Fortitude Fudge: The Joyful Hermit Way

Growing up in a small town has its advantages.  One is the childhood memories of a candy shop on the main street.  Back then, we children could gather our pennies and nickels, walk with fearless abandon to this shop, and purchase a hand-dipped chocolate, piece of fudge or caramel apple.  Upon returning to this town as an adult, the candy shop was going out of business.  The downtown area was all but still and silent as businesses had moved to shopping centers and malls, with some specialty shops and small businesses closing their doors forever.

Sadly but fortunately, one morning I walked into this shop on the day when the owner had decided to call it quits.  She was relieved in  a resigned way, and I was blessed to purchase the professional candy thermometer, some flavorings–and, most prized of all, their candy making recipe book.

Within the pages I found a fudge recipe that, along with some hermit-type tweaking of types and amounts of fine chocolates utilized, brings to fruition the best fudge this hermit ever hopes to taste.  I must add (in due humility) that friends say the same.  One could even suggest with sensibility:  Fortitude Fudge hints a taste of courage to its creamy texture that emboldens both body and soul!

Sold for months of December and February, Joyful Hermit’s hermitage-made Fortitude Fudge comes with a variety of choices.  You may select: Dark Night of the Soul Fudge that is the darkest of fudge; Dark Night of the Senses Fudge that is semi-dark; or Milky Way Fudge that is lighter.  You may also select Sea-Salted, and/or Pecan, Walnut or Almonds, and/or Caramel Drizzle.

Click on The Joyful Hermit Shoppe in the side bar (under Pages) to learn the particulars; then place your orders by email.  Choose from the enticing varieties of Fortitude Fudge offered and combinations therein!

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Eating Humble Pie

The idiom popped into my mind a few days ago and departs not:  Now eat your humble pie.  It is something my dad would say, surely.  After hearing it in my mind over and over, it was time to research.  What is humble pie?

Humble pie derived from a pie eaten in medieval times from “nombles” (French for deer innards) and evolved into “ombles” perhaps from the English blending “a nomble” into “an omble.”  Around the same time period, the word “humble” emerged.  Before long, what was a nomble pie became an omble pie became an ‘umble pie (often the English drop the h in pronunciation) which brings us to:  a humble pie.

The deer innards (liver and heart) were often given to the servant who hunted for the nobleman.  You guessed it:  the nobleman always got the tasty venison and usable hide.  No doubt if a stag, the nobleman had the antlered head hanging in his lodge or castle.  So the ‘umble servant took home the nombles cum ombles, and with parsnip, potato, onion and pastry the dish was edible enough for commoners.  As standard fare for the poor and lowly through the 16th century, this pastry of deer offal became known as humble pie.

Humble means to have a modest or low opinion of oneself.  The root, from Old French and Latin, is humilis: low or lowly and humus: ground.  To eat humble pie has come to mean that one makes humble apology and accepts humiliation.  It is to this latter aspect that this hermit is reminded, repeatedly, prior to Thanksgiving: Eat your humble pie.  The reason is too much to go into here, but a humble pie of humble making is my just and due dessert.  In fact, it is my portion and cup this Thanksgiving, a veritable meal in itself.

No deer innards nor meat of any kind to be found in this hermitage. (Humble pie recipes now use chopped steak–not seemingly ‘umble at all!)  But I did have a large pumpkin purchased at Menard’s on clearance for $2.75.  I chose the brightest orange color and heaviest by estimate to maximize the good deal.  Stabbing the pumpkin all about with a knife, it is baked in a roasting pan with an inch of water, 330°, until soft by knife-point prick.  Remove pumpkin seeds, scrape the “meat”, and blend.  I came out of this deal with 15 cups of fresh cups of pumpkin puree=18¢ per cup, plus some oven electricity cost, but baked other stuff simultaneously.

How to Make Joyful Hermit’s (or your) Humble Pie:

Humble Crust:  ½ c. flour, ½ c. corn meal mix, ½ c. or less shortening (JH uses firm coconut oil), 3 Tbsp. cold water

Cut in shortening with flour until crumbles (rhymes with numbles).  Add cold water, form into ball, refrigerate 5 minutes, then roll out on floured surface and place into pie tin.

Humble Pie Innards:  4 small eggs, 3 c. pureed pumpkin, ½ c. or less (unwanted, old) fruit jam, ½ c. soy or milk, 1-2 tsp. spices (I used an Indian mix of cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and black pepper as it looked the most dirt-like).

Beat eggs first, then mix in pumpkin, jam, and spices.  Add milk last so as to adjust liquidity; keep it modestly thick.  Pour into unbaked pastry shell and bake at 350° for 45 min. to an hour. Provides enough for two humble pies or the excess baked in oiled ramekins.   Now, eat your Humble Pie!



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Joyful Hermit Herbal Mix

Joyful Hermit Herbals are now available, just in time to add hints of mysterious, marvelous flavors to winter soups, beans, egg dishes, pastas, potatoes–any culinary creation that begs for palate intrigue.

The 10 commendable herbs are grown right here in the hermitage gardens, harvested, dried, and leaves removed from stems–all with care and prayer.  Keeping in mind simplicity and slowness as part of  hermit way of life, the herbs are dried, hanging them by stems or nestling in a brown bag, kept in a cool, dry place.  This process takes a few weeks.  Some like to dry herbs in an oven, no hotter than 185°, but  this hermit allows time to cure them, the slow, simple way.

Also slow, silent, and simple is the hand-process to remove the tiny leaves from the stems.  Yes, it takes hours; but those hours are meditative and pleasant–a way to ponder the beauty of the sense:  sight, smell, touch and even hearing the sounds of slight movements with each stem slowly, carefully stripped.  Taste comes later, and Joyful Hermit Herbals promise delight!

Next, the congenial variety of herbs are combined like the good friends they are, each with healthy attributes–not just herbs for show or taste.  I leave them as intact as possible and offer them by 1/2, 3/4 or cupfuls for anyone who would like a jar or tin of Joyful Hermit Herb Mix.  The amount may not seem like much, but the reason I do not compact the herbs is because the flavor is retained far better than the ground herbs and spices one purchases at the store.  A teaspoon or tablespoon of Joyful Hermit Herbals release their bouquet or flavor when crushed in one’s hand and brushed into a pot of soup, rubbed on poultry, cheese, or whatever dish being prepared.

If you would like some Joyful Hermit Herbal Mix, go to “Hermit Shoppe” food page and choose what amount and jar or tin.  Email to place your order.  Suggested donations vary depending upon amount and choice of container.  Postage and handling will depend upon your location; but the herbs themselves, full-bodied in flavor, are lightweight.

Note:  Joyful Hermit Herbals quantities and containers are limited to this year’s harvest as well as jars and tins on hand. Ordering these is one instance for not doing so slowly….

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Happy Eternal Birthday!

A letter arrived in which someone urged:  Don’t go away!  It has been a day of pondering not being noticed, as well as of celebrating the tenth birthday of my dad who died Nov. 20, 2001–but was born into eternity sans a painful, suffering, old body.  I thought of what Dad did in his earthly life just a little.  Mostly I pondered his new life, and some of the little ways in which he has helped me in the past ten years, one way or another–in dreams, in little mental suggestions and reminders, and often in words popping up that are just so Dad–wise adages, humorous aphorisms.  After he was already six months into his new life, at his memorial service we gave lists of his great “Dadisms”.

On Oct. 12 I celebrated my mom’s 7th eternal birthday.  I had remembered in advance; but the actual day brought temporal responsibilities: refinancing the hermitage.  Driving to the bank in a nearby town for the closing, mind busy with earthly concerns, I passed the nursing home wherein she breathed her final breaths.  In the banker’s office, I realized only later that at the very time of her passing seven years prior, the banker now spoke of my mother as the best teacher he ever had.  In fact, he said that it was Mom who had taken the time to help him overcome a terrible fear of public speaking and cleared his stuttering problem.  He added he’d always be grateful and never forget.  The rest of the day I celebrated her  eternal birthday with much love, joy and even more memories, past and current!

Then there is the wonderful earthly life and even better eternal life of my grandmother, born in this world May 7 and born into eternity after 80 years here, on October 19.  She’s been helping me, literally behind the scenes, for now over 43 years, although I’m sure she is not counting.  In eternity, a day is as a thousand years on earth, or so the Psalmist says.  I celebrate eternal birthdays of all my grandparents at least with thoughts of thankfulness for their past and current lives.

So it is, also with others, such as my grandmother’s sister, Lily, who died of a burst appendix at age 20–shortly after this, her engagement photo, was taken.  I celebrate her birthday into eternity and marvel at how even in earth years, her life now is far greater in substance and essence than the brief years here on earth.

Then there is Samuel John, a child who never lived outside the womb yet who has lived (as per our earth time) 30 years in eternity.  I use this painting of Samuel in the Temple Praying as my reminder of this little son.  It hangs above my bed and sometimes at night am urged to say, “Pray for your mother…sisters, brother, nieces and nephews…here on earth, dear Sam!”  I know he does.

Yes, to all these loved ones and many more, I celebrate with thought and joy their birthdays into eternity.  As for today’s letter in which the sender said we need good souls and to not go away, I telephoned the letter writer.  “Go away?” I asked.  “Do you realize that once a soul is created, it never goes away?”  The person thought a moment before responding, “I guess I’ve never thought about it like that, but so it is.”

Once a soul, always a soul.

Happy Birthday to every soul on their earthly birthdays and eternal birthdays!  Thanks for the goodness and uplifts each of you has given to us on earth and now where you are–still helping, praying, nudging, speaking, reminding, living somewhere–here–and maybe, most certainly, singing!

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Doing Great Things for God

As a child, in one of those moments remembered in each detail, and deeply sensing God, I promised with my life to do great things for God.  When a bit older, someone taunted me about my promise:  “You’re just a kid.  What can you do?”  Tearfully but determinedly I responded, “I don’t know yet, but when I am a grown up I am going to do great things for God!”

This promise has surfaced repeatedly in various phases of my life.  Yet it seems each time I would step more into the temporal world, there would be hardships causing me to not physically progress in what I thought would be very good.  One time I even said to God, “If you would heal me, I could do so much more for You!”  He replied, ‘That was a sweet but childish idea.  If you were healed, you would be too easily drawn back out into the world.”

Of course, not everyone is called by God to be a hermit, but everyone is called by God to be contemplative, prayerful, loving–and to do God’s will.  And in this call, we are called to greatness–to do great things…for God.

Some may have thought that it is humble to just do little things.  No, humility is not little; it is the queen of virtues, the threshold of faith.  Humility means to know ourselves in relationship to God.  We recognize that God is the All to our nothingness, the source and power and reason to our essence and being.  This requires on our part learning to shift perspective, to view from within to without, and to see that God Is.

Recently that childhood promise surfaced once again, and there was a sense of uncertainty and failure, that I had not done great things for God.  Yes, I had tried numerous ways and means, but it seemed whenever I made ground, my wings would be clipped, so to speak.  So I had to confront just exactly what constitutes great things compared to great things for God.  Again, it has to do with perspective–not mine–but God’s view.

Then and only then, did I understand.  Doing great things for God is doing anything, everything, even sometimes seemingly nothing–but doing it greatly for God.  Doing, thinking, feeling, sensing, weeping, praising, praying, playing:  all that we think and do and say are great things when done for God because God is great.  God gives us great graces, and thus all we do for God are great things indeed!  He is all greatness and gives us all to give and do great things.  Even suffering poorly is a great thing to do for God if it is the best we can manage in that present moment.

How beautifully uplifting to know that all along I have been fulfilling that promise made long ago, to do great things for God.  Even knowing that I did not know for much of my life amidst trials and mishaps, poor choices and prayerful ones, that His greatness was filling me with all I needed to do all things greatly for God.  Everyone can and does do great things for God.  He expects this of us, for God is great and all greatness.

The other day while gathering Japanese Maple leaves from the hermitage gardens, to press in the pages of a book, to later use for note cards to mail and share, I realized anew just how great it is to be doing even this small task, and how great it is for God.  To breathe, to think, to speak, to sing, to smile, to sleep–all are great things done for God!

Keeping a promise, as God makes it possible for us to keep, is a great thing for God.

Posted in Living Holy, Misc, Spirit Lifters | 3 Comments

November’s Brandied Cranberries

November brings fresh cranberries to market, out of the northeastern cranberry bogs and into our mind-taste for something tart and traditional. I could not resist three 12-oz. bags at ALDI this week: 99¢ per bag. What could one hermit do with 36 ounces of fresh cranberries?

First I rinsed and chopped about half and combined them with a chopped orange, apple and ground almonds.  A tablespoon or two of honey (per taste bud preference), stirred in, makes for an eye-opening breakfast starter after Green Glop [read: Healthy Green Glop post] or a refreshing side dish for lunch, snack or supper.  Remember to eat fruits first as they metabolize best in our bodies before heavier foods are ingested.

This crisp November morning (Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary) I decided to make  brandied cranberries.  The task is hermit-simple and the results gloriously exquisite.  These berries remain usable, refrigerated, for a couple of years…maybe longer…if not eaten sooner.  Small jars of the condiment make gracious gifts this time of year; but you will want to have some on reserve to perk your palate.

Directions:  Rinse, drain and let dry 16 ounces fresh cranberries.  Place in shallow baking dish.  Add and stir into the berries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp. chopped orange rind, and 1/2 cup Triple Sec liqueur.  Cover and bake 40 minutes in a preheated 325° oven.  Remove and spoon into small jars, making sure to include some of the syrup that forms with the cranberries.  Lid and let cool before refrigerating, and keep refrigerated until served.

Brandied Cranberries brighten up the winter months’ waffles and pancakes, make an advantageous change from the typical cranberry fare with turkey and other meats, and even brighten an otherwise glum plate upon which a sandwich or serving of casserole begs for a snap of color and taste sensation.  This hermit on occasion imbibes in a spoonful, mid-morning, for sheer joy.

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A Little Bit of Bitter

Someone emailed asking how not to be bitter.  Came on a day in which I was at peak of bitterness, having had meekness challenges galore [reference post: Meekness Rice Pudding].  A steam-roiling walk gave opportunity to ponder the query on not being bitter.

Isn’t bitter one of the tastes we so appreciate, as in salty, sweet, sour, or bitter?  Varieties of flavor seem natural gifts to enjoy and embrace.  Picture a small bottle of “bitters” purchased a year ago: Angostura Aromatic Bitters, 44.7 % alcohol, product of Trinidad and Tobago.  A couple of dashes enhance not only soft drinks and alcoholic beverages but also any number of culinary efforts–fruits, salads, pies, soups, gravies, fish, meat, vegetables, puddings, ice cream.  It makes food more appetizing!

Consider the beauty of Bittersweet, an American vine (or even the oriental variety), that delights autumn with its warm, red-orange berries.  The mind climbs to thoughts of yet another reminder of that which is bittersweet.  The Blessed Virgin Mary has been mentioned thus for her tremendous sorrows juxtaposed with sweet purity of love.

Hmm…myrrh stirs in the thoughts. Later, some research proves it a good thought, for myrrh derives from the Arabic murr, meaning bitter.  It is the bitter, fragrant gum resin mostly found in the Near East, used to heal wounds, to burn as incense, and to embalm.

Thus far, bitter embodies definite positives.  Perhaps we should embrace bitter?  Surely we will find something about “bitter” in the Bible.  One immediate reference is Hebrews 12:15:  See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled.

Despite the advantageous qualities of bitter, there is the flip side, as always.  Too much Angostura would ruin food.  Bittersweet Vine is invasive, re-rooting easily and choking out foliage–even trees–in its way.  The bitter sorrows of Mary anyone can relate with, to some degree; and the perfumed myrhh gifted to the Infant Jesus has its counterpoint in the adult Christ’s passionate suffering and death.

Perhaps we should consider bitterness as a quality, a reality, to be utilized–as in dashes of Angostura, or in safe amounts as in bitter medicine to heal woundedness, or of a beautiful vine appreciated yet constrained from taking over our inner and outer landscape.

Not to allow a root of bitterness take hold, spring up, or cause trouble….But perhaps we must embrace the reality of bitterness as a means to heighten our sentient and spiritual awareness of what it is that troubles, sorrows, wounds, and chokes out our very love of life, a healthy and holy love of self and others, and above all, our love of God in Himself.

Once we face the reality that bitter is part of life that God has allowed, such as the bitter weeds that continue to pop up, perhaps it is easier to handle a little bitterness knowing that there is always goodness to follow.  Yes, a little bit of bitter makes the good seem all the better!

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Meekness Rice Pudding

Baked rice pudding seemed just right on a chilly, rainy November morning.  Besides, I was pondering the virtue of meekness; and the two complement each other in essence and substance.

While meekness is associated with humility, meekness differs, just as rice pudding differs from bread pudding.  Humility moderates the sense of our own worth in consideration of self and God; it is the opposite of pride.  Meekness contains three elements: self-mastery that checks impulses of anger; tolerance of the failings of others; forgiveness of injuries and benevolence toward all, even our enemies. Meekness is a supernatural, moral virtue in which we prevent and restrain anger, bear with others despite their defects, and treat others with kindliness.*

What does that have to do with rice pudding, you may ask?  Well, rice pudding embodies the qualities of meekness if one considers that rice, as a grain food-source, is second only to wheat, much as meekness is secondary only to humility.  Rice checks the impulse of pungent, spicy sauces and mellows other foods served with it.

Rice also bears well with other ingredients, fortifying and enabling what would otherwise fail or be lacking as single ingredients.  And, rice is a swamp grass of which the grain is utilized in itself, not needing to be ground in order to offer its tremendous nutrient value, adding its gentle and bland flavor which offends no palate.

Like meekness, rice is not weak in substance but enhances the diet, brings peace and a certain calm to the system, strengthens the body and is enjoyed by anyone as it is the staple diet of half the world’s population.  It is, in fact, an affable grain, with ample water being necessary for its growth; meekness, too, requires the regeneration of innocence and clarity to the soul such as cleansing water used in cooking rice.

Yes, we can learn much about meekness while preparing rice pudding.  It will be a part of the daily hermit diet for a week or so.  The following recipe provides 6-8 healthy servings.

Meekness Rice Pudding

3 c. cooked brown Basmati rice                 3 eggs, separated                1/2 c. sugar or 1/3 jelly & 1 T. honey         1 tsp. vanilla                      2 c. milk or rice milk                                    1/4 c. fruit juice                   1/2 c. raisins, figs, other dried fruit           1/2 c. chopped nuts           1 tsp. cinnamon or other spices

Cook 1 1/2 c. rice in 2 1/4 c. boiling water.  beat egg yolks, sugar (or jelly and honey), and vanillia in large bowl.  Stir in cooked rice, cooled or warm.  Add milk, juice, raisins or chopped dried fruit of choice, and nuts (or sprinkle nuts on top before baking).  Whip egg whites until stiff and dry; fold into rice mixture.  Turn into greased baking dish.  Sprinkle with spice/s.  Bake for 45 minutes in 350° oven or until set and firm in center.  Serves 6-8.

Note:  I emptied a partial jar of quince jelly rather than use sugar but added honey, to taste.  I enjoy Rice drink, not lactose milk, plus used juice because I had some to use up.  Try whatever spices and nuts that sound good and are at hand.  This recipe filled two approximately 8-inch ceramic baking dishes (round, heart-shaped, in photo). 

Ingest some nice Meekness Rice Pudding!

* Tanquerey, Msgr. Adolphe A. The Spiritual Life: A treatise on ascetical and mystical theology. 1930. Belgium: Desclée & Company, pp. 545-47.

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St. Bernard Love of God Bourbon Balls

It’s that time of year to consider gifting, sharing, celebrating with some St. Bernard Love of God Bourbon Balls.  Here at Joyful Hermit’s happy hermitage, the best of ingredients are now on-the-ready to make these potent love bites for anyone desiring.

Joyful makes each order individually.  The good folks at the local liquor store tried to tell JH that top-grade bourbon is not necessary–just go with the cheap stuff.  But, no!  Love deserves better than that, does it not?  St. Bernard spent his entire life seeking to love God and others, so how could Joyful Hermit pass off these little namesakes with less-than.  The fellas got the idea and highly recommended Ridgemont Reserve 1792.  JH is also keen on Four Roses (not the lesser quality) but the “single barrel” batch.  A dear friend in Louisville who knows his bourbons says this is outstanding.  JH also has available Maker’s Mark, perhaps more commonly known and also a smooth bourbon.

As for the other ingredients, all are selected by JH with regard to quality.  As for the making, Joyful Hermit promises prayers for the intentions of whoever has placed the order.  Hermits just do that kind of stuff:  pray and ponder and work toward the ideal.  And currently, each batch is painstakingly made.  (Joyful’s shoulder surgery results at this time can be painfully assumed.  ‘Nuff said; back to the Love of God balls….)

These ideal St. Bernard Love of God Bourbon Balls may be ordered in the following amounts and suggested donations:

6 Love Balls in paper inserts with tin (approx. 3-4 oz.) =$4.50         12 Love Balls in paper inserts, with tin (approx. 7-8 oz.) = $9       24 Love Balls snug-pack, no inserts, in tin (approx. 15 oz.) = $18

Shipping costs vary but run approx. $6.  You may even choose the bourbon:  Ridgemont Reserve 1792, Four Roses Single Barrel, or Maker’s Mark.  Choose which tin design (from photo above: Snowmen or Sleigh).  How to order?  Contact Joyful by email: with amounts and selections.  Use the Paypal button on this page to make the donation once you and Joyful Hermit have the order particulars worked out.

Yes, this is rather a rustic way to order in today’s high-tech world, but it is the best for now.  Truly, Joyful Hermit is blessed to be able to manage this much on the computer.

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Life Is Good the World Is Beautiful People Are Loving

Joyful Hermit reflects upon a time period in which the last of the children had left home.  A time of challenge followed.  The hermit vocation was fairly early in its development, and Joyful was not so joyful in the perceived loneliness and void of concrete direction.  What does God will–not just a life striving to be holy which is the call for all of us–but what does He want me to do?

There had been plenty of negatives in Joyful’s life.  And at that time the emptiness of the house and seeming losses, the physical pain and questioning the vocation, created even more negativity.  Who dishes the negativity, and who agrees to eat it, and what happens if we digest it?  Too bad we don’t ask ourselves those questions when in darkness.

A concerned adult daughter invited me to visit where she and her husband were stationed at the Defense Language Institute.  Plucked out of the dead of winter into sunshine of the Pacific coast, Joyful was taught a lesson that is worth repeating…over and over again.

The first morning I was dropped off by choice at the Cathedral y Carlos Borromeo to there spend the day in prayer, in short walks about downtown Monterey, and fully open to whatever adventures the Lord might bring. Soon darkness of spirit opened to this reality:

Life is good.  The world is beautiful.  People are loving.  The words opened the heart, mind and spirit.  Soon Joyful was repeating the refrain as a refreshing chant.  Life is good.  The world is beautiful.  People are loving!  Life is good.  The world is beautiful.  People are loving!  Life is good! The world is beautiful!  People are loving!

Joyful Hermit was repeating the soul-altering message when picked up at the end of my daughter’s and her husband’s day on base.  The truth of these words grew daily during the stay.  Joyful met fascinating people, loving people, good and beautiful people in a beautiful place in a beautiful world.  Yes, life is good!

Of course, the chant is entangled, distracted, disrupted and buried from time to time, over and over, in the ensuing years.  But whose fault is that?  The refrain is easy enough to resurrect and repeat with days, months, and years of experience in the heart-felt (and sometimes humorous) chanting.

The Lord understands that sometimes one must rouse the beleaguered body, mind and spirit with whatever means, such as words that come to deep within from without some where far from our here and now.  Yet the words and their meaning arrive, all the same; and if we ask for a battle cry to help us learn the simple truths of how good is life no matter what obstacles, we will be given the words, the chant.

No one else is going to do it for us, as is said.  If we want a good life and to live in a beautiful world, with people who are loving, we must see life as good, the world as beautiful, and people as loving.  We must cooperate with God in what He created and still creates each moment we breathe.  We must help make the world beautiful and be one of the loving people who can help make life good for ourselves and others.

Life is good, the world is beautiful, and people are loving.

Posted in Hermit Ponderings, Spirit Lifters | 2 Comments