“..your Father, who sees what is hidden…”

“Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart.”” That is from Psalm 40, verses 7-9 in my New American Bible (2007).

As I read this during my prayer time today, I realized that I am a wanderer. We all are. Like someone roaming in the desert, as the Jewish people did for 40 years (there’s that number 40 again) searching for the Promised Land. We all try and fill ourselves with things of this world, thinking we will be satisfied. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can fill that hole in our souls like God. And today, as I prayed and read and journaled, I realized something profound. All God asks of us is an ear to listen to His commands for our lives. He just asks us to listen. Just listen.

As we raise our children, we begin young (hopefully) to teach them how to sit still. I can still hear myself admonishing my sons, “Would you just sit still and listen???” And hopefully they come to learn how to enjoy moments of stillness and silence. I have a very close friend who is a teacher. She had been teaching older kids for a few years and decided to return to teaching kindergarten. One of our first conversations after her change of grade levels this year was pretty funny. She kept telling me how exhausted she was and then she said, “Oh my goodness!! It’s like herding cats!!” And I just laughed. I know what it is like when I have just two of my grandchildren (both under 5) over here, and I try to get them to sit with me for a bit of quiet time. Ha-Ha! Not gonna happen. (Unless they happen to want to cuddle, then I just bask in the moment). Recently my oldest grandchild and I had a slight disagreement when he informed me that I had been “breaking the rules” when I wore my shoes inside their house. Long story short, I explained why I had mine on; however, I wanted him to just listen to me and he would not stop telling me I was in trouble and a rule-breaker. I held up my hand (signaling “stop”) and told him to just think on what I had been telling him for a moment (my reasons for having my shoes on). He kept trying to speak, and I kept holding up my hand. I’m sure you can just imagine the scene in your head – a grandma and a 5-year-old having a lively discussion! The expression on his face was hilarious, as his mind juggled “thinking” and “being quiet,” at the same time. Eventually he realized that at that moment, that it was okay we had our shoes on. And I also shared with him that I was glad he understood there were rules in his home, and that he needed to obey, as do we all. And that I was proud of him for finally listening, and being quiet.

Don’t we all struggle with being silent and listening, while learning at the same time? My youngest son loves to plug in and listen to his music while he studies, with those darn earplugs in his ears. It is so loud that I can hear it when I am in the room with him. He would wear them 24/7 if he could!  I just cannot read or learn that way. But for him, it somehow settles his mind so he can think. And sometimes things that “distract” us can actually be instructive, and bring us closer to what it is we need to hear. The world and all its chaos can be that thing that brings us closer to God. It has for me. I was able to see it as an entirety, and not as separate things. I chose to unplug from much of the noise around me.

The book of Matthew today was our Scripture reading and it was so perfect. Matthew 6: 16-18: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father, who is hidden; and your Father, who sees what is hidden, will repay you.”

We often want others to know and acknowledge our efforts at fasting and keeping other traditions in our faith life. As silly as it may seem, this can be seen in other aspects of our lives, as well. For example, who doesn’t want everyone in the world to see and acknowledge our new driver’s license? Or to share accomplishments like passing a course we were taking or graduation from schools? “Did you see what I did?” We want others to acknowledge us; to be proud of us. And that can be a distraction. The Lord asks us to work at our holiness with Him, and in secret. No one needs to know how we are changing, spiritually, or exactly what it is we are working on (“I gave up coffee for Lent and it is killing me” or “I gave up TV this Lent – what is happening on Chicago Fire?” “I spent three hours at Vespers last night; I am so tired!!” or worse, “I didn’t see you at Stations this week; why weren’t you there?”). Quite often our Spiritual Fathers or our Priest/Pastor may give us spiritual instruction – that is for our edification only. We need to do the work to become closer to God, but do it in quiet solitude. We should not complain that we can’t join friends for drinks, or food, and good times during Lent, either. A wise clerical friend of mine (you know who you are!!) once told me that we are also bound by the “laws of hospitality.” If a friend invites you over for dinner, or shows up at your home with foods that are not compliant with the fast, do you eat them? Or do you complain that you are fasting and cannot enjoy a meal with them? My wise friend insists that, no, we need to enjoy the hospitality of others, extending to them the art of friendship. The Lord will see what is hidden, in our hearts, and will know our mindsets. It does not mean, however, that we party every night and just say, “I’m keeping the law of hospitality,” either. We need to make our best effort to keep the Fast in our own way each Lent; but nonetheless, we can still be hospitable and kind to others. We smile, we wash our faces and “anoint our hair” even though we are fasting and spending more time in prayer than what may be our normal routine. “..your Father, who sees what is hidden…”

And I have found that, this Lent in particular, I am enjoying the separation from distractions even more than I thought I would. I never could study like my son, in headphones or with noise. I did my best studying at a library, surrounded by books and quiet. At my quiet time in the mornings, I am so excited to read more and learn more, that I have no other distractions! Now, don’t get me wrong – I approach it sort of backwards! Usually, I get up and have my coffee, catch up on social media (I am only checking in once a day, if I can limit it to that) and then I have a second cup of coffee while I enjoy the daily press briefings from Sean Spicer. I know it is weird, but it gets my day going and I love how he does his press briefings!! By that time, my son has left to catch the bus and I make my way to my office, in silence, TV off/social media put away for the day. I am ready to truly start my day. It is profoundly effective for me to shut myself away in the stillness of my home. And I am also discovering I would much rather do this every day than go back and forth on social media. I realized that I am not missing a whole lot. And I may just continue to use my phone as a phone, and not have social media run/control my life. I miss some things, yes, but I sure am gaining an awful lot, too. Detoxing from anything is hard, and this is no exception.

And today, as I entered my little office and opened the drapes for the morning sunshine to sweep over my desk, and when I saw the Psalms and the Scripture from Matthew, I was so happy. I realize that this Lent, I am happy. Honestly happy, with a slight tendency to giggle and enjoy my days. I am not wearing “sackcloth and ashes,” and I am prayerfully aware that I am in a good mood. I am in week 2 of Lent and I can feel that my life is being redirected in a good way! I love that I am once again tying myself to my spiritual roots and it is invigorating me. It is making me come alive. One other thing that has begun to really help with this is our weather. I find it so interesting that the Church, in all its wisdom, ordained that we have Lent when we do….as we are emerging from the cloister of those many dark and wintry days, as we are beginning to “see the light.” We have had some extremely cold days – it was -10 again this morning – but the sunshine has been spectacular. The icicles on our house are shrinking (as my son happily pointed out to me today – I am challenging him to not knock them off so we can see how long they get) as the days alternate between sunny and sunny/windy. But for me, this is the first winter when the glorious days of sun have really affected me. I happily pop my vitamin D every day, but seeing the sun itself is glorious. (It also shows all the places I need to clean. Which goes hand-in-hand with my “40 bags in 40 days” cleaning spree! God is so good!). I am not over-sharing, I hope, with this Lenten experience, because there is just oh, so  much more, that I am learning and discovering. But I also share to inspire! I know my Lord sees what is hidden, and that just makes my joy even bigger!

So for me and my experience this year, I’m all about digging in to this Lent. I am loving it so much! Reading, learning, quietly praying, and always giving gratitude for my many blessings. Let us all clean our homes and our hearts, and prepare for the upcoming rough days of Holy Week, when we somberly walk with our Lord through to His tortuous death. But let us also be ready to open the windows, let the spring sun shine in through our clean windows, and celebrate His Glorious Resurrection!

 

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“…their fruit for food and their leaves for medicine…”

drop of oil into hand

I am often asked what type of perfume I use, because I always smell so yummy. I went to this meeting yesterday for my son’s schooling and I was a little nervous. It’s his senior year and all our schooling has come down to these last, two semesters! Arg! Stress! So I applied some of my essential oils. I wear a diffuser around my neck and have one for my wrist, as well. They are cute and I love wearing them. I placed several oils I love and asked the Lord to amplify His amazing Grace all around us yesterday. I do not apply oils randomly. I know the therapeutic uses of oils, but there is also our emotional/spiritual side of using oils. I was once told, “Never assume anything from oils, from medicines. There are chemical attributes associated with both, but always seek God’s blessings when using oils. Apply them with a prayer, or at least a prayerful attitude.” And I have taken that to heart. When I hear sirens in the distance, I always pray for all involved. The officers, the first responders, the victims. And in hospitals, I pray for nurses and doctors to use their skills at their highest quality, and to allow God to guide their hands in healing others. I don’t think anyone would be angry that someone prays for their health and wellness.

Spoken into existence

I come from a family who always relied on the standard medical practices in our lives. My dad worked in the healthcare field for most of my formative years. I was raised around doctors and hospitals. When my brother crushed his hand at my dad’s office, he rushed him – not to the local emergency room – but to specialized orthopedic surgeons he worked with at a hospital almost an hour’s drive away. Why? Because he knew their skill level, and he knew my brother would get the best treatment he could. In addition, they loved to experiment, and my brother was given a cast that the local high school football system accepted, so he could still play high school football, while wearing a specialized cast. The point is that I was raised to always look to doctors first. Always. I have been near death on two occasions wherein I was quite literally saved by modern medicine. And so my heart has always been with doctors and hospitals, learned from the inside out.

I discovered alternative ways of looking at my health years ago. One of my college roommates dated (and married) a man being trained as an osteopathic doctor. And their training teaches them to take into account the whole person. They are not focused on just one aspect of healthcare. It was my first close-up exposure to other types of medical care. Then I was exposed to Chiropractors and Acupuncturists. Learning about eastern medicine opened my eyes to how much we miss in our western practices. The introduction of herbs and supplements came to me in college. Especially vibrant in the sports world, supplements have taken on a whole universe of their own! My parents did not fully understand my interest in alternative medicines. Especially since my mom got breast cancer while I was still in college, and went the traditional route for treatment. The fact that I would melt an herbal tablet on my son’s aching gums when he was teething was something my parents laughed at. Of course, when I was young, they rubbed whiskey on my gums! I guess that would serve two purposes, wouldn’t it? Ha-Ha.

hylands tablets

Now I have a home that is chemical-free. I am using all natural products to clean simply everything. From my windows and floors, to our showers, bathtubs, toilets, dishes, and clothing, I have all plant-based products in our home. I have not purchased dish soap from the grocery store since February of 2015. And none of the products I use have MSDS data sheets, warning about poisoning. The worst offender (dishwasher powder) says to give lots of water to help with the flavor. But there is no poison control number. There is nothing that can harm my grandchildren under my sink. And I cannot tell you how that warms my heart. I was able to remove the baby lock from my kitchen cupboard, under my sink. And the peace of mind is just one aspect. The other aspect is that these things work. And they work just as good, if not better in some cases, than chemically-laden products. In addition, they are financially much easier on my pocketbook and our budget!

oils herbs pestal book

Historically, alchemists were looking for ways of creating gold out of nothing. There is a lot of lore about how they accomplished their goals (they did not, or that would be obvious…no gold ever created from plants) and the stories of witchcraft and other tales were woven about them. However, when humanity was still living simply in villages, the local chemist, or often, mage, was sought out for remedies. Some of these remedies were the basis for our modern medical treatments. Some became wive’s tales and we all chuckle at them. One interesting one is how during the plague, old Russian babushkas would cut up onions and place them in the rooms of the sick. The time spent sick was often cut down measurably. I learned of this and can tell you it seems to help. We use it when someone is sick and has an airborne, coughing sort of sickness. There’s another story from the plague about these robbers who would go into the homes of the ill and dying (or the dead) and steal everything they could get away with. When they were finally caught, they were asked why they were not getting sick. The thieves told of how their grandmothers would slather them in a variety of oils, to protect them from sickness. Out of this sprang an oil used today called “Thieves” oil. It is diffusing in our house right now, because my teenager has a bronchial infection. The scent is amazing and it helps our bodies fight these darn infections. Our bodies are equipped to fight their own battles and most of us do just fine, but occasionally we need a boost. And that is where the natural approach to healthcare comes in. I’ve never been one to rush my kids to the doctor over sniffles or simple coughs…I let their immune system do the fighting for them, making them stronger for the next time. And now I add the assist of essential oils.

drop oil bible

Oils have been used since before even biblical times. There were oils to anoint, oils to feed, oils to bless. “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.” Ezekiel 47:12 And here is another one: “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.” Mark 6:13  And in his book, “Healing Oils of the Bible,” Dr. David Stewart says,

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” John 12:3

“This anointing that Mary lovingly gave Jesus was in preparation for his death. The essential oil she used was spikenard, a very precious and expensive oil. It is harvested by the crushing and bruising of the root of the plant to squeeze the oil from it, and then the oil is used for healing. This is significant, the oil used to anoint him prior to his death was crushed and bruised in order to be obtained for healing. In the same way, Jesus was bruised for our iniquities and our chastisement was on him so that our spirits could be healed and given new life.” (See photo of Spikenard seed below). At a class last night I learned that this Spikenard, in today’s dollars, would have been in the thousands of dollars for a hundred pounds of it. A “Kingly” burial, indeed.

Spikenard seeds

To me, it is almost as if our culture is coming full circle. Our intelligence has helped us to create a pretty amazing world. Our technology has brought us riches, an easier life, and in many cases, improved health and longevity. There does seem to be, however, a little backlash along with the benefits. We are much more sedentary. We are more obese than ever before (think fast foods and boxed mixes and side dishes) and I am guilty here. I also think that computers have helped, but also complicated our lives and made our work so intense and detailed, our hours in front of them has grown ridiculously long. Our world is insanely fast moving. And we are so very divided. We are hurtful and angry with our neighbors. And using more natural ways of healing, eating, living brings us to a more simple, natural level. It slows us down to apply an oil and say a prayer, rather than popping a complex chemical pill down our throats on the run. Simple, historical, and effective.

An interesting point made at the class I attended last night (which I loved so much) brought up the point that our ancestors, especially in biblical times, were not as backward or primitive as we may think. The presenter related that they had created a way of making roads out of the sands in the desert. Roads and pathways that are hard and still usable, and our scientific community has not been able to replicate them, using the materials on hand in those times. We lost so much knowledge and skills during the Dark Ages, or Early Middle Ages (5th to 10th Century) where much was not written, and even destroyed, following the decline of the Roman Empire. Many areas were not affected by this period, and in fact flourished, but for the areas of the Middle East it was a time of scarcity and little written knowledge. And skills that were passed down from father to son were no longer recorded in any way. We are now catching up to what our ancestors knew, and used.

frankinsence nuggets

For years, we have had Frankincense nuggets or resin in our home. Because my husband is an ordained Melkite Greek Catholic Deacon, he fell in love with the scent of Frankincense used on the altar. Some parishioners gifted us with a small bag of Frankincense from Israel. We also had this amazing lamp to burn in it and the scent would often waft through our home. Over the years, we fell in love with other aromatics and would often burn them in our home. An interesting fact about Frankincense is that it is referred to as the “cure all.” In ancient times, it was burned in the Sanctuary as an offering. It was used to anoint in its oil form. As a resin it was used to actually ingest. In many medical researches today, they are finding that Frankincense can be used to assist in curing cancers. And this is one of the gifts of the Holy Magi to the Christ Child at His birth….and as I learned last night, one of the most valuable given to him. “Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh…” in order from least valuable to most valuable. In our world, we value gold. In the ancient world, they valued the curative and spiritual properties of the plants the Lord gave us above the material wealth from gold. How appropriate for Our Lord.

frankincense removal from tree

Frankincense is still removed by hand from the tree. And there is only one source legally able to export pure Frankincense and I love that I can access that source through my essential oil company. We can use the oil and the resin itself. What a blessing! And as our science catches up to our history, I am so grateful for these moments of clarity and peace. I know I am using things that have been used for centuries, are safe, and are effective. And they do not harm the environment or my body, nor my family.  “In all instances of healing with oils it was through praying over people, confessing their sins, and anointing with oils.” We need to get back to that simple application and process. We take for granted our scientific, godless approach to medicine. Not that those who practice medicine are godless, but the science of it has become so. What a world we could have if science and God walked hand-in-hand and His blessings to us of these essential oils were incorporated into every practice, and every home, around the world. Of course, many hurdles in this country will have to be jumped for that to happen. But I can rest peacefully and emotionally, knowing I am reverting back to my ancestor’s practices, but also moving forward by sharing this knowledge of “wellness, purpose, and abundance” with everyone I know.  If you want to know more, contact me. I am blessed and want to share my health and wellness with whomever is interested. I want to share this abundance of knowledge with a broken, and spiritually starved world, hungry for the Word of God, and His immeasurable gifts to us in this world we find ourselves living in. Blessings to you and yours!

tree.lavender