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The Rev. Dr. Mary Lorraine Coufal

For many people, this week begins the 40 days preparation for Easter. The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday with the imposition of ashes on their foreheads, reminding all “that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:10) or “repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ.” This ancient ceremony is a sign of our mortality. This season can be a time of renewal and penitence “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Is 30:15) It is a time many focus on the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some talk about metanoia – conversion of the heart.

What does this really mean? How does our heart need conversion? How can this heart conversion deepen our relationship with Jesus? Are we not already living the best we know how? Prayerfully we ask God for guidance or discernment. Often it’s the little things that we need most to change.

We might be led to set aside five minutes a day for prayer and reflection on how God has gifted us that day. Maybe we need to be more accepting and understanding of ourselves and our needs, like getting enough sleep. Perhaps we need to be more understanding of others. Perhaps God is inviting us to be more mindful and present in what we already do.

During this Lenten season, we can turn to Jesus and ask Him for strength to let go and be open to a change of heart, a new life and deeper relationship with Him.

I believe the more we are aware of God’s love for each of us individually, the more we’ll be able to live out that love in our daily lives and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all around us.

Let us together “Repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ,” and share that with others.

Have mercy on me, O God,
Because of your constant love;
In the greatness of our compassion
Wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
And of my sin cleanse me.

I recognize my faults
I am always conscious of my sins
Against you only have I sinned
And done what is evil in your sight.

A faithful heart is what you want;
Fill my mind with your wisdom,
Create a pure heart in me, O God,
And put a new loyal spirit in me.

You do not want sacrifices
Or I would offer them
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit’
A heart contrite and humbled,
O God you will not spurn.
–Psalm 51:1-4, 6, 10, 16-17

Suggested Scripture Readings;
Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm 91
Romans 10:8-11
Luke 4;1-13

فبراير 18, 2018 0 comment
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Snowfall indicated by white cloudy day
No blue sky visible.
When will the snow come?
How long will it last?
How much will fall?

Not important this weekend.
No need for me to leave my home.
No driving necessary.

Open the blinds.
Watch the snow fall.
Tiny white flakes
Seemingly chasing each other.
Who will touch the earth first?
Where else might they land?

Barren trees, pine trees,
Parked cars, roof tops.
All quickly frosted with a
Thick layer of
Soft fluffy white.

God’s winter beauty.
Quiet, gentle, peaceful
Urges me to soft, inner stillness
Reminding me.
God’s within.

يناير 2, 2018 0 comment
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Many, many years ago a friend shared that receiving spiritual direction had helped her grow in her relationship with God.  This was a new thought for me.  I explored  that spiritual practice.  Since that time I’ve found it invaluable as part of my spiritual journey.

Spiritual direction is a spiritual practice in which an individual or group share how they are living their lives in order to grow in their relationship with God, the Divine and/or deepen their spiritual life.

Spiritual director is a title for a spiritual guide/companion or mentor.  The practice of spiritual direction  has been a practice for thousands of years though it wasn’t given that title.   In Hebrew Scriptures we find many examples such as Samuel being guided by Eli  (I Samuel 3:1-18)or Joseph who interpreted dreams (Genesis 40:1-41:37).

In the early days of the church people would go to the desert to consult with the desert mothers and fathers for spiritual guidance.  These desert mothers and fathers had gone into the desert to deepen their own relationship with God and thus were known as ones who could also guide others.

Even today, people who want to deepen their spirituality or focus more intentionally on their relationship with God, look for a guide or mentor.

Receiving spiritual direction is an opportunity to share one’s spiritual hopes, struggles, joys and concerns.  It helps one be accountable in growing spiritually and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.  In spiritual direction the directee shares with the director what has been important in their spiritual life since the last meeting.  They may share their prayer life, dreams, life experiences and where they are aware of the Divinity in their life.

A spiritual director listens to what is said and reflects back.  The Spiritual director is also aware of God’s spirit being the real director.  Thus the spiritual director does not usually give directions but through asking questions helps the individual find the directions that are already in one’s heart.

I find that talking with a spiritual director on a regular basis helps me stay focused on how God is working in my life and helping me in ministry.  It helps me be aware of when I think that all I do depends on me, rather than on God.  It helps me remember and be thankful for the gifts God gives me.

Now, not only is spiritual direction a very regular spiritual practice for me, I’ve also become a spiritual director for others who want to use this spiritual practice to deepen their spiritual life.  I encourage all who are interested to engage in this spiritual practice of meeting regularly with a spiritual director.


ديسمبر 17, 2017 0 comment
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Summer is a very colorful time of the year in Indiana.  My balcony flowers are showing the brilliant summer colors.  The crimson and deep pink geraniums are growing cup-sized blossoms. The rose-bud geranium is starting to bud.  The variegated purple and pink  petunias are waving over their containers.  The yellow and purple pansies have survived the summer heat so far.  The  brilliant yellow and orange marigolds are glowing in the sunlight.  The pink and salmon-colored begonias are overflowing their planters.   The grass is such a bright green.

The white cumulus clouds float across the bright blue sky.


The sturdy geraniums encourage us to be strong in the midst of difficult times.

The rose-bud geranium challenges us to be patient with new growth.

The variegated, waving petunias bring us joy.

The tiny pansies show us that there is beauty even in small things.

The golden marigolds brighten our cloudy days.

The full-blossomed begonias remind us of God’s overflowing love.

The multi-shades of green grass give us hope.

The billowing clouds invite us to send our thoughts and prayers to God.

God of Color and Beauty,

Thank you for the summer colors and plants that encourage us, lift our spirits, and bring us joy.

May this summer be a time in which we enjoy the great gift of summer beauty.  Amen.



يوليو 2, 2017 1 comment
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This is the season of Lent.  Lent means different things to different people.  When Lent began, did you think of Jesus, his suffering, death and resurrection?  Did you think of penance?  Did you think of giving up something or stopping smoking or eating less?  Did you think of doing an extra kind act for someone daily?  Doing something   hard for forty days seems like a long time.  If you did, what led you to make that resolution?

What is Lent all about? The word means spring or springtime.  This is the time of the year in Indiana when winter is almost over and new life is starting to show itself in nature around us, to come out a little brighter.  Spring reminds us of new life coming from seeds and bulbs planted earlier, new branches and tiny leaves on trees.  The sky looks a deeper blue.  It’s a thrill to see the trees and bushes start to bud.  It can be a time in which we want to grow spiritually.  Lent can be a time for new spiritual life as we consider our past and begin again to renew an aspect in our lives.

In Joel 2:12-13 we read, “Yet, even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning.  Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.  For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”

“Return to me with your whole heart…”  What does it mean to turn to God with our whole hearts?  We pray.  We worship God in private and sometimes in public.  But turning to God with our whole heart means more.

When we love someone deeply we want to be with that person often.  If we’re away from that person, our thoughts will often turn to that person.  We’ll wonder what he or she is doing and how their day is going.  The more we are with that person, the more we’ll learn to know and love that person.  We’ll learn what things please our special person and what makes that person sad.  We’ll probably want to do things that will make that person happy, that will let that person know of our love.  We’ll want that person to love us, too.  In this way we are turning our hearts to that person.

So, too, with God.  We can turn our hearts toward God.  How has God worked and entered our lives?  Sometimes God may do it in a big way, but usually God comes to us in little ways.  This is a good time to reflect on the times that we haven’t really wanted God to come into our lives very deeply for it might have meant a change in us.  It might have meant a deep realization that God is God and in control and we are not.  Maybe there is a certain part of our lives that we want to keep to ourselves.  This is a good time to talk it over with God.

God loves us.  God loves us so much that Jesus came to convince us of God’s great love for us.  We haven’t done anything to earn this love.  God loves us first, and because God loves us, we can turn to God and love God in return.

As we examine our lives during this Lenten season, we can see how God truly has been with us with strength and help.  Even though at times God seems far away, God is near!  By thinking of God, talking to God in times of suffering, sorrow and joy and trying to be more alert to God’s presence, we will be returning to God with our whole hearts, as Joel encourages us to do.

Enjoying the new life springing forth in nature, we can consider the new life that God is giving us.  I share this prayer with you, based on Hildegard of Bingen’s focus on God’s creation.

“O God, may I never forget how precious is the earth to you.  Help me to cherish every bit of earth so that in doing so I will be reminded of You who created and sustains this garden of delights, which I call home.  And may the care I show for it be a reflection of my love for all living things.”    Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka


مارس 26, 2017 0 comment
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This month we’ve had a change in the way we keep clock time.  We’ve “sprung forward” an hour.  Though not officially the beginning of spring on this Sunday, it reminds us of the beginning of spring.

Spring in Indiana brings hope as color rises forth in nature.  Crocuses show forth in lavender.  The daffodils and jonquils are bursting out in yellow and white.  Tulip leaves are pushing through the hardened winter soil.  The trees are starting to bud and sprout leaves.  Song birds are returning with their joyful melodies.  The earth fluctuates from late winter to early spring temperatures.  We even get some snow though it doesn’t last.

How can this encourage us to spring forward in our spiritual lives?

Are you feeling like the frozen ground waiting to thaw?  Maybe the rain would encourage the thawing if you would feel the sadness of a frozen heart.  Letting the tears come could soften your heart and let you know that God is present in the sadness and tears.

Perhaps you are feeling like the trees whose roots deepened over the winter and are getting new life from the nutritious earth.  Your encouragement to spring forward may be by reflecting on the ways God has nourished you in the midst of winter.

Do you feel like the tulip leaves carefully peeking up from the ground?  Your encouragement to spring forward little by little may be as God guides you gently through quiet and prayer.

Are you feeling like the spring daffodils with their bright yellow color spreading joy to all who see them?  Your springing forth may be sharing your own joy of God’s gifts to you.

Or are you like the cheerful songbirds encouraging others by offering the music of your life through your presence and not asking anything in return?

I invite you to take some time this season to reflect with gratitude on how God has encouraged you to spring forward in your own awareness of God’s gifts to you.

Creator God, thank you for the many beautiful examples of your love you’ve given us in nature this season.  May they inspire and encourage us to spring forward to deepen our own love for you and all creation.  Amen.

مارس 19, 2017 1 comment
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Ash Wednesday

Most religions have a ceremony or a time in which the faithful reflect on their actions during the past year.  This is often combined with a time of discipline which may be fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent for many in the Christian church.  The forty days of fasting or penitence (not counting Sundays) may begin with the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful.

Many Christian denominations use this ancient ceremony of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful with the words from Genesis (3:10) “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”    Receiving ashes may be part of the act of confession, of penitence and as a sign of our mortality.  The Ash Wednesday service connects us with the past, with our present, and with our hope for new life in our Risen Christ.

Burnt palm ashes from the palms of the previous Palm Sunday symbolize our past history.  While anointing with ashes was widely used after the seventh century, there is evidence that it originated in Gaul in the sixth century.

This ancient ceremony has another valuable reminder for us.  Dust is of the earth.  Receiving the ashes reminds us that we, too, are from the earth.  The earth is very important to us.  Our earth is a gift from God.  Yet, we forget we need to take care of it and all creation, too.

The words of Isaiah still hold true, “The earth is mourning, pining away,…the earth is defiled under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws, violated the decree, broken the everlasting covenant.”  (Is. 24: 4-5)

More and more we are made aware of the ecological disasters of the earth such as the depletion of ozone layer, the destruction of the rain forests,  climate changes,  the massive oil spills and the chemical spills in the rivers     Each of us is led in different ways to take care of our part of the earth.  May being blessed with ashes help us renew our care of the earth.

In preparing for Ash Wednesday, I was reading some of the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century prophet, healer, preacher and mystic.  Hildegard understood that for those who live in Christ, all creation is God’s work, and that the earth especially is waiting with eagerness to be saved. .  Hildegard writes “Creation reveals the hidden God just as clothes hint at the shape of a person’ body.”  Praying with Hildegard of Bingen  by Gloria Durka  ISBN-10 0884892549

During this holy season, we are invited to repentance, reflection and renewal.  It is a time to reflect on our failings, not only in relationships with God and each other, but how we relate to ourselves and all creation.   Our relationship with God is effected by how we relate with all around us.

I invite your reflections to include how God has led you to positive relationships with others and creation.  Also, remember that though you are dust,  at the same time you are God’s special creation.  You are God’s handiwork whom God loves and in whom God delights.  (Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 18:19 (or vs.20 in some Bibles);  Ephesians 2:10

The more we are really aware of God’s love for each of us individually, the more we’ll be able to live that out in our daily lives and share it with others


Loving God, may these ashes remind us of our connection to you and our earthly home.  Thank you for delighting and loving each of us and for giving us our beautiful earth.

As we go through this season of Lent create in us new and contrite hearts.  Help us remember that our strength for repentance, reflection and renewal is in quietness and trust in you.  (Isaiah 30:15)  Amen.




مارس 11, 2017 0 comment
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Peace Prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born

To eternal life.”

What a challenging prayer for peace.  Who is this person that wrote such a prayer?  What does he know about peace?

Francis of Assisi is attributed to having written this prayer hundreds of years ago.  He lived in the late 1100s- early 1200s.   He is most noted for his kindness and loving animals and all creation.    Many people celebrate his feast day on October 4 and around that time offer a Blessing for Animals.  Francis was born the son of a rich merchant in Italy.  He led a happy-go-lucky life, became a soldier, was captured and put in prison.  Then one day he had a spiritual awakening.  He believed that God told him to repair his church.  So, Francis rebuilt a falling-down church building.  However, he soon realized that it was people that God was meaning for him to help.

In his life, Francis had many struggles.  Yet, in spite of all his struggles and pain, he continued to give his life over to the care of God.  This, I believe, is the reason so many people are drawn to him.  He shared his peace and joy that came as he faced and dealt with his struggles.

What impresses me about Francis was his deep respect and reverence for all of creation and life.  Countless books have been written about him and legends told.  A popular one tells about how he tamed the wild wolf of Gubbio who was killing animals and people of the village.

What does that have to do with us, and with peace in today’s world?  We can look to Francis as an example of kindness and peace.  Because of his deep faith and trust in God and his love for all creation,  he was able to write a prayer like the peace prayer.

How do we find peace?    How is peace possible in today’s challenging world?   I believe that first we need to look at what keeps us from experiencing inner peace, acknowledge it and deal with whatever those causes are.  We can follow that by thinking of the ways that God has given us strength in struggle and been with us through our unpeaceful times.  We can be aware of all the good things that we do have, simple as they may be.

In being grateful for the ways that God has gifted us and has been with us in the midst of our struggles, we can experience an inner peace even as we may be experiencing outer turmoil.  In doing so, we can live out the peace prayer of Francis of Assisi and thus experience peace and joy in the midst of daily living.

May God’s peace always be with you.


فبراير 19, 2017 0 comment
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“God sweeping over the waters…”  – Genesis 1:1-2

Movement and exercise have rarely been of value to me.  I didn’t see that as part of my spiritual life or connection to God.  I’ve prayed with Scriptures that focused on quiet and stillness such as where God came to Elijah in the cave  (I Kings19:11-13) or Ps. 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’ve been drawn to books such as Whispers in the Stillness: Mindfulness and Spiritual Awakening by Martha Lehane Sheehan.  I’ve made spiritual retreats to try to become more interiorly quiet and spiritually centered.

But recently the theme that has been running through my night dreams has been movement and exercise.

Why at this time of my life, I wondered.  Probably it’s because that’s part of my life that I’ve neglected.  A part of life many people seem to not only value but enjoy, though I haven’t.  I’ve reflected on the question of where is God in all this movement and exercise.

I was reminded that in the very beginning in Genesis, God moved over the waters.  Only after moving over the waters did God speak creation.

So I pray and ask myself, what new life or creation could come from my exercising or moving more?

Maybe it won’t be something new but more of an awareness of my body’s need to move to be healthy.  Perhaps it’s just to realize that God is in movement as well as in silence.  Maybe it’s to remind me that lasting growth comes slowly and usually only after much practice and sometimes pain.

So my new spiritual practices is to schedule a specific time for conscious movement and/or exercise.

My prayer:

God, You who swept over the waters, create in me an appreciation for movement and the new awareness or life that can come from it.  Thank you for the awareness that you are present in movement as well as in stillness.  Amen.


يناير 15, 2017 0 comment
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Winter in our area brings darkness sooner in the evenings.   In winter I look forward to Dec. 21st after which the days start having more sunlight, at least until June.

What is there about darkness that many of us do not like?  In the daylight there are many things to see or on which to focus.  I seem to have more energy when I see daylight.    I’m a visual person.  I feel safer when I can my surroundings.  In the darkness, I can easily stumble for I can’t see what’s around me.

Often in the Christmas season we talk about the light shining in darkness, implying that darkness is negative.   Yet, if we didn’t have a sense of darkness, we wouldn’t appreciate the light.  There are gifts in the darkness if we look for them.  Unless it is dark outside we can’t see the twinkling stars.

How does this affect in my spiritual life?

When I’m feeling darkness in my inner center, I ask myself some questions.  Is there something I feel led to do but am resisting?  Have I forgotten to be aware that God is with me and will light my way if I take the first step?  Am I so looking for sunlight that I can’t see the twinkling stars in what feels like total darkness?

We talk about Jesus being the great Light of the World.  In the Gospel of John 1:5 the writer refers to Jesus, the Word as “The light that shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it.”

And Isaiah 9: `1-2a  we read  “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;  Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing…”

I’m not always aware of light in the midst of whatever I’m experiencing as darkness.  Sometimes when I’m feeling inner darkness I just need to take reflective time.  Other times it seems I need to let go of remaining in the darkness and act on the direction I’m being led.

How do I know what to do?

Usually either my life situation or my dreams give me a clue.  As I respond, I may still have a sense of darkness but know that by my staying with it, I can find the gift and/or light it brings.

May you find the gift of starlight in the midst of your darkness.













يناير 8, 2017 0 comment
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