I saw that – God.

For some weird reason, I get daily comments on my blog that are moved to the Spam folder, that are in Russian, French, and some other languages that use a different alphabet – some are Arabic and others Asian. I am not sure why I attract them, but some of them are pornographic and solicitous. Life continually amazes me. I have no clue what draws them to this particular blog. Misinformation? Misrepresentation? Am I not clear as to what I believe? Do they think I will actually click on their comments?? Seriously???

Today I saw firsthand how erroneous information can spread. And boy, did it spread quickly. When people were informed that fake news had struck a Facebook group, they simply refused to read the facts of the story and were actually upset that the story was exposed as fake news! The vitriol was incredible. And yes, it was a Christian FB group. There are still posts going back and forth, some denying it is fake information and still others are refusing to back down at their condemnation of someone based on false information. What is going on???

Somewhere down this road/timeline of life, we have forgotten manners. We have forgotten to say “please” and “thank you” to others. We use profane language like any other adjective. We don’t look shocked when someone posts graphic photos of people online for the world to gawk at. We accept perversity as normal and do not hold people accountable to much of anything. There seems to be a lack of a standard – a line drawn in the sand that no one should cross. There are few absolutes – just a lot of gray, allowing lots of wiggle room in life.

I saw a funny meme once about how the 10 Commandments were not suggestions! They were COMMANDMENTS! The Law of God, given to Moses, on the Mountain, written by the Hand of God. Not something to edit or play around with. The Big 10 Do’s and Don’ts for mankind. How are we doing? Well, not so good. Have you actually read the 10 Commandments recently? Let’s…

The Book of Exodus is pretty clear on what is and is not a commandment. Over the centuries, we have shortened them. But let’s look at Exodus (From Bible Gateway):

Exodus 20:2-17 New International Version (NIV)

 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

 “You shall have no other gods before me.

 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

 “You shall not steal.

 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Well, as a country, we are doing poorly. We do all sorts of things that could be construed as wrong in the eyes of these Commandments and the first error is removing the Commandments from the public square. They are not around in public to remind us how to behave. But worse than that, they are not taught in the home. I know that is using a broad brushstroke, but have you seen the public square?

Yes, those were taken today at the G20 Summit. *Sigh* It makes me sick and sad, all at the same time. I get protesting – I grew up in the 60s (and survived). But civil unrest is one thing. Evil and killing and just destruction – that serves no purpose, other than to promote Satan’s agenda. Sorry, but I am drawing some lines in the sand today. There is good. There is evil. It is black and white. And we need to start calling what is evil just that – evil. We need to start standing up for what is right, to stop this horrifically fast cultural slide down into chaos and mayhem.

To say you are part of something and then say you do not speak on behalf of that organization, and are expressing your own opinion, is acceptable, in some cases. But not from clergy. Not from our nuns and monks. Not from world leaders. Not from those who purport to speak on behalf of millions, or worse, on behalf of the Church founded by Christ, Himself. It is not okay as a person of authority to go off on tangents of your own, citing it as personal opinion when you represent “Church” to so many people. Nor is it cool to mislead millions of people who came out to participate and vote in all these national elections. You need to do what you said you would do, when running for office. And for clergy, you need to keep your vows. Period. I think we need to check those 10 Commandments a little more often. Just 10 simple rules to live by. Just 10.

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“Fear is the enemy of hope.” Dave Ramsey

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“Buyer’s remorse (or buyer’s regret) is the sense of regret after having made a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of an expensive item such as a car or house. It may stem from fear of making the wrong choice, guilt over extravagance, or a suspicion of having been overly influenced by the seller.”

I did something I have not done in over 12 years. I bought a relatively (2015) new car. New to me, anyway. And I have been having such stomach pains over the cost of a new car. However, I have to say that it was so reasonably priced, and I know without a doubt, we got a great deal (we went through our credit union to an Avis used car sale). We comp’d and Blue Book’d the cars and feel we got a lot of bang for our buck. It is just the process of going into debt freaks me out these days. You should have seen me as we negotiated payments and the date of payments…I literally had to bend over and take deep breaths!

We were caught in the whole “housing crash” catastrophe a few years ago and have been scrabbling our way out of that. It is nice the bank feels we are an admirable risk and that our credit is amazing, but the burden of debt is a scary thing. Every month, our money flies out the door. It barely says hello to our bank account before it’s gone again, on its way to whomever we owe. As is the case all over this country, I know. I feel you, I truly do!

(Luke 14:28) “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”

We did. We sat down. We could have sat longer, perhaps, but we also met with our banker, who assured us we can handle this debt. The process will be good, because that concept of being frugal will now be foremost in our minds. We worked hard to regain our finances and want to be sure we plan for our future and make smart choices. We are going to be doing a personal finance course with our youngest son from Dave Ramsey, and we plan to share with our son all the details of personal finance. I sure wish that Dave Ramsey would have done this when I was a kid!!!

fear-is-the-enemy-of-hope-quote-1The reason we chose this program is because Dave Ramsey bases everything on Biblical Principles and I think that is just so important. And it will be valuable as our youngest makes his way in the world. And it will also be a great refresher for my husband and myself. You can never learn enough!

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Romans 13: 1-7 tells us: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. …”

This year’s presidential election is certainly controversial. There is just so much we could delve into, but for this post I want to look at money. At debt. At how we are sinking, as a country, under the mounds of our debt. There is a site online called “The National Debt Clock: Real Time” and you can look at it by clicking here: http://www.usdebtclock.org/index.html  This debt clock is in real time and watching it makes your head just spin. The numbers are rolling past and it seems surreal. First of all, I have to start counting those commas. Wow. We are sinking fast. And just as I am under the onus of debt and my stomach roils when I think about it, why does our government not do the same? I cannot spend what I do not have. It is the law. I cannot take money from someone else’s bank account to pay for whatever it is I want. But the government does just that. If we are truly more than $19 BILLION dollars in debt and counting, how can we give money to other countries? How do we pay salaries? How does the government function? If their income cannot keep up with their debt, money becomes almost meaningless. In the back of my mind, I think maybe anarchy will take over and the world’s debts will all be washed because there will be nothing worth anything (as in the devalued dollar) and we will be relegated to trading. Why do you think on more conservative channels you see all those ads, encouraging you to buy gold? Ever think about that?

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:17)

I gladly pay what it takes to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. If there is extra, I gladly share with those in need. Gladly. My government, however, takes far more than they can wisely use and squanders so very much of our money.

From Wikileaks it says, “The amount of retirement income Members of Congress receive from taxpayers is determined by a formula that takes into account the years served and the average pay for the top three years in terms of payment. For example, a member elected before 1984 and thus qualifying under the CSRS plan, who worked for 22 years and who had a top three-year average salary of $154,267 would be eligible for a pension payment of $84,847 per year. A member elected after 1984 would have been enrolled under the FERS plan, and their pension payment under similar conditions ($154,267 top three-year average salary, but with only 20 years of service, rather than the 22 in the CSRS example) would be $52,451.

In 2002, the average pension payment ranged from $41,000 to $55,000.[4] As of November 2014, senior Members of Congress who have been in office for at least 32 years can earn about $139,000 a year.”

First of all, I believe term limits should be instituted. I cannot believe that gentlemen (or lady) legislators, chosen from amongst their peers, can serve for more than 20 years when terms are supposed to be 2-4 years. Why do they get re-elected time after time?? Having worked with elected officials, their point is that it takes 1-2 years just to learn how things are done and then another 2-4 years to get anything accomplished within a structured process such as congress. To that, I responded, “Learn faster. That is what the rest of the employees working under you have to do. We have to learn our jobs within our probationary period or we do not get to keep our jobs.” It was not well-received. I kept having problems because I thought elected officials worked for ME, the tax payer. They do not look at it like that. Trust me.

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This election is so pivotal for our country. There are so many arenas of power that will be affected by who is elected. Especially those running for Congress. And our next President is going to shape the world for the next 20 years in appointments and decisions made. It is frightening. I am afraid for my grandchildren. We need to keep in our minds how we balance all the powers we give to those we elect. That entire “Checks and Balances” theory our country was built around. Remember why our Founding Fathers all left England in the first place – their rights were being taken away. They sought freedom from tyranny and subjugation. And if you do not think we have that again, because of our embedded Congress and Supreme Court system (let alone our state, county, boroughs, and cities) then you need to really educate yourself on the realities of life in America in 2016.

So what I am doing? Well, I am reading and learning. I had never before sat down and read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. The Federal Constitution, and our State Constitution. Guess what? Our rights are being trampled upon. Our rights are being given to foreign authorities (read: UN) and our land is being watched over by foreign watchdog agencies (read: UN). We are being legislated in vaccinations, which is just symptomatic of so many issues of governmental overreach. (I believe in informed consent and the ability to choose for my family and my children’s particular health issues which vaccinations we get and when we get them. Don’t get me going on the annual month of September and the process of vaccination shedding in our schools!). We are being legislated in 1st and 2nd Amendment Rights…and I can assure you that many of them will disappear depending on who is elected. We are not being asked, nor are we voting on these overreaching changes; they are being legislated. The Federal Department of Education is legislating from Washington what we teach kids out in the bush in the most remote parts of American culture. It is insane. It abrogates State’s Rights!!! We need to stop sitting by and allowing that Debt Clock to keep ticking away and meanwhile nothing is done about it by anyone in our government. We need to stop sitting at home and not being involved. We need to vote!!! We need to educate ourselves on what exactly it is that we (a) have the right to, and (b) can rally to protect. A friend shared a scene from a cartoon movie called, “A Bug’s Life,” where the grasshopper is lecturing his fellow grasshoppers about how the “ants don’t know how strong they are…” and it went on to say that if they realized it and all banded together, they would beat the grasshoppers. Well, we are the ants my friends. We need to stand up to the grasshoppers in this world and just say, “Enough is enough,” and take America back!

mlk-peace-march

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt that peaceful conflict was a viable thing. Nearing the end of his life, he was becoming frustrated and was angry more progress was not being made, but the way in which he conducted himself has left a resonating presence for those of us who listen. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” That is one of his most famous quotes and after the events of this week, I sure wish more Americans knew it by heart. Today it was released that more than 70% of the people arrested in Charlotte were from out of state. They were bussed in to cause a problem. Some reports are saying the areas in which they demonstrated were chosen because it made “good press.” If you do not think the stage is being manipulated, you need to think again. Public opinion is worth millions in an election. The money spent trying to sway voters is almost insane. Check out the weekly expenditures of the two major players and you would wish you could only earn that much in a lifetime.

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“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We need to get America back. How? Well, we need to hit our knees, first of all, and pray for our entire country. We are literally bleeding these days. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) We need to pray for those seeking office. We need to pray for discernment, to be honest with ourselves about who is the best person to be the “Leader of the Free World” and who will have the best interests of all the people on their heart. I did not agree with my party’s decision as to who they chose as the presidential candidate. I did not. But I have researched this option and feel that I can no longer just sit by and throw my vote into the wind and hope it lands in the best place. No. I have chosen to educate myself about the issues and I have chosen to support my candidate. I have chosen to become involved at the local level. I attend meetings. I have learned, from a potential Congressmen sitting down and having a cup of coffee with me, his plans for my country and for my state. I have signs in my yard. My husband and I are volunteering at the local congressional election offices. We are trying to ensure a positive outcome for our state and our country. We can no longer assume someone else will take on our debt, our responsibility as citizens. We cannot sit idly by and allow less than half the eligible voters choose the next President. It could potentially cost us our freedoms, and our country. This is not melodrama, this is reality.

Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. (Jeremiah 15:19)

We need strong leadership we can trust. We need to return to character and morals, and being forthright and honest. In all things, in all arenas, at all times. Please vote. Please be a part of the solution, and not the problem. Uphold your country and celebrate our freedom. Let us bring back what we have allowed to be taken from us. So many areas of our lives are a mess. We are sinking, but we can be saved. We really can. We just need to act now, and on November 8th, our national Election Day. Please vote!

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“If not us, then who? If not now, when?”

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This week has been fraught with issues dealing with honesty, character, integrity. For me, character truly counts. There are people who constantly feed you lines. I saw a “meme” that says, “Being honest never hurts anyone; being a liar only hurts you.” Boy, I wish that were emblazoned on the buildings of our government, and in our schools, and sadly enough, even in our churches.

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One of the definitions of integrity is choosing thoughts and actions based on values, rather than on personal, material gain. Another says it like this, “Wisdom is knowing the right path to take; integrity is taking it.” And I am reflecting on that based on this past week in my little world. I have watched our news stories and the strings that are followed by people on TV and in social media. Amid all the 9/11 remembrances we had, we somehow lost our focus from remembering those who had suffered and died, and instead we focused on football games and football players. Before someone jumps all over me, let me get this out there – I am against the players standing with fists raised or banding their arms together, or even sitting during our national anthem. I am sorry. I love having free speech and I exercise that on my blog. I will defend the athletes’ right to raise their fist during the song commemorating the freedoms hard won, which allows them to do that. I will. But I do not have to agree with it, nor do I have to like it. Personally, I get angry when men do not remove their hats, or people talk through it, or walk while the colors are being presented. We are not teaching our children to have respect for anything or anyone, other than themselves and their momentary glories. The whole “participation trophy” mentality of the millennial generation. It sickens me. We are entitled to nothing. We must earn everything.

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Our country has been going downhill for years, now. I refused to participate in leagues that gave trophies to all the kids when our kids were young. If they won something, that was given the attention and reward that was merited. The recent disrespect of our National Anthem and our flag by NFL teams and players, as well as some high school football teams, is demonstrative of this whole entitlement attitude. So many mouthpieces out there, cluttering up the airways. And the disrespect to our veterans, and to all those who lost their lives, especially on the anniversary of 9/11, made my family turn off the TV and ignore football. You have no idea how hard that is. We are a football family. We have shirts, blankets, jerseys…we support our teams. My daughter-in-law made me a blanket that has both of my teams on it – one on each side – so I can wrap it around myself while watching whichever of my teams is playing, while wearing a matching jersey! Turning off the TV was more difficult than I thought it would be. I ended up online, earning all these virtual tanks of fish by playing this silly aquarium game, and then feeding them and decorating the tanks on my Kindle Fire! Talk about desperate for entertainment – I then moved on to Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds 2, Angry Birds Star Wars…it was sad. My husband rolled his eyes at me more than once, and he even went outside to stack firewood…he was desperate, too!

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And the fact that in amongst all this angst I was feeling about the NFL, I was asked to go to the office of someone running for political office. I had read his bio and read up on who he is as a man. But politics is messy and I was hesitant. It is so hard to explain what happened in that office. It was like this huge light bulb went off in my head. It was sort of like, “Oh. This is what it is like to walk and talk with like-minded people. Wow. It is so peaceful. It is so uplifting. I like this. A lot.” And I cannot get that out of my mind. Especially when faced with so much anger in the world. So much angst over behaviors. I lead with showing memes about honesty and speaking about integrity…then I went off on a seeming tangent to football players and disrespect. It is all intertwined. These players are entertainers. They hold no sway over me. In fact, in a roundabout way, they work for me. They provide me with entertainment. What happens if we all stop going to games? If we all turn off our TV on Sundays? What happens if we just say, “No!” and actually mean it? Their profession withers and dies. Sports figures, entertainment figures work for us. We can choose to put them out of a job. That is where our money and efforts come in to play. They do not function without someone giving them their hard-earned wages. Some movie stars think that because they played a character in a movie, they are now experts on that subject. I laugh at that. I read an article about the ice caps. It does not make me an expert on the issue of global warming. But for some people, one article does that. They go through life using a “cliff notes” approach. And they are asked to speak before Congress. (*Fist slap on forehead*). When you do not have to work for the result, the information floats in and out of your head at the speed of the next article you read or movie you choose to act in. They are entitled to their opinions. Agreed. But when did theirs become more important than mine? When did we allow the minority to hold sway over the majority?

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In the next couple of months, we will choose the direction this country will go in. And it is frightening. We saw played over and over again on social media and in the news, the story about Ms. Clinton passing out. Whatever your take on her politics, we should all be afraid of her declining health. Have you ever looked at photos of presidents taking their oath of office, and compared them to the day they leave office? Being the leader of the free world demands everything from our President. I do not think she is capable of leading our country. I am just concerned about her ability to physically sustain the office of President, leaving the character discussion for another time. Aside from all of that, it is incumbent upon us, the voters in the USA, to actually vote. We have the power to elect this woman to the highest office in the free world, or not. We can just say, “No.” Statistically speaking, roughly 50-60% of eligible voters elected this governing body who currently rule over our country- the president, congress, etc – into office. That means that another roughly 50% of eligible voters stayed home. Why???? Do you want all those others to choose your next president for you? Do you want to allow the USA to sink further into the miasma of lies, lack of integrity, and character? Do you want to affect a change by the actions you take? Do you want to take a stand for honesty and truth, and character and integrity? Not raising your fist or sitting out on the sidelines while the National Anthem plays, but making a real difference in our nation? You can do that, with a simple action. Sitting down, linking arms, raising your fist – those are advertisements, not actions for change. That is simply sharing your over-inflated opinion in a very visible way. It’s like an advertisement and not making a change. It’s making people angry and causing people to disrespect the game, and to actually tune more and more of those people out. I think it is sort of back-firing.

Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

There is just such a huge lack of integrity in public office these days. Our athletes, our actors…very few show integrity and character, but most are very wealthy. Some are stellar, don’t get me wrong, and are wonderful people, doing wonderful things with their fame and fortune. But those are the ones who see very little press coverage, and so the role models for our culture are those who are taking it down by their loud and corrupt actions. I have spoken before about clothing and modesty, lack of character and honesty…there is just so much trash on the TV (and in the movies) and that is what our families are exposed to (should we allow it into our homes to begin with) and is what our modern world is eating up. It is what they base their decision making on.

Romans 12:2 tell us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Also, in Galatians 1:10 it says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” John E. Lewis said, “If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?” vote

Participate. Find a candidate you can get behind 100%. Knock on doors, man the phones, pass out fliers, put signs in your yard or on your car (or both). Wear buttons on your shirt. Be a part of the solution. If no one tells our athletes, our actors, our politicians that what they are doing is wrong, or that what they do offends our sense of right and wrong, and goes against our character, they will keep on doing it. And more and more people will think it is okay to behave that way, to think that way, to vote that way, and work to coerce others to follow them, too. We need to teach that character truly counts; that integrity is the way to act – in all forums, at all times, in everything we do. We need to ensure our youth know and believe that truth always wins out. We can begin to take this country back. We can begin to re-instill the values our founding fathers fought long and hard to give to us in this amazing place we call home. I enjoyed so much meeting people in my community who think like I do. We do not all live next door to one another. We do not attend the same churches. We do not have the same educational levels. We are not of the same race. But it was life-giving and uplifting to hear others mirror what is in my heart. It made me realize that pockets of us are out there, trying to make a change and a difference in the direction in which our nation is going. We believe that right is right and wrong is wrong, and no amount of “political spin” can change that. The sheep can smell the wolf, in all its fake fur. So go out, commune with others who are like-minded. Let’s get a ground-swell going in our neighborhoods and bring this country back to what we knew when we were young, and know it can be, again.

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“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

“…and some are first who will be last.”

CharacterI have been pondering so much lately, but writing very little. I even stopped my poetry because life just, well, interfered, as life does.  One thing that has come through in so many areas recently is the subject of Character.  Now, I am not speaking to the idea of someone who makes you laugh and does funny things, as in, ” He’s such a character!”  But rather to the core of who someone truly is.  Because I have seen quite recently that the character that we put out there towards other people, and the character that makes up our very marrow, can be quite, quite different.

Gerontissa GabrieliaI wonder why honesty in our dealings with others is such a hard thing to do.  There are people we all know who change, depending upon the audience. There was a woman I worked with and she was in a position of authority and was quite intimidating at the office. I was invited to her home one Friday evening and came away from that so changed in my attitude towards her as a person. I had no idea she was so nice!  We laughed and had such a wonderful time. Back at work, she reverted to her office “persona;” I much preferred the other woman! Ha-Ha! But I understood her reasoning and I also came to know her better, so that we had lunch quite often and we laughed at jokes and could have a much better relationship at work.  But I asked her why we did not get to see the “real” her at work and she told me it was because she had so much authority and had to impose so much disciplinary action towards employees, that she needed to keep herself a little removed from everyone. She was also worried no one would respect her if she were too nice.  It’s been many years now, but I still always wondered why we can’t just be who we are, with everyone we interact with.

Recently, I was taken in by someone who pretended to be a friend, and who exhibited what I had thought were admirable qualities: volunteerism, camaraderie, leadership, faith, and a strong character.  I literally trusted this person with the lives of those I love. Literally.  And it has come to light recently that it was a huge sham. This person is nothing in ‘real life’ that was trotted out for all of us to see. It turns out the faith is something worn like a suit, but not practiced.  The character was barely skin deep.  The leadership, I devastatingly learned, was by intimidation and coercion, with lots of profanity thrown in for good measure.

Gerontissa Gabriella.2When we interact with people, they trust that “what they see is what they get.”  We implicitly trust others in lots of ways.  We trust our bank to do right with our money and not play fast and loose with our funds. We trust the grocery store to not sell us tainted or bad food.  We trust the gas station to sell gas that honestly is gas and not something watered down that damages our cars.  We trust that when the mechanic says he changed the oil, he really did.  We trust our doctors when they say we need surgeries.  We trust our children’s teachers, their leaders in organizations to have their best interests at heart – and when we leave them for the day (or event, or week, or whatever it is) we trust our children are safe and in capable hands.  We trust our friends to be honest with us; when we ask them to pray for us, we know they will.  We trust our priest – he brings us Christ through his ordination and holy hands.  There are so many people we trust in life, we just don’t think about it all the time. And when your trust with someone is shattered, it can be unraveling.  Like you have to physically take a step back.  And I have – I did.  And I sat down, amazed at the turn of events I had witnessed, and I am just pondering this whole concept of trust and character.

Orthodox NotesOur words and how we treat other people truly do become our actions.  And those actions can become habitual (which is another thing about Lent I am grateful for – a specific time each year I can turn inward and fix those nasty things keeping me from being a better person) if we do not stay on that.  And our habits become the character of who we are.  And that, in turn, determines our destiny. Am I a liar? Do I cheat people regularly?  Am I an honest person? Do I lie? Even silly, white lies, to cover a silly transgression? Or do I own up to who I am and what I have done, trying to atone for that and become better?  Has my character become infected with poor choices of words and deeds, habits that have taken me over?

“And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them,“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30)

I love that Scripture verse. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  God is among us.  In each of us.  And how we treat others affects His Kingdom.  Will you be known, or will the door be closed and He will know you not? I am thinking more and more about this as I have been shown how duplicitous people can be.  I still believe that honesty in all things is what God is calling us to. I believe He knows who we are, and He desires us to be more and more like Him in all things…that old Theosis philosophy.  And I truly believe that those who pump themselves up in the eyes of others, and who do so lying their way to the top, will be like those in that last statement, “And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.”

And one of the most amazing things I have gleaned from this introspective time is that God truly has this in hand, and He has all things. I need to “let go and let God,” allowing Him to work in all things, for our good. Little by little, I see good triumphantly making its way forward.  Little things are happening that show me sometimes the bad is allowed for good to triumph.  And I am getting out of my own way, by learning to discern in silence all these things, for my own growth and betterment.

KeepCalm.PaschaIt is wonderful to know that during Holy Week, as we begin to gradually turn our attention to Our Lord and His lonely walk to Calvary, that things in our lives can mirror it in a cosmic, esoteric way (certainly not like Our Lord suffered).  We all go through our moments of intense suffering, of questioning everything, and having to walk through it, in order to get to the other side, clinging to our own Cross.

I still believe honesty, transparency, and character all count.  They are all characteristics of a person who truly cares for others and is honestly trying to be a Christian disciple.  And I still know that when I am hoodwinked and when someone turns out to be far, far less than I had imagined them to be, I will mourn. It is a physical loss of a friend and an emotional scar.  But I also know Christ allows these things for my edification and growth, for my own character development.

HolyOilCandle.HolyBookThe first three days of Holy Week are treated as sort of one day.  We focus on the Bridegroom and the preparation.  We read today of the virgins and their lamps and of the ten talents.  The gifts we are given and how we use them to best prepare ourselves for the Coming of the Bridegroom, Christ Our Lord.  And preparing for His Coming is something we do all the time, every day, in how we spend our days and our time.  We pray.  We reflect.  We attend services.  We seek confession.  We keep our lamps full and we use fully all the gifts (talents – a form of money, and not something you do well like sing or paint or dance) given to us.  Do we seek a return on our gifts? Do we hide them? Is our lamp filled with oil at all times?  Boy, that is hard to do in our everyday world.  I acknowledge my shortcomings and I pray for my healing – for patience, for character of a sterling quality, and for love for each person I come into contact with.  And I pray, so much, for the gift of forgiveness. Not for me, but that the Lord will help me give over this pain and disappointment and turn it into love and forgiveness for those who have so let me down.  And we keep our lamps full and patiently await the Bridegroom.

Eph 4-26 ForgiveAs I prepare this week to celebrate Pascha and the Resurrection of Our Lord, I am preparing my heart. I am enjoying the smell of our house as I dye our eggs using all these spices I am trying: turmeric, paprika, onion, and vinegar (I only wish our dinner would smell so good). And it is a wonderful way to seek silence in the doing of it, in the preparing of it. I can contemplate and await the Bridegroom through my humble service of preparation for my family and friends.  As I bake break and prepare the other foods and goods in our family’s basket, it is a time of reflection, peace, and prayer.  God is so good to us. He gives us these Holy Days of Holy Week to prepare, to come to Him ready and joyous for His gift of eternal life. I am blessed.

sunrise easter

 

“..an anchor for those who are tossed by waves…”

St.JohnChrysostom.PrayerToday I am seeking my anchor!  Often when my heart is hurting, I seek comfort in prayer. I light incense in the house, I look to my favorite icons, and I seek counsel from friends whose opinions I trust.  But I have to start my day on my knees (figuratively speaking).  And it is one of those days. The irony is that yesterday was a day for Gaga (the name my oldest grandson gave me) heaven! I babysat both my grandchildren for the entire day.  I was so thrilled. I got to play trucks with my two-year old grandson, and I got to coo at and cuddle with my 4-month old grand daughter. I even remembered all the words to, “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly”!!  That was my youngest son’s favorite song for me to sing to him while I rocked him to sleep for naps!  It was a great day…today, not so much.

Orthodox Notes.6There is an aspect to my life that some people do not understand. My parents did not really understand, and that is okay.  I always wanted a large family.  I came from a small one that spanned several oceans, and was scattered across three continents and was decidedly British in oh so many ways!  No aunts, no uncles, no cousins.  Which is completely the opposite experience of my husband! He comes from a very large, very close, ethnically-rich German-Russian family.  And both my husband and myself wanted a large family of our own.  We even tried to scare each other away while dating!  (I want six kids…how many do you want? Well, I want 8 kids! Ha-Ha!).  God had other plans for us.  From the very start, we had trouble conceiving and keeping our babies and have lost 7 children in various stages of miscarriage.  I longed for a full, noisy, messy, chaotic household and in answer to that, we became foster parents.  The training was intimidating, in and of itself. It makes you wonder how your natural children were still breathing and in one piece.  We prayed about fostering, and we worked on it, and finally we were licensed.  Fostering is a special thing. It is not for the faint-of-heart, nor for the unprepared.  We got our home ready, but it was our minds and hearts that were unprepared.  What were we unprepared for? This wash of completely unrequited love that just overflowed for these children left in our care. Most of their stories were sad beyond our experience.  For most, it was the first time they had ever experienced life in an intact family.  And they clung.  Boy oh boy, did they cling.  And to these kids, race was not even an issue.  I had care of two brothers once who called me, “Mommy” from the first moment I held them.  They were African American boys from the inner city. They arrived in the night, in footed-jammies and diapers, and that was it!  We lived in the suburbs, next to orange groves. They had no idea what oranges were.  They brought me one and said, “Mommy-mommy! Look! Orange balls that fell off that tree! Can we keep them?”  I had to show them that they were for eating.  They had never had a meal that was NOT in a paper sack until they lived with us.  The baby was used to drinking coca-cola out of his bottle.  For dinner one night, I accidentally cut up a slice of pizza for the baby and he had a fit! Screamed at me. He was used to the whole slice.  They both regressed into early infancy, wanting to be held and fed and diapered, rocked to sleep, and comforted; something common for most neglected and abused children.  They were soaking up all the cuddling, warmth, security, and love they never had as small babies.  And when they were wrenched from my arms, screaming, “Mommy, mommy, don’t let them take me!!” I about lost my mind from grief.  They were removed because the maternal grandparents saw us once, and saw we were white. From incarceration, the mother requested “no white families.”  It was so very sad.  In the area in which we lived, foster families of color were few and far between.  Fostering takes courage and fortitude, and learning to be an advocate for these kids.  We loved/hated it.  It messed with my older boys’ heads in that they fell in love with their new “siblings” only to have them taken away, and it was not something they wanted to repeat over and over again.  And so in the best interests of our family, we stopped fostering. We had been licensed for drug babies and small children and that darn phone rang and rang, with placement requests, for at least a year after we discontinued our licensing.

A couple of years later, through the grace of God and some amazing friends, we welcomed and fell in love with, and adopted our youngest son.  He was just a couple of hours old and in the hospital when I first met him, and when he was laid in my arms, the floodgates of love opened in my heart. He was mine…no one else would take him away. I cannot express the gamut of emotions that have come from having him in our family – for all of us.  Our older sons loved him so much, they insisted the three of them all be in the same room – late night crying of an infant and all.  The oldest of our sons took to sleeping with the baby when he was a toddler; they grew very close.  It was a beautiful thing to see. Our middle son had a few years with just he and our youngest at home (the older one had grown and left home) and they bonded something fierce.  It was so fun to see them together, the little one trailing after his brother.  And we have never looked back.  We never treated the son who was given to us differently than the sons we birthed.  He is ours as much as they are.

When we purposefully adopt a child, we become pretty darn protective of that child.  Even more so, I think, because they are adopted.  In our case, we are a different race than our youngest son, and it has always proved to be an issue.  The issue is for other people – not our family or close friends. Our older family members often questioned the wisdom of adopting outside of our race, but we never even thought about it.  I never think of it, until someone brings it to my attention.  A funny incident happened when my mom met him for the first time.  He was just 20 days old.  We brought him to Christmas Eve at my brother’s house.  I guess I had forgotten to mention his race when I was all bubbly and excited over the phone.  You “could have knocked her over with a feather” when she opened that blanket.  She said, “You forgot to mention he wasn’t white.”  And I looked at her, then at him, and said, “I totally forgot that part, I guess.”  We laughed but when you adopt, you just love. It doesn’t matter the gender or the race, it is a child who needs you. You just love.

DrBenCarson“You know, I was asked once by an NPR reporter why I don’t talk about race that often. And I said it’s because I’m a neurosurgeon. And she looked at me quite quizzically. And I said, ‘You see, when I take someone to the operating room and I peel down the scalp and take off the bone flap and open the dura, I’m operating on the thing that makes the person who they are.’ It’s not the covering that makes them who they are,” he said.

I love Dr. Ben Carson, and I love what he said above.  “It’s not the covering that makes them who they are.”  And I truly believe that. I have run into prejudice in all sorts of forms.  I personally have experienced it, and fairly recently, in fact.  Not to be too blunt about it, but I am an obese woman.  I could drop 100 pounds and still want to loose a little more.  (But I have a great personality! Ha-Ha!)  Seriously, I am heavy: I live with it each and every day.  And the world ignores overweight people; they generally don’t really see us.  I have experimented with hair color, length, style.  Only when I went from curly to straight, did people say anything.  And when I quit dyeing my hair and just decided to live with the gray, I only got a few comments (and they were mostly from people my age who are not ready to that, yet!)  For important events, I often wear make-up, and usually on Sundays, or when attending an important function.  No one ever notices.  No one notices when I plan and prepare and then wear a particular outfit that I think looks good.  People do not see me.  It is rather annoying and I long for the day of thinness to return.  But it annoys me, that to be noticed, I need to be thin.  “It’s not the covering that makes them who they are,” as Dr. Carson would say.  But in our culture, it very much is.  And that is a form of prejudice!

Which brings me to my need to cling to my anchor of prayer today. Our youngest, most precious, son is experiencing prejudice.  Now, sometimes you just can’t help stupid people; they are pretty much everywhere.  And I usually ignore prejudice born from ignorance and stupidity. When I get mad is when people purport to (1) be a Christian, (2) are in a position of leadership, (3) have the responsibility to be an example to young people.  Prejudice is most often one of race.  But prejudice exists in many forms.  My parents think I am going to hell because I am not a born-again Christian, who believes like they do and they are prejudiced against Catholicism.  Sad.  Other types are like what I experience being overweight. People can be downright rude about it.  It can also be about ability.  I have friends, and many who foster parent can relate to this, who have children who run the spectrum of FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) to extremely autistic, to pretty much everything in between.  There are children with special needs, who are not in wheelchairs or use crutches or canes, or who have amputated limbs, who operate pretty much like normal, until they are in certain situations (like formal state testing, for example).  They seem normal, so people do not expect issues with them and berate them for being  “slow” or “stupid.”  There are those who use such derogatory language around children, who soak it up like a sponge, that in turn learn to use it on other kids.  It is a big, ugly cycle.

Choose words wiselySo I am at this point of needing to deal with a situation that breaks my heart. We had such a great thing going for my son, and now it is all falling apart, and I am saddened.  For me, for those friends we dragged along to events that we all enjoyed, for family members who came with us, and the organization as a whole, because we are going to have to make big changes, and change is always hard.  We will walk away from this unless fundamental changes occur.  This is hard on everyone.  But how do you change people’s hearts, so that prejudice doesn’t become a part of who they are and how they operate in life?  And how do you keep it from affecting your own children? I start by praying for them. But I feel like I am against this mammoth thing.  *Deep breath here.*

And guess what? It’s still Lent!!!!  We have something like 25 days left.  And why did this all come to a head now? God placed it in this time and place for my benefit. Wow.  It’s pretty amazing.  Lent is an amazing time for all of us, and this Lent, He is asking me, leading me, to be a better person.

Lent is a timeSo I am examining and taking inventory.  Those little places inside my heart and my soul where I see strange lights seeping in need to be shored up.  Anger, frustration, frustration…all those negative things. Just 25-short days left in Lent!  (Remember when it began and we thought the end was so far off?). I need more reflection, more time, to fix myself so that when I do engage with others who have been cruel to my son, I can be fair.  I can be reasonable.  Because right now, I am not feeling so reasonable.  I am feeling protective.  It’s like I want to fill the moat with water, drop in some sharks, and pull up the drawbridge, keeping the world at bay.  But I know I need to bear witness to God’s love, even to those “who hate me.” In Matthew 5: 43-48, the Lord says this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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 makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

And so I wrestle with myself; I am doing a lot of deep breathing, and trying to relax. I return to my anchor among these waves of prejudice and poor example, and I drop to my knees and I pray. This affects my son’s future, it affects his now; it also affects every person involved, now and in the future.  And I know that I am not enough; I know I need God to handle this for me.  His wisdom, not mine. He must increase, so I must decrease. His words, not mine.  For God suffered prejudice on a Cross, for me.  Thanks be to God. Blessed Lent.

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