“…Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Proverbs 12:26 The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.

Proverbs 20:6 Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

CS Lewis: “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

CS Lewis: “Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”

Can you guess my theme? LOL. Friendship. Friendships are precious. I can honestly count on my hand, friends who I know would come running if I needed them. Even though I live 1000s of miles away, they would do their best to get to my side. I know that. Those are the deeply treasured humans in my life. And I have lots of casual friends. People we hang out with because we have something in common. When that common thing goes away, so does the friendship. It took me decades to not be hurt by that. Friends are made to come and go; to be there for the time they need to be. We learn from them, and they learn from us, and then we let them go. The hurt is when you are “let go” all of a sudden and it is over something that has nothing to do with why you became friends in the first place. And there is where the hurt lays today.

Today I realized a lot of people have “unfriended” or “unfollowed” me on various social platforms because of my beliefs. And for that, I am sorry. Most of us came together because of our faith, but our politics drove an irreparable wedge between us. And that makes me very sad. I don’t care about what law people want enacted, what politician they back, or how they vote. I care about their souls. I care about the person who is spending time with me. I honestly do not judge. I have very dear friends (ones in that inner circle who would run to my aid if I needed it) who are divergently opposed to my views, politically. But we have maintained a close relationship for more than 25 years. We joke that we all have to vote each election, so we can cancel each other out! LOL. And I love their hearts and their souls and I trust them with my life. But not my vote. LOL.

And that is not being harsh or callous. I would not want someone to hang on, if they dread each encounter, out of some sense of duty or habit. We all deserve the best from one another, and if someone feels I am not the best for them, then I would prefer they go. But I rarely give up on someone, unless they sever ties and walk away. And then I chew on it; I review all the pieces; I smile at the many laughs and enjoyable moments; and then I work on letting go. Letting the relationship just die of its own accord. But I mourn. I do.

But I cannot help but feel these days are calling for us to remain strong in our faith, to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) and to stay on the front lines, in defense of freedom and what we know to be right. And this book of 1 Thessalonians, which Paul wrote to the community at Thessaloniki, brought me such comfort. This is Chapter 5 in its entirety and I think it describes life right now. I hope you will read it.

1 Thessalonians 5

“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 

We will lose friends along the way because we are strident in our beliefs and we feel that we cannot compromise our firm belief in our country, in our republic, and in the basic truths of right and wrong. I do not think these days it is anymore about left or right, conservative or liberal, democrat or republican, but it is very much about good vs evil, and the very salvation of our land and our people. Without freedom, we have nothing. Without law, we have anarchy. Those who prey upon the weak or the unknowing, they need to be held accountable. We are unified in our trust of God; I just wish we could all be unified against evil. Against tyranny in all its forms. Against loss of personal freedoms. But I cling to hope and I know, still, that God wins. Always.

 

 

“…Place your rest in Him.”

2Thessalonians3-3This morning, our youngest son is off to do some service hours, more than likely lasting all day, working with his Scout Troop at a Salvation Army Food Bank.  This year it is falling on Holy Saturday.  Normally, in our family, we keep from Good Friday through the Easter Vigil, a quiet, contemplative time.  We try to keep the quiet, somber mood of Good Friday going, until “Christ is Risen!” is shouted late into the night on Saturday night (really, Sunday morning!!).  This year, however, is slightly different.  Our focus is different, and our practice is different.

We will be attending Divine Liturgy, and the community here celebrates the Resurrection tomorrow morning, whereas we are used to a rather robust all-nighter at our old parish.  It sort of fits with our lives right now.  Yesterday was a major step in faith for our family, in that we formally announced that we are relocating. We have set dates and we have made plans….we are moving on in our lives, totally relying on the promises of faith.  We are striving for a better life, a better environment for our family to thrive.  But it is mired with risk; much risk.  We are willing to take that step, however, because we all feel God is calling us to this decision.  It has been many years in the making.

The service our son is doing today, on what would normally be a quiet day for us, is emblematic of the direction in which we are going – we are stepping out of our comfort zone to make a stand in faith.  It is uncomfortable to take a stand.  It means being different.  It means being risky.  It means doing something that people like us never do!  We always plan everything. We never just go for it. Until now.

All Merciful Savior Vashon Island

All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery

Abbot Tryphon wrote another wonderful blog this morning. He titled it “Hopelessness; When you feel Hopeless” and this is what he said:

“It is easy to resist taking care of yourself if you run at full speed as though you are the only one who can get things done. We all need to set priorities, making sure we focus on Christ and not let that which is transitory rule our lives. If you pay attention to your health, family and spiritual life, everything else will take care of itself. Don’t let your life be so full of work that you don’t have time to focus on the things that bring you joy. Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.

If you focus only on the things that haven’t been done and ignore the little things that bring joy to your life, you’ll find yourself in a rut. If you are constantly thinking of where you’d rather be living, or the job you’d rather have, or the work that still needs to be completed, you’ll wake up one day and realize all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have.” (Abbot Tryphon, All Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery; Vashon Island, WA).

This commentary on modern life sums up almost perfectly the conclusions my husband and I have come to, which in turn motivated our step-out in faith.  My husband realized that he has been missing life; it is passing him by; we both stopped and realized that so many years have gone by and we somehow feel like we missed something along the way.  When we relocated to the Pacific Northwest, so many of our friends were concerned for us because of the different weather pattern, most especially all the days of darkness and wetness.  My husband noticed no real changes.  He told me that even in SoCal, weather really wasn’t a factor in his life.  He never noticed missing the sunshine.  He said he would drive to work in the dark, and drive home in the dark – up here or down there, it didn’t make much difference.  And that gave us both pause to think: why did he not notice there was no sunshine in WA?  He worked so many hours, he rarely saw it anyway!  Because he was missing the sun, what else was he missing? What were we all missing?

Both of our older sons’ wives are expecting babies right now.  One of their wives is due in May, the other in October.  For our older son, this is his second child.  Our youngest son, aged 14, came downstairs the other day and we just stopped what we were doing and looked at him.  He had just showered and shaved and he looked – well, he looked a lot older than he had the day before!  When did our 5-week preemie grow up to be a father, expecting his second child?  When did my curly-mopped blondie become a college graduate, married man, and expectant father?  When did our 14-year old start regularly shaving?  Time passed has us by and we did not notice.  Our lives have been “so full of work, that you don’t have time to notice the things that bring you joy,” to quote Abbot Tryphon.

We have allowed the ‘busy-ness’ of life to interfere with living our lives.  We’ve created this bubble around us of habit.  Early mornings and late evenings, living the demands of life.   And we are sort of grabbing onto the shirt-tails of our youngest son.  Don’t misunderstand, our children’s younger days were a joy. We homeschooled both our older sons until they went to Catholic High Schools, and they have been involved in Little League, and Ice Hockey leagues, High School sports teams, and even Rugby.  So we did a lot with them.  We used to go hunting with our Springer Spaniels regularly; we had many wind surfing weekends and times spent traveling across states to spend vacations with extended family members.  Our youngest son is still homeschooled and he is involved in Scouting as well as the Civil Air Patrol, so we do a lot with him, as well. It is just that when you finally do stop and re-evaluate your life, it is surprising to realize that it has been 30 years, the kids are grown and wait a second – we want to slow this process down a little!

Now we are taking deep breaths, praying, and we are moving 2600+ miles to be near our oldest son and his family.  We want Sunday dinners and grandchildren running around the front porch.  We want the chaos an extended family living nearby brings.  We want more hours of the day invested in these last precious years we have with our youngest son at home.  We want to take the time to know our adult children as adults, to enjoy their company, and to relish those moments of being grandparents.  We want to slow this ridiculous pace down and be able to languish in the long coffees we share with our children, and the cookie-making-moments with our grandchildren.  We want to hold onto and relish life, realizing that “all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have,” as Abbot Tryphon is warning us.

And so we’ve prayed and begged God to give us direction and if He has to employ a 2×4 to get our attention, to please do that.  We believe our prayers have been answered, as so many things are falling into place.  There are some major gaps, but that is where we step out in Faith.  The Holy Fathers posted this quote today, “You cannot learn to see just because someone tells you to do so. For that, you require your own natural power of sight. In the same way, you cannot discover from the teaching of others the beauty of prayer. Prayer has its own special teacher in God, who ‘teaches man knowledge’ (Ps. 93:10). He grants the prayer of him who prays. And He blesses the years of the just.”
(St John Climacus)  We firmly take hold of the promise that, “He grants the prayer of him who prays.” and we step out in faith, clinging to Our Lord.

The next few weeks, we will be outside of our comfort zone.  We will begin this new era of life by changing how we celebrate Holy Week and we will move on from there.  My husband is with our son, at the Scouting event, sharing time with him.  It is one tiny step in faith towards a life lived, keeping these words in the forefront, “Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.”  We rest in His promises and we move forward in prayer. I think it’s good to shake things up a bit now and then; and I am eager to explore this non-comfort-zone part of our lives and see where it leads us. As we prepare to shout, “Alithos anesti” “He is Risen”! “Haqan Qam”! “He is Risen”! we also prepare to take a step out in faith.

Joshua 1,9