“…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.

 

 

“…weep for your children…”

The Holy Family

Holy Family IconI am thinking about family today.  Two years ago today (2012) my father-in-law (memory eternal) passed away, with my husband and middle son sitting at his side.  It was a very sad event for all of us, because he was relatively young and the disease of cancer took him so very quickly.  It was important to my eldest son and his wife that they be there, to introduce their newborn son to his great-grandpa, even if it was on his deathbed.  It was a transcendent moment in so many ways. I remember about 28 years ago when my son, around the same age, was sitting with his great-grandfather as he lay dying.  And it was repeated a generation later.  We mourn the loss of my father-in-law today; my husband most especially.  But my sons feel the loss deeply, as their grandpa was such a big part of their childhood and growing up.  We have so many wonderful memories spent together as a family.  Memory eternal, Joe.

In today’s reading, Christ speaks to the women who are following Him on his way to the Cross.  “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me; weep instead for your children, for indeed the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'” (Luke 29:28-30)  Today, as I was contemplating our family and our losses, when I read this, I also mourned all the children we have lost to miscarriage (there are seven in all). As I lamented the loss of my babies, I also feel blessed for not having a lot of children. That sounds odd, but being barren for most of my marriage has given me a heart for other women who cannot have children; a heart for those who have lost children in miscarriage as I have; a heart to adopt (which we did); and a heart for those mothers who lose their children later in life, and who go before their parents (disease, accident, war).  It is difficult to comfort a mother who grieves the loss of a child.

Today online there has been much chatter about Ukraine and Russia.  What is going to happen?  Who is going to do what? The Russians moved troops?  And I could not help but think of the grieving families in Ukraine, but also in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa, and in South America.  There are so many “hot spots” around the world right now ( if I missed one, apologies).  We mothers never stop being mothers, regardless of the age or independence of our children.  And I worry for all those who must put on a uniform and bear arms against others.  I do not want mothers to grieve over the loss of children to war, or any other cause.  Is it truly the time when we will be happy we have never had a child, as Christ predicted?  A friend sent me a link today to a Catholic organization (or movement or group…not sure how to categorize it) dedicated to just that, the “final battle.”  And I thought, “Wow.  Has it come to this?  Are we really preparing for that last war?”

Great Lent is just about upon us.  For me, Lent is a time when I come into a more simple, basic relationship with God. And for me, that works best when I strip away things that keep me from focusing my attention on God.  During Lent, I work extra-hard on taking down those things that place a sort of blockade between me and God.  The Church has us focus on food during Lent – why? Some far better bloggers than I am have tackled that today.  What I took from them is that food is our original passion:  Adam and that darn apple.  What we choose to consume feeds a baser desire within us.  Food and eating is an intimate act for a person.  We have desires for food and quite often we are unable to separate our desires for satisfaction in our lives for satisfaction with eating habits. I am overweight, and for me, that means I have issues somewhere within myself that cause me to turn to food, when I should turn to something else, like prayer.  So for me, Lent is an opportunity to tame a disordered part of my life and bring it into order.  I try to really fast.  This year my husband and I are digging in our heels and being stubborn.  Last night he chose to not get dessert for the family while at the grocery store.  A small, fasting-led, victory over our base-passions.  (We will take all the victories we can get!).

Abbot NazariusDuring Lent, we are also asked to participate more fully in the life of the Church.  We will be dedicating ourselves to attending as many prayer-evenings, parish functions, and community get-togethers as we can.  We are also dedicated to simplifying the technology in our lives.  Not as much TV, computers, music, iPods, and iPhones.  We will be substituting spiritual reading in place of technology; or just being together, quietly, as a family.

And with all of this paring-down, cutting-back, and increased periods of quiet, I will think of those I miss of our family. I will pray for all our family members who are no longer with us; I will pray for my babies, already in heaven and waiting for me. I will pray for all those lost because of war, famine, and other disasters around the globe.  And in the quiet, I will pray that this is not the “final war” that is spoken of in whispers.  I will pray that my daughters-in-law will not weep for their children, nor I for mine.  I pray that God will grant the world a respite from all the ugliness that is encompassing it.  And when I see those first buds of spring flowers poke their heads over our snow-covered yard, I will once again smile.  Spring itself seems like it is God’s promise of tomorrow.  Perhaps all the quiet, the simple fare eaten, the time spent in prayer and reading, will lead me to a greater love for God and His desires in my life, because I think I can hear Him much easier in a quieter, simpler, less-cluttered life.

BlessingEasterBaskets.RussiaAnd this year, for the first time, I am organizing and really planning our family Easter Basket.  The tradition of a family basket is shown in the artwork above; a Russian village is waiting for their baskets to be blessed. We will be preparing the foods and other items to go into our basket and I am so very excited – I ordered and received our basket cover! (It is so pretty – thank you Matushka Anita, for making it for me). I am looking forward to the preparation and assembly of our basket.  And, rather than argue about what each person does, what they eat or don’t eat, I am focusing on my own spiritual renewal and re-commitment to my faith during Lent, and the plans for a joyous Easter celebration.  Perhaps there will come a day when I weep for my children, or my grandchildren:  I pray that it is not in my lifetime.  For me, now, there is much to look forward to, and this time of Lent is preparing us for our future, our moment of Spring and sunshine, flowers blooming and birds chirping, and a nice roast cooking for dinner!

Cheesefare WeekHappy Wednesday of Cheese Fare week.

Memories eternal to Joe and Frank, our fathers who left us for their blessed repose.