“Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no…”

heiroglyphics

Blogging is interesting. Like I had said before, it is sort of like leaving a diary open on a table, and random strangers stopping by to read a page or two. When you use different blogging platforms, they offer you differing types of feedback. I actually know the exact number of people who follow this blog, and how many actually read each post on it. Sometimes it is just 1 or 2 people. And often one of them is me, because I go out and come in through a different portal, so I can see how it looks to someone stopping by to read a page or two. I can thereby make corrections or edits, so the viewing is easier.

But mostly, I come back to my blog to chat, really, and rant about things that bother me, or in some cases, things that please me. Today I am dealing with the continued fallout from a stressful weekend, where we were on edge worrying over the health of my mother-in-law, who had taken ill quite suddenly. She is not healthy yet, but at least they are making progress. (Please pray for her continued health and recovery). It is amazing to me how quickly our lives can turn. “On a dime,” as they say. We saw some interesting things this weekend, and spent some time with family and some good friends. All in all, it was a good way for us to end the week, and for my husband to prepare to travel today (although his 6:30am flight was cancelled and rescheduled until 3:00pm because of weather)! We spent our Sunday evening after Mass, enjoying our books until we fell asleep.

wordsmattertoothers

Most of us who put pen to paper, so to speak, understand that what we put out there is forever the world’s. What we write can someday matter, a lot, to someone who needs to read those words, right then. That particular pairing, I leave to God. If what I go through and how my mind works can somehow touch others, that is a blessing. I love reading so very much, and read constantly. But I don’t think I am a fictional writer. I just write what I am thinking about. “Musings of a mom”…like the title of my blog says.

Most of my time is pondering the eternal truths laid before us through lifetimes of days and moments, and through the internalization of the Word of God in our lives; our faith. Sometimes I veer over into politics, but I try to stay away. It is just too inflammatory. Faith can be, too, and I know that, but my faith is everything to me, and so I share that more readily.

faithwords

And words can sting, but they can also heal. Recently, there was an instance where perhaps too many words were used, and some people felt betrayed. Words can betray a confidence, or spill a secret we thought was safe. Words can slice through our confidence with one phrase. And words can give us the confidence we need to accomplish the impossible. Words are precious and priceless and sacred. Too many people abuse words. To someone who treasures them, it hurts so much when words are used to destroy and harm, and pull down others, instead of building and creating and reassuring.

Lyrics in songs can be horrific. It’s so funny because from one generation to the next, words become (and can mean) something else. Words used in common language today would have shocked my grandmother. My great-grandmother would have had a coronary. But I am now supposed to be non-plussed with some of the vocabulary choices used regularly by teens and adults. (Words I tried once upon a time, but discovered that soap was not something I enjoyed tasting). I inwardly cringe and am offended, but try to not show it. But I am. The “March on DC” used words and images that 30 years ago would have been labeled pornography and the offenders would have been arrested. Movies that are now rated R should be rated X and labeled pornography (think 50 Shades). Musical lyrics should have those warning labels all over them, but rarely do.

6th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-feb16-2014-34-638

This weekend our deacon gave an insightful homily about words. The Scripture reading was Matthew 5:37 – “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more is from the evil one.” And it got me thinking about words. There are so very many ways to say things. But I truly prefer simple and direct. Why beat around the bush and use prose like Shakespeare, when using small sentences like Dr. Suess will suffice? Especially if the meaning is still as clear? And truth is far more simple. When we speak truth, we don’t have to remember how we say things, because truth never changes. Eternal truths are the same. They never change. Presentation may change (i.e. Protestant, Catholic, etc) but the truth there is the same.

Rhetoric is the persuasive use of speaking or writing with the use of figures of speech and other devices meant to sway a reader. And sometimes, to me, that is what my blogging is about, I suppose. However, I think difference is highly underrated. I appreciate a differing viewpoint and enjoy learning about the whys and wherefores the speaker came to them. Perhaps I can be persuaded to change my view! It happened when I became Catholic, after having been raised Protestant. Those eternal truths reached out for me and took hold, and within the arms of Holy Mother Church, I had my moment with God, with Jesus, and I knew I was home. So words and truths can be effective and life changing. They can also effect our eternity.

eternity

And so today I pondered words and how they effect our lives in the here and now, but also how they can last through eternity. I would like to challenge myself and any others who actually read this, to think about each word they utter. Do we want that word to be held for eternity? Was it said in love? Was it said to defame or harm others? Was it said to raise up another and buttress them in times of need? Was it said, seeking redemption from He who created eternity? Was that word edifying for you and those around you? God knows your heart and He knows how we truly feel. Sometimes words are all we have to ensure there is a safe wall around us, keeping others away. And sometimes words are what we use to bring others to us, out of our loneliness and neediness. Words have such unlimited power. We need to be careful and respect each word we utter, letting our “yes mean yes and our no mean no.”

wordsaresacred

Advertisements

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

86-scatterbrained_thumb2

I am sort of all over the place today. My hubby is off on a business trip again. He is gone 2 weeks of every month. Lately he has chosen to take them back-to-back so he has more of a steady time at home. The house felt sort of empty this morning. Getting old is weird. Hormones are all over the place. Squirrel. My hair is gray. I am trying new products to tame the frizzes. I tried the method where you wash just with conditioner. Not pretty. Tried for a week and could not stand it. Discovered my hair needs keratin. Who knew? Conditioning today. We got 18″ of snow the past 3 days. We are using either our wood stove or floor heating and it makes the air so dry. And my hair flies all over the place. Lovely when you add wool scarves and sweaters. Not. See? All over the place.

I just reconnected with a friend from High School. She and I were so close, for so long. I am not sure why we stopped being in touch. Perhaps me getting married and having kids and she was seriously in school and having a career…and we moved away from one another, too. But it is so good to get connected via Facebook, and to relaunch our relationship. I was so excited!! It gave me a spring in my step today.

So I blow dried my hair and it is still so fly-away-ish. Had to re-apply the leave-in conditioner. We will see how this formulation works for me. Gray hair is so picky.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

My hubby and I have been dealing with issues regarding our parish and the practicing of the faith we have come to love (and were so well instructed in, by an amazing priest and many friends – priests and monks among them). And it has caused a little friction. Nothing like damaging to our relationship, but in our 34 years together, our faith journey has always been a joint one. Perhaps friction is not the right term. It’s more like there was a pea in our mattress and we just were not comfortable. We always walked together in faith. Our journey has amused many, and confused even more! And over the past 6 months or so, we have sorted of marched to a different drummer. And that is never good. I was always cautioned to not marry outside of my faith practices because people who are “un-equally yoked” do not work out. And I experienced it once, in a long term relationship. I was even engaged to him. He was Jewish. (Reform, not Orthodox, or it probably would never have happened in the first place). But eventually, especially after having developed such an amazing relationship with his rabbi and knowing I was firmly a Christian woman, his cultural adherence to many Jewish traditions, and me not fitting in well with his family, caused me to call things off. He was a great person and I did not wish him ill. I just realized we could never work. His rabbi and I remained friends, up until his death, often meeting for coffee and chats, long after my relationship had waned. I knew I needed a good, strong, Christian man in my life and was wise enough to call the wedding off. And when I met my husband, he lit up my life. And the more I got to know him, the more I wanted his faith. I wanted that relationship he had with God. I used to watch him pray, and while kneeling next to him, prayed that I could be like that. He has been good for me. I often tell him that he saved me from my worst self. He dragged me into a more pious life and I loved it. Over the past 6 or more months, that has waned. And I admitted to him that I miss it. At this same time, my husband realized our relationship with our faith practices needed to change. We spoke and realized we felt the same way about things. About some pretty important things. Whew. A good talk is sometimes all you need to realign your northern star – in my case, that is my piety and sense of faith permeating everything; my relationship to Christ and His Church.

 

prayer-family

I have taught my kids that it is better to be that lone person, standing for what is right, rather than going with the majority. I believe that to be so in pretty much everything. You can apply it to your chosen career – be the best you can be at whatever it is you do, even if you are not a part of the crowd. In politics, for me, I rarely follow what the majority is calling for. I am conservative – socially, financially, spiritually, and pro life. Period. It permeates even the voting booth. In my faith, I prefer historically connected, profound, and deeply rooted worship. Throw in beeswax candles and icons, and I am there! I was raised next door to Russians, whose parents immigrated from Russia. They had such an interesting spin on life. From the father of the family, I learned to fence, using rapiers from the Royal Court in Russia. I learned to drink Russian tea made in a Samovar. And I learned about Russian tales and foods, traditions and history. I fell in love with Russia, reading everything I could find on it. The old, the traditional, the historically connected has always grabbed me. As an adult, I found myself learning all about my faith at a secular university, funnily enough. I converted to Catholicism as an adult. Coincidentally, about this time, I met my husband. (When I was dating my Jewish boyfriend, I was Geneva Presbyterian – until I converted to Catholicism at age 27). Over our 32 years of marriage, as we have journeyed through a very “orthodox” Catholic life, we discovered the Eastern Catholic Church. It was then that I truly began to breathe with both lungs. I was hooked. We moved over to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is culturally Arabic, but Byzantine/Greek in worship style. My husband became a Deacon, after attending the Melkite seminary. We made life-long friends we dearly miss, during this time period. I literally fell in love with Church. I was there 2-4 days every week. I helped with our homeless kitchen and soon found myself transporting donated food weekly in my suburban, dragging my homeschooled kids with me. I loved working in the kitchen with all the Arab ladies. We had so much fun. And they taught me Arabic traditions, histories, foods, clothing styles, and how they raised their kids and the many faith traditions they held precious. When we moved to Alaska, we discovered there was no Melkite Church up here. We have been adapting. Our youngest son found a youth group he loves, at the local Roman Catholic parish. We support him in attending their “young men’s bible studies” and trips, and youth group every week. (He is well-known in the local parish and usually brings up the gifts on Sundays at Mass. He’s quite the popular teenager. We joke that he knows more people in Alaska than any of the rest of us does). We attend there as a family and it has been good. It is not our beloved Eastern tradition, but it is Church.

Kneeling Prayer.Orthodox Church

 

 

We’ve adapted to this culture up here. (It’s cold and white everywhere these days, because we have so much snow!!) We have become sort of bland. Ha-Ha! And I got pulled away from the practice of what I love, into a rather generic sort of Christian expression. Even in these posts, I was more inclusive, even of the photos I would use to illustrate my posts. I have stopped explaining about my faith practices, letting people just assume I am a generic “Christian” woman. Which I am, but I realized that I have been compromising myself. It is not all of who I truly am. I cannot please the public; I cannot continue to “pose” as something I am not. And I was caving into the pressures I had warned my kids about all these years. I was not being true to who I really am. I am an Eastern-rite Catholic woman. I love the smell of incense. I love the Divine Liturgy. I love chant. Not Gregorian, but old world, eastern chant. I love icons. I love being in a church where you can scent the incense from a previous Liturgy, and light the beeswax candles and be transported to a holier place; a place of oneness with God. It eases my soul. And even if I am “all over the place” and a tad bit scatterbrained today, I am also more at ease because I have realized these things about myself. And it comforts me.

06-valaam-monastery

I realize that many of you do not worship this way, nor understand why people would. Our democratic ideals have permeated our styles of worship, and that is okay, if it sits well with you. I have always been a history-oriented person. I majored in Anthropology and minored in Biblical Archeology. History – church – faith. It has alway been a part of who I am. When I walked the parapets of a castle in Wales as a 16-year-old, I felt those walls speak to me. I would run my hands down them, marveling at how ancient they were and how connected to that antiquity I felt. I was walking the lands of my ancestors and I felt truly at home and very welcome, in among all the artifacts and tapestries, old walls and artwork. Walking through Churches and Cathedrals while we visited England, I constantly had a backache because I spent the entire time bent over, looking at all the engravings on the stones. I took so many rubbings. I felt rooted. I could really breathe at some of these places. It is the same for me in the way I choose to worship. I love tradition and the fact that I can historically trace my Church back to the Apostles. We have songs that are so old, there is no written record of them, just references to them by the Church Fathers, talking about how old they were back in the Apostolic days. Those of us who are Melkite like to tease our Roman/Latin Rite friends that we had St. Peter before they did, because he established the Church in the east before he meandered his way to Rome (wink-wink). And so I have decided that I am not going to hide who I am any longer. I am not going to water things down. I am not going to represent an American Jesus for the palpability of my newer friends. (And those in my business world). I believe in Jesus Christ and I do that in communion with them. However, I also believe in the traditions that brought Protestantism its lifeblood. We had the traditions long before they were put into a book – the Bible – the same one we all read, before all those pesky books were removed out of it. And we were an oral people – sharing our faith and our traditions with others through the practices passed on to us from the Apostles themselves. This is not a haughty or conceited viewpoint, nor is it meant to put people off. But it is the Church I choose to worship in; it is the tradition which gives my lungs breath. It is part of who I am.

apostolic-tradition

[By the way, my hair feels amazing right now. The blow drying has cooled and it feels like silk. Still gray, but not so much frizziness. Maybe this stuff is working!?!?! Keratin – who knew??]

And so my friends, from here on out, I will be sharing honestly about who I am. I will share through an Eastern lens, through the faith I practice. I am ecumenical because I believe we all hold the same God in our hearts, but I won’t apologize or hide that I prefer icons and a Jesus prayer, Divine Liturgy and incense, the iconostasis and beeswax candles, confession in front of an Icon of Christ the Pantocrator, and cantors with no musical accompaniment, to pretty much all the rest of it. It just fits me and I will no longer apologize nor hide it from you. It is part of what makes me, me. And it is part of who I am when I communicate with all of you, on this blog. I hope you will continue to read, if you do. I am still who I am! It’s just me going back to the me I was a few years ago.

May the Lord grant you many blessed years.

christ_pantocrator_church_of_the_holy_sepulchre

 

 

 

 

“…God will have the last word.”

elder-paisios-on-god-has-the-last-word

I really should be doing something else. But my heart has been heavy for months now. I have piles of laundry and the dust boulders have slaughtered the dust bunnies (so sad). My kitchen overwhelms me right now. But I know I have got this. Or I will get to it. I am confident in that. So I am allowing myself time to heal. Not sure what to heal from, but it sort of feels like coming out of a cocoon. The funny thing is that snow is almost here. Which is odd because most people feel that pull from winter to bust out and celebrate the sunshine, etc. I have always been a little odd. So I feel like I am putting off summer, and everything from it, and waiting desperately for the quiet and peace of snow…pretty lights…fires in the wood stove…the scents of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am so looking forward to it.

alaskan-snow-cabin

Some people say that there are things afoot that will happen this winter. There are all sorts of conspiracies out there. And some point to some sort of energy crisis, not accidental but on purpose, that wreaks havoc on the world. One of those blasts that stops all computers and cars and engines. Or perhaps Russia will get angry enough about Syria and send some bombs our way. Or perhaps there will be an uprising because of all the civic unrest in our cities over so many subjects. This presidential election has certainly been one of disgust in the caliber of those running. Dirt is flying all over the place. It is becoming more of a dirt-flinging contest than a “this is what I will do for you as your next President” conversation. Underlying all of that are the problems with the parties being disgusted with their own candidates. I will not judge. Are there things in my past I regret? Are there vocabulary words I wish I had not bandied about? Hey, I was in a sorority and a little sister at a fraternity. I know some pretty saucy drinking songs. That is not something to brag about. It is something to repent over. Have I made poor choices in my life, before becoming a wife and mother? You bet I have. Thanks be to God, He is there, helping me up each time I fall. Repentance is between the repentant and the forgiver. It is not for public consumption. And I cannot not, nor will I, judge another’s words or behaviors from decades ago. There is plenty of dirt flying around both camps that take care of that for me. But all of this weighs heavily on my heart. I feel like this is a precursor to much more to come.

candles-church

“Woe to the shepherd who misled and scattered the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered the my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23: 1-4

I cling to Scriptures like this when I get all depressed about our world and our country, even our church or local faith communities. And I realize that there are much greater things going on than we can see, from our little perspective. We sit in our homes, our cars, our churches, at our jobs, and we make huge proclamations about the world and life. When those in power make a decision, we decry their idiocy. I do it, too. Sometimes when the Pope makes a statement, I actually cringe. But I don’t sit where he sits. When some dignitary makes a weird statement, I try not to argue back at the TV. I’m in a little town in Alaska. How can I judge the world-wide stage from some little backwater place?

God, however, has the ultimate view. He sees it all, from the inception of the world (“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:3) to its bitter end (“Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with Me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelations 22:13). And I know He is keeping an eye out for us all. He promised so much to those who believe. He said to Peter (and to us), “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on the earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”… (Matthew 16:18-19). He has set his guard around His Church and not even Hell can destroy it. Some people believe there is evil in this world and it is afoot and doing its best to bring about total chaos, the total rejection of religion, and even a one-world-government. Some even say that a certain Democratic candidate has it in for the Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic Churches in particular, which are seen as the enemy. Why? Because we stand for the basic biblical principles this nation was founded on, in the words of our founders (please take a minute to read this. It is crucial we all know what we are up against):

Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

At times it is okay to say “enough is enough” and to clean house and get a fresh start. Sort of like me, with my piles of laundry and dust boulders in my hallway. Sometimes it is okay to just say “enough” and start again, renewed with vitality and strength and purpose, because we are just tired. Tired of how it is and where it is going. Our country is getting to that point where we need to just start over. Not abolish what was established by our Founders; not at all. We need to get back to that foundational culture. We’ve swerved so far out of our lane, we’re close to crashing into others. (Like Russia, or the various  powers of the Middle Eastern terrorists, ISIS, and others who would see this country forever altered). I am not in fear for our Church. No country, no ideology, no government, will change our beliefs. The Church survived years under the communists in Russia and is once again thriving. It survived because mothers and grandmothers kept praying and teaching their children – they would not bow to communism in their homes. On the surface, yes, they capitulated so they could have shelter and food on the tables for their families. But in the night, behind darkened windows, they shared the Truth of God with their children. And now the faith has once again seen the light of day, it is flourishing. In the USA, at present, a certain candidate thinks there is power in going against the Catholic Church by getting subversives in there. That is such wrong thinking. It is the ROMAN Catholic Church…not the American Catholic Church. If that person wants to change the Church in America, then they would have to visit the Vatican. It isn’t happening, regardless of what those 3% of dissenters want. If they want change, they can find it in a different Church. Evangelicals are also not going anywhere. They hold fast to the Truths found in Scripture. The Right-to-Life, ProFamily stances on marriage, sexual Identity issues…they hold to the Biblical principles on all these issues, as does the Catholic Church. We are united in defending these principles. How do you think Target is doing with their bathroom stance and the boycott? Christians are starting to wake up and realize that they are in the majority. We can do this. We can take our country back, and return it to the country we all love. And we can clean the House and Senate, even our local legislators can be changed. This vote is pivotal. The Supreme Court will forever be changed this election cycle. Think about it.

snowbridge

And so it is almost winter. Things are happening. Yes, things are moving at a breakneck speed. Some of it is really, really ugly. Some of it is tolerable. Some of it is just a plain joke. And some of it is disgusting. However, change is always hard. It is always requires some sort of sacrifice. It always demands we hunker down and push through whatever it is that is causing us to sink, or whatever it is we need to rise above. I read a blog post recently, and I have searched and searched for it and I can’t find it again. But that post stuck with me. One of the sentiments the author shared was that in our world, in our country, at this moment, we don’t need more of the same. We don’t need another lapdog who takes food from the hands of those with the most tasty power. What we need now is an attack dog that will not take no for an answer, and who will get the job done. An idiom often quoted is that the right person comes along when they are needed most. Was Winston Churchill a pleasant man? By most eyewitness accounts, he was not. He spoke harshly and used profane language, had a wandering eye, and loved his drinks. But was he right for the world during World War II? He certainly was. Another man is General Patton. His antics are legendary, as is his temper. There are countless stories about him, in the field of war and in the arena of politics. He really did not like politicians. He would not suffer idiots or do-nothings. His vulgar language and some of his habits made the news worldwide. But was he the right man to lead our troops in World War II? He certainly proved that. If we look at pivotal moments in history, we, as a culture, were not guided by limp or weak people. And sycophants who bow to foreign leaders, and do not stand in their presence in defense of our country, cannot be tolerated at this moment in our history. In the past, we were guided by guard dogs, who were intent on protecting our way of life. And that is what we need now. America needs strength in leadership so this world will know that we are strong. We have to repair our feckless image on the international stage. We also have to work to become a solid people once again, to love one another regardless. To put away our petty differences and celebrate our unique place in this world. We need to re-establish the America I grew up in, where we did not lock our doors, or worry when the kids were out after dark. We need to get back to that idyllic time when life was safe. I have no blinders on my eyes, but I know there is better than what we have, and where we seem to be headed, should we choose the wrong path.

worship

We need to get back to worshipping and loving God, and loving one another. This election is sticky…all of us are cringing about some part of it. But in the long run, if we honestly face where we have come from and what is looming in our future, for a free people, we need to unite behind one of these proposed leaders. [Side bar: I cannot, in good conscience, support anyone who is not pro-life. It is my line in the sand. Can’t get past that. For me, it determines character. To take innocent life so easily frightens me. It is callous and selfish. It is not about a woman’s right to choose. It is about allowing that human being who has been shown to have a beating heart at 16 days, to live. If it is not convenient for you, you should have thought about that before engaging in the type of behavior wherein the outcome is pregnancy. There is no excuse for abortion – ever. Go ahead and line up your data on saving the mother for me. There is none. As the mother of 9 children and only two of them breathing, talk to me about high risk pregnancy. Nothing you can tell me will change my mind.] Only one of them can be our president. I would suggest reading the Scriptures, reading the Church Fathers on some of these issues, consulting with your clergy, and praying about it. Each of us has their part to play in the outcome in November. The life of our country as we know it, and our world, depends on our participation. We need to do some house cleaning…

I am now going to attack my dust bunnies and laundry piles…

dustbunnies This and that…woman-on-laundry-pile

 

“Fear is the enemy of hope.” Dave Ramsey

handmoney

“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!

unknown

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.

balance-of-power

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.

10-6-14-lost-elections

“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!

electionday2016

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

canstock31656151

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.

integrity-2

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.

flag-respect

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!

virtual-fish-tank2

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?

voterturnout

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.

liberty

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

“…devious talk far from you…”

incline your ear

My son is entering his senior year of high school. He is our last child out of the nest. And bookkeeping, or maintaining his records, has become paramount because the next step is college/trade school/academies. He plans to become a fire fighter, we just are not sure which route he will take to get there. So we have to be prepared for any avenue he may choose to take.

I took this personality test, as I posted about before, and I am called an “Advocate.” One of the traits it spoke about was having a hard time choosing a career path, because I can see 7 of them in front of me. I chuckled at that because I changed my major in college 4 times and have had careers that are so disparate that you would not think the same person did all of them. And I admire my son for choosing to become a fire fighter. Once he chose this path, he has not wavered from it once. And now that we are looking forward, he is choosing the same path, but finding alternate ways of getting there. Me? I would have gotten all caught up on the many options, many pathways. But he is singular in that he sees his goal; his pathways all take him to the same place. Mine have had me all over the map.

light to my path

The one thing that has been consistent for me is my unfailing faith in God. I have meandered through methods of worshipping Him, but my faith has been steadfast. My path has been lit with faith since I was young. I sought Him out in my life, on my own initiative, since I was in grade school. I have been to so many denominations and faith experiences. It has made me who I am. My favorite (and enduring) major in college was Forensic Anthropology with a minor in Biblical Archeology. I learned the holistic approach to looking at peoples and cultures, and then I learned the physicality of our rich biblical history. As a people of faith, we are so blessed by our history, and the physical records of where we have been, as a people, as humanity.

Jonah's Burial place Bombed

The bombing of so many biblically important sites in the Middle East just breaks my heart. I do not need them as a proof of my faith and its history, but I cry each time one is destroyed. The photo above is of the aftermath of the bombing of the burial site of Jonah from the Old Testament. There are fewer and fewer sites that are intact and this strikes at all of our humanity, not just our faith. This was a record of our growth as people; it is part of the history of mankind. And it has been reduced to rubble.

I work diligently to be sure my children’s school records are accurate and complete. I may lag behind a few moms in turning my quarterly and year-end samples and grades in, but I am thorough and my teachers/advisors know they will get it and it will be complete. They have yet to have to badger me. I have been schooling my children since 1992 and I have gotten fairly decent at it! Records are important. Recently our son had his property surveyed. Survey lines determine how much we own. We know where we can plant trees or put up fences, or dig that pool. It also determines your property tax liability. Records are important. One of my many jobs was working for the County Auditor-Controller/Recorder in the Recorder’s office. It was so interesting. And keeping everything in pristine, exacting conditions was a requirement of my job. It was awesome to see titles and deeds dating back to the early 1800s, still being kept on record, and a reward of diligent record keeping.

wordsimage

Records matter. What we say, matters. We can offer opinions and we can claim expertise, but we cannot/should not speak untruth about anyone, at any time. Choosing to live your life a certain way, always keeping to your path and the path of Truth, protects you from slander or libel.  Gossip can be such a hurtful thing, especially when it is repeated in the public square. Quite often there is a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it is so obsfucated by the flotsam and jetsam of lies, we cannot even glimpse it. Nowadays we record everything using our cell phones. The cameras in cell phones are much better than the stand-alone camera in my desk drawer – which is why it is in the drawer. We can record our voices and email them or text them to people. I love to sing Happy Birthday to my grandkids and send it via text for their parents to play for them. We can video chat with people thousands of miles away. We can record events happening in front of us. There are often thousands of photos of the same event, thanks to everyone whipping out their cell phones. (How did we survive before them???). But keeping things neat and orderly, keeping our records safe, has been something we have been doing for one another for thousands of years. Gossip and slander have been with us since man was created; it came right along with our free will. And the record of it began in the book of Genesis, in the Bible:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6)

My husband and I go around and around on this because it is called the Sin of Adam, but he insists that Eve is the one who listened to the evil lies and acted on them. But the Church fathers always point out that Adam was the head of the family and the first one created by God; he had been with God a long time before Eve was created. He did not lead her; he followed her. So his sin was in that he did not say no to evil, but allowed evil to become a part of their lives, and consequently, our lives. Because of listening to lies, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.  When we listen to lies, share lies, and allow evil to win, we are sinning against God. And each and every time, we also sin against our brother. We can lead one another into a sinful state, a state wherein we exist outside of God, just by allowing evil to win.

Records are important. Our words are important – the records of our words are important. Our words define who we are. The recorded words we speak or write give our record to others for eternity. Think about that for a moment.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The cross-reference in the New Testament is: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned;” which is found in Matthew 12:37. The corresponding commentary says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue – This may apply to all men. Many have lost their lives by their tongue, and some have saved their lives by it: but it applies most forcibly to public pleaders; on many of their tongues hangs life or death.”

power of words

The power of our words can assist us, or it can deter us from our goals. We have a record that remains even after we become silent. As many politicians know (public pleaders, as in the commentary above) and have known for ages, our words can kill our career, our public life. Records can be blown up, as many of our historical records have been. But God sees all of this. He is waiting for us to choose a path that leads straight to Him. A pathway filled with love, determination, honesty, and goodwill. He asks us,

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:20-27

proverbs meme

“…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