“Memory eternal…”

Joe smiling

This is my father-in-law, Joe. He passed into his eternal rest four years ago today. As Eastern Catholics, when we recall someone or remark upon their deaths, we say to others, “Memory Eternal.” One wonderful explanation comes from Scripture itself. As we read in St. Luke’s Gospel, the thief asked: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  And in answer, in satisfaction of his wish, his wish to be remembered, the Lord witnesses: “I say to you, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”  In other words, “to be remembered” by the Lord is the same thing as “to be in Paradise.”  “To be in Paradise” is to be in eternal memory and, consequently, to have eternal existence and therefore an eternal memory of God. (Orthodox Christianity.net). I love that explanation. But there are many others, too.

This is also posted on Orthodox Christianity.net: “The Jewish equivalent of “memory eternal” would be zikhrono/ah li-vrakha (“may his/her memory be unto blessing”). Heretics, apostates or evil doers are never mentioned by name after they are gone. If they are referred to, a mock name is used instead (I guess that explains why some call Our Lord “Yoshke”). Also, on Purim when the Scroll of Esther is read, noise is made to blot out the name of Haman, the enemy of Israel. With us, this happens when the Synodikon is read on Orthodoxy Sunday: people call out Memory Eternal thrice to acclaim Saints and righteous Emperors and thrice Anathema for heretics and enemies of the Church. When one really wanted to punish an enemy, they would kill everyone in his household, so that nobody would perpetrate his memory/pray for him. Cf. 1 Samuel 25:22 “So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.”

That explanation is a little extreme, but I love the ties to our Jewish roots in theology. And more is found in other scripture references, too.  Proverbs 10:7 “The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.” Psalm 112:6 “Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”  And from the book of Isaiah (Iz 49:13-15) “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”Joe BryceIn the Eastern Churches, we don’t have a funeral “Mass.” We have a memorial service. And this is the last portion of that service:

The Dismissal

Priest: “Glory to You, O God, our hope, glory to You. May Christ our true God, who rose from the dead and as immortal King has authority over the living and the dead, have mercy on us and save us, through the intercessions of his spotless and holy Mother; of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles; of our venerable and God‑bearing Fathers; of the holy and glorious forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of his holy and righteous friend Lazaros, who lay in the grave four days; and of all the saints; establish the soul of His servant Joseph, departed from us, in the dwelling place of the saints; give rest to him in the bosom of Abraham and number him among the righteous.

People: Amen.

Priest: May your memory be eternal, dear brother, for you are worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory.”

I love how we are asking for a place among all the saints, a place of rest among the righteous. We are remembering the person who walked among us, and we are asking that God “remember” him, too. On that same site, Orthodox Christian.net, this is said,

To remember – to have memory of in the western world is to THINK and RECALL an individual.

To remember – to have memory of in the Eastern Church it is to RE-MEMBER – to pull that person, that part of the body, and RE-MEMBER – REJOIN that body part back into the Body of Christ.

So to say, Memory Eternal is saying “May he/she FOREVER be a MEMBER – A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.”

And I truly ask that whenever I say, “Memory Eternal.” May that person forever be with us. We have the Church in 3 states – the Church Militant, here on earth, the Church Triumphant in Heaven, and the Church Suffering or Waiting (that would be those in Purgatory, should you accept that teaching). But we are all One Body in Christ. It is why we feel we can confidently ask the Saints to pray for us – they are part of the Body of Christ in the Church Triumphant. And we can continue to pray for those who have gone before us, asking for their memories to be eternal, for them to reside with God in Paradise.

Joe Kyle Ron

And this leads to what I’ve been musing over. What would I like to be remembered for? My kindness to others? My temper? My sarcastic wit? My smile? My faith and love of God? I pray my children, and those who know me well, would have an amalgam of memories of me, that would form the whole person, imperfect as I am, for them to cling to after I am gone. But am I also that thief, hanging next to Our Lord, asking to be remembered? Well, yes I am. I have committed sins. I  have great need of forgiveness and repentance.

I read a great blog today by Father Barnabas Powell over on Ancient Faith Blogs entitled, “We deceive ourselves – Faith Encouraged.” In it he says,

“If I am so blind to my need for forgiveness and repentance, I will continue to be at the mercy of my passions. I will continue to be ruled by my spiritual poverty and I will miss the healing power of the spiritual medicine offered to me by God in Christ. But, if I come to myself, as the Prodigal did when he was working feeding the hogs on a farm, and he remembered that the servants in his father’s house were well fed and cared for, I will begin the admittedly difficult journey back to the Father’s House.”

He goes on to say: “Once I see that I am only lying to myself and escape this delusion through honest confession, I am finally free to see myself as I really am: A person who needs God’s mercy and grace. How powerful the trick of the evil one is when he cons me into believing that God won’t accept me because of my mistakes! I allow shame and pride to build a wall of delusion between me and the very love that will set me free. God already knows me better than I know myself. He sees all my weaknesses and mistakes and He loves me still. He, like the Prodigal’s father, stands at the end of the road every day looking for me to return home to His warm embrace. He does not shame me. I shame myself by foolishly wallowing in my ego!”

And he then says, “Today, are you willing to abandon the lie that you are OK? Are you willing to look into your own heart, without shame, and be honest in your need for God’s mercy and grace? Are you finally willing to travel the Lenten wisdom of prayer, fasting, and repentance to see your loving Father throw His arms around your neck and welcome you home and forgive all? Such spiritual treasures await the honest and humble man. All the love and forgiveness you will ever need is as close as your willingness to abandon the delusion of your own heart and embrace the invitation to be Orthodox on Purpose!”

I take great comfort in that. I know that God forgives me and when it is my time to “be remembered” among the saints, I can take my place. But I need to be honest about who I am, and that this constant journey is a process of picking myself up and starting over – and over again. It is not being intimated into admitting I am far from perfect and that God has so much left to do in me; it is an acceptance of my true sinful self and a reconciliation with the real me and God. I also need to remember that we are not guaranteed our next breath. Am I ready to be remembered right now? Am I in that place that gives me comfort, knowing if today is my last, that I am ready for eternal remembrance? My father-in-law was a good man. He worked so hard and he loved his family fiercely. He and I butt heads quite a lot. I wish I was the woman I am today, back when he was breathing his last. I think we would have liked one another more (I think he would have enjoyed me more). His death came so rapidly that most of us were truly unprepared for it. It is a blessing in that he did not suffer for too long, but he did suffer. His entire family suffered along with him. The last moments he and I shared were awkward and deeply sad, but I can sincerely add my prayers to everyone who says, “Memory Eternal,” and I can beg for his repose among the righteous. God knows my heart and he knows the relationship I shared with Joe. Joe and I loved one another, in sometimes an argumentative way, but we wanted the same thing for our family. Disagreements in families are commonplace. But I also know that saying, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” is a wise saying. Time is not something we can count on – there is a finality to this life. Let us all strive to forgive one another and treat one another with loving kindness always and foremost.

Memory eternal, Joe; memory eternal. “…give rest to him in the bosom of Abraham and number him among the righteous.”

Joe Mary

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“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ghandhi

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Infinite possibilities twisted together with definite change. Life is about learning, growing, adapting. And being open to that process until your last breath. I have discovered that changing does not always sit well with those around us; those who have known us as we are. People get used to certain things, certain ways, certain habits from those around them. We are incorporated into others’ comfort zones and we become an integral part of how they identify themselves. Quite often when we are in a process of changing, we upset other people because we are messing with their comfort zone.

Change

I have resolved, over the past few months, to become a completely different person. I am learning so very much. One way in which I am changing is that I am open to learning things that, for most of my life, seemed out of my range – definitely out of my comfort zone. I am incorporating a chemical-free life in our home. I am learning to “eat clean.” I am learning to listen to others, who have experience and knowledge I do not have, and am open to adopting some significant changes in my life. This upsets some of the people around me, and for that I am apologizing. But deep in my heart (or in the “nous” as the Orthodox would say) I am certain that God is letting me know I am on the right pathway. And I just do not see that turning back is really an option for me.

Quite often we are led to change because external things exert an action upon us, and unbeknownst to us, they bring change with them. It can most certainly be the actions of others towards us, the words of others spoken to us or about us, or even a geographical change. But nonetheless, we become a changed person. The impetus for me was learning about a healthy lifestyle. Exerting changes on my own perspective and realizing choices I was making (and had made) were not healthy for me or my family. That, coupled with an amazing learning experience, caused me to shift my views on things. Several other things happened to coincide with this movement within me, to cause me to abruptly stop actions I had been used to making. Stopping habitual things abruptly, changing from one day to the next. I was stopped in my tracks. Literally, and figuratively.

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And out of this stopping cold in my tracks came a wonderfully peaceful silence. I do not need to respond to others. I do not need to add my voice to the cacophony of sounds in this world. I will keep Holy Silence with my God, Who comes to me in those quiet moments when I have come to a complete stop. Those times when I let no other distractions interfere with our communication. And I take His lessons to heart. And I rejoice in the fact that I can still learn and incorporate new paradigms in my life. I can affect change in others’ lives simply by living mine, as an example. And when asked, by sharing what I have learned with others. And I don’t have to play in the same sandbox any longer. I can enter other playgrounds and make new friends. I can grow and move into areas that perhaps I would not have gone a year ago. What a blessing some actions of others can be. Things I had thought were painful have become instrumental in moving me forward. A year ago I would not have chosen to take on an online class or open my home to strangers, sharing what I have learned. And I would not throw things away simply because I have learned how bad they are for me – I would have used them up and not replaced them. But now, I toss them out. And it feels wonderful. I am stretching and growing and becoming. And it does not allow me to keep looking back and thinking, “What if…?” because it is no longer germane to the person I am becoming.

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Musing on this, I realize that God certainly is not done with me, yet. I am learning. I am moving on in my life to be a better me. I have 4 (so far) adorable grandchildren I want to be around to enjoy. I am improving my health, my mind, and my soul. I may not be the person I was last year, but I think that is a good thing. I am placing priorities in order. For me, it is faith, family, and friends. There is a great book called, “Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World,” which I have mentioned before. In it, there are 7 areas in which we can strive for balance and they are faith, family, friends, fitness, finance, field, and fun. I am working hard on learning to find that Oola Balance. When we try to find balance, we are occasionally working with several plates in the air on sticks, and it can be tricky. I am prayerfully moving forward, hoping to balance all these areas well. But I am prone to error and hope I am not leaving others behind, or becoming exclusionary, either. Growth involves learning. We sometimes stumble our way through, but I am determined to keep picking myself up, and working on that balance. Change can be painful for those who are used to our “same old selves.” The person I am leaving behind is not the same person you met even 12 months ago. Be patient with me. And if I happen to move on and you can only see me from a distance, perhaps that is God’s way of urging you to move on, too. I think being stagnant and accepting the “same old thing” is a form of slowly dying. And I am not doing that any longer. I am excited and embracing a new life for me, and for my family, too. I am blessed to be married to the best person in the world for me, and he is fully on board with all of this. God is so great and put two unseemingly-compatible people together for life and we feel blessed to have found one another. It has been working for 31 years of marriage and 33 years of relationship and we are moving forward, together. I am also striving to move forward in wellness, purpose, and abundance in all areas of my life. Yes, I am different. Yes, I am still growing and changing. Yes, I have adopted a different lifestyle and I have moved on spiritually, socially, and emotionally. God is not done with me, as I said before. And hopefully I will continue to become the change I hope to see in the world.

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Finding my Joy….

Sometimes you are traveling along a road, and you can see clearly ahead of you. You know exactly where you are going. You planned it and you had everything you needed. And then God hits you with a 2 x 4! He slams that doorway so fast, you are literally knocked down.

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And that is when He is telling you to seek your Joy elsewhere. And it can take your breath away. You had presumed and assumed so much about what was going to be. What your expectations were. What you had worked towards. What your heart told you that you were called to pursue. Except that God had to show you in a concrete way that your idea, your expectations, your dreams, were not His dreams for you.

The plans I have for you

And so it has become for me. I had an idea of what my future was, where my Joy was to be found. But God had other ideas for me. His plans are far greater and far above what I could even imagine for myself. And He is calling me to pull myself out of this place I was in, to place before me new avenues. New people. New places. Things to discover where I will be better fulfilled and find more, and consistent, Joy. And even though I really hate this trite saying, it does fit: “It’s time to think outside of the box.”  We all place ourselves in a comfortable box. We know the edges of our box. We know where the top will be, and we know where we began, or the bottom of our box. We are in our safety zone. But the Lord calls us to stretch. He wants us to become the best of our potential. And so I am in the process of throwing out my box and being free enough to see that I have so much more available to me; and so much more that I am capable of.

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And I appreciate that oftentimes we get so caught up in pushing forward, pushing ourselves into places we were not meant to be (because it fit into our idea of where we were headed) that we could not be our best self. We could not flourish. We could not find our true Joy, because we were not walking in the Will of God, but were exerting our will into this life. God granted us all free will and it is one of the hardest things to control. To subsume our Will to His Will for us. Subsume is a great word in itself. Knowing that something is being absorbed into something else wholly and perfectly. When we connect with the Will of God in such a way that we are in perfect concert. Somehow you know the decisions you are making are the right ones. He speaks in a whisper and we hear Him.

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And so my pathway has altered greatly. My days and weeks have been changed. My conversations have changed. The things I put into my mouth are changing. The things I use on my body and in my home are changing. The people I associate with are changing. But I am not despondent – I am excited. I am looking forward, in obedience to God’s purposes for me, and I am starting to enjoy this new adventure; this is a process and a journey. I am still learning, still growing and I am not looking back, missing what was or what I thought I was supposed to be doing, but solely moving forward, finding my Joy in new and unexpected places. I am blessed.

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“…more precious than gold.”

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Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. John 11:25-26

I am comfortable in my faith. I am not swayed this way or that way. I stand firmly in the promises from God. I am often asked if I know the bible. I usually laugh inside a little bit. My minor in college was Biblical Archeology. We did not study Scripture for memorizational purposes. We studied the Bible in order to verify archeological proofs of the existence of landmarks and relics which back up all the words contained in the Bible. And for me, even though I was undertaking this study at a secular university, I was still touched deeply by the proofs I was able see in front of me. But belief does not require us to touch proofs – faith!

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It is also the exact opposite – believing what is not there, not tangible. Our faith in the Word of God is an amazing thing. In the Eastern Churches, we stand in the Presence of God. When the Word is processed in, we sing and we stand. We elaborately decorate the Holy Book, containing the Word. We incense it; we hold it aloft; we kiss it; we venerate it. We believe God is just as Present in His Word as He is in the Eucharistic Presence. We also believe He is Present in His Church: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20.  So when we hear the Word proclaimed during our Liturgies, joined as a community, we believe God is Present. We cannot see Him, but we believe Him to be with us.

And one of the things I love about being a faithful Christian is sharing the many and varied ways God makes Himself known to His people. I know He shares His Truth with millions around the world – we just celebrate it a little differently. We believe in the inherent truths contained in the Bible that was established through the Council of Nicaea in 325AD. At this Council the basic Canon of Scripture was codified and the world had the Bible. We were given the Word as it remains (for the most part) today. And we have faith in things unseen.

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So much of what we argue about in our religious discussions are pretty much opinion, not doctrine or dogma. Why is that? Very few people actually study what they believe or why they believe it. They prefer the “cliff notes” and get the “gist” and go from there. I cannot even tell you how many times I am asked by those near and dear to me, for me to tell them a plot line or explain something to them because, shock of all shocks, I am a reader. I LOVE TO READ. Anyone who knows me knows that I am forever involved in some sort of reading schedule, immersed in a story or plot of some sort. And I am that way about learning anything. I dive in with both feet until my curiosity is satiated and my knowledge has grown. I own it. I don’t rely on others to spout it for me. I make my information my own; I take responsibility for what I am diving into.

In my previous posts, I mentioned the transitory and also superficial nature of modern relationships and the effects social media has had on them. This applies to our faith as well. Many people just sit in the pew. They are spoon-fed their religion. Their faith is pretty superficial because it relies solely on others to give it to them. They know, however, if you make subtle changes on Sunday. Ever walk into a place you go to regularly and just know something is off? Well, if you try and make subtle changes to Liturgy, watch out! Just because it’s always been done that way, it must be the “right way.” Heaven forbid someone who has studied and learned tries to offer their expertise and experience to help the liturgical experience be more authentic. That’s when those who seemingly have these superficial ideas about what you’re supposed to be doing go all out – protesting and complaining. At least they are involved – at that point. And let’s face it – no one likes their apple cart upset.

upset apple cart

Well, I love apple pie and I’d love to take all those upset apples and make a pie. Not this time. Those who choose to complain the loudest get the most notice. Ha-Ha. But as I started this post with quotes from the Bible about our faith, our faith is there for us to rely on. And I am grateful beyond words for my Spiritual Fathers (most of whom live very far away) who lovingly guide me, even when others are questioning my faith. Christ made us promises, too. And I believe His promises more than I believe the words of men (and/or women) whom I can no longer trust. My Spiritual Fathers, I trust. Their words to me, I trust. And late at night when I toss and turn and worry over these things, their words, along side the Word of Christ, give me peace and joy in my heart.

“…and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” 1Peter 3:17

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“Blessed beyond measure…”

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“If they stumble, the first will lift up his friend—but woe to anyone who is alone when he falls and there is no one to help him get up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10

The worth of a friend cannot always be measured in tangible ways. At times, we just know they are there, hanging out on the side of the stage, in the wings. But if we need them, they are there. Sometimes we do not live close to our friends. Back in the day, I could go weeks without talking to a friend. We did not need this constant texting thingy going 24/7 like so many teens do today. We invested ourselves in our friends. We spent time face-to-face. We talked. We listened. We grew together. Sometimes we meet someone and they immediately fill a space in our souls. We know God meant for them to be a permanent fixture in our lives. We don’t need to text or talk every day. We know we are bonded.

I have found, as I have aged, that the texture of relationships is undergoing a profound change. When I was younger, we took time to get to know people. We would give up our evenings to spend time chatting, shopping, walking…just doing something together. When I was in college, my bestie (who I still count as a dear friend) and I would walk across campus in our dance outfits (I was so brave then) and sit in the hallways before class, just passing the time and getting to know one another more deeply. The funny part was that we had not known one another before college. We met, realized we had almost all our classes together, and we bonded. Deeply. That was, wow, 41 years ago. Our lives have gone in so many opposite directions since then. We shared dating, marriages, births, deaths, divorces, relocations…and even though she is thousands of miles away, I could call her and she would be there for me. In a heartbeat.  These days, it seems like everything we do is instantaneous. We want it and we want it now. There is no overt or obvious time spent in quiet conversation. People text. They send voice messages. They send selfies. But where is the time spent on sharing ourselves?

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My dad commented some time ago about his grand daughter. He was asking her a question and she told him to hang on a second and she would “Google” it. He, being almost 90, was confused. She explained that everything you need to know is on your phone. You can look up anything. She doesn’t need to read a book, she can “Google” the answer. He is still blown away by that. She looks things up for him all the time. He cannot get over the processing ability of an iPhone. He said back when he was working to put a man in space (he worked on many space projects with NASA) that most engineers carried slide rules. He said when people first started using calculators, their whole process began to change. And I would have to agree. We have let technology rule our lives. We have become impersonal and techno-centric. We are loosing the ability to just sit and chat with another person, fully engaged with the conversation, without whipping out our phones.

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And sometimes we just don’t want to put forth the effort to get to know people in this transient culture we are becoming. We listen, haphazardly, to gossip and we form instananeous opinions based on data we have acquired, without having to do the work to acquire it. Ever hear the expression, “standing on the shoulders of giants”? (“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.” John of Salisbury 1159). I think that we, as a culture, are becoming sort of voyeuristic in that we presume and assume much, without actually learning or doing it ourselves. When my husband would struggle with an engineering principle or formula in college, his sister would say to him, “Don’t try to solve it. Just use it. It is a tool. Others have spent decades figuring it out. Trust that it works and just use it.” Used to drive him nuts, because he wanted to get to the beginning, to fully understand it. But most of us are content to just use something as a tool, not concerning ourselves where or why it works. When the IT guys would come to fix my computer, they would try to explain it, while I worked on something else, waiting for my computer. I finally told one of them that I did not care what was wrong. I did not want to know how he was making it work. His degree was in computer science, mine was not. I was an end-user. Just make it work when I turn it on! LOL!

Relationships are fragile. It is what we have that is supposed to be lasting. We develop friendship in order to find stability in an ever-changing world. We find friends who become our place of refuge, our rock, when the tides come and go. Those who blithely throw friendships to the winds, in the face of malicious gossip and communication misunderstandings, are becoming ‘end-users’ – they don’t care how you built it, they just want to use it while it’s working. And then, when it no longer works or becomes obsolete, they replace it with a newer model. The poetry about friends is ancient, amazing, and heart-wrenching. The stories of amazing friendships buoy us up and keep us afloat in turbulent waters. All of us can think of a special moment shared with a close friend. It may have happened 30 years ago, or happened yesterday. It warms our heart and makes our lives more joyful.

I have discovered that some friendships are based on false commitment. Some friendships are relationships based on commonality of purpose. We make friends because our kids are on the same little league team. When the season is over, we don’t see them. Until sign-ups the following season. We are friends because we are engaged in a common activity. But when we look deeper, we have nothing else in common and drift apart. Those sorts of friendships are bonds that are meant to be of a short duration. They fulfill a need for a time, but are not meant to be people we share our entire lives with. Those people are special, and they are very, very few.

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And I am grateful. I have found true friends along the journey. Friends I have shared puberty and discovering make-up and high heels, and boys, with. Friends I have shared college and all those experiences with. And friends I have met in my career path, and through my marriage. Some of them will be with me always. But most will not be. I think that if I “can count on one hand, my true friends,” then I will be blessed beyond measure! God is good. And I know I am blessed when I can talk to a friend after a long stretch of time, and know that my friend has “got my back,” and totally gets me, without having to explain a thing.

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Comfort zones and complacency…

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I love learning. I love being challenged to become a better me. When we are complacent we are becoming less; we are stagnating. When we are complacent, we allow foolishness to take over our lives. It is so easy to fall into habitual patterns that become walls. We can think of them as comfort zones, but never stepping into the unknown is limiting our horizons. I know so many people who never move. Quite literally – same house, same car, same job, same clothes – year in and year out. They never try anything new. They love their comfort zones.

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One of the comfort zone areas that many people do not realize they live inside of is when it comes to dietary restrictions. Some people eat the same things every, single, day. My husband is such a creature of habit. Change comes hard for him. And there was a local fast food restaurant (Taco Bell) that was near his job, about 20+ years ago. He was a regular. He was such a regular, they had his meal in a bag, waiting for him when he would walk in. Because he ate the same thing for lunch every, single day. That, my friends, is a comfort zone.

Many years later, my husband and I made drastic changes to our lives. We first began when we took fasting seriously, as a journey in our faith. We entered the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with a priest who was pretty wonderful, and whom we count as a friend these many years later. We were blessed that God placed him in our lives at just the right time. He is a fervent liturgist and has a wonderful singing voice. He gave us the complete low-down on fasting – all the dietary restrictions.  But, the key to what he shared was this: He told us to do what we could. He never expected us to fully adopt the complete fast kept by those in the Eastern Churches, since we had come with a western mindset. Just do what you can do. If you are called to more, do more. It was a wonderful way to learn, to change, and to grow out of our comfort zone.

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More recently, we have begun to completely change our lives. We moved to a vastly different area of the country. We decided last year to get up off the couch and explore this beautiful area. We started fishing! I usually take my Kindle and read while the hubby messes with lines, bait, and all that other stuff. I like eating the salmon, but am not a good fisher-person! But I am out there, keeping him company, and it is just so peaceful and wonderful and relaxing (especially when we actually catch fish!).

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The next thing we did to change and grow was to incorporate exercise at our local gym to our routine. It has been wonderful. We are quite literally stretching and growing. We are becoming healthier. We are learning about foods and which we should eat and which we should not. It is hard to give the old tacos up, but it is for the best. We have grandchildren we want to live a long time for. We have so many places we want to see. This place in which we live will give us years and years of explorative vacations. It’s been a positive change and we are thrilled.

We are also changing in how we operate in life. We are constantly reading and taking online classes to become better. We are stretching our minds and our ways of living. Complacency is just not allowed in our lives any longer. There was a time when I had what my husband called, “Grandma’s spot,” on our couch. It had formed around my behind. My husband’s grandma had made a place for herself on her couch that was pretty amazing – it was sloped and dented in that direction. So he told me I was keeping up the tradition. Somehow I just do not want that tradition to continue with me. I am breaking out of my comfort zone, my spot on the couch, and I am moving – in all sorts of directions.

comfort zone.2

As I stated in a previous post, I did not attend Church this past week. It makes me sad and in my heart I heard this phrase, “Jesus is weeping.” I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. And I also remembered being told that when we are striving to become better, and walk closer to God, it is when evil will strike at you. It has struck. And He weeps. And I have wept more than once today. But I am now up after midnight, finishing this up, with complete peace in my heart. I have deep peace because I awoke to a feeling that everything is moving as it should. I am who I am and I am growing to become more. There are many who do not support me and think and I am not a good person or act in approved ways. I am sorry they feel that way; truly I am. Be that as it may, I will continue to move forward, to associate with those who support me, and I refuse to be complacent any longer. I matter. I deserve respect. And I am growing and becoming a better woman, wife, mother, and friend. God has truly got this, to quote a great Catholic theologian. God’s got this.

” but up to seventy times seven…”

Forgiveness – Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

For those of us who are Eastern Rite Catholics, yesterday was Cheesefare Sunday, because it is the last time we eat any dairy and today is called Clean Monday – the first day of the full “Great Fast.” Every year, Lent is prefaced by Meatfare (two weeks ago) and Cheesefare, but more importantly, we also refer to this past Sunday as, “Forgiveness Sunday.” Traditionally, on this day, we are asked by our priest to forgive him any sins he may have committed against us, and we repeat, aloud, “I forgive you.” The clergy on the altar seek forgiveness from one another. In some eastern traditions, this act of seeking and giving forgiveness is expressed in a more formalized, and public, way with a line developing wherein each parishioner personally meets with the priest and other clergy, then joining the line, until each parishioner asks and gives forgiveness to every other parishioner. It can take hours if the parish is large enough.

It was celebrated in our parish, the long way, yesterday. I did not attend Church. I am so hurt in my heart, that I just could not stand to have the hypocrisy of some people played out in front of my face, when I know they gossip disparagingly about my family and I behind our backs. Gossip is alive and well in my life. I was fearful I would say something that would make the situation far worse. For me, and for them.

north_door_of_iconostasis_v-2The icon above depicts the Temptation in the Garden and the Expulsion from Eden and the Shame of Adam and Eve. This icon is used on Forgiveness Sunday to remind us of the Original Sin of Adam. And we are supposed to contemplate our sin, in light of God’s justice in removing Adam and Eve from His Presence. We believe that when we sin, we take a step away, or remove ourselves from, the Presence of God. Depending upon the sin, that step can be minute, or it can create a chasm between us and God. God is consistently standing with open arms, waiting on us to seek Him out, in repentance. In the Eastern Rites, and in the Roman Catholic Church, we go to Confession (or Reconciliation). The Church asks us to go to Confession at least once before we celebrate Pascha, or Easter, and the Resurrection of Christ.

Since last week, I have been thinking long and hard about all of this. I felt that removing myself from this would be better for all of us. I have nothing to prove to anyone, nor do I think my presence should have a definitive affect on others, one way or the other. I have wronged people, I am sure, and need to seek forgiveness from them. But I do not need to do so in a public forum. Do I have anger and frustration in my heart? You bet I do. Do I need to let it go? Oh my, yes I do. And how am I to do that? Therein lies the heart of my moments spent musing over this.

I have been doing this study, which I referenced in my last post, and I quoted from it about the boulders we have in our lives that we need to move out of the way. I have lots of boulders that I need shifted. And I am working on them. I do not think I would have served anyone any good by being at Church. God is working on me. Hard. In the eastern rites, we have no “obligation” to attend religious services. In the Latin Church, there is the pain of mortal sin if you purposely avoid Mass. For us in the eastern Churches, we feel no pain of “mortal” sin; we do not delineate sin in that way. We view sin a little differently and it does not entail whether or not we go to Church. The philosophy behind it is that when you love someone, you want to be with them, above everything else. You will do whatever it takes to be with them. And if you love God, you will do whatever it takes to be there, with Him, at Church. Sin is seen as a step away from God – does your choice put you closer to God, or further away from Him? Does staying home from Church cause you to be further from God or closer to God? For me, I felt that being at Church would be a “near occasion of sin” for me, and for others. And so I stayed away, purposefully.

Today, well, today is Clean Monday. Today we begin the Great Fast in earnest. And today I did something I have never done – I juiced! We bought a juicer and today was its first run. I am now drinking it over ice and I must say, it is pretty darn tasty! With this study I am doing entitled, “The Holistic Christian Woman,” we are also altering our dietary intake and trying to purge our bodies of the stuff that impedes good health. So I thought I would coordinate that with the start of Great Lent. I made my son a smoothie today. It feels good to focus on our health and is such a great way to share Clean Monday and the start of Great Lent.

juicing

Back to why I started this post – forgiveness. It is a rough thing and a touchy thing. To truly forgive someone, you remove the hurt and take it out of your timeline, if you will. You live as if the hurt was never a part of your life. And if the pain is too much, you just give it to God. He has a better way to handle our hurts than we do. He died for our hurts. He hung on that Cross for three hours, taking on the hurts of the entire world. Just for me. Just for you. And He said, as He was being crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).  

Quiet

Do I forgive? Oh, I sincerely do. I really, truly forgive anyone who has ever wronged me. It is as though those things, those words, were never said. And I am completely at peace with that. Do others forgive me? In the same way? Perhaps; perhaps not. But all I can do is seek that forgiveness; how they forgive is between them and God. Forgiving is freeing. I still retain the memories of the hurt, but the pain is somehow removed because I truly let it go. But it does not mean I am stupid. I am not going to consistently, regularly, bang my head against that same wall. Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. I am adult enough to realize that repeating errors is just wasting my time. And it is honestly okay to just walk away….

Nonsense

So I will continue to embark on this Lenten journey. I am focusing on becoming healthier in many ways – emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I do forgive others and I pray for their forgiveness, as well. I read a great blog today by Joel L. Miller enttitled, “The Trouble with me – and  – Jesus Christianity” on Ancient Faith blogs. He talks about the story of the blind men each touching an elephant and describing it to one another. One touches a leg and describes the elephant like a tree trunk; one touched the trunk and described a snake…you get the idea. It is the same with Church, with our faith – if we only see our own interpretation of Jesus, we may only know Him as a tree trunk or a snake. We will not see the entirety of our faith. We cannot be Christians in a vacuum or as islands. Salvation comes in community. We celebrate our faith, we share our faith, we grow in our faith in the presence of other Christians. We listen to the preaching of our priests and deacons; we listen to the Fathers of the Church, who guide us in “orthodox” or “right thinking.” We cannot do this alone. We cannot seek salvation alone. Yes, our faith is between us and our Savior. But the Apostles sought one another and lived in community. We, too, should seek other Christians. So to not attend Church is not the best approach to growing in our faith. However, sometimes removing ourselves from situations that are not life-giving, nor healthy, is the best we can do for everyone. I’m not advocating avoiding communities that help us build and grow in our faith. But I am advocating an intelligent perspective on, as St. John Chrysostom said above, “Let us always guard our tongue; not that it should be silent, but that it should speak at the proper time.” And I believe removing ourselves and spending time alone is a healthy thing to do.

Alone time

This year’s Lenten journey should be amazing. I am working hard on listening more and talking less. On watching less TV and reading more. On making better choices in so many areas. I am working on becoming more fit in my physical, emotional, and spiritual self. This time, set aside each year, is given to us to reflect, repent, and start again. I feel blessed. Working to prepare myself in order to really welcome Christ with Palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna in the Highest.” See you on the other side…

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Procession_in_the_Streets_of_Jerusalem_(Le_cortège_dans_les_rues_de_Jérusalem)_-_James_Tissot