“..it is not yet prayer.”

Have you ever been told that you need to provide more quiet time, so your child does not get “over stimulated”?  Mondays were always the worst day of the week for me. Especially when our kids were younger. Mondays were the day after the weekends. And every Monday morning I have ever had with my kids was always “melt down Monday.” My kids were done. They needed sleep, quiet, time outdoors just digging in the dirt, and this momma needed some quiet time, too. Our house always looked the worse for the wear on Mondays. And I realized it was because our weekends were spent running all over the place, basically just checking in at home to sleep, change clothes, and run out and “do” until we collapsed on Sunday nights.

Well, this grandma is overstimulated. I am raw today. This weekend was insanely busy for us. We went to a meeting with lots of new people on Friday evening, a banquet that we volunteered to help with on Saturday, breakfast with our kids/grandkids Sunday morning (followed by a new Disney movie, so we were there until after 2pm), preparing for the husband’s business trip today (laundry, etc), Church Sunday evening, and dinner was late after Church last night – 9:30pm. My poor husband had an early flight out this morning – 4:30am. Ugh. He is tired! And I am strung out and raw. Sometimes, even though I do love being with people, I prefer being at home. Quietly at home. With my husband and a good book, a nice fire crackling in the wood stove, and my dog sitting next to me. Maybe a glass of Scotch next to me, or a cup of tea, or both! Ha-Ha!

Today’s journaling exercise for Lent was to list 30 interesting things about yourself. It was so hard. And I realized some things. I prefer being at home. Pretty much a homebody. I prefer the company of my husband, most of all, and our family and close friends. I don’t need to go out and party or do a lot. In my younger days, I was in a sorority. I worked at a TGIF restaurant, waitressing and bartending – talk about a lot of people! I have partied until I am not really interested in that anymore. I have had the days of kid’s sports and that commitment, keeping us running all week long. And I adore seeing mountains with snow on them over the beach any day of the week (sorry, Mary!! Ha-Ha!). I realized I am a cold climate person. And I have come to learn that I like silence. I really, really, do. I prefer it to music or noise, of any kind, at all. Who would have thought? (Not my parents when I was 16!!).

Our reading today was about how we pray. And I learned some things about myself. I realize that I love the Lenten season above any other season. I love these protracted times of reflection and lessons, of reading Scripture and learning how to pray more often and more fruitfully. I love learning how to be more simple, more quiet, more reflective, more in tune with God. Some quotes by St. Theophan the Recluse really touched my heart today, in a profound way. “Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings towards God, one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude, doxology, forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the Will of God, etc.” “When these feelings are present, our praying is prayer, and when they are absent, it is not yet prayer.” And it spoke to me about the quality of my prayer life. Do I prepare my space, my mind, my heart, before I pray? Do I jump back up and rejoin the world once I have completed my prayers? Do I allow those wonderful feelings to follow me out into my day? One of his suggestions was to “focus your thoughts, casting off from them all earthly activities and objects. Then call to mind the One to Whom you are praying, Who He is and who you are, as you begin this prayerful petition to Him.” How often do we center ourselves, detaching our minds from the world, and wholely giving ourselves over to this connection with God? I have spent many years, in many different ways, trying to accomplish this feat. And often I have come up against a sort of roadblock to what I feel is a successful time of prayer. And St. Theophan said this, “..stop, do not read further, but stand with attention and feeling in that place, and use the prayer in that place and the feelings engendered by it to feed your soul.” And I felt that I had learned something valuable. Quite often we read scripture and we only retain a word or two, perhaps a phrase, but the entire reading is off, floating out of our minds. Or when we read the words of philosophers or the Church Fathers, we retain such a small bit of it, and we feel like we have failed. But today I learned that it is not a failure, but it is precisely what I was intended to receive from that exercise. My soul was touched and I felt buoyed by reading that tract of writing, from whomever, and was able to retain what was pertinent to me and my soul.

As I read the Psalms today, a verse here and there struck me. For example, “…God is on my side. God, I praise your promise; in You I trust, I do not fear. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:10-12) and then “My soul rests in God alone, from Whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.” (Psalm 62:2-3). And I was touched, in light of my experiences and our current political climate, by this: “..they bless with their mouths, but they inwardly curse.” (Psalm 62:5) . And that last is just a portion of a phrase.

I was able to take these moments from Scripture and feel them in my heart. I stopped and recorded them, so as to keep them close to me. I believe St. Theophan was right when he said, “All praying leaves prayer in the soul – continual prayer in this manner gives it root, and patience in this work establishes a prayerful spirit. May God grant this to you by the prayers of our All-pure Lady, the Theotokos.”

Sometimes our resolve to live peacefully gets dashed upon the rocks of reality. My weekend totally invaded my space, and used up any of the “social” energy I had within me. Don’t misunderstand; I totally enjoyed my time out and spent much of it laughing (especially at the cross-eyed and mounted Mountain Lion they were trying to auction off) with friends. But, I wore my psyche out. And, more than usual, I was looking forward to my prayer time today. As our Sunday wound down, things got worse and worse. Our drive-through experience at 9:00pm on a Sunday night? Well, we waited 20 minutes in a line we were stuck in; our food finally arrived and off we went only to spill the drink in my new car as we pulled into our driveway, and the bags broke as we exited the car, with burgers flying into the snow…even the last bag split as we made our way inside. It was an exhausting end to a very “peopley” weekend. Thanks be to God for silence, quiet, and prayer time to rejuvenate my mind and soul. And as we laid our heads upon our pillows, we both apologized for the misplaced anger we had towards one another, and just rested. I recited the Jesus Prayer over and over, as I drifted off. And I knew my husband would be tiredly flying off to his commitments across the state, and I would be blessed to spend my morning with God, in prayer. My husband has blessed my soul in so many ways, but chiefly among them, is the ability to be at home. Thanks be to God for these priceless moments and opportunities to pray, for generosity of faith of my husband, and for this wonderful season of Lent, lately realized as my favorite time of the year.

Blessed Lent

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“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” (N.D. Walsch)

Today I am learning to focus first, and most importantly, on my many blessings in this life, and to express my gratitude to God. The image above is the actual style of the Gratitude Journal I am using ( you can get it from http://www.maydesigns.com/m/gratitude) and I really love it. It is simple, colorful, and is for 40 days…the perfect Lenten tool.  If you are thinking of journaling at all, please check them out. They have all sorts of simple, and so pretty, journal ideas and styles. They were inexpensive and I love how you can customize your designs (inside/outside/monogram, etc). I get nothing for recommending them; a friend recommended them to me and I am so happy with the product I received, I thought I would share them with my readers. (It is an integral part of the Lenten study I am participating in with http://www.orthodoxmom.com). These journals will become, for me, a legacy of my journey this Lent, and each year that I can participate in this. What a blessing this has become for me! If you wish to, you can join us!! Lent is not over, yet!

As I progress through my journaling, most especially my “gratitude” journal, I am brought up short again and again at how disfigured my thinking has been. Disordered. The priorities so very skewed. I keep thinking about all the things that weigh me down. There are many – we all have them! Sometimes we cannot sleep because we worry so very much. Or if we do sleep, we don’t sleep well or deeply. We do not sleep to where we awake restored, or refreshed, bounding out of bed and ready to conquer this day.

My husband is an engineer. His specific training is mechanical, although he works as an energy engineer. When he is faced with a problem, especially something to do with his work or job, he does not stop thinking about it until he solves it. This can take days or weeks. And at times, I can tell he is not really “present,” but is working on his issue. He’s woken in the night with a solution once or twice. Over the past 32+ years of being with him, I am in awe about how dogged he is in seeking a solution for issues. But sometimes his mind works against him, in that he cannot “let it go” in order to rest. He will approach any problem this way! Even how we were going to construct our raised bed gardens last Spring kept him from sleeping well! Some of us just cannot rest until we have the answers we seek. But I am learning and discovering a better way.

Now that I am doing a directed Lenten study program, and I am slowly walking through the Psalms and the Scriptures in light of Lent, I am seeing how much there is to be grateful for. There is always, always, something we can be thankful for, even in the midst of turmoil. The problem with me is that I have been putting the problem, the issues, before everything else. I haven’t been able to see all the blessings, because the troubles have blocked my vision; my heart. And it has left me depressed and not aware of the glory that surrounds me in the simplicity of my days.

It is hard to explain how much peace I am finding as I journal my gratitude, my desires, and read the Psalms and Scriptures. Sometimes I cannot see how they are related, but when I step back and ponder the readings, things start to click. Today I read, “Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there. But the poor will possess the land; will delight in great prosperity.” (Psalm 37:10-11) and then I read, “Better the poverty of the just than the great wealth of the wicked.” (Psalm 37:16)  And then, “The mouths of the just utter wisdom; their tongues speak what is right. God’s teaching is in their hearts; their steps do not falter (Psalm 37:30-31).  And one more that said, “Observe the honest, mark the upright; those at peace with God have a future, but all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37: 37-38).

I think God is letting me know through the Psalmists that I am to struggle to find the right path; the path that God destined for me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) God blesses us as we work towards Him and His plan for our lives. And I truly believe that we can alter how we approach this working out of our salvation; that we can grow and become more than we currently are.

What I think I have been doing wrong, is that I have been so concerned with keeping the rule of the fast in the past, of being holier than I am the rest of the year, of making sure I attended all the right celebrations and prayers at Church, that I was missing all the blessings I received from God through my fasting and prayers! By looking to my gratitude first, I can plainly see the blessings I have, and continually pray for the things that I feel I need to pray for, and about. But when you put gratitude first, your prayers, your days, and your nights, become very different.

And my prayer for this Lenten journey I am on is to continue to seek the positive in my life and to be grateful, first. To seek God and His blessings on my life, and to rest in His promises. And my prayer is that each of you who reads this will discover that gratitude can lead us to a much happier, and closer, walk with God…during Lent and each day of our lives. Think of all the wonderful blessings the Lord is showering down upon each of us, this very day. Each day we can rest in the many blessings from God, and each day we can work on lessening the concerns and the fears, trusting in God alone. I am praying for a better night’s sleep for everyone. And every day when we rise, refreshed from our night of peace and rest, may our day be a better day, where we are accomplishing the things that are laid before us, in a spirit of Gratitude. So thankful!

“…you were bought with a price…”

 

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“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Corinthians 6: 19-20

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Guess where I am at today? Yeah; I am there. It seems like there is a push in our culture to expose us to uber-sexuality. It is everywhere. It is temptation surrounding us. And it is pervasive. The evil one is sitting back and laughing. The movies, the TV shows, song lyrics…and those are the legitimate sources of temptation. I just found out there is an alternate universe of YouTube that is dedicated to pornography (Red something or other). And it is free. There is Snap Chat where kids can sext each other and the image disappears after a few seconds. Except nothing disappears. And our children can find porn so easily. I read an article today that said 97% of all young men before the age of 18 have watched pornography. And it is not like trying to find a centerfold in a Playboy magazine. No. This is hard cord porn. There are images and videos of “rough sex,” and even group sex. Children as young as 11 and 12 are becoming addicted. And they are becoming reclusive and disordered. There was a court case this week against a father, accusing him of sexual abuse. A secondary charge of bestiality was dropped because there was no “penetration.” And that, as sick as it is, unfortunately, is now in our legal system and can set precedent for other cases of child abuse. Pornography and the culture surrounding it is all out there, easily obtained. And it is killing our country’s cultural base, and our families, which are the foundation of our culture. It is creating this disordered sense of what family is supposed to be, our sexuality, and all of our interpersonal relationships. And it is scaring me. And it should be scaring you.

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I am not sure how to combat this epidemic. I do know that I need to change myself, before I can help anyone else change. Do I watch porn? No. Do I read porn? No. Do I allow it in my home? No. Is it here? Probably. Because we allow sexual innuendo and jokes, and poor vocabulary, to sneak into our home and our lives. We slowly allow the level of purity and modesty to sink. It is like the story of the frogs in hot water. You place them in a pot on your stove in warm, tepid water. You slowly increase the heat until the frogs are boiling to death, and they are happy all the way, because they do not notice the water getting increasingly hot. Do we laugh at impure jokes? Do we allow movies rated “R” for sex or violence into our homes? We allowed a movie in that we still regret – the “F” word was used more than 300 times during that movie. That’s more than 1 time/minute. That is ridiculous. It is in the trash. I have to stop this from invading our home. I need to judge myself and see where I am lacking, in that I am allowing this cultural deviation to have a place in our home and family. It is part of the actions that I need to take; that each of us needs to take in order to combat this evil pervading our country, one person and one family at a time.

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What I find so interesting, is that this whole issue was noticed by me, over the past few days, coming from several sources – commercials about this new 50 Shades movie, comments on a couple of ProLife pages on FB, and news reports, even comments from people I know. And the timing is so much the Lord’s. Because this weekend is MeatFare Sunday. This weekend we enter into the preparation for Great Lent. This weekend we turn our focus inward, onto how we are preparing for the sacrifice God made for every one of us. A sacrifice that He would make, even if each of us were the sole person on earth. He would die for my sins alone. He would die for your sins, alone. He is that magnificent of a Creator. He values His creation above all things. He desperately wants each of us to belong solely to Him. Not this world. Not the evil that tempts us in this world. Not the wrong that is trying to invade our righteousness, our holiness, our future of eternity in the presence of God. Because sin separates us from God.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”” John 3:16-21

If we read part of that in light of pornography and evil, we can see how clearly God is talking to us. When John says, “The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Pornography seeps into the world in darkness – behind closed doors. There are have been studies showing that kids can spend hours in their rooms, on their computers. These computers are tools that can help them with their schoolwork, yes, and can be invaluable tools for education. But think of the study that said 97% of boys before 18 have watched pornography. Where? How? Have you checked their laptops? Do you allow computers, Play Stations and the X-Box in their rooms? Did you know they have internet capabilities? I did not realize they are like having another WiFi Hot Spot. Have you scanned their phones or looked at the photos on them? Do you have their log in codes for the internet or their phones? Do you understand the apps they have on their computers and phones – what they can and cannot do on those apps? Do you have all their passwords? They are sometimes alone, in their rooms, with temptation swirling all around them. We trust our kids to become the people we set the example for them to aspire to be. We instruct them. We pray with them, and for them. We go to Church with them. We send them to Youth Group. We monitor their “dating” practices. We know their friends. Some of us homeschool, in order to keep an extra eye on our kids. But are we with them every moment? Is what we are doing enough? The evil one is laughing, because it is NOT enough. Don’t fool yourself. It is NOT enough.

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As we enter this preparation period for Great Lent, we are asked to focus more on our prayer life. Yes, we fast from certain foods; the list for Melkite Greek Catholics is quite lengthy and strict. Many Catholics and Orthodox give up chocolate or coffee. Some give up Facebook or the internet. But for me, fasting is a exercise in self control that I should be trying to do every week; it is not enough of a sacrifice for me (it doesn’t “hurt” enough to be memorable, if that makes sense). We should be fasting from meats on Wednesdays and Fridays all year long (in the Eastern Churches, we do). What works for me is to add something; to intensify the good, wholesome, faith-filled and inspiring things in my life. Doing so helps drown out all this evil and all these ungodly influences. Paying attention to what influences you can even include how you present yourself to others – too much make-up, or even flashy or revealing clothing. Because ungodly attire is a distraction to everyone and it can come from both males and females. How do others perceive you just from how you look when they see you? What is the first impression you give off to others? Are you a wholesome and Godly young person (or older person) or are you projecting the world and its influences? Are you trying too hard to be a part of the world? Try doing more in the religious and faith-filled part of your life. Go to Church more often. Sit in the presence of God in the Tabernacle, where He waits for us. Spend more time praying. Add volunteering with those who are less fortunate. Donate your time, and the money you save fasting, to those who are in need, to those who are suffering. Dedicate a portion of each day to silent prayer. Read stimulating, religious works by some of the Church Fathers. (The Ladder of Divine Assent by John Climacus and Our Thoughts Determine our Lives by Elder Thaddeus are two of my favorites). Stimulate your mind and your heart with thoughts and prayers of God. Divest yourself of the things of this world that make you less than what God calls you to be. Stop allowing the world and its bright and shiny temptations to skewer your relationship with God. Go to confession. Find a mentor or Spiritual Father you can chat with. Have coffee with your Youth Pastor or confessor. Make Godly relationships a priority, while pulling away from those who would do your soul, your eternity, harm. The evil one is laughing…let’s shut him up.

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Take this time of Lent to get yourself right with God. Work on your relationship with your parents, siblings, children, and friends – but most importantly, with God. Cement the Godly and be rid of the evil. Christ endured beatings and belittling for us. God, Himself, hung on that cross for 3 agonizing hours – just for you; just for me. Do not throw His sacrifice back in His face.

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But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

“Not from the mouth of the Lord…”

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I have once again had my tail handed to me – online – by people who assume it is okay to yell at others, slam their integrity, and impugn them. All without ever having met them, even being “Facebook friends,” or other social media connection. And man oh man, has the vitriol gone viral!

I find it interesting that when you disagree with someone, or even point out holes in their argument, they unleash the hounds of hell on you. Online. Wow. In a forum, someone was bemoaning the fact that people are constantly using the forum in place of google, as I alluded to (well, I actually said it) in a post yesterday. Today, I opined basically what I said on my own blog post yesterday, that perhaps if you find the information yourself, it becomes your knowledge. And that growing and stretching and changing is painful, but it is satisfying in and of itself. And then I was accused of a litany of defects, most of which were assembled around the fact that I cannot acknowledge that others have feelings, too, and are insecure and cannot function without seeking confirmation or ratification from others. And therein lies my problem with all of this.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:16

When our society has continually lied to its people, and perpetuated false truths, the result of that can be seen in its young people. At 60 years old, I guess I am no longer a part of the “younger generation,” the “cool kids” like I was in the 70s and 80s. And I have seen the awful results of poor education through experimentation with what is presented, and how it is presented, in our schools and other institutions (even Little League and Pop Warner football). Everyone has to be treated “sensitively,” and we have to be sure “little Johnny” isn’t offended by anything. The false god of pride is alive and well in America and is manifested in our plethora of entitled youth. If “little Johnny” cannot read at grade level, well, we don’t want him to feel bad (and I, his teacher, am so overwhelmed with having to show good scores for my job safety) we promote him, even though he is not ready for it. There’s a movie I love, that is really inappropriate in so many ways, but I love it nonetheless, “Easy A.” I love that Emma Stone takes a stand against the gossipers, and that she “takes one for the team” of inept and socially outcast students, and eventually even a guidance counselor. I love how her parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) totally get her and support her, even when she changes her style of clothing and sews an “A” on everything. And I bring this up because a boy says he got a venereal disease from her, when in fact he got it from that guidance counselor I mentioned. And he is 21 years old, and only a senior in High School. The girl who likes him (Amanda Bynes) says it is because it is “his choice” to go slowly through school, so he can be a good role model and Christian (he belongs to a Christian group trying to have an affect on other students and it is woefully lampooned in this movie). It becomes obvious this kid is about as dumb as a rock, and that is why he is still in HS at 21 years old. He smoked way too much funny tobacco or something. It is played so well by Cam Gigandet, an actor I like, who was also in Twilight (but that is another post, Bryce. No, he did not sparkle). The guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow) keeps saying that it is okay because he is over 21 (although it is still wrong because she is married – to her wonderfully unaware husband, played by Thomas Haden Church). He is caught by his mother (and doctor in an hilarious hospital scene) and sent to live with his grandparents in Arizona, where he sits, reading Scripture to them in a short clip.

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The movie shows in so many ways what a massively wrong turn we took, as a culture, somewhere along the way. The fact that this movie, in all its graphic details, shows how kids treat one another, demonstrates why I was taken aback, but not surprised, at the attack on me today. After I shut my computer, I re-opened it and looked at the people lambasting me for suggesting they do their own research. I “Facebook stalked” them and looked at their profiles. Yeah, they were all young enough (or old enough, depending upon where you are standing) to be my children. At least my college-grad children. And I felt really sorry for them. They have probably been given “A’s” their whole life, along with participation trophies for just being on a team, let alone having to strive to be their best for their team.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

There was a term recently coined during this election cycle and I chuckled when I saw it, and all the glorious artwork accompanying the term. It is, “snowflake.” Now, before some of you get all mad (in case you were not already) let me explain. I live in Alaska. I am around snowflakes all the time. They are beautiful, but extremely fragile. You can only see them if the conditions are perfect, otherwise they will melt away, or become joined by zillions of others and then you are in a snow storm and cannot see them. Right now, the snowflakes are all around us because we are having very cold temps, but no new snow. Everything is covered in this delicious coat of white. It is stunning, truly, to see. Everything is made new in freezing fog and ice.

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Taken in the social construct in which it was termed, a snowflake is someone who just cannot handle the heat of this election cycle, or the fact that they are going to have to go to work, in order to succeed. One man, on a different site, bemoaned the fact that his 31 year old son was living on his couch and was still asleep at 1:00pm, and had no job. Tons of people jumped on that as a lack of this man’s parenting skills, whereas the man was blaming the system for his son’s lazy attitude of entitlement. I can honestly say I believe it is a combination of both. We ship our kids off for 8-9 or more hours a day to a federally mandated educational system that seeks to mold “yes men” and workers out of our kids. Not thinkers. No doers. People who punch a mindless time clock but don’t invent a new way to conquer cancer. People who do not question but just accept what they are fed. And when they have to step outside that comfort zone, and actually learn to think for themselves, they are unable to do it without constant social media support. And today, these youngsters were complaining about all the rules inherent in the Whole30 program, trying to bend them so they could “handle” it. Well, when you are used to being given everything, it is hard to do it for yourself. They hold up bottles and packages, constantly asking, “Is this compliant?” and when I commented that they needed to learn for themselves, they attacked. Boy, did they attack. And I realized it was because they are “adults” and know on some level they are not healthy and have been making poor dietary choices. And they do want to fix it. But these rules are hard. These words confuse them (galactose – okay…but I see “tose” and I know its sugar!!) and they cannot possibly read the labels by themselves. Wow. It makes me sad for them. How are they going to function as adults in this world if they cannot even follow a dietary rule, without social media help (and I’m sorry, but who checks Facebook in a grocery store????) and without attacking other people??

Psalm 143:8 says this: “Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go.”

Our world is tanking, my friends. Our youth have been fed garbage in our schools and universities and us dumb parents have allowed it to happen. Why? We trusted our country and our politicians, our leaders and teachers, to know what was best for our kids. Well, I didn’t too much, as I opted to homeschool my kids. But still, those trophies were given out when our boys played sports. I do remember my oldest son, however, chucking a little participation trophy to the side one time. When we commented on it after his season-ending pizza party, he told us, “It’s stupid. We didn’t win anything. We came in last.” Out of the mouths of babes. These same kids, who all thought they were so awesome all this time, now cannot even follow a diet without a meltdown. God bless America and God help our grandchildren’s generation. I can only pray we bring back law and order, the right to say, “Merry Christmas,” and some industry and prosperity and pride. Perhaps they’ll catch on as they run to catch up.

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

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

Change

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

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

SilenceGodSpeaks

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

Dontlookback

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

wellness

 

 

 

“…more precious than gold.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

upset apple cart

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

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

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It’s as simple as that.

I am a bookaholic.  I admit it, freely.  I love reading.  I think that having poor eyesight is one of life’s most horrible accidents for me.  When I went to my last evaluation, the eye doctor told me that eyesight gets better as you age, because your near-sightedness catches up with the far-sightedness and it makes it more even.  (Ha-Ha! My “even” is still legally blind without my glasses!!)  And that I will loose my eyesight more slowly as I age.  (But I am still loosing).  He then told me how bad my vision had become and I was so depressed.  I went out and ordered purple glasses…just for the heck of it.  And purple sunglasses.  In purple cases!  And when I got my Kindle, I got a purple cover.  For the heck of it.  I read every day, at least once a day, a real book. It may be an e-book, but it’s a book.  We all read a lot all day long and don’t realize it.  We read news, texts, Facebook posts, the captions on TV, signs, directions (well, some of us more than others), and even recipes!  Reading is what we do the most, without even realizing it.  We also reach out with our touch, smell, and sound senses.  For those who are born without their senses, I am so very sad.  To miss out on this is something I could never imagine.  And even though I have very poor eyesight, I am still blessed with sight.

Quite often, I realize I have not listened to anything via media all day.  Nothing has been turned on except my Kindle.  My son and I chatter while he does schoolwork, but no other noises disturb us.  And I love that I can read while he does school; he’s reading while he’s doing school, and we have relative silence.  “Silence is Golden.”  I never understood that as a kid.  But as I age and realize how short life truly is, I appreciate silence so very much.  I had a wonderful conversation with my great-grandmother one time.  She related to me how different the world was when she was a child.  She had immigrated to the USA and she and my great-grandpa spent their years working diligently, building a life here.  And they worked hard.  There is a scene in one of the Iron Man movies where he ends up sitting in a donut sign in LA, after a drunken night out.  (It’s a huge donut and you can see it from the freeway).  Once upon a time, my great-grandparents owned that donut shop and lived a couple of blocks away, right off the freeway in LA.  And she related to me how she missed the quiet years as a nanny on an estate in England.  There were no telephones, no TV’s, and very few radios.  She said you heard the breeze in the trees and the neighing of the horses, and lowing of the cattle.  Occasionally you would hear the bridles and reins of a sleigh or carriage rolling by.  You could sit in the house and read, with only the crackling of the fire as background.  What a glorious age it was then.  I wish I could have experienced that time.  And I often do, in my books!  Another reason I love reading!

Silence is sort of why I am typing this.  During Great Lent, silence can be a wealth of blessings to our prayer life.  Silence can feed us.  God can approach us and we can listen for His small steps in our lives.  We get so caught up in the latest song to “drop” or the latest TV show/movie to come out.  I wrote recently about a movie we had gone to see and how we felt so drained afterwards (and how regretful I was we bought the movie).  I realized that a lot of that was because we were drowning in sound.  Sound saturates your whole body and you are exhausted from it.  It seems like surround-sound and special effects are so much a part of movies these days, your ears will actually ache when you get into your quiet car, after visiting a theater.  And then there are ear phones, earbuds, or whatever they choose to wear.  My youngest son (aged 16) is almost 24/7 with earbuds or earphones on, plugged into my old iPod. I have convinced him to keep it out and off his ears for awhile, so we can communicate during the day. We are working on silence as a family. I love Lent.

Silence enables our hearts to still.  It enables our minds to relax.  It enables us to connect more readily with that prayerful part of ourselves we deny most of the time.  Humans are generally pretty spiritual people.  If you research it through history, mankind has always been looking for the answer to the great questions of, “Why am I here?” “Why was I created?” “Where did this all begin?”  In the silence of our hearts, God can enter in and be a part of us.  If we truly believe God is present, as present as He is on the Cross itself, in Holy Communion, in the reading of His Word, then we must believe He can be present within each of us.  “Lord, when did I feed the hungry?  When you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.”  He tells us He is within each of us.  We have a space in our hearts, in what the Orthodox refer to as the NOUS, a place that is reserved solely for God. And when He takes residence, we are changed.  Forever.  And silence allows us to commune with the God we believe in, Who lives in each of us.  He is desperate to love us, to guide us, to feed us.  Most of us are too busy, and too loud to ever hear Him.  God loves to whisper. He loves to be present in the mundane workings of life.  He is present in the simplest things, like bread and wine.  He is a part our basic needs, our simplest selves.  We cannot fully commune with God when there is so much going on around us. Many of us build walls between ourselves and Our God.  And it is so very sad.  He is patient; He waits our entire lives for us to welcome and acknowledge Him.

Some people have music on all the time – in their cars, on their phones, in their ears, when they sleep at night.  A lot of people have told me they cannot handle the quiet; they have to keep moving and have to be listening to something all the time.  Why is that?  What would happen if you sat still in silence?  What would happen if you laid in your bed, in total darkness, in complete silence?

And that, for me, is what Lent is all about.  Coming to grasp with what lies inside us, that thing we are afraid to deal with in the dark and in the quiet.  We are fearful because then we have no one else between us and God.  So this Lent I am challenging myself to more quiet.  To more rest.  To finding and holding onto that peace that can only come from the Presence of God in me, in my life, and in how I relate to those around me.  Allowing the indwelling Lord of All Creation to be alive within me is the goal of all Christians.  We just need to dial down the sound and the world, and allow Christ to come in and reside, truly live within us.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s as simple as that.

Blessed Lent.