“…move from here to there…”

Sometimes I see things and they touch a deep space in my soul. Today I watched a video of protesters. One side of the street was one viewpoint, and on the other, the opposing viewpoint. And it was ugly. Not completely – because some people became so nasty and ugly, they were arrested, and the majority did maintain their decorum. The loud and nasty ones actually got sticks and were using a megaphone to shout insults, and they used those sticks to beat people who would not back down, and stood their ground. The police arrested the ones holding the sticks.

One of the things I have noticed recently is that anger is just underneath the thinnest of surfaces, of most people. I mean, they go along all smiles and unicorns, but when the tiniest thing happens, they explode – they have the meltdowns of three-year-olds. It amazes me. How we handle upsets says a lot about us. We often project things out into the world that are not true – they are not truly what we believe or feel, but we “go along to get along.” And trust me, with my childhood, I totally understand that. But sometime in our lives, it is important to decide that enough is enough. And protest about it. It can be interesting to think of our lives as the video I mentioned above – people lining the streets, opposing views on opposite side of the road. Some people carry sticks and try to beat their opinions into you. Others just stand on the street, carrying signs, saying little. Our souls and our minds struggle just like that, with good versus evil, and right versus wrong.

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”               Luke 12: 51-53

And I think that much of what is happening in our world today is centered upon what our deeply held beliefs really are. I watched a 4-year-old video on Belgium and the influx of Muslims, and the affect it was having on the culture there. The consensus is that by 2030 there will be a majority of Muslims. Sadly, most of the culture of Belgium, and its rich history and architecture, and its people, will be gone. One of the commentators spoke to the fact that being Muslim is both an ideology and a religion, whereas communism and socialism are ideologies apart from religion. So when you usher in Muslims, you also get Sharia law. They interviewed one of the Muslim leaders and he plainly said that democracy has no place in Sharia law, and Christianity cannot exist alongside the Muslim faith. There is no such thing as a “democratic Muslim,” because Muslims must accept Sharia law or they are not a Muslim. Think about that. Think about the cities in the world that are becoming Muslim. Here in the USA it is becoming a huge issue. That and illegal immigration. And in comes the anger. The vitriol. The un-acceptance of an opposing viewpoint. Political correctness. Christian persecution. And trust me, the persecution of Christians is happening all over the world, even in the USA.

And my heart is sick. It really is. I recently chose to leave my political life. I was active locally, and on our state level. And what I saw as to the character of people, dismayed me greatly. People espouse all sorts of promises, but when the rubber hits the road, they capitulate to the powers that be – and those powers continue to hold sway over elected officials because no one does anything about it. The other thing is that politicians showed me what users they are. People get strung up on power trips and take what you offer, to further their agenda. But even after working with them, sitting down to coffee with them, promoting them in the public arena, they abandon you once you cannot do anything for them. Running into people at events and being completely ignored is something I was not prepared for. I honestly believed their hype. It stung – not gonna lie. And what is interesting is I discovered I am not missed! Only 1 person has reached out to me. I foolishly thought I was making friends. I was not. I was just volunteering at something. So it is no wonder we have voter apathy. It is no wonder we ignore politics in favor of a new recipe or play date with our grandchildren. Those provide far more joy and far more feedback that is evertlasting.

The Lord did not promise us peace. Just the opposite. As I quoted from Luke above, Jesus said he was bringing division. And it is here. Division is the common thread through everything. We truly do not get along. We go along, but we don’t honestly get along. And so my thoughts on all of this is, “where do I stand?” and “where do I go from here?” and it troubles me, because I realize that I just want to be at home. I want peace. I want harmony. I want love. I don’t want to carry a stick, nor do I want to be struck by one. As a Christian, I do not hate people. I may dislike what they stand for, but I will pray for their enlightenment; their “come to Jesus” moment. I do believe we are going to see a different world in the next decade. I do not believe what we have now, or what we have had for centuries, will look the same. I believe we will be divided as a country, and as a world. There will be enclaves of Christianity; enclaves of freedom. But I do not think we can sustain what we have if we accept and allow some of the things taking shape to continue.

“In the meantime, a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling one another. Jesus began to speak first to His disciples: “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops. I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12: 1-6

I believe a time is coming when even the hairs on our heads, counted by God Himself, will be in danger. If we continue to sit idly by and allow what is happening to continue. I am meeting with the one person who reached out to me, and I will listen to what she has to say. I do know that we are not to hide our light under a bushel basket. The Lord made that plain. (Matthew 5:15). And I do know that we are to be the leaven in the bread of society. (Matthew 13:33). We need to permeate all of society. It is the calling for Christians worldwide. When under attack, we double down and pray. And I have been brought to my knees with what I have seen and heard in recent months. If you have not, you need to review from what source, and from whom, you are getting your information! The world is at war. It is becoming more and more obvious. Today is the day we stand, or kneel. Today is the day. It must be a day you reckon – a day you choose to say, “Enough is enough, and we will not take it anymore.” It is the only way we will survive as free Christians in this ever-changing world.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” as it says in Joshua 24:15. And we see things like this posted in people’s homes, and on bumper stickers on their cars.

“As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth,” the Pew report says. “Islam was second, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent of the global population.”

There are 2.2 billion of us who profess to follow Christ. That’s 31% of the world! But we allow the other religions to persecute us, worldwide. Why is that?? According to a Washington Post survey, “Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians.” That is 75% of the population in America who identify as Christian. But the 25% who do not, are riding roughshod over us. Why is that???

We Christians have become the armchair quarterbacks of our country and our world. We are headed down a dark path if the 75% Christian population, or the 2.2 billion worldwide, continue to do nothing but complain. I am not in the armchair, I am at the game. How? With prayer, with calm discussion, with commentary when I am able. Each person I come into contact with is my mission field. I may be the only Jesus they ever know. And I endeavor to be heard in the game of life that the Lord calls us all to participate in. And it is an outrage to have to listen to my country and my world being torn apart from apathy. Where are you in this game of life??

For many of us, we feel so pathetically unable to make a difference. But each person can be heard. Each person, with the faith of a mustard seed, can move a mountain. In Matthew 17:20, the Lord tells us: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And I am seeing astonishing things happening because just one person is motivated, and completely believes, in what they are doing. One person can make this entire movement to darkness and chaos stop, with the faith of a mustard seed. We need to each throw a pebble into this world and watch the ripples fan out into every corner of the world, announcing the Good News, and saving us all.

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want you to remember the Good News I told you. You received that Good News message, and you continue to base your life on it. That Good News, the message you heard from me, is God’s way to save you. But you must continue believing it. If you don’t, you believed for nothing. I gave you the message that I received.” 1 Corinthians 16: 1-3

Blessed Pascha to those on the Old Calendar. Blessed Easter Week, my friends. We need to acknowledge our faith before others, if we are going to prevent this encroaching darkness. Be strong, be steadfast, and….

 

 

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“I will keep my eyes always on the Lord…”

I have been sharing about leaving Facebook. Boy, so many people got off Social Media platforms over Lent and they are choosing to stay off them! I am so happy. I realized I was not alone in my disgust and distaste over what is all over the media. And interestingly enough, in my age group, I discovered most of us got onto Social Media platforms in the first place, just to stay in touch with our kids and friends who had moved away.

I chatted with one of my sons and he was supportive of me leaving FB. My only concern was being in the loop with his life and kids and because we literally live 1,000s of miles away, and I wanted to ensure I was able to still be a part of their lives. Because for me, family is what matters to me above all else these days. Of course my faith is still #1 in my life, but my faith encompasses the love of my family. And let’s face it, we are getting so lazy. It is easier to post a photo and leave it for others to find and see, rather than personally sending one, or even getting a photo actually printed!! Sometimes we are not in the mood to chat, so we put off calling. I get that, I do.

With the death of my mother-in-law, the above meme became so personal. I will never again get to chat with her, learn from her, or laugh with her. I was recalling yesterday a poignant visit when our eldest son was born. My MIL and I were sitting on the couch, and she was holding our newborn son. My husband arrived home from work and it became almost like slow-motion video, or even a cartoon. He proceeded to drop what he had with him, as he walked through the house, piece-by-piece. And I recall she and I moving our heads in unison as he walked past us. Then she turned to me and said, “I’m sorry; I guess I didn’t train him very well.” And we both laughed and laughed. And the funniest part was I was sharing this with the wife of that newborn baby who is now in his 30s. And we decided it is a genetic trait! LOL! But these memories we hold so dear are made by spending time with one another. They are an investment in our future. They are part of who we become.

The Lord created us in His image. We are a Holy People. The Lord gave us this amazing organ – our brain. And with this brain of ours we have created some amazing things. Technology has helped our world so very much. And without some of our technology, the world would not function as it does. Production and processes would come to a complete stop. One of the things researchers have noted, however, is that technology can be addictive. Just as much an addiction as any other. Some people cannot put their phones down. They are constantly checking their status or looking to see posts on various platforms. One of the favors I did for myself is I turned off almost all notifications. No random dings or rings from my phone. I also took Facebook off my phone. I try to use it as a device to call people, not search the World Wide Web. I am far from my goals, but I am taking steps. And it is one of the reasons I am leaving Facebook. To enable myself to be personal again, and not so digital.

To be perfectly honest, being offline is scary. I am alone for much the of my days (since I am not working outside the home right now) and reaching for my phone or my computer to see what is up around the world is so easy, it becomes second nature. We got rid of cable and standard TV, but bingeing on shows is so easy – I find myself just putting it on for the company, while I go about my day. (I started the Supernatural series all over again and am already at Season 10…lol). Media has become a part of our lives. We are not comfortable being alone, or being in silence. And that is my goal – to be comfortable there. Quietly alone.

In an article on a website called “Inspirecycle,” called “Digital Detox – Disconnect to Reconnect,” they cited many reasons why our habitual use of digital media is bad, and what we can do to disconnect ourselves and be more present to each other. In the article, they cite that many people suffer from FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. And I realized that is me. I want to be a part of what is happening. The reality? I’m a 62-year-old grandma, who is alone most of the time, in Wasilla, Alaska. LOL. Being so remote, I am not really “in” or “a part” of much – it is the Last Frontier, and a much quieter lifestyle in and of itself. So it enhances that loneliness hole I have. But filling it with media is not the way to go! And staying connected for your whole day is also not healthy. Studies have shown, according to this article, that Smartphones have enabled people to become workaholics 24/7 because you can always be contacted on your phone. And it is hard for people to use that “Do not disturb” feature on their phones! I have heard of families that require all phones be placed in a bowl by the door, or on a family-sized charging station when they come home, so they can be present to one another. It is not a bad idea.

One of the suggestions of the article is to begin and end each day practicing meditation or prayer, instead of reaching for the phone/computer first. I have tried to do this. I have a stack of prayer books on the end table by the recliner in my living room. I endeavor to reach for one of those and meditate on the word of God and the Church Fathers before engaging in the world. And it truly does give my soul rest and peace. It also gets my brain in a really good mindset of “God first!” And then when I look on media platforms, the absence of the divine is so apparent, I find it easier to put it down.

It should concern us all, about where our hearts and minds are directed throughout our day. Because each step we take is a step towards God, or a step away. How we fill our minds, the thoughts we have, eventually become our character. The habits we develop say a lot about who we are, and what we are concerned with. And I scared myself. I was becoming so much of this digital world, that all I could converse about what who said what on Twitter, or who posted what on Facebook, or the newest photo on Instagram. My youngest son was telling me all these other social platforms the younger generation are using, to get away from us old people who use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I cannot even remember the names of all the new platforms, and there are a lot of them. This is a partial list: QQ, We chat, Qzone, Vibes, Tagged, Baddo, Stumble Upon, Snapfish, Vine, Tout, Spreely, WhatsApp, and Funny or Die. Those are just a few! Seriously! It is almost bordering on the ridiculous.

This is my social media! Ha-Ha. This is the cover of the Psalter I try to read daily. The prayers for before and after are amazing. It centers me. It calms me. Now, does everyone find solace in a Psalter? Of course not. But it is an example of the many, many, sources of faith and knowledge we can replace social media with. The list is far longer than the platforms I listed above! LOL! We can occupy our minds with prayers, with holy words from the Gospels, or the Church Fathers. We can listen to some amazing Podcasts. We can play Christian music. I recently discovered that I can play the music on my Phone (I have a guilty habit – I love Apple Music – and I have a lot of it. Yes, it is $9/month, but I download far more than $9 worth of music! And now they know what I like, they offer suggestions for more downloads. I recently downloaded all of Chicago’s music – one of my favorite bands of the 70s. Life is good!) by genre! So I choose Christian most of the time, and all my albums that are Christian play, in a randomly selected order so I don’t get bored. I stream it into my car and off we go down the road.

The point I am making is that for me, and for my faith and sanity, I am streamlining what goes into my brain, through what I see and listen to, because it affects my character. The old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out,” applies!

And with determination, trust in the Holy Spirit, and the Guidance of God, I will move into a much quieter place. And it will be a place where I am present to those around me in a real, tangible way. Less world, less media, more love for one another – up close and personal. Friends and family – it is all we really have in this life. Don’t replace them with media. And if we put God first in all things, the rest will beautifully fall into place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…shall never walk in darkness…”

And it’s still snowing. On Bright Monday. LOL. I was asked about what I mean by Bright Monday. Well, Easter! The Lord rose and all darkness has been dispelled! The Light of the World has come to show us the way to Heaven. During Bright Week, we do not fast. We do no prostrations or bows. We stand with the elect; the chosen people of God. Why else would people who disagree with Christianity set off 8 bombs on the holiest day of the Christian calendar? We are not Easter Worshippers – we worship our Risen Lord – Jesus Christ, the Son of God. +Jesus Christ, one of the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.+ And we worship Him every day. Those who hate us persecute us when we are at our most Holy – Easter Sunday. Without Easter, Christmas is meaningless. Without Easter, there is no Christianity. And so those that wish us ill choose our holiest day to attack our people and our beliefs; to make a statement against those who follow Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, there was a concerted effort to hurt Christianity in Sri Lanka, in Paris, and all the other places Christians are being bombed, killed, and singled out for their faith. And during Bright Week, even in dark and snowy weather, the Light still shines for those who believe.

Most of us have just completed 40 days of fasting and preparing our hearts to welcome the Risen Lord. Every year, we re-dedicate ourselves to living a Christian lifestyle. One of the things about Lent that I love is that if you really, really apply yourself, you can come out, on Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday, a different person. And this Lent is no exception. I have been blessed to use an amazing Lenten Psalter study and it truly impacted my thinking and behavior. Another thing that touched me greatly was visiting some friends. They have been doing extensive remodeling. And one of the things they incorporated everywhere was religious art and icons. And walking into their home felt so joyful because God was everywhere. We relocated 2 years ago to a new home. And it has been a home of minimalism. Very little out on display. Very little on the walls. No curtains in our main living area (although in 2 bedrooms there are curtains). My daughter-in-law made a valance for my kitchen window, and also a covering for our glass door. And I love them so much. They added warmth. But I realized after our visit with our friends, I missed my icons. So on Wednesday of Holy Week, I sat and unpacked 4 large boxes. I hung family photos and artwork in our guest room. It looks so homey, now. And I got out my icons. I added them all over the house. We chose a wall we are going to make our icon wall, because we realized we missed them. We need our home to reflect who we are, and what we believe, unashamedly. We are not a Church, so we will not attempt to recreate one in our home. However, we are a Christian home. And I refuse to be embarrassed by my faith, and to not have it in my decor. It is part of who I am and if you are coming into my home, you should already know that about me. And probably expect it! LOL! And I truly hope you find the warmth, safety, and love of God in our home.

I also have decided I enjoyed 40 days without Facebook. I am cleaning it out and de-activating my account at the end of April. I am just done with the drama. I chose to be on FB to stay in touch with my kids. My youngest tells me if he lets me, I become a hovering mother. So he does not friend me on some media accounts. And I get that. He has a life of his own (almost 21!!) and I need to butt out. I am also curtailing my circle. It is becoming more intimate and meaningful. More real. I discovered that I need people who will support me, my faith, and my walk in this world. I want tangible friendships. I need to limit who I let in and who influences me. There are so many sayings like, “You are what you eat,” or “You are what you watch/read/listen to…”  And this applies to people, places, and events we allow in. From a couple of posts back, I wrote, “To quote from the Lenten study I am participating in (“Songs of Praise” by Sylvia Leontaritis), “Every so often I like to sit down and examine my life and the things I allow to take up space in it. I discover activities that don’t really need to be there, for the simple fact that they don’t contribute to anything needful.” And that is more than true in my life. What do I allow to “take up space in it”? 

Less social media, more in person. Less listening to the talking heads, more meaningful podcasts and written works. Less being of the world, more being just in it. I am trying to work out my salvation in the most meaningful way I can. Putting on the breaks, and breaking old habits, are hard things to do. But for me, necessary. Less can truly be more. In every corner of your life.

As we move through Bright Week, let us remember and pray for those who take their lives in their hands, each and every time they gather as Christians. And pray for the souls of those recently taken, and for their families, and their country. Our world is at war, as it always is. But these days, it is becoming more and more overt. More and more obvious. The world wants God out of it, and they want the state in it. They want to replace God with government. We all need to re-commit ourselves to living authentic, Christian lives. Trust in God, in the Light of the World. Simply put, we all need to be praying, all the time.

 

 

 

“…no room left for the unholy…”

“The best laid schemes of mice and men…”                                                               “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns

I have always loved that quote. There is another one I like, too:

Why, I am sure you are wondering, am I bringing this up? Well, it is Holy Week. And I normally am bustling around getting prepared for Sunday – Easter – Pascha. Opening our home and celebrating the Resurrection of Christ!  And part of Easter is just the time of the year. We get to wash our windows, put our screens back on, and open the windows. We get to enjoy sunshine until something close to 10pm every night. And things are blooming everywhere. Not this year! Yep. Snow. And it started last night with rain and as of this afternoon, we had about 6″ of snow on the ground. Only it is still snowing. And snowing. And snowing. Can’t wash windows. Can’t put on my screens or open windows. It is snowing so hard right now, I can barely make out the trees in our back yard.

This has been happening all day long. A friend commented, “Oh no. Snow in Alaska!” And I get it. We live in Alaska. But darn it, it is almost Easter! We relocated to Alaska six years ago this month. And by Mother’s Day that May (just a couple of weeks later), we had blizzard conditions. So it should not surprise me. But I made plans. See…?

                 

The first photo is of all the plants I wanted to lay out in the yard or in pots, even one of those magnetic screen doors for our back door. And in the pot on the right? That is my baby blueberry plant. Needed to get it into soil, but it is not strong enough to survive a freeze yet. So, it gets to hang out in my dining room. I mean, it is April. And we are supposed to be having Spring. So I was ready. And God is laughing at me. Cracking up.

I have been doing this wonderful Lenten study using “Songs of Praise, A Psalter Devotional for Orthodox Women,” by Sylvia Leontaritis. (Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Click here). I love this book so much. The Psalms are just magnificent, if you give them the time and attention they deserve. But at the end of each group of Psalms, or Kathisma, Sylvia gave us some very good devotional reflections, which have really affected me. My goal for Lent was to embrace simplicity in all areas of my life, as well as to embrace a quieter lifestyle. Less noise. Less chaos. “Take control of the things you grant entrance to your heart.” (Page 189) That quote has been huge for me. What am I allowing into my life? My heart? What is taking up my time? “A woman’s home is a reflection of her heart.” (Page 208). Wow. What does my home say about me? Is it a haven? Is is a place of peace, comfort, and prayer? “Have you ever asked yourself what do you do differently than an unbeliever? How will the world know Christ if those of us who call ourselves Christians are no different from those who worship at the altar of the world?” (Page 225) This also struck me. How am I different? In how I treat others? What I say to them? How do I serve God in the world??? And quotes like, “Our shortcomings should humble us.” on page 242 or …”we have to remember the healing power of being still…” on page 259. Her entire reflection on “Unsocial Media” (pages 312-315) were the most profound for me, because this is where I struggle. This is where I find myself being pulled by the world. This is where I am my most vulnerable. “It takes constant effort to not fall down the rabbit hole.” Boy, does it ever! “Accept that your life does not need hundreds of likes or comments to confirm that your life is good.” And that is where I am today. She goes on to say this, “Decide which life is really worth investing in – your spiritual life or your virtual one – and then fill it with the things that truly make your heart happy. If we struggle to fill our lives with good and spiritual things and constantly have prayer on our lips, there will be no room left for the unholy.”

Because I have been quieter, and more reflective, and because I am choosing what I allow into my heart, a little hiccup like an “un-called-for-snow-storm-when-I-planned-to-prepare-for-Pascha (Easter)” sort of day truly does not derail me anymore. Instead, I re-read some Psalms and reflections and my journaling, and I prayed longer. I caught up with friends. I spoke to my brother and we enjoyed ourselves, laughing at memories of childhood. I was not in a hurry to catch-up to my made-up calendar in my mind. I can still pull off Easter dinner. The Lamb and Ham can still be prepared in a snow storm. Driving will stink. Getting around town will be more of a chore. But it is NOTHING when I look at where my Lord is walking this week. Where His suffering is this week. Where we will walk together on Good Friday: “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou has Redeemed the World.”

And we will rejoice on Sunday, like every Easter Sunday, snow or sun, rain or shine. God never breaks His promises. But I am sure He cracks up when we make plans. Or sends us snow storms. I think He sent this snow to help me with my stillness and silence. He so knows what I need. Thanks be to God. Blessed Holy Week, my friends.

 

 

 

“…thousands around you…”

 

I read a new new poll which stated that, overall religious affiliation is, for the first time in recent memory, lagging far behind “none.” In other words, people check the box that says, “none,” rather than opting for a religious identity. Another says that people who are married are happier than those who remain single. And these polls made me think about what they are polling, who they are polling, and how they are sharing their “results.”

Attending Church changes lives. Even if you cannot last the entire service without checking your cell phone (which I witnessed recently) the grace of God will touch your soul, just being there. Being married in a Church ceremony adds countless blessings to your marriage. It does not mean it is better than a civil ceremony in the legal sense, but it certainly brings more grace into your marriage and positively affects your family life. Being a part of God’s family brings grace to your earthly family, and everyone around you.

Whenever I see these polls, I always think, “Well, no one asked me any questions!” And I wonder who it is they poll. America is filled with good people. The world is filled with good people. Some attend Church, some are married – others are not in those categories. Numbers, polls, statistics, can all be manipulated. And I opt for the “glass half full” philosophy. These articles and analyses are ways in which we are being manipulated by the people publishing them. We read this information and it colors how we think about things. We see only the worst being highlighted, and not the best. And this is by far, the most overt way in which so many facts are being shared with the public. It is all around us, in every subject matter you can think of. Sadly, it is hard when you cannot find anything positive on the radio or TV. Disconnecting cable and binging on programs you find appropriate, and listening to just positive radio and podcasts, will rock your world. Trust me.

We are called to be light in this world. We are called to share the faith we have. We are called to love others, even those who seem unlovable. We can opt to highlight the negative. We can choose to think on all the bad. Or we can seek peace. We can read all this negative news, and we can propagate the negative. Our we can just say, “No. It stops here.” Each of us needs to stop the negative in our own way. During Lent this year, I stopped almost all of social media. And completely leaving Facebook has been a wonderful thing for my life. Truly. And I am not saying it is easy. It is addictive, all this negativity. All the information overload we get. And leaving it alone, and not giving it “air time” in our lives and in our heads, is hard. It is like stopping any addiction. But the “spirit of peace” we acquire when our time is spent in better pursuits, is incalculable for ourselves, and thousands around us. Another thing I did was I added spiritual reading. Before anything except my morning cup of coffee, I read the Bible. I have a Psalter and love reading the Psalms daily. Often I will read the Proverbs daily. Or participate in a Bible Study for the particular season. And I have used it to replace mindless TV and poor radio.

There are things I see around me, and there are ways I can affect a positive change, and so I act. For many things and people, there is truly nothing I can do to influence them or change them. But I can be that ray of light, let into their world, and be a witness for them. I can plant seeds of positivity and faith. And I can pray for them. Maybe a particularly negative trait cannot be changed in a person. I can choose to ignore it, and I can pray for them. But I need not focus on it, making it the thing I see first in them. I am learning how to let it go. All of the negative. Let it just go. And now, I strive to find the traits that the Lord sees in others, especially those I have a rough time being around, because we are all created in His Image.

Lent is almost over for this year. Palm Sunday will be here this weekend. Then Holy Week, when we walk the “Way of Tears” with our Lord, thanking Him for His sacrifice, for us. Then we suffer a world without God in it – for three dark and lonely days, while He lays in the Tomb. It is known by many names, such as the Holy Triduum. It is the time from the evening of Holy Thursday until the evening of Easter Sunday. It is during this time, prior to His Resurrection, that we mourn a world without Christ. And so, every year we are reminded how our world without God is a dark, dark place. Let’s not encourage the darkness in others, in ourselves, in our world. Let us be the Light.

“a tiny aperture of light…”

 

There is just so much going on in the world right now. And I am, for the most part, blissfully unaware. Disconnecting from social media for Lent is such a blessing. I am missing out on news of friends (just found out a friend is pregnant again!) but the rest of it, well, I am glad I am unplugged. I do have IG and Twitter, but I am starting to wean off those, as well. It just adds stress to my life. And people were teasing that I had just substituted one for the other. So I am working on it – a “work in progress.”

One of the things I am learning about is simplicity. In all things. In life. In choices. In the time I spend. (Less is sometimes very much more). In the things I choose to have around me. In the way I spend my time – where and with whom. In the things I choose to read or listen to. I am a fan of podcasts these days! Yay! And, I figured out how to organize my iTunes on my phone. I really hate being in the groove with some of my Christian music, and then have Bing Crosby and White Christmas come through my earbuds. Or all of a sudden, I am listening to Disturbed’s cover of the “Sound of Silence” (which I love, but it is rather loud) after just praising God with Mercy Me and “I can only Imagine.” So now I can listen by genre. It is so nice. It is simpler.

Quite often we choose to make sacrifices during Lent. And that is great. We need to do what we can do, in order to more fully participate in our faith. Some people give up soda. And that is where they are at in their faith walk, and they find it difficult, because it was solely what they would drink. And the struggle with that is real. I have been at this Lent thing a long time. This year, social media is my struggle. My soda. And I also encourage myself in adding things each year – developing something that makes me better. A better habit. A better outlook, or way of living. This year, simplicity seems to be my overriding goal and continual lesson.

One of the major things I learned this week – major for me – is that there is a huge difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fading. It is seeing the first little bloom in spring and smiling…and then moving through traffic and forgetting about it. Happiness is buying new shoes and then shoving them in the closet after you first wear them. Happiness is fleeting. It is a feeling that has to be fed constantly. It is a consumable. Whereas true joy is eternal. It can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and Our God. One of the prayers I say daily is this:

“O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O come, let us worship and bow down before Christ, our King. O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and Our God.”

And it truly puts things into perspective. Yes, I can find happiness in my faith and yes, it is a great feeling. Just like listening to some of the music on my phone. I love thinking about the lyrics from Lauren Daigle’s new song, “You Say” – “I believe, O, I believe what you say.” Belief is such a gift. And it brings such happiness. But unlike a new pair of shoes, true faith brings everlasting joy. Oh, I may not be joyful every day. But unlike happiness, my joy is always there. I allow the cares and events of the day steal some of my joy. And that is on me.

And my joy is always my joy. I need to let it shine forth. I also realize that it is my responsibility to safeguard my joy, to share it with others, and do what I can to ensure their joy is theirs, too. So often as parents, we assume our kids have their faith. We instruct, we take them to Church, we pray, we live our faith. And then they become teenagers and start thinking for themselves (oh, the horror of thinking teens!) and they question everything. Do all of our grown children go to Church on their own? They do not. One left for 10+ years but has now returned. One is a young adult and is boycotting family things, like Church with all of us on Sundays. (Unless it is serious and then he is all in, like deaths and weddings and babies). Our other son has never walked away from the Church, and he practices his faith differently than I do. But you know what? They are all finding their own way, their own faith, making that relationship with God their own relationship and not the same one their parents have. And now they, are in turn, sharing it with their own children.

A good Christian will struggle, and we will struggle daily. We are knocked down. But the difference between us and those in the world who have no faith, is we get back up; we enter back into the fray. St. Seraphim of Viritsa says, “Just as a candle, before it goes out, shines strongly and throws sparks, and with its light, it enlightens the surrounding darkness – thus will be the Church’s life in the last age. And that time is near.” I believe that it is my responsibility to my children and grandchildren, my extended circle of family and friends, to shine that light of faith, to help enlighten this “present darkness.”

I have discovered such joy in the simplicity of my faith. But I have also become aware that there are demons prowling about, trying to undo my Lenten progress. And I am so thankful that I am aware. One of the additional things I took on was a Bible Study related to weight loss, that I recently inherited from my mother-in-law (Memory eternal, Mary). I love reading her notes. It is helping me to know her so much better. It is sad that it has taken her death for me to grow closer to her, but it has also been a blessing. She struggled. She struggled mightily. I always looked on her as a strong, strong, woman of faith. To my eyes, she was someone who was so “together” and her talent, to me, was something I truly envied. She was so creative. She could sew and cook, do needlepoint, and quilt. I am so inept in those areas. And I always wanted to be like her in that regard. But now I know she and I are so much alike (guess my husband did marry his mother! LOL!). She had some of the same struggles I do. Her prayers, encouraging her faith goals and weight goals, are so much like mine. And what it showed me is that no one, truly, knows what we are going through and struggling with. We are all being assaulted by the demons in this world – all of us. Some of us just hide it better than others.

I inherited a cross I saw my mother-in-law wear for years, that also reminded me of the cross in the Church she was buried from – Spirit of Christ Catholic Faith Community. And when I wear it, I touch it and think of her, asking for her prayers, and praying for her soul. And it has made me more determined than ever to continue down my own path. I know there are assaults all around me, but I also know the joy I hold close to my heart is a forever joy – the joy of a woman who chooses to simply apply her time and her life to the Christian life – the struggle to attain the Kingdom of God. And it comforts me that I am still learning, and still able to grow as Christian, thankful for each season of Lent that comes my way. And I am thankful for getting to know my mother-in-law on another level; to know she struggled just like I do. Whew. I am feeling quiet, simple, and quite blessed today. I think it is a joy-full day!