of any one of these mantras, while in my pocket, while walking down a sidewalk, through a mall, etc. The repetition brings my mind back to a calm and alert state and sweeps aside the usual self centered commenting going on in my mind.

My two favorite mantras are # 2 and #5 in the list above. The #5 mantra is the mantra of the Medicine Buddha. My first Tibetan Buddhist initiation ( wongkur ) was in the practice of the Medicine Buddha.

To be accurate in answering your question about the 250,000 mantra repetitions I had to pull out my booklet received when undertaking the training for the Guru Yoga of Lama Tsong Khapa. This entire sadhana [spiritual practice], which takes between 25 and 40 minutes to complete was supposed to be done 100,000 times. Contained within this sadhana were a number of mantras that were to be performed 3 times, 7 times, 21 times or 108 times.

Many of us students would usually practice with the 3 times or 7 times repetitions of the mantras. Thus, if we did the entire sadhana 100,000 times we might repeat certain mantras 300,000 – 700,000 times! This takes years to accomplish and becomes a significant base of ones Buddhist practice within the Tibetan Buddhist ( Geluk School ) tradition.

Thanks, Rod, for sharing this intense practice! I wish you and your wife all the best in your return to the Episcopal Church.

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Got this fabulous message from Sharon Renick, a prayer beader who lives in Trinidad, Texas, about 70 miles southeast of Dallas. I wanted to share it with you because it illustrates the serendipity of faith, the value of spiritual practices like prayer beads, and the power of taking control of your own prayer life and relationship with God.

“I want to share with you how I came to know about prayer beads.  I’m not the best house keeper in the world. I’ve also had many different hobbies over the years.  So, when I start looking for that one particular thing, it can turn into a rummaging around hunt through a lot of different boxes.  One day I was looking for some beads and had pulled out several boxes of stuff.  I finally found the beads and started putting the other things away.  When I had finished, I noticed a book, A String & A Prayer, by Eleanor Wiley [and Maggie Oman Shannon] laying on the table near where I had been placing things.  I didn’t remember putting the book there.  I didn’t remember seeing the book in any of the boxes I had gone through and I didn’t remember ever buying the book.  I have no idea how long I’d had it, but I was supposed to find it that day.  I read it, savoring every word.  It spoke to me in a way that nothing has in a long time.  I looked at Eleanor’s website.  I found your website and started hunting for your book.  I finally had to order yours online because I couldn’t find it anywhere I went.  While I waited for it to come in, I read every entry in your blog back to the beginning.  Getting your book in the mail that day, was like a having Christmas!  Now, I carry both books around and I’ve started a prayer journal where I write the prayers that speak to me.  I also can’t stay off the beading sites! renick-photo-2

“I’ve never attended a church regularly in my life.  My father had actually wanted to be a minister when he was very young, but turned away from God around the age of 14 when his mother died.  So, we were not bought up in the church.  My husband was raised Catholic, but does not practice the religion at all and never even talks about it now.  I try to respect his wishes and not press him on the subject.  So, I have no particular denomination other than being Christian.

renick-photo-11“I’ve only been making rosaries for a little over a month.  My favorite prayers so far have been the ones that I’ve gotten from your book or website.  I love the Julian of Norwich Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, several of the Psalms and the Serenity Prayer to name a few.  My husband has constant back pain, so I’ve adapted one of the prayers in your book for him.  It’s the one that was adapted from The Book of Common Prayer and is listed as a Prayer of Healing.  I use it almost every night.  The first time I read the Merton Prayer (I think it was on your website) I cried.  I often say it as one of my final prayers of the night.  It’s just beautiful.

“I almost always use a variety prayers each night.  I may use four different ones on the weeks and two different ones on each of the other beads or groups.  I’ve found that I really enjoy so many of them, that I hate to limit myself to repeating the same ones, most nights.

“Thank you for your website and book.  You’ve added a lot to my life.”

Sharon’s beautiful note just about did me in. I started to cry. It is stories like hers that make all the writing of the book – the solitude, the self-doubt, the feelings of inadequacy to the task – absolutely worth it. Thank you, Sharon.  You are in my heart and my prayers.

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