A hard, horrifying, sad, good day.

Image: Gethsemane by P. Solomon Raj

Image: Gethsemane by P. Solomon Raj

Last night during Bible Circle we read Mark 14 and 15 and then passed a talking stone to share what stood out to us. A lot of us noticed the disciples leaving Jesus. Or the loneliness of Jesus in those hours leading up to his death—he faced his accusers alone, he was alone when he was whipped and mocked. Where was everyone? Why did they sleep when he asked them to pray?

He told Peter, James, and John, “I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying. Stay here and keep awake with me.” Mark 14:34 (CEV)

I feel that I have felt that kind of sadness before. I have been so sad that I wondered if I would die from it. And whatever it is that I felt, I’m sure Jesus felt it more. We find it hard to offer one another companionship in that kind of sadness. We find it hard to sit and wait. Perhaps we would rather come to our own defense (“I will never betray you!”) or offer solutions. 

I thought about how Jesus says of Mary Magdalene, “She who has been forgiven much, loves much.” Mary had sat in that kind of lonely sadness before. She had no delusions that it would not find her, or that bad things wouldn’t happen to them all. And being loved in her own sadness, called out of her lonely sadness by Jesus gave her the strength to stay: to watch his death, care for his body, and show up at his tomb. Maybe Peter, James, and John just hadn’t been tested enough yet. 

They would be, and later, that same ability shows up in them. 

And there Jesus was, steadfast in love while they all fumbled, chopped people’s ears off, ran away, swore they didn’t know him. He remained in love. They couldn’t take that away from him, though they stripped him of dignity and life. 

I find it so hard to keep my own brain from looping into a poor-me story. Sad and abandoned, lonely and misunderstood. Even in my beautiful, abundant, untouched-by-violence life, I find this hard. I feel the strength of what Jesus did, remaining in love, not blaming, not resisting. I want to lean into him in this moment. Allowing, accepting, being ready for the road God gave him to travel. I want to be like that. I also want to learn from him to sit with others in their sadness.

My heart is heavy with his death and his loneliness. And the Father in that moment bore deep and heavy suffering as well. The suffering of the Son, the grief of the Father. The love between them in that moment. For what? For a new creation of reconciliation, oneness between God and humanity.

At the end of the discussion last night, we remembered that this story would be the worst ever if not for the resurrection. Jesus endured for the joy set before him. I am about as crappy in centering myself, feeling badly for myself, and being defensive, as any of the disciples were. And yet we all are loved into a new reconciliation, a connectedness that contains a million seeds of possibility- things God and we can do and be together because of this suffering. 

What a day. A hard, horrifying, sad, good day.

Episode #29- Lectio Divina on Matthew 11: 25-30 with Neil

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Hi beautiful ones, 

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

*I chat a bit about the quiet season of Pai, as well as talking about worry and its phantom suffering.

* Neil guides a lectio divina meditation on Matthew 11:25-30. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 05:30, but don’t skip the introduction because it is pinker than a flamingo!) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

My brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces are still with us! I’m a blessed girl. Today we have plans to go and play water in the streets for Thai New Year. I pray that this week, you find a way to play!

Many blessings,

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free. This week we want to welcome our new patron with a big thank you! Thank you Alecia Zoccoli! You are wonderful. xo

Sunset

About an hour before the sun dips below the horizon, people begin to gather. 

Swimming in the calm ocean, playing music, acro yoga jams, solitary figures in cross-legged meditation; people gather in various ways and for various reasons. Folks know they’ll find friends at sunset, have a chat, or dance together in the drum circle. 

Coming together to mark the passing of another day feels holy to me. 

When I sit and watch then sun's last moments on this part of the earth for this day, I feel a sense of solitude. It's just me and the sun, no-one else. My experience of this moment is just me. The sun's rays coming across the vast distances of space and hitting my skin, my retinas...only I experience it in this exact way, in my body. I feel the preciousness of this day, this moment.

And I also feel a beautiful connection to the rest of humanity. To those who are right here with me, gathered on this very beach in the Gulf of Thailand, and also with all the other little humans scurrying over the face of the earth, everywhere. This sunset connects us. Whether or not we see it or notice it, the sun setting has finished the day for each of us. 

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I think that it’s the noting of the passing of time, the memento mori this moment brings which makes it feel so sacred to me.

Reflection seems easy at sunset. And there is also the easy reminder of it all being a gift - I can’t make the earth continue to rotate so we enjoy another day, any more than I can summon my next breath. It is all a gift.

Neil says to me, "It's easy to think that once the sun is out of view, that's it... But there's so much more!"

It's true. There's so much more. 

The colour plays in the sky; the water reflects silver, pink, orange. A flock of Pacific swiftlets race overhead, chasing twilight bugs. There's so much more. 

The drums flow together, the hang drum and guitar and trumpet sing to each other.  

A big cloud rises up from the horizon.

(a post by Ro)

Episode #28- Lectio Divina on 1 John 3: 1-3 with Rae

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Hi meditators! 

It’s been an eventful week, and here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro and Neil chat about their week, with the music of cicadas, many birds, and a duck in the background. They also give a shout out to Warm Heart Community in Mexico City, who listens to our podcast every week. Don’t forget to let us know if you are listening by yourself or with a group! 

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* Rae guides a meditation on 1 John 3: 1-3. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 05:19, but don’t skip the introduction because it is not soggy toast!) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

 This week I have family visiting and it’s the most wonderful thing. I’m praying that this week you are surrounded by love. 

Many blessings,

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Hands open.

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I was watering the garden in the smoke yesterday, watching how quickly the water disappears into the dry earth. Our friend who is helping with watering asked me if she was doing it right on her days. “I just don’t understand why it looks like I’m not even watering.” 

“It’s just that dry,” I told her.

 A drop lands and practically sizzles. It sends a puff of dust. The sky is like a bruise. The sun simultaneously scorching and weak through the smoke.

I watered, and I thought, “That first rain is going to be like a miracle.” 

It takes going through a dry season here to really appreciate the rain. 

The sky opens up. Water comes from heaven. What? Is that really possible? 

In two minutes God accomplishes what I would have to spend eight hours to do with my puny little sprinklers. 

The first rain.

Fasting and feasting. Waiting for the promise. The Bible is packed full of references to this part of our life with God. We are in the now/not yet. We know rain will come, but we can’t control when it will give us those first drops. 

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; 
His going out is as sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers, 
As the spring rain that waters the earth.”  - Hosea 6:3

Sometimes when I am waiting for God, I get a little too invested in my own systems. I wrap my gnarled rat hands around the garden hose, insisting that my efforts are going to be AMAZING. It’s okay if you don’t want to come now, I tell him. I can do it all by myself. 


And then the rain comes. It drenches me, the garden hose, my gnarled rat hands and my face scrunched up from my efforts to be a tiny god. We are all soaked, instantly. Better to lay down on the ground, hands open, mouth open. 


That first rain is going to be like a miracle.


( A post by Rae- Cross posted at Journey Mama)

Episode #27- Contemplation of Nature with Chinua

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Hi everyone,

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Chinua and I chat about his last trip, birdwatching, music from Poland and a culinary experience that may have been better than our wedding day. (!) 

* Chinua guides a contemplation of nature meditation. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 11:42, but don’t skip the introduction. You’ll miss Chinua singing Polish music!) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

I’m praying to be content this week, aware of the grace and love that is constantly flowing to me from the heart of God, even when I’m a bit calloused or impervious to it. I pray the same for you. 

Much love,

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

A Poem by Laura

Reach out your hand…

Listen to the small still whisper…

Hold out your hands…

I fall like a stone into your river

Deep surrender

I hold out my hand

open and ready

Heart borders stretched wide, like sails waiting for your winds

Seek direction, in which way I ought to go

Play hide and seek with your Spirit within

THE SEARCH MYSTERY…..

Puzzle pieces unfolding in each step

Waiting…breathing in the spaces between…between years falling like leaves from the tree

breathe between the thin spaces…where this heaven and earth meet…the space between

like dust in these shoes falling apart - questions and stumbling, like dark night - like burdened shoulders,

like heavy heart.…like it wasn’t supposed to be like this? Like SURPRISE!

Yet never alone I walk - hand in hand

Yet never alone we walk hand in hand

With Spirit with this God, she holds me, she holds you.

Like mother and father and wisdom. You are guiding me, like light an undeniable flaming fire

Like wind - sometimes embers yet you are here…

Sometimes quiet - I am still

May I listen before I speak…in the unlikely places I hear you…in the unlikely places you speak

You are my guide, leading, unexpectedly pulling from behind…a gentle tug… sense of you…here

So we seek…so we wait…and we trust

Your Spirit stays close…along this path…Your eyes as our guide

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Episode #26- Lectio Divina on Mark 10:17-27 with Neil

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Hi everyone, it’s been a good week!

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro and I chat about Chinua coming home, veggie beds and trench digging, paper writing, and heading down south. 

* Neil guides a Lectio Divina on Mark 10: 17-27. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 09:01, but don’t skip the introduction. You’ll miss my hoarse voice from the smoke!) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

And here’s the photo we mentioned, of our friend Amanda preparing for her meditation group. Don’t forget to send pics if you’re using the podcast for your practice or group.

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I pray that this is a week of inspiration toward action. 

Much love,

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Episode #25 - Lectio Divina on John 15:12-13, Rom 5:8, and Eph 2:4-5.

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Hi dear ones, I’m writing this while taking shelter from the smoke that covers the valley. Here’s hoping for a stiff wind to carry it all away! 

And here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro is back! She and I chat about beach meditation and a puppy, trucking along, taking breaks, and writing papers.

* Adam guides a Lectio Divina on John 15:12-13, Rom 5:8, and Eph 2:4-5. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 07:06, but don’t skip the introduction, because it’s not a slight drizzle, but a gusty rain!) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

I pray that this week you will find a lot of space and time to sit in the presence of God, learning from his kindness.

Much love,

~ Rae

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Chai Wallah

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Chai garam! Chai garam!

I sit on the beach for a Nature Meditation when the chai wallah's voice comes to me on the wind. He carries a silver urn of hot spiced tea. His young son, bouncing along next to him like an energetic puppy, carries a long bag of paper cups, and joins his dad in the call:

Chai garam! Hot chai! Hot chai!!

He makes it a game, his dad calls out and he calls out after him, echoing the pitch and cadence:

Chai garam! Chai garam!

People sitting in the sand watching the sunset give a small nod, and the man and son rush over, offering cups and pouring sweet, hot chai for each customer.

Hot chai! Good chai!

And suddenly it hits me: God is like a chai wallah.

Coming to us, God approaches with joy, telling us of blessings. All we have to do is give a little nod, signal to the Divine our openness, our readiness to receive, and God is there. Ready with sweetness. Blessing us, pouring out gifts.

Hot chai! Good chai! Chai garam!!

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(A post by Ro)

Episode #24: Lectio Divina on John 15: 4-10 with Naomi

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Hi beautiful friends. I’m writing this while watering the very dry garden, exulting in the new sprinkler system that Neil and Josh installed in the food forest. I’m still moving sprinklers around in the front of the garden, but the back is mostly easy now! Yay! Also, Josh nearly gave me a heart attack by sneaking up on me while I had my headphones on. 

While I recover, here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast

* Our friends at another Shekina location in Asia did the intro today! Well, it’s Ro, who you know, and our dear friend Laura. They chat about recording on a windy beach, art meditation, bird watching, and playing hide and seek. 

* Naomi guides a Lectio Divina on John 15: 4-10, from The Message paraphrase of the Bible. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 05:40, but don’t skip the introduction, because you’ll never know what kind of birds Laura saw when she was birdwatching with Chinua and that mystery will haunt you!) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

Today I feel thankful again for the breath of Holy Spirit, blowing us around, we don’t even know where.

 Much love,

~ Rae


The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Shekina :: The Presence

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Our name is a sort of Anglo-Hebraic mash up of the word that describes the presence of God where he dwells in the world. We say it “She-keen-ah,” just a little closer to the Hebrew pronounciation, “She-(c)hinah” with the fricative “h”.

So yeah, gets mispronounced by people who read it all the time. 

But I’ve been thinking about this name lately, and how audacious it is. 

How can we name a community after God’s presence? How dare we? As though he wants to come and hang out where we are telling ridiculous stories in the kitchen, dancing on the beach, or sweeping leaves off the dusty floors, again and again (and again)? 

What chutzpah. Frictate that as well, if you can. It’s fun.

Imagine a circle of skin-enclosed people, getting more wrinkly through the years, sitting and trying with all their little hearts to understand a little more of God, who he is as shown in his scriptures. They sing a few songs. There are people who have followed him for a long time, and people who have never prayed, or done this kind of thing before.

And then into their midst, a light, a flash of heat, a warmth, a sudden rush of tears. The most sparkly, desirable, hope-filled one walks into the circle, invisible to the human eye, and envelops all of them. Why? Because they are there and waiting and he loves them.

That’s how he is, when we ask. Generous with his presence. We don’t always feel it, but he is here.

“The divine secret of creation is the Shekinah, God’s indwelling; and the purpose of the Shekinah is to make the whole creation the house of God.” -Jürgen Moltmann

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89: 15

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” Psalm 84:10

Episode #23- Lectio Divina on Psalm 139: 1-16, 23 and 24 with Neil

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Hi everyone. I’m writing at my outdoor table, watching trucks and motorbikes go by, listening to loud mynahs shrieking in the trees.
Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Neil and I chat about the week, including smoky season, spouses in India, costumes and angler fish, being awash in papaya, and the beauty of turmeric.

* Neil guides a Lectio Divina on Psalm 139:1-16, 23 and 24. (If you want to skip to this, it’s at 08:38, but don’t skip the introduction, because it’s no dried up dirty raisin, but a plump raisin.) 

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

This week I’m praying that we can all remember how much life and breath the Spirit gives, every single day, bringing life when we need it most.

Much love,

~ Rae

Ps- here’s Neil’s turmeric picture that we mentioned in the intro. Pure art!

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The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Episode #22 - Contemplation of Nature with Ro

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And… we’re back! The smoky season is upon us, and seeing the mountains feels like a far-off dream. Many of our community are away in India or other places, and here I am, sending off a podcast episode. We love you!

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro and I talk about our recent festival experience, including mango trees, dancing, painting, and singing.

* Ro guides a contemplation of nature meditation. You’ll need to have or see an object of nature for this meditation, so feel free to grab something before you start, or you could pause the meditation part way through to find something. (That’s what we do.)

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

I’m missing walking every day, but the smoke is bad, so I’m hunkering down indoors a lot. Take a walk for me if you can!

Much love,

~ Rae

PS: here are the photos of Kenya and my live art- we mentioned them in the introduction.

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The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free. Special thanks this week to new patrons, Nick and Beccy!

Shambhala in Your Heart

Ahhh that post-festival feeling!

We are just back from the beautiful festival Shambhala in Your Heart, held each year in Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand. It is organised by a group of Japanese hippies and is laid-back, quirky and fun.

This year our whole Shekina Garden community attended, kids and all! Some folks were volunteers - helping cook or decorate stages and make signs. Others created a band called Marigold Mala and sang Jesus bhajans (Indian-style devotional songs) on the main stage. Some performed sets of music or joined in on bands and jams. We soaked in hot springs, swam in the river, had deep conversations around fires, learned African dance, led and attended workshops, led Christ-centred meditations and danced to great music into the night.

A couple of festival moments to share with you -

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Early morning light on the mountain

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Jamming in our little Meditation space

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Bhajans on the Main Stage (photo from Shambhala in Your Heart Facebook page)

(a post by Ro)

Changing Seasons, Goodbyes and Festival time

Hello, hello, hello hello

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

That’s all there is

And the leaves that are green turn to brown

(Simon and Garfunkel, Leaves That Are Green)

We are in that funny time of the year when we are saying more ‘goodbyes’ than ‘hellos’. The numbers of travellers coming through our little town in the mountains is decreasing, the temperatures are slowly rising, and the fields and hills which were lush and green a few months ago are slowly turning crispy, brown and dry. We are spending more and more time watering the garden.

Friends are travelling on towards India, or Bali, or back to their homes. The seasonal gatherings and parties are beginning to finish for the time being. We have farewelled a lot of visiting friends - one of the hardest parts of living this life away from ‘home’ countries is saying goodbyes. To family or dear, dear friends who cross the seas to spend time with us for a short while. To travelling friends who we meet again each year, or maybe never again. It is a lovely but hard part of being a traveller.

However, the slowly changing season also means that it is festival time! A lot of friends headed to Jai Thep festival over the weekend and next week Shambhala in Your Heart starts - a lovely, Japanese-run hippy festival in Chiang Dao. The whole Shekina Garden community will be there, camping all together. We plan to run daily meditations there and also just enjoy time together and with our travelling community family.

We will send you an update from there next week!

(A post by ro)

(A post by ro)

Episode #21 - Lectio Divina on John 4: 23-24 with Ro

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Sorry for the late podcast this week! I’m posting from the outdoors in Chiang Dao, while volunteering at a Japanese music festival. The wonders of modern technology are making podcasting while camping possible, while the slowness of a cellular connection are making it take a long time.

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro and Neil chat about friends who are visiting, and the upcoming festival where I am volunteering and where we will be guiding meditation and singing/camping together.

* Ro guides a Lectio Divina meditation on John 4: 23 and 24. If you want to skip straight to this, it’s at 04:50. (But don’t, because the introduction is not lukewarm tea.)

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

I’m so blessed to be outdoors for a while, sleeping under the trees. Wherever you are, I hope you get a chance to look at the sky. 

 Much love,

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Episode #20 - Imagination meditation on John 11 with Neil

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Hi beautiful ones. I hope you’re keeping warm wherever you are. It’s chilly here, but we’re admittedly soft. 

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro and I talk about how we feel about reaching episode 20 of the podcast, tree signs, Vanna White, a Devotion Circle on spirituality and play, and birthdays. 

* Neil guides an imagination meditation from John 11. If you want to skip straight to this, it’s at 09:46. (But don’t, because the introduction is not a waste of beans.)

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here’s the episode on Youtube.

I’m thinking about unity and love this week. I pray that you’re feeling loved, wherever you are. 

 Much love,

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free.

Movement Meditation in India

A Movement Meditation on Psalm 139

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Fingers dancing, thankful for movement. For the way these hands can build, can make food, can hold another’s, can embrace, communicate. 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.

Look down at my feet, thankful for the the way they carry me through this life, take me forward on the direction I dream to go. That I can walk, jump, dance, stand.

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You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.

Each body created perfectly & uniquely in your image, thankful for diversity and differences.

Thankful for the living breath of life in these lungs and the gift of experiencing life in the fullness of being a human. 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.

Imagining a world where the focus was not on ideals of beauty constructed by media, of comparisons and feelings of being incomplete. 

What about a world of thankfulness for the bodies we have been given as gifts? To be thankful for the freedoms they provide and room to move. To celebrate each one’s beautiful reflection of the Divine, to see the fingerprints of the Master Artist’s work. To be fully comfortable within your skin.

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You are a living, breathing piece of poetry, a work of art. A light bearer. 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.

Today I am thankful for this body, for your body & for the one who created it.

(A post by Laura, at a Shekina Community in India)

(A post by Laura, at a Shekina Community in India)