Quiet Extrovert….

know ourselves

Today I took a personality test. It is free and online. (16personalities.com). What an eye-opener. I do think it is the first time I have participated in one of these where I felt like I was accurately and succinctly described. It sort of threw me for a loop. Today became a benchmark day for me, because I learned so much about myself. Well, I know myself, but someone who doesn’t know me accurately put into words what I think about myself. And that can be a tad bit unsettling.

Most people presume that I am an extrovert because I am a good talker. Ha-Ha. I love to chat. For hours on end. And I have an ability to strike up a conversation pretty much anywhere I am. However, I can be superficial about it, too. I can talk weather, or sports, or social media garbage all day long. And then I can leave it at that. And although I can participate in society at that level, anything more can leave me completely exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. When I feel like I can connect to someone on a deeper level, I will extend my emotional feelers and delve into deeper subjects. But that doesn’t happen too often. As I have aged, it happens less and less.

ereader

I am an avid e-reader. I will read a traditional book off and on, but my Kindle Paperwhite goes with me everywhere. If I have a spare moment, I am reading on it. I take it to bed every night and read until my eyelids have gravel in them and it is hard to focus. I prefer, more and more, books to social situations. I prefer a certain genre and through this personality test, I understand why I love the genre I love. I have found that I can go entire days, if no one else is home, without sounds coming through iTunes or the TV. I can be silent. I can tap-tap-tap on my laptop (which I love so much. It’s a new MacBook…with a delicious purple cover – thanks to my DIL!) and that can be the only sounds in my home, aside from my snoring dogs. But I am still communicating, like now, only it is still being a “quiet extrovert.”

Another thing that this test showed me was what is important to me insofar as relationships and career/workplace needs go. I realized that I blog about issues important to me. And most often, there is a spiritual connection. Spirituality and morality are the most important attributes I seek in friendships and workplace environments. Boy, I wish I would have learned this sooner in life. I had it in me, but this test laid it all out so nice and concisely. My nature is to be diplomatic when I can, but I also will not compromise my beliefs. I am always seeking authenticity from others – quality trumps quantity every time.

blcoked on social media

Why do I address this? Well, today several things happened. Someone got through a “block” I had for one of my social media accounts and somehow was able to put a call through to me. And it took me by surprise. My safety net has a rip in it somewhere. So my sense of quiet and alone was attacked and I found out I really don’t like that. And secondly, I learned why so much of what is going on in the world insofar as violence and this ugly, ugly election process truly bothers me. Why I prefer ignorance about some of it. The process for delegates to the convention? Who knew all that? Who knew votes could be disregarded? Who knew prominent party members could opt out of the convention? Who knew there could be so much disregard for human life that simply shooting police officers purely because they are police officers is seen, by some people, as a viable option to fix their situations???? And I realized this bothers me because deeply rooted within my personality, I have a need to contribute to humanity on a personal level, all the while valuing honest, integrity, and morality above all else. Where are those attributes in this political climate or in the culture of violence we see out there even today? And it hurts me, on such a deep level. It is almost like I am realizing I am too soft in some ways, to deal with it. Which I also realized today is another reason why I prefer my Kindle time to socializing, more and more.

kindness

I think that just a little kindness is needed. I posted yesterday about touching people, one soul at a time, one person at a time, just person-to-person. We need, I believe, to shut down all this noisiness and spend some time thinking about our neighbors. Our neighbors who may not exhibit kindness to us, but to whom we need to always be kind. This can be quite literally the person next door to us, but it can also be the idiot who cuts us off on the highway and who we realize needs way more driving experience. It can mean the clerk who is rude to us, or a waiter who messes up our order. It can be some jerk on the TV we see who obviously needs some attention or care. We need to show kindness to “the least of these” –

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed.’ Matthew 25:40

I do not want to be separated from the love of God, ever. Some theologians say that hell is not some hot place with demons attacking you, but rather it is the knowledge that God has removed Himself from you, and the absence of the love of God for eternity is what hell truly is. To come to that point in your personal salvific story line to realize there is a God, and that you did not believe nor accept Him, and He has removed Himself from you for eternity. Wow.  We come to many realizations in our lives, and my continued prayer for others is that they will come to acknowledge God in their lives and accept His will for them. I do not want anyone to be without, or stand outside of the love of God. And I see that lacking kindness towards others (we need to always struggle to be kind to everyone), to be fearful for your own safety, and to want to retreat away from others is sort of something that leads to a further decay of our culture. Those of us who recognize the shortcomings around us are the only ones who can affect a positive change. We sometimes have to fight our inner selves in order to help our society. Yes, I might have to pay attention to this ugly election thing we have going here, where no one tells me what they can do for me, but they sure can tell me what the other guy cannot do! I have to keep myself current in order to be a participant in the process, although I would love honesty and forthrightness within our political climate. As for the violence, I think that will only change when we fundamentally change how we all view the sanctity of all human life. When we can so easily abort the unborn or kill the sick and dying, people will not value one another. When we extend kindness to others, with no expectation of recompense or deservedness, but purely to be kind, we teach them that they have value – that their lives matter – that all lives truly matter.

sanctity of life

One of the traits this test showed me was that I need to feel like I am constantly improving myself, and am inspiring others, convincing others to passionately and altruistically improve the world around them, on a personal level. And to me, that means I need to touch someone positively each and every day, to be sure I am contributing. Right now, I am blogging, and hoping to share with more than one person, so perhaps they will be inspired to reach out, too. I have comforted another person today, and that makes my heart sing. I am trying to make it a personal goal to touch one other life, each and every day. Together, we can reorient this culture before it becomes so warped, no one would recognize it. Together we can grasp one another’s hands and literally pull each other towards a better tomorrow. Yes, I am a quiet extrovert, but even I can affect change.

Flag people

 

“…can go with a stream…”

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.                 Martin Luther King.

This is just such an ugly day in America. There have been so many ugly days. And it seems to be escalating. It makes my heart just sick.

Our family has had an interesting history in America. My parents immigrated here in the 1950s. They were met with extreme prejudice by shopkeepers and others they had to interact with. They put their money in Bank of America because they thought that was the bank for all Americans. They tried to buy their goods at local shops. They collected “Green Stamps” and joined local civic organizations, trying to assimilate. They even attended American churches, so they could learn how “they did it.” My mom watched soap operas, trying to learn American culture. They were repeatedly turned away from retail establishments like the butcher shop, because they could not be understood. My mom was told to come back when she could speak “English.”  The funny part? My parents are from New Zealand.

My in-laws are from Russia. They are called “Germans from Russia” because they are Germans who were brought to Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, who was German, and wanted to bring Russia into the more modern age. She brought skilled workers to Russia, to share their expertise with her new country. My husband springs from these “Volga River Russians.” When they came to America, to escape communism, they settled in the farmlands of Kansas and Colorado. It resembled their homeland. They developed communities and built churches, but they were not allowed into the “white” areas of these towns. They could only attend schools and churches they built themselves. They were not particularly welcome. During WWII when German distrust was at its highest in the USA, our last name was definitely a hinderance to them. My father-in-law had stories of his youth that made me just shake my head. He was going through all of that in the heartland of the USA at the same time my parents were trying to assimilate on the west coast. Just a bit prior to my lifetime.

I have friends who were “Creole” and escaped the South because they were not welcome in either community – black or white. They relocated to the melting pot of Southern California, where there is pretty much representation from every country on earth. They were strong Catholics and became well-known in local Catholic circles. They brought their deep faith, nurtured in the Deep South, to Southern California. Their mom told me they escaped the South because she could not sit on the same bus or eat at the same restaurants that she could in SoCal. She said it was easier to “pass” in California, but that in the South she had a rough time of it. She said in SoCal she could just be a woman…not hyphenated by black or white. This was very much in my lifetime. *Shaking head* *Sad face*

blackwhitehands

Fast forward 18 years ago and we adopted a child outside our race. Last night, as news of Dallas was shared around the dinner table, I laughed as my very pale grand daughter cuddled with her favorite uncle, many shades darker. I asked her if she loved her uncle and she squeezed his neck and covered him with kisses, saying over and over, “My uncle, my uncle…will you jump on the trampoline with me?” Pure bliss and love and no thought to color.

As a mixed race family, my joke has always been, “I can never have a bad hair day, because people always notice us.” And it is true. I have been hassled by both communities. But truthfully, prejudice is a learned behavior. It is introduced to children. As Webster defines it (it can be both a noun and a verb):

prej·u·dice
ˈprejədəs
noun

preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

verb

give rise to prejudice in (someone); make biased.

My parents raised me in a very mixed race area. I attended inner-city schools wherein I was in the minority. We lived through the Watts riots, up close and personal. My best friend was black and I often stayed with her family, attending Church with them where I was the sole white person for miles around. I was set upon and beat up in the 8th grade because I liked a Mexican boy (oh, the memories of Armando!!) that a black girl also liked. She set her “gang” on me when I had my legs in casts (my knees were a problem as a girl). My little 4’11” mom saw a pile of girls with chunks of hair flying and dove in, not knowing I was on the bottom! Mom to the rescue. Later, my younger brother was attacked by her younger brother. We decided to sell and move out. We relocated to a very white area, with a few Mexicans thrown in, and I was in culture shock. Seriously. I missed my multi-cultural life and my friends who were black. Several made the trek out to see me, taking busses to get there. But it was too hard to maintain a friendship being so far and having no means to get to each other.

God gave me this opportunity, I believe, so that I do not see color. When I look at my youngest son, I just see my son. When we were in the adoption process, the social worker asked us if we were prepared to raise a good black man. My husband’s response was, “No; I am prepared to raise a good man.” We have never differentiated between our children. And my son never realized he was different until a kid in 4th grade said to him, “Dude, your dad is white. I saw your mom. Dude, you are adopted.” My son’s response, “What’s adopted mean?” He had no idea he was different. He always said he was chocolate and we are peach. He said that when he gets a cut, he has skin like me…peach. And when I get a cut, I get scabs that are brown like him. He also commented that our feet and hands match. He’s hanging out right now with his best friend, who is strawberry blonde, blue-eyed, and freckled. They don’t see color first, either.

love your enemies

The only way we are going to free our country from becoming something none of us recognize, is to love everyone. And trust me, I know it is hard. I find it difficult to love everyone. I have practiced selective elimination of people from my life who are toxic. I get that not everyone can be tolerated. And I don’t espouse blind love, either. We need to keep our eyes open, yes. But we also need to not judge people, prejudicially. How can you hate someone who is different, just because they are different?

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”…Genesis 1:27

God created every creature that roams the earth. Everything. Everyone. No, I do not agree with some creeds and beliefs. I do not. But I believe that God will reach each person in the best way they can be reached. I do not believe that because they have not been “saved” nor ever heard the “Word of God,” that they will be eternally damned. That’s the anthropologist in me! But it is also the Mercy of God. I cannot be friends with everyone. Some people just rub me wrong. And I am sure I rub others the wrong way, too. God did not intend for this world to be perfect; that is for the perfection of Heaven, in an eternity of Grace with God. But on this world and in this life, we are called to love others, even those who persecute us. We are called to allow others to make their choices in how they believe, where they live, how they act, what they eat, what they wear, who they marry, what career they choose, etc. Which is pretty much what freedom is all about and why so many come here. So many come here to have a better life, or to escape persecution. Some were brought here, generations upon generations ago, against their will and have lived here for 100s of years, assimilating as best they can, into our American melting pot.

jesus prayer 2

The only way we can affect true change in America is to change ourselves. We cannot expect our government to change for us. We cannot expect our neighbor to change for us. The change has to start in my heart and my soul, in my relationship to God and those around me. It would create a ripple, reaching all the corners of our world. We cannot always go out and fix the world at large, when our backyard is a mess. I really hate it when people criticize how people keep their house, when they are secret hoarders or something. My opinion is that we have to stop criticizing our neighbor and get out a mirror and affect change in ourselves. I am a poor sinner. A poor sinner. And I fall to my knees every, single, day! The choice I make is to seek my Maker, and get back up again. Each and every Christian needs to examine themselves and then reach out, refreshed in the Spirit of God, to their neighbor, one heart at a time. And we have to stop being dead in the political world, the marketplace, the schools, the neighborhoods. Enough is enough.

logjams

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, 1925

“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

I have not come to bring peace…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how God challenges us. Well, challenges me. I tend to be a little bit of a stickler about certain things. I guess what it boils down to is that I like rules. I prefer being in a box, rather than free ranging it. For years, I always felt my children operated best when they knew the limitations of what they can and cannot do. Borders. Edges. Limitations. Expectations. I realize that as a person, I am not the one to stand at the podium and give the speeches. I am not the one to be in charge. I am basically a background person. I can make you look great. I can help anyone, by working “back stage,” as they say. I do not need to be the leader. Although because of my personality, it is often thrust upon me, it is not where I am best, nor is it where the best in me is played out for others.

And I believe it is this tendency within myself that led me to love organized religion. I am a historian at heart and an anthropologist by training. I love getting to the roots of things. One of those things is that I love knowing that I belong to a religion that has come down to us, unchanged, from the Apostles themselves. There are no surprises, nor am I expected to be in charge. And I have loved learning about how our faith came to be, how it works, and has worked, for thousands of years. And I don’t need to change, edit, or alter a thing. God gave us His Church through His Son, and His Apostles. Done. Each time someone disagrees with how the Church does something, they leave. When someone gets angry at a priest or deacon, they leave. Many are upset at the caliber of the men in the Church. What they forget is that they are just that – they are men. No one claims to be a Saint or Christ Himself. There has only been one “Perfect Man” and He died for each one of us, on a Cross, over two thousand years ago. We all strive to be good, but no one is perfect, except for Christ Jesus.

ChristPantocrator

This past week, with the increased violence and the shootings in San Bernardino, California, the realization that people are not perfect came to a dramatic head. This shooting touched me personally, in many ways, and through many relationships, past and present. My heart hurt. My spirit was heavy. And I was soooooo angry. And I immediately jumped on the anger train and was unsympathetic to anyone who did not share my anger and my hurt for those who were killed, and their families.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.…” Matthew 5:44-45

Boy, is that a rough lesson to learn. And it cuts deep and close to what we consider our faith. I have experienced, in the past, being excluded. When my children were very young, I attended a weekly bible study. It was called non-denominational and everyone attended different churches. There was a local school that many of the teachers of the bible study, and many of the attendees, sent their children. It seemed like a great school. I applied for a position for our eldest son to attend Kindergarten there. I received a very awkward phone call from the principal who told me that although we were all Christians, our practices differed substantially and it would be a falsehood to deny our differences. He also said that as of that time, they did not accept students who were not their particular type of Christian and our family worshipped too differently for us to be accepted at the school. About the same time, our bible study spoke about Mary and I found myself standing up to defend Mary. Standing and speaking was to defy the rules of the bible study, which stated you did not interrupt nor give opinion during presentations, only during private classroom time. I could not stop myself. They were promoting heretical notions. I could not let it stand. I found myself unwelcome and I was forced to discontinue my membership in this women’s group, and pull my children from their program. It was disheartening and I was so very sad. I lost friends over it. Faith can be so divisive. (Politics, too).

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 34-39).

evangelical-divide

We are becoming a nation, a world, of factions. It is historically significant that Christians (aka the Catholic Church) have been pitted against Muslims for centuries. The times that are the most famous are those surrounding the Crusades, when the Pope sent armies to defeat the Muslim invaders; to stop them from coming into Europe and decimating the Christian populations. The Muslims acknowledge Mary as the Mother of Christ (and are actually more accepting of her than most Protestant denominations) and believe Christ was a preacher sent by God. They do not, however, believe He is the Son of God. They believe Mohammed is equal to Christ, even slightly more important than Christ. We agree with Muslims that there is but one God, and there is no other God before Him (they refer to Him as Allah).

I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:5-7).

But apart from that, our essential belief system is extraordinarily different. Our value systems were formed through adherence to our belief system, and those differ vastly in some very basic precepts. In our Christian world, the Lord Jesus Christ calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And I agree with that; I struggle with it on an almost daily basis. He also called us to arm ourselves:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

ephesians6_11

 

And yet, how do I reconcile my feelings of being apart and separate from other believers, because of the differences in how we worship? Not to mention the theology of the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Mother? There are many aspects to highlight how we are different, but how does that help the cause of ecumenism in our world? How do we battle what we have been fighting for generations, if our faith is not united? Yes, as Americans we feel united against terrorism on our lands, much as our recent family members felt during World War II. We feel united. Much of the Judeo-Christian world feels united against a common foe. In some ways we truly are. We value human life, for the most part, differently than those from the Muslim world. Females are not valued at all. Abortion, rape, genocide…those are all common in the Muslim world. But how can we, as Christian Americans, judge our Muslim brothers when we kill babies in the womb? When we fight one another over religious differences, here at home? No, the Muslims do to want to convert me; they want to erase me from existence. I truly understand that, and I struggle with those realities in light of the Gospels. I recall that as an aware child I knew that our country was horrified that President John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, had been elected President. He simply could not be a good president because many felt his loyalties would be divided – “What if the Pope tells him to do something?” That statement, alone, explains how little our Protestant brothers understand about Catholicism. There are more Catholics who serve in governmental positions, but how many of them live by the tenets of their faith and are good examples of Catholic Christians? (As in not supporting funding abortion or supporting anyone or any legislation that is not pro life). Misperceptions still persist, even today; many Christians are Christian in name only; many because it’s sort of cool at the moment to declare your love of God, even if you don’t treat others “as yourself.” My country is not as united as we like to think we are. When we face a common enemy, we stand together. But when that enemy recedes, how do we love one another?

I started this post about living in a box, within rules and limitations. I spoke to how my faith reflects my love of order, and even rules and responsibilities, and behaviors. I believe we should all be free, free to choose which Church we want to worship in. I do not believe law should reflect any one religion, which is the basis for our Constitution. Sharia Law does not belong on American soil. But I am still saddened by the vehemence with which people who are “Christian” treat one another. Yes, I am determined to gird myself with the “belt of truth.” Oh yes, I believe in eternal truths. I also believe God, through His Apostles, spoke that truth throughout the world, establishing His Church around the world. Men have taken that Church and torn it into pieces; into “denominations.”

Denominations. A denomination is defined in this Encyclopedia as an organized aggregate of worship centers or congregations of similar ecclesiastical tradition within a specific country; i.e. as an organized Christian church or tradition or religious group or community of believers, within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same denominational name in different areas, regarding themselves as one autonomous Christian church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions. As defined here, world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries, these denominations themselves being composed of over 3,400,000 worship centers, churches or congregations.” (World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001).

A denomination refers to an actual name, or the naming, of something. That means that there are over 33,000 “names” for Christianity and Christian in this world. The Church that Christ established with just 12 Apostles, their families, and the early community established after Pentecost, grew to be over 3,400,000 “worship centers” throughout the world. Worship centers that are not united around one faith, one Church, but are made up of communities by someone who disagreed with the tenets of the established Church, and started their own “brand” of Christianity. It’s sort of like those of us who opt to homeschool and not participate in a national indoctrination program, called public education. We start our own little community, at home around the kitchen table, and call it “Bob’s School.” Well, in that same vein, there are all sorts of “Bob’s Church”(es) around this world. How do we fight the one or two Muslim denominations who are determined to wipe us off the face of the earth? How do we unite, truly unite, down to our most basic units (the family) when people continue to disagree about fundamentals of our faith?

Mother Theresa.Peace
The only thing I can come up with right at this moment is to just LOVE. Overshadow all we do with LOVE. The Love of God for our fellow man. Our priest gave an excellent homily last week about loving others. He said that we open our arms, tell God that we love Him, embracing everything that is Him. We truly do. Then God asks us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31). But that’s where it all falls apart. That guy over there? You want me to love that guy? Oh, I can’t do that. We don’t get along. I can’t love someone I don’t get along with. Or we say  – I can love my husband(wife) and my kids, but my sister? My brother? My parents? We had a disagreement years ago; they hurt my feelings. I can’t love them; I don’t even like them. If that is the case, how can we truly love God? How can we expect to get along with everyone if we do not start right at home, with our own families? If we cannot love our co-workers, those who even attend our same Church but with whom we had a disagreement? How can we conquer something like the Muslim faith with LOVE of God if we cannot love those most known to us? How can we, as a country, continue to survive as a nation, without love of our neighbor?

I am sick over all this violence. I will not lower my awareness and just blithely give into it.  But I am so tired of the energy it takes to hate someone or be angry with them. My heart aches over the shootings in San Bernardino and the loss of life there and around the world. But I cannot hope to solve this problem of hatred around the world if I cannot love the guy next door who drives me crazy, can I? How did those 12 Apostles do this? How diid they spread the LOVE of God around the world when it does not exist around my block, in my parish, my family, or in my little corner of the world? Some days, my heart just aches, thinking about all of this. And so I blog…

World PEace

“Be kind to one another…”

be kind

That quote is from the book of Ephesians, in the Bible. The above art is by Ramon Lo. It felt right, somehow. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32  I chose the art because even though it has these lovely swirls in it, I also saw it as being said in the midst of explosions. And quite rightly so, in the wake of all the violence we saw this weekend. Unfortunately, it was not just in Paris, but also in Beruit, Kenya, Lebanon… on and on it goes. The common thread? ISIS. Muslims.

I read the most fantastic article today. It appealed to me because it was full of history. I think it should be mandatory! “Christianity & Islam: Are We at War?” by Father Mitch Pacwa SJ (shared online by http://www.stmarkbeaman.org). It was full of information and perspective. I highly recommend it. I learned so much. And it fed my desire to write this all out.

I was chastised for putting up a meme on Facebook recently, by a friend. It made me think, and I am still thinking, and pondering the comment. The meme was posted by a site called, “Dysfunctional Vets.” Dysfunctional Vets Meme

I don’t particularly like violence. I abhor war, because I know up close and personal what being at war can do to a person. So I do not advocate violence. But as a country, a culture, a world, how do we stop a violent people? A people whose agenda requires them to obliterate their enemy? If one of theirs comes to know Christ and coverts, it is required that they be killed, and all those who allowed them to covert be killed. They do not consider Christians or Jews to be “of the book.” The article I mentioned above does a fantastic job of explaining all of the differences in the sects within the Muslim belief system. It is also very important to know that the Muslim faith has no “governing board,” no “ultimate authority” on what you have to believe and what you don’t. It is up to each independent believer to decide for themselves. So when they spout, “We are not a violent religion,” what they are saying is the particular Imam they follow, and the particular verses they believe in, do not espouse violence. But at least half of those who follow Mohammed are violent. And that is who is bombing, beheading, raping, killing, stealing, destroying… throughout the world. So how do we thwart this violence? Because I am fairly certain they will not stop until all of those who are not “of the book” are removed. And they do not believe in living side-by-side. They do not espouse co-existing. It is their way or death. And if you think they will allow a country to be Christian, to attend Christian Churches, have Christian artwork, books (including the Bible) under Muslim Sharia Law, you are kidding yourself. Ask someone in Syria… ask why they are fleeing by the millions.

The Syrian refugees who are trying to escape, the families ravaged by war, the Christians who flee because they know to stay means execution – those are the refugees I would help. Those are the people I would welcome. But has anyone looked at who is coming in?Have you watched in Germany? Switzerland? France? Have you seen the demographics of the refugees storming the borders in Europe? If you can peek through the political correctness and main-stream-media hype, you will see the vast majority are men and boys. Now, sit back and ask yourself why that is. I am not suggesting they are all militant jihadists. (But that does bear pondering over). What I am suggesting is that they do not bring their wives or daughters because women don’t count for much in their culture. They take care of their goats better than their daughters. A wife is disposable, tradable, and definitely replaceable. From what was once a matriarchal society to what the Islamic countries have now become, insofar as the rights of women and girls, it makes you sick to your stomach (especially to me, because I am a woman and a Christian).

In one town in Germany, home to about 100 people, they’ve had 1000s of refugees arrive.(Here’s one link: http://www.wnd.com/2015/10/german-town-of-100-must-take-1000-syrian-migrants/). It’s wreaking havoc as people across Europe try to deal with all these refugees. And Obama wants us to do the same here. And frankly, it scares me. We can barely manage to care for our own. We have homeless veterans who are not cared for. We have the mentally ill who are left to roam the streets. Runaway teens, drug users, the homeless for whom we do not care. We have joblessness already. How are we expected to take in more people, with no discernible job skills, into our already-broken and overloaded system? As a former welfare office manager, I can attest to how we are not ready to care for refugees. We can’t care for the people born here, or already living here. And we are a country that keeps raising its debt ceiling, printing worthless money, and hasn’t had a balanced budget in recent memory. I only wish the government would allow us citizens to balance our private debts and checkbook like they do!! This is a country that devalues human life so much, it is perfectly legal to kill unborn and recently-born children. How are we to care for these refugees? Who will care for them? Will you? Your church?Will you willingly house them? Feed them? Clothe them? What about that disabled veteran who fought for us over in the Middle East, who has to live on the streets or in shelters? Are you caring for him? If not, how can you expect to care for the hundreds of thousands of refugees Obama wants to allow in? Is your city, your town, your neighborhood ready?

“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 4-6

I know my friend was surprised by the meme about violence. Because I am generally a Philippians 4 person. I really am. But historically, we have battled with these sorts of zealots before. Many times. As the parent of a veteran, my hackles rise when I am expected to bring in people to care for, when we don’t care for our vets, let alone people who have no discernible skill sets or ways to support themselves. There is so much deeply imbedded in how we divvy out our benefits; costs and Federal requirements no one has a clue about. Did you know that if a certain percentage of the population speaks a specific language, and English is not the primary language spoken in the home, the state requires that all documentation be provided in their own language? That each public entity serving that populace must hire workers who speak that language and are part of that demographic? That banks, landowners who rent, service agencies (even car dealerships, etc) have all documentation available in that language? And it is based on the most current census numbers. Except when the Federal Government sends in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Arabic-only speaking countries. Do you realize the expense incurred for having to translate everything into the various Arabic dialects? And having to hire Arab speakers at all government agencies? Banks? Doctor’s offices? Hospitals? On and on the burden goes.

No, I do not advocate violence. I truly do not. But quite often it is the sole way evil can be stopped. We’ve done it before. Read history. And do the other half of the Muslim believers, those who are bombing places like Paris, expect an outcome wherein they take over? Well, yes; yes they do. They actually think that by bombing, breeding, and otherwise infiltrating the Western World, they will take it over and the Muslim belief system and Sharia Law will rule the world. How do we thwart that, and stop it in its tracks? (Read some history on Vlad the Impaler).

I'll see you

I tend towards being a prepper, and even though we haven’t prepped much, we still believe the ideas are pretty good. Living where we do, it makes lots of sense just from a natural disaster point of view, let alone civil and/or international unrest. It may be necessary with weather, earthquakes, and now violence. And I do favor open-carry laws, and definitely defend the 2nd Amendment. I do not believe we need a national registry for gun owners, or that the government should come and take our weapons from us (look what happened in Paris, a gun-free zone). And I heartily support our troops who are serving and all those who have served before. (Thank you for your service). I do not want to harm the already-harmed refugee families fleeing the enemy – Islam in its ugliest forms. Most especially Christians fleeing from Islamic terrorism. But how do we fix this? Our country’s landscape will forever be changed with this many refugees coming in, all at once. It will no longer be Apple Pie and the American Way. It just won’t be able to remain what we all have loved.

151116-eiffel-tower-red-white-blue-1240p_6eac43f24b6e3c7448aef4c6cfb525a9.nbcnews-fp-1200-800

This weekend, I watched the TV coverage of the Paris attacks and I wept. Why? Because this world is nothing like the world I was born into, or even what it was 15-20 years ago. I cried because I lived through VietNam. The entire saga of the Middle East, historically, and in my time, the Hostage Crisis during the 1972 Olympics clear through to when Operation Desert Storm began in earnest, up to and including lives lost this week. We have a long history in the Middle East. They are against every thing we believe in and stand for. And I cried this weekend because I realized my 16-year-old was too young to remember 9/11 – this was his first view of an Islamic attack on a free people. He only watches YouTube videos from 9/11. I cried because I have no certainty for his future without bloodshed. And when I thought of my little grandbabies, I wept even more. What is the world we will leave to them? What will the world become, my country become, in the next 5-10 years? Will we recover from Obama? We will stop this modern Horde? Can we bring this world, this country, our culture back? I am doubtful. Historically, they were referred to as the Muslim Horde clear back to 710 AD.  [There’s a great article I tried to cite, but for some reason it didn’t let me.  The link is this: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/medieval/articles/muslimhorde.aspx  The article was written by Robert C. Daniels (I recommend it highly, too!)]. Hordes tended to come “en masse” and obliterate their enemies. It has been repeated over and over again, throughout history, back to Mohammed himself (570 AD – 632 AD).

view-overlooking-helena

I still think we need to be a Christian people and that we desperately need to cling to the tenets of our faith. But we also need to be prepared to defend our faith, our freedoms, our culture, our way of life. Because if the sects of the Muslim faith who are perpetrating all these atrocities are allowed to continue unchecked, this world, as you and I know it, will no longer exist. Yes, pray for France, for Paris. But also pray for Beruit, Kenya, Lebanon, the entire Middle East… and our free world. Because I firmly believe these people “of the book” are determined that all those of us not “of the book” need to be exterminated. I don’t see a peaceful option out of this. I am so tired of the nice guys being trampled upon. But to my faith, I hungrily cling, as a man in a parched desert seeks water, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

heart-inspiration-life-love-peace-favim-com-223945

“To everything there is a season…”

Blessed SeraphimI was reminded again this week of the fact that life passes away.  We lost an old friend of ours and at the Divine Liturgy last night, we all prayed for the repose of his soul. And I found myself weeping…just weeping over the loss of a friend, yes, but the loss for his wife and children, and grandchildren.  They will never have him again in their life.  And it overwhelmed me.

Earlier in the day I was working on arranging for my mom to come and visit us. It is a 5-hour plane ride (non-stop, thank goodness) and I have to plan far in advance, to be sure all the arrangements are made, because my mom has Alzheimer’s and Dementia.  She gets confused very easily, and being in an airport will overwhelm her.  My step-sister, who has become my friend over the past few years, lives very near my mom and does so much for her.  We were discussing how odd it is to make the same sort of arrangements for her, that we make for an unescorted minor flying across the country.  I will be doing the same thing very soon for my 15-year-old son, who will be attending summer camp on the east coast.  Every detail has to be looked at and gone over.  It is frightening, actually, to have my mom (and soon my son) flying pretty far, all alone.  But she needs to see her great-grandchildren, her grandchildren, and her children. We are family and we need to stay connected.  With Alzheimer’s and Dementia, time becomes the important factor in all of this, because one day soon she will not know any of us.  Another one of those life-cycles exerting itself.

Yesterday was also the first birthday of my oldest granddaughter.  What a joy she is in our lives.  And she was so very happy with her little cupcake yesterday – as she was wearing a goodly portion of it!! The joy on her face was enough to bring tears to your eyes.  I thank all the brainiacs out there who invented video and Face Time and Skype; it makes us feel so close to each other and not the 1000s of miles apart that we really are. Knowing that I will be seeing her, and her soon-to-be-born little sister, made it all the more poignant.  Today, I was on the phone with my sister-in-law who shared she is expecting baby #10 in October, and I was just marveling at the gift of life all around me.  My friend who recently died was the father of 14 children, and grandfather to something like 5 or 7 children (I have actually lost count!).

handsLife is just such a blessing.  And it is a cycle.  Old and new.  Comings and goings. Cycling, always cycling through. All the tripe sayings they have out there are somehow showing themselves to all have a grain of truth in them.  Dontcha hate that? Ha-Ha.  “To everything there is a season,” as it says in the book of Ecclesiastes.  And as I age and head closer and closer towards my final destination, I am finding that there are, indeed, seasons.

My friend who passed was from the season in our lives when we were all having babies.  We were homeschooling our kids; we attended Church together; we shared parenting and marriage, financial and other woes with each other.  We supported one another through those rough phases all young marrieds go through, in addition to some wonderful bottles of wine and steaks cooked to perfection.  I have such clear memories of summer days spent under the stars, contemplating our lives.  Wonderful memories filled with so much laughter.

My grandma used to tell me, “Well, you can’t put old heads on young shoulders.” I used to laugh at her many adages, and trust me, she had volumes and volumes of them!  But she was right. There are things I can see from where I am standing, that I cannot really communicate to my children’s generation.  Many times it is because they just don’t want to hear it from me, but mostly it is because they know what they are doing for them is right (haven’t we all been there??).  And I acknowledge that and I respect that, very much.  It was not often afforded to my husband and myself and so I want to be sure my kids know I respect their choices; I just wish I could give them some of my wisdom. But I also know the deepest wisdom is gained through living life, not being given some adages to ponder.  We have to live for those tripe sayings to mean something.  As St. Seraphim said above, we are given choices.  We can choose to be of this world and outside of God, or we can choose for Whom our heart hungers, which is God, the God of life.  Everything eventually passes away.

I saw a funny meme today about books:

Read something goodIt is one of my guilty pleasures – I would rather be reading than pretty much anything else. (Especially if I can drink a nice glass of wine or nibble on something chocolate at the same time! Heaven!).  I often think that for me, loosing my sight would be the most horrible thing. Because of missing the faces of my loved ones, yes, but I would no longer be able to lose myself in a book.  And what we read, what we contemplate, becomes a portion of who we are.  I love paranormal books and stories of good versus evil.  Love all the witches and spells, potions and demons and the heroes that defeat them. Always makes me feel good.  I have often mused why I love this genre so much, when I was always reading historical novels in my younger years.  And I realized that for me, it is my way of getting in the fight.  It is my way of confronting the evil in the world, and always choosing to be a “good guy.”  Why is that? Because I know, deep in my bones, that this world does truly pass away and only God remains….everything passes away.

Some day, all that will be left of me will be a pile of bones in a grave, and the legacy of genetics and memories I leave for my family. I pray that their lives will have been better because I was a part of them. I pray that everyone I touched was left with a positive feeling in their hearts when they think of me.  I know there are those who I hurt in my wild and rambunctious days.  I cannot go back and undo what I have already done.

byiO4laAnd this saying keeps me focused on what is ahead.  This cycle of life we are living keeps moving. We choose to participate or sit it out. What a waste to spend life angry, sitting on the sidelines pouting.  Or mourning those who have gone before us, while missing the blessings of new life in front of us.  Perhaps it is because I am older and life is a little quieter, but I am seeing God’s hand in so many more things than I ever have before. I know He is present and active in my life and the lives around me.  And when I start seeing these things over and over again, I feel so blessed.  To know something so clearly is so peaceful, and it brings such contentedness. I may not control it all; I may need to still buckle up and gird my loins – all of that may still hold true.  But I also know that “God’s got this.”  How totally cool is that??

Miracle baby toesBlessings to all my fellow miracles out there, who touch the miracle of life each day, by living and choosing life through the Grace of God.  And my continued to prayers for those who perhaps are not as certain of God’s presence in your life, or the love He has for you – I’m becoming certain enough for both of us.

 

“…lift up our hands and bless him.”

baby-feet13Today is the first of May.  Spring is really here!  There is a small patch of snow under our front window, trying to hang on.  But I think the grass will win…we have a whole week of sunshine predicted!!

Yesterday was an awesome day.  I had the car…so that is a huge thing for me! I was all over town, having been to three places, before 9:00am! Whoopee!  And then we got texts from our middle son, which totally made our day.  His wife is expecting baby #2 and it is a GIRL!!!!  Having raised three sons (well, #3 is almost done), I love having little girls around. It just melts my grandma heart.  I love all things girly – except on me! Ha-Ha!  I love the little outfits, the socks, the cute and frilly undies that cover their diapers, the shoes, the BOWS!!  They never had bows like this when I was a kid.  My mom used to use Caro’s syrup to glue a ribbon on my head so people knew I was a girl – I was pretty much bald until I was 2 or so!!  The two granddaughters I have so far have such different hair…one is looking a sandy blonde (leaning towards brunette) while the other is a strawberry blonde (leaning towards outright red!!).  Both of their smiles just take my breath away; they melt my heart (I know I keep saying that).  I absolutely adore my grandkids. My grandson, being two and the oldest grandchild, occupies a special place in my heart, too.  He was the first and he opened the floodgates of my heart when he was born.  Who knew??  I think I was created to be a grandma. It is the best thing – ever!!!  (I think the meme below applies to grandmas is such a special way…)

PreciousJewelsYesterday was also a day when I just could not stop crying.  I got some news that a friend we were close to many years ago passed away from cancer.  It devastated me and my husband, too.  We have such fond memories of their family and some great times spent with them.  And I have been praying for his soul and for his family.

HolyOilCandle.HolyBookAnd there have been some other things going on and I am trying to juggle all of them.  I usually fall back on what I know and I rely upon – my faith – to help me make sense of things.  I try to listen to others, and to see where perhaps they are coming from or to understand why they would communicate in the way they do.  But sometimes I feel like people already have a response in their head; it’s almost like a previously written and prepared litany they have to get out, that comes out in spurts between what I am trying to say.  They aren’t really listening at all, which becomes obvious by their responses. I pray that I am not like that; I really do.  If I could glean anything from what I have learned, observed, and been taught it is that each life is precious. Each person has a divine right to be here, and as such, they deserve our attention.  In an earlier post, I spoke about leaving people out of our lives, and not paying attention to what people are saying is exclusionary.  I pray, pray, pray that I do not do that to anyone.

Intent to replyI majored in Anthropology at a major University. I received an amazing education.  I minored in Biblical Archeology.  What an eye-opener that minor was!  Through that education, I came to look at the world a little differently. I am not set in my ways as some assume.  I love learning about new cultures, ways of doing things, and traditions.  One of the most annoying things about us converts to other faiths is that we come at them from an adult perspective.  We come to our faith with our eyes open, having experienced some of life, already.  We are exploring, digging, learning about this new thing we have found.  You know how annoying former smokers are? Or people who were fat and are now thin?  People who used to be couch potatoes but are now marathon runners?  People who were liberal but are now conservative? (Or, egad, the opposite??)  All of those things are annoying to those who were born and raised in it.  Why?  I think it is because those born into it are somewhat complacent about it.  They take much for granted.  But another issue is that when people who are born into it, stop learning about it.  Whatever “it” may be.  In the area of religion, I came to my faith after quite a few stops along the way. I have been baptized more times than is even sane, and have experienced worship for some time as a Protestant (and a few versions of that, too!), Mormon, Jewish (Reformed), Roman Catholic, and now Melkite Greek Catholic.  And all of that was accomplished in just 50 some years.  I have been Melkite well over 10 years now, pushing towards 15.  And I am still learning.

Don't compareI endeavor to make sense of the patterns shown to me of this life. And I try, really try, to give people the benefit of a doubt.  Sometimes people try my patience and I loose my cool.  On Facebook today, a young person challenged me, in a very rude and obstreperous way, and I lost my cool.  I have learned to remove myself from the string when things like that happen, but I allowed this kid to get under my skin.  Why?  Because I have all these other battles I’m dealing with and this kid was an annoying gnat flying around my face. I just could not be bothered with the comments any longer.  And I find that is, as I said to a new friend, “my bad.”  I need to be more tolerant because faith is not about who “wins” or who is “right.” Salvation is each of us, reaching out to help our fellow sojourners to God.  It is not being first across the finish line or being able to turn around from some higher place, sneer and say, “Neener-neener, I was right!”  How many of us will absolutely not give in to someone simply because we don’t want to hear the comment, “I was right?” And quite often we allow people who are raging at us, or persecuting us for what we say or believe, or who completely disagree with us, get under our skin.

“Bless them that persecute you.’ If our enemy cannot put up with us any longer and takes to cursing us, our immediate reaction must be to lift up our hands and bless him. Our enemies are the blessed of the Lord. Their curse can do us no harm. May their poverty be enriched with all the riches of God, with the blessing of Him whom they seek to oppose in vain. We are ready to endure their curses so long as they redound to their blessing.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

And I strive for this; I really do.  And so even though battles wage here and there in my life, I do endeavor to shrug them off and replace them with love and blessing.  It is difficult some days, and today I tripped, yet again.  God is just so good and teaches me from my knees, where I have fallen before those who hurt me. I did not raise my hands in blessing today; I should have. I chose to react and for that I seek God’s forgiveness.

But then again, God blesses us in so many disparate areas of our lives.  I lost a friend yesterday, but I found out I am blessed with another granddaughter.  One of my oldest son’s friends and co-workers was hurt very badly yesterday, but today he texted my son from the ICU and said, “I’m going to make it.” What a blessing.  I worked on an issue that I thought had become a lost cause, but was encouraged enough later in the day, to be very hopeful.  These “givings;” these “taking away”…they balance our lives; they give us character and strength; they motivate us to keep going, keep learning, to keep our journey of Theosis pointed in the right direction – towards Him Who saves us.

Elder PaosiosAs of this afternoon I have already faced some demons in my life and in my little neck of the woods. I also dealt very poorly with a particular young man, but out of that experience, I sought forgiveness and I grew another step in learning patience to raise my hands in blessing when someone opposes me.  This morning, lolling its way into this afternoon, has produced some awesomeness of its own! I have had very productive talks with two different sons about a variety of subjects, thrown in a couple of loads of laundry, worked on some issues with friends, and if I can just produce an evening meal, I will feel really blessed!!

God is working in me today and I rejoice in God my savior.

“…weep for your children…”

The Holy Family

Holy Family IconI am thinking about family today.  Two years ago today (2012) my father-in-law (memory eternal) passed away, with my husband and middle son sitting at his side.  It was a very sad event for all of us, because he was relatively young and the disease of cancer took him so very quickly.  It was important to my eldest son and his wife that they be there, to introduce their newborn son to his great-grandpa, even if it was on his deathbed.  It was a transcendent moment in so many ways. I remember about 28 years ago when my son, around the same age, was sitting with his great-grandfather as he lay dying.  And it was repeated a generation later.  We mourn the loss of my father-in-law today; my husband most especially.  But my sons feel the loss deeply, as their grandpa was such a big part of their childhood and growing up.  We have so many wonderful memories spent together as a family.  Memory eternal, Joe.

In today’s reading, Christ speaks to the women who are following Him on his way to the Cross.  “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me; weep instead for your children, for indeed the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'” (Luke 29:28-30)  Today, as I was contemplating our family and our losses, when I read this, I also mourned all the children we have lost to miscarriage (there are seven in all). As I lamented the loss of my babies, I also feel blessed for not having a lot of children. That sounds odd, but being barren for most of my marriage has given me a heart for other women who cannot have children; a heart for those who have lost children in miscarriage as I have; a heart to adopt (which we did); and a heart for those mothers who lose their children later in life, and who go before their parents (disease, accident, war).  It is difficult to comfort a mother who grieves the loss of a child.

Today online there has been much chatter about Ukraine and Russia.  What is going to happen?  Who is going to do what? The Russians moved troops?  And I could not help but think of the grieving families in Ukraine, but also in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa, and in South America.  There are so many “hot spots” around the world right now ( if I missed one, apologies).  We mothers never stop being mothers, regardless of the age or independence of our children.  And I worry for all those who must put on a uniform and bear arms against others.  I do not want mothers to grieve over the loss of children to war, or any other cause.  Is it truly the time when we will be happy we have never had a child, as Christ predicted?  A friend sent me a link today to a Catholic organization (or movement or group…not sure how to categorize it) dedicated to just that, the “final battle.”  And I thought, “Wow.  Has it come to this?  Are we really preparing for that last war?”

Great Lent is just about upon us.  For me, Lent is a time when I come into a more simple, basic relationship with God. And for me, that works best when I strip away things that keep me from focusing my attention on God.  During Lent, I work extra-hard on taking down those things that place a sort of blockade between me and God.  The Church has us focus on food during Lent – why? Some far better bloggers than I am have tackled that today.  What I took from them is that food is our original passion:  Adam and that darn apple.  What we choose to consume feeds a baser desire within us.  Food and eating is an intimate act for a person.  We have desires for food and quite often we are unable to separate our desires for satisfaction in our lives for satisfaction with eating habits. I am overweight, and for me, that means I have issues somewhere within myself that cause me to turn to food, when I should turn to something else, like prayer.  So for me, Lent is an opportunity to tame a disordered part of my life and bring it into order.  I try to really fast.  This year my husband and I are digging in our heels and being stubborn.  Last night he chose to not get dessert for the family while at the grocery store.  A small, fasting-led, victory over our base-passions.  (We will take all the victories we can get!).

Abbot NazariusDuring Lent, we are also asked to participate more fully in the life of the Church.  We will be dedicating ourselves to attending as many prayer-evenings, parish functions, and community get-togethers as we can.  We are also dedicated to simplifying the technology in our lives.  Not as much TV, computers, music, iPods, and iPhones.  We will be substituting spiritual reading in place of technology; or just being together, quietly, as a family.

And with all of this paring-down, cutting-back, and increased periods of quiet, I will think of those I miss of our family. I will pray for all our family members who are no longer with us; I will pray for my babies, already in heaven and waiting for me. I will pray for all those lost because of war, famine, and other disasters around the globe.  And in the quiet, I will pray that this is not the “final war” that is spoken of in whispers.  I will pray that my daughters-in-law will not weep for their children, nor I for mine.  I pray that God will grant the world a respite from all the ugliness that is encompassing it.  And when I see those first buds of spring flowers poke their heads over our snow-covered yard, I will once again smile.  Spring itself seems like it is God’s promise of tomorrow.  Perhaps all the quiet, the simple fare eaten, the time spent in prayer and reading, will lead me to a greater love for God and His desires in my life, because I think I can hear Him much easier in a quieter, simpler, less-cluttered life.

BlessingEasterBaskets.RussiaAnd this year, for the first time, I am organizing and really planning our family Easter Basket.  The tradition of a family basket is shown in the artwork above; a Russian village is waiting for their baskets to be blessed. We will be preparing the foods and other items to go into our basket and I am so very excited – I ordered and received our basket cover! (It is so pretty – thank you Matushka Anita, for making it for me). I am looking forward to the preparation and assembly of our basket.  And, rather than argue about what each person does, what they eat or don’t eat, I am focusing on my own spiritual renewal and re-commitment to my faith during Lent, and the plans for a joyous Easter celebration.  Perhaps there will come a day when I weep for my children, or my grandchildren:  I pray that it is not in my lifetime.  For me, now, there is much to look forward to, and this time of Lent is preparing us for our future, our moment of Spring and sunshine, flowers blooming and birds chirping, and a nice roast cooking for dinner!

Cheesefare WeekHappy Wednesday of Cheese Fare week.

Memories eternal to Joe and Frank, our fathers who left us for their blessed repose.

Truly remembering….

duckThis weekend was wonderful in so many ways.  We traveled two hours south on Saturday to see a glacier and walk in a “Sealife” rescue center. Being able to watch our youngest son as he discovered new things was such a joy.  It was compounded by being able to watch our grandson experience a new aspect of life on this planet, too.  His over-riding joy at seeing the “fish-fish-fish” was so heart-warming.  Seeing a glacier up close brought to mind how insignificant we are.  My oldest son said he contemplated the amount of glacier-melt it took to create these rivers we saw – “Imagine the little bit of water a melting ice cube produces,” he said, “and then imagine the amount of ice in a melting glacier it takes to create these rivers.”  It is pretty astounding to think about. The drive was delicious to a former SoCal gal…all that green in the mountains, capped by snow-covered peaks, and the glorious sunshine…it was a perfect day spent with loved ones.

Weekend2Sunday’s Divine Liturgy was so enjoyable, too.  The visiting priest welcomed us and instituted some traditions we are familiar with, and welcomed doing again. I love standing next to the Deacon or Priest as the Gospel is read, receiving a blessing afterwards. It just warms my heart to be up close and personal to the Word of God.  The children seemed to really enjoy it, as well.  My husband was asked to serve on the altar and we are thrilled he can once again wear vestments.  There are legalities to work out, but the gist is that this parish welcomed us, no questions asked, no hoops to jump through.  What a stark difference to our last experience.  It has helped to mitigate some of the trials we have been going through.  We feel blessed to have found this parish and look forward to the years ahead, serving this community.

Memorial Day 2013Yesterday was Memorial Day.  This is traditionally the first real Bar-b-Que day in America. Most American kids see it as the first hint that summer is fast approaching. Up here, the kids are already out of school for the summer, so it is very much the first summer holiday.  Traditionally, we always paused to remember our heroes, those who have served or are serving our Country, and then we’d play.  But yesterday was the very first time I was privileged to share the holiday with a veteran.  And he happens to be my son, so it took on a myriad of emotions for us all.  We went on base to the Military Cemetery.  There were so many graves, so many flags, and lots and lots of people.  The setting was gorgeous, with the majestic mountains in the background, beautiful blue skies, a wonderfully gentle breeze to keep us cool in that blazing sunshine.  We walked among the grave stones and our son was somber, quiet, contemplative.  We kept a respectful distance from he and his small family.  They came to a section where they remembered the father of a friend and brought flowers to his gravestone.  We then had to return to the main gate to gain access to the Memorials for my son’s unit.  We were finally granted access (do not even get me started on how poorly we treat our vets) and went to visit the memorial dedicated to the men lost in Iraq.  It was an incredible moment for both my husband and myself, and our 14-year old son.  As we wandered through the grave sites at the cemetery, I began to feel the weight of the sacrifice these soldiers had made for me…from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the recent wars.  I felt so unworthy and so insignificant.  When we arrived at the Memorial, and when I saw how deeply affected my son was, it caused so many emotions to well up within me.  First of all, as a mother, regardless of the age of your child, you want to help them and make their sadness go away.  I cannot do that for him and it makes me feel so very impotent.  It is also a very personal thing for him and I was privileged he allowed us to share those moments with him.  Standing there, reading their names and their ages, I again experienced my insignificance and that I felt like I had not done enough, or even anything, for them.  I also felt love for these young men who gave their very lives for our safety and well-being. I felt motherly towards them and offered prayers for them and their families.  I felt very unworthy, actually, to be there with my son, because it was truly something very private for him…and it changed forever, Memorial Day, for me.

We read things in news blurbs online; we occasionally see something on the TV news somewhere, mentioning the military still serving our Country and protecting our freedom, in Afghanistan.  We rarely hear about it, though, and very few of our children understand it.  We, in this country, have re-written history from a date and occurrence to memorize, to moments of political victory. The perspective of history has quickly undergone a profound change.  Our children do not understand why there was a WWII or a Vietnam, let alone the recent events in the Middle East; it makes me so sad.  And if my son had not been involved, I would be equally ignorant.

There are so many “first-person” video games out there, glamorizing death.  There are battles fought and won; lives are “re-generated” and players come back again and again, which is far from reality.  Sadly to say, many young men join the military today wanting to see if it is like these games they play; they have no real clue what war entails.  And I have been up close to war before, during Vietnam particularly, but never a direct family member, let alone my son. I learned a lot this weekend.  We had this amazing experience at the SeaLife Center, we saw a glacier, we worshiped at God’s altar, and we walked among the buried Veterans on Memorial Day.  What an array of experiences in three days!

On Sunday in Father’s homily, he talked to us about the Love of God and how God is touching us always…in little ways.  When a mother caresses her child; when we hear the laughter of our children; when we fall in love; when we have those inexplicable moments of faith…all these touches are the Love of God…His love for us.  As I saw all those grave stones, all those flags and felt the insignificance of my contribution to this world, I also felt God’s peace.  These warriors gave their all for me and I never really appreciated it before.  Raising all sons, we have a collection of war movies, action flicks, who-dun-its…and as I thought about a lot of them, it sort of made me mad. It is almost like taking and profaning the deaths of these soldiers.  It is so hard to explain fully how I felt.  These soldiers died protecting me, allowing me to sleep in safety each and every night.  Having someone act that out somehow seems shameful.  There were so many posts in all the social media sites over the weekend, each one trying to be more patriotic and touching than the last one posted.  And they all fell short, so short, of what I witnessed at that Cemetery.  The reality of the sacrifice they made for me really touched me.

After we visited the Memorial, we went home and my husband and I both cried for our son and how this has had such a ripple effect on him, his life, and his family.  We felt so proud of what he went through and what he lost for our safety.  And I respect him so very much more.  I believe this country can never do enough for our veterans.  We don’t do enough as it is.  These men and women will never be the same after their experiences and their families will not either.  The only peace I have is that God has all these souls in His Hand.  His love touched all of them and all their families.  And yesterday, they touched us in a very personal way. We later got back together with my son and his wife’s extended family and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of some amazing burgers and beans, salads and pies.  I hope that every Memorial Day is spent truly remembering those we miss, those who are no longer Bar-B-Queuing with us on this Holiday, and that we can then move on to making new memories of a day spent with family and friends…smiling, laughing, and burning some meat.  I know I will never forget Memorial Day 2013.

“…your Father’s good pleasure…”

Wine Barrel Tulips.1Spring is trying its hardest to arrive.  We’ve had days and days of dark, wet, and gloomy, with record snowfall just 20 minutes north of here and avalanches (complete with rescues of stranded snow-shoers) as well as tulips and daffodils poking their lovely heads above the soil.  I have an old wine half-barrel on my patio that is loaded with tulips.  They are struggling with the craziness of bright and sunny days followed by a string of rainy days.  This morning is clear and cold…low 30s…and there is frost everywhere. We have a little Miniature Schnauzer whose name is Chet.  He is so typical of the breed…strong willed, stubborn, and refusing to listen; typical terrier.  He loves to perch on the tops of the cushions of the couch, keeping an eye on the golf course behind the house.  We live on the 14th tee box and when it is full of people, we have to do our best to keep Mr. Chet under control, as he thinks whatever he sees, he is the lord of.  Today was no exception.  He just sat on his perch, growling. I could not see anything out there that would make him growl, and was thinking that perhaps it was a left-over emotion.  Last week, we had a scare with him.  I had my cup of coffee; it was about 7:00 am and Chet was outside on his tether, doing his morning rounds. All-of-a-sudden I heard him yelping. I scrambled outside and at the base of our porch stairs was a coyote, with Chet in his mouth.  I yelled and the coyote dropped Chet, who was whimpering and running towards me.  That darn coyote stood under the copse of trees that front the 14th tee and just stared at me, almost daring me to go after him. Instead, I just yelled and waved my arms and he ran off.  By then, I had a shaking, wet, terrified little terrier in my arms.  This morning, however, his growl broke into barks and I raced to check out what had invaded his line of sight, and it was a little bunny!  She’d been nibbling on my budding tulips and was hopping off the patio and out onto the golf course.  Chet was having none of it and was barking his head off, shaking from head to toe.  Boy oh boy, did he want out on that patio.  I corralled him and we came to the other side of the house, where I have my office, and he is comfortably ensconced in his favorite spot.

Chet on Couch

This morning is so quiet and peaceful and I treasure mornings like this!  The birds are chirping and the sun is shining (even though there are black clouds to the east and the north) and little bunnies are hopping outside. It feels so wonderful.  And then I see the chaos all around me as we finalize this move of ours.  My stomach clenches and I realize I need to gird my loins for another day of wrapping our lives up into crates and boxes, making all sorts of annoying changes that are required when you move across town or across states.  And even the peace of a spring morning can be darkened a little bit.

Yesterday was an awful day for America, with the bombing in Boston. I wonder if it is terrorists or someone wanting their 15-minutes-of-fame.  Regardless of the reasons or the perpetrator, people were killed (memory eternal) and others are in critical condition, while still others are coping with horrific injuries they will have to learn to live with.  Life can take such turns in such a quick space of time. This was intended to hurt, not destroy.  The coyote who grabbed my dog is emblematic of the terror that gripped these people.  Feeling powerless and overcome by something bigger and stronger than you is a horrible feeling.  I was so proud, however, to see how everyone reacted.  So many did not run away; instead they turned to help those around them.  So many first responders sprang into action.  Boston was heroic yesterday and it made me realize that deep down, we are made in the image and likeness of God and it showed.  Blessings upon blessings to those who rushed to serve others, with no regard for their own safety.

It is amazing to me that tulips will be coming up, daffodils will be blooming, and there is a bomb.  There is bright sunshine and on the horizon are the blackest of clouds.  Our life is a dichotomy of light and dark, good and bad, spring and deepest winter.  We have our days that are blessed and we cling to those times.  We have our darkest and most horrid days, and for those days, we look for the heroic around us, seeking the sign that God is present in His people.

Fred Rogers QuoteI do love that quote of Mr. Rogers, because it exemplifies the struggle I am speaking to this morning.  Working through the horrible right alongside the blessed.  Our path to God is strewn with experience…some of the experiences lead us off the path He has laid for us, because we get caught up and lose our way.  Some experiences help us to dig deeper and prepare our hearts to follow the path God prepares for us.  He never has our destruction in mind, but always what is best for us.  We are the ones who deviate and get lost.

This experience for me, of a joyful spring morning juxtaposed with the dark clouds on the horizon; a barking little dog with the cute little cotton-tailed bunny hopping across the patio; the peace of waking to sunshine and birds chirping and the chaos of the move I am trying not to trip over!  Then there is the joy in my heart at all my blessings compared to the disturbing, ongoing news about Boston…how do we reconcile all of this?  I cling steadfastly to the promises of God.  He warned me that He came to divide, not unite. (Luke 12:49-51) and that He came to cast fire upon the earth (Luke 12:49).  But in this same chapter of Luke, He tells us to not be afraid (Luke 12: 22-31).  He calls us His little flock and assures us “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12: 32-34).  And to these promises, I cling.  I treasure the moments of peace and clarity. I notice the birds and the flowers, those moments when God is sharing creation with me.  Those moments sustain us when the coyotes growl at the door and the bombs rip through a peaceful jog.  God allows us to experience these things to bring us strength of conviction.  Those responders ran into the fray to assist those who were suffering. God allowed their heroics to be noticed and appreciated, thereby strengthening us all.  We know that when the going get tough, we are called upon to be stronger and it is like exercising our free will….with repetition comes strength…by repeatedly aligning our free will with the Will of God, our faith is strengthened and we find peace.

St. Isaac the Syrian5