Lord, renew in me the fire of my first love!
Marlene and I moved with our family to Steubenville in 1987 specifically to participate in “Community Life”. We were attracted to the practices that we all committed to of daily personal and family prayer and study of the Scriptures; weekly small group and Community Gatherings. The emphasis on “keeping the Lord’s Day holy” by celebrating the opening of the Lord’s Day with a festive meal and continuing it with teaching and prayer was another important practice. These practices and disciplines were all directed to helping us share our most treasured grace of having come to know Jesus as our Lord and savior and having our lives empowered through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
We enjoyed the richness of “covenant community” life and the privilege of serving at the University until 2004. There were many circumstances that convinced us that God was calling us to southwest Florida and positions at Ave Maria University. We fell in love with Florida and I (Jack) can vividly remember my daily prayer. Upon awaking and before my feet even hit the floor—I prayed silently and passionately — “Lord, I will do anything that you ask of me today! Please do not ask me to move back north!”
We enjoyed 10 years of the “relaxed southwest Florida lifestyle”. The sunny, blue skies; warm temperature and tropical landscape were glorious.
Our “prayer lives” and relationships were another story. Without the shared commitment to prayer and growing in holiness, we both slipped into a shallow, almost “hit or miss” prayer times. We participated at Sunday Mass faithfully. We went to charismatic prayer meetings occasionally. But we knew that The Lord was calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.
About 4 years ago, (2015) I recall a stirring from The Lord “to renew in me the fire of my first love”. A visit from Phil and Terry Pergi in the spring of 2016 during which I shared with Phil my desire to renew my passion and zeal. He advised me to return to starting my day with an hour “appointment with god” which had been the foundation of my life for those 17 years in Steubenville.
The first hour of my day grew to 2 as I started to wake at 4:30 with ease. God renewed my passion for personal prayer and Scripture study.
One other major change was that my waking prayer was no longer ended with “…please don’t ask me to move back north”.
There were several circumstances affecting the wisdom of staying in Florida year-round. The most important one was that we realized that we dearly missed the love and support of Brothers and Sisters in the Lord. Prayer Meetings and Men’s and Women’s groups were necessary additions to our personal prayer times. Our summer visits here also reminded us how important is was that we shared our needs and gifts in the practical ways of everyday life.
The summer of 2017 we both spent time in prayer and considering the practical steps of “moving back”! Our hearts said yes but our heads were saying- “No one ever retired and moved north!”.
In December of 2017, we closed on a house in Steubenville that met every criterion that we never thought possible. In May of 2018, we renewed our commitment to the Community.
This fall, The Lord asked us to delay our return to Florida. Our lives are again very rich! The first thing that we each do each day is spend time with The Lord. Daily Mass is a priority! Weekly Men’s and Women’s group and Gatherings are included.
Father Mike’s books, “Let the Fire Fall”, “Appointment with God” and “What Does God Want” contain the principles that have inspired and sustained our relationship with The Lord. You, our Brothers and Sisters in Christ have inspired us; challenged us; and supported us to keep our commitments as followers and disciples of Him who saved us!
Jack and Marlene R.