“She laughs without fear of the future.”

I haven’t posted in while. Life sort of gets in the way of my musing. I need to be elsewhere, than on my computer. But today, well, today I felt like sharing thoughts. I have been participating in a bible study on Proverbs. This past weekend, my husband joined me in listening to Fr. Josiah as he spoke about “the perfect wife.” I did not realize the title of the talk until we started it, and we both chuckled. But the talk itself was not just about a father’s instructions to his son on finding the perfect wife, but rather about the character traits we all need to strive for. It was a good talk and it seemed over so quickly.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31: 25

There are more ways than we think of demonstrating a good, moral character. We can look for all these attributes in others, or we can strive to have them ourselves, to mirror those things we wish others had. “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instruction with kindness.” (Proverbs 31:26) As we explored this chapter, which is the final chapter of Proverbs, we learned so very much about ourselves. And I was struck by some pretty amazing thoughts!

I have caused myself to rethink how I see other people, and the effect I allow them to have on my life. There are people who I have strived hard to be like. People whose opinions mattered to me. People I looked up to. And as I have studied these sayings about the perfect wife, I realize that many of these people are just play-acting roles they have assumed. They did not truly embody the character traits I thought they had. They were pretending, or “going through the motions” of being something or someone, but when I pondered many of them, thinking of them particularly in light of the character traits I strive to have, I realized they spoke of these traits, but did not own them.

Metanoia – the change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.

When someone says they have embraced their faith, there is an expected change. They alter how they view life, how they treat people, and how they live. Granted, some people will never fundamentally change, but a great deal about how they are and how they treat others undergoes a profound change. And sometimes, it does not. At all. They parade, they act, they pose. And, when you come up against someone like this, for me at least, I want to make them a huge sign that says, “WWJD” and flash it in their faces.
When our metanoia only shows itself at church, it is not a change of heart or soul. I attended a conference many years ago that was supposed to be a “charismatic” conference. I had a little exposure to charismatics throughout my life and I thought it would be fun to attend. It was visually pretty mind-boggling. I have never been one of those who outwardly expresses themselves in church with “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lords” with shouts and raised arms. I am a quiet church attendee. I am pretty traditional in how I like my church services, which is why I think I have gravitated eastward for so many years. Anyway, at this conference, people were being prayed over and being “slain in the spirit.” (Overcome by spiritual emotion causing fainting and other reactions). When it came to me, three people stood around me (making a box with their bodies and I was very uncomfortable) and the fourth person stood in front and prayed over me, and then pushed me with the palm of his hand on my forehead, expecting me to faint. Instead, I yelled, “Ouch! Why did you hit me?” They all looked at me and said, “Next, please.” I felt like I had missed out on something amazing. I had no life-changing moment; no metanoia. In another instance, when I was at a pre-sanctified liturgy during Lent more than 10 years ago, as the priest passed over me, carrying the Body and Blood of our Lord, and as his vestments passed over me, I felt an electrical charge that went straight to my heart. Much later (as in months had passed) this same priest and I were chatting and he brought up that exact moment – because he had felt it, too. That was confirmation enough for me! God was present. And my heart melted. I have never forgotten that moment and it still brings me up short, that God would allow me to personally experience His presence in such a way. It changed me. And it brought me closer to God than anything I had experienced up until that point.

1 Timothy 11-16

“Command and teach these things.  Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

When we accept the faith that is in our life, either through early baptism and confirmation (as in the eastern and Orthodox churches) or we come to it later in life as a discovery (being “born again” in Protestant churches) we are called to be examples to those around us of Christian living. When we give poor example, we damage our own reputations, yes; but we damage the Church as a body and its members as a whole.

The profound thing I realized is that there are people around me who have shunned organized religion of pretty much every sort, but who are more Christian and Christ-like in so many way than those shouting it from the street corners (Matthew 6:5). And what I realized is that no one has told them they are living a Christian life; that they embody so many of the character traits we look for in the “perfect wife.” And how sad is that? They are dealing with people who purport to be Christians. I know that “we are not perfect, just forgiven,” but c’mon people! We are held to a higher standard! And there are those who somehow think less of themselves because they do not “go to church” in light of these church-goers (always comparing themselves to them) and yet have far better characters, are far more trustworthy, and who will defend your life to the end of theirs.

And so this weekend, I came to see people in light of what they do in relation to others, rather than who or what they say they are. And I was profoundly moved by people who don’t even realize how good they are; and conversely I was profoundly disappointed by some who insist on acting like they are such good Christians of character. And so, once again, my children are teaching me. I have commented in other posts about my son chastising me about judging how some people look, without even getting to know them. That was about 15 years ago. And I have profoundly changed and I know I am a better person for it. I just wish some people knew what great people they are and did not measure themselves in light of the words of others, who profess how good they are!

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“It was then that I carried you.”

You know – God is good. Just flat out good. I get tossed and thrown around in life all the time. But my anchor is God and He is solid. It reminds me of a fly buzzing around someone’s head, and they just swat now and then but don’t move. That’s God, standing there, with me buzzing around His head, trying to land but never quite making it. And I know why. It’s because I keep relying on me and not Him. Many years ago, we went camping in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. We were there for the first weekend after the snow melted. The waters were so cold. The grass was green, the flowers were just starting their bloom, the skies were so blue, and the birds were chirping away. It was the 4th of July weekend. We spent our time hiking and fishing, sleeping in tents and enjoying the company of one of our favorite families. One morning, we were walking to our fishing spot when we looked back and our youngest son (at that time) was walking with his arms outstretched, going across a small footbridge, with all these May flies all over him. On his head, on his arms, legs, everywhere. And he was walking so carefully, so tentatively placing each foot quietly on that bridge. We asked him what he was doing, and his simple reply was, “Giving them a ride.” I often think of myself like that, getting a ride now and then when I need to cross a difficult bridge in my life… God stretches out his arms and lets me alight for a moment or two (or however long) and helps me across.

mayfly_B2A3KH_2913494b

I think we can all learn something, at least I hope I keep learning new things, from this example. They often “fly” into my head, unbidden, and I just have to get them out, which is why I blog! There have been so many things that have had me up in a tizzy, all worried and concerned. To the point of tears and upset stomach, where I could not even get dressed but went hog-wild doing research on my computer in my jammies. Sometimes an idea, issue, or thought gets in there and I have to work through it until I am at peace.

Recently, we were faced with homeschooling issues. From so many of my acquaintances within the homeschooling community, I kept receiving texts and comments via facebook of, “Pray about this.” “Wait for God’s direction in your choices.” “Listen to God.” “God will direct you; He’d never lead you astray.” “Keep faith with God; He brought you this far, to such a good place.” Over and over again, from so many disparate sources, I was admonished to rely on God and His Word in my life. To stop trying to do this alone. Wow. I was humbled and brought to my knees. Those of you who know me well, know that actually getting to my knees is just not happening. But I did bow my head, while I banged it on my desk, and prayed very hard. Things happened and I was relieved beyond my expectations. I could breathe again.

I started working out and had a meeting with a personal trainer last night. First of all, he was YOUNG. I mean, YOUNG. Older than my youngest son, but younger than my other sons. But he was smart, bright, and very, very nice. He encouraged me, challenged me, and gave me goals. He has expectations for my success. He gave me expectations of success. He walked me through my plans, my expectations for myself, and then we evaluated truly where I am. And no shame at how out of shape I have become, but just praised for acknowledging I am not where I should be and have begun to correct years of neglect. He walked me through exercises and stood by me while I successfully completed them. God place just the right person, at just the right time, in my life.

And I was thinking about all of this as I was filled with joy this morning. Pure joy. Don’t want to stop smiling. Our lives are moving in a positive direction. Intense change is occurring and we are all onboard with the same goals. It feels awesome. As I have posted before, I am using essential oils. One of my favorites is Joy. It is a blend that I like to wear in place of perfume. It has sort of become my scent. Today I feel as though I plastered Joy all over myself! And I know it is because I can feel God working in my life. Pieces are starting to fall into place. And He is working for a profound change. Not just a fad or something you do on a whim – a change. Metanoia – here’s the definition:

“Metanoia — an Ancient Greek word (μετάνοια) meaning “changing one’s mind” — may refer to:   Metanoia (theology), repentance;  Metanoia (rhetoric), correction, a rhetorical device; Metanoia (psychology), the process of experiencing a psychotic “break down” and subsequent, positive psychological re-building or “healing.””

I believe that when we truly desire change, we can make significant changes to our lives. Many Protestants believe that when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, a deep change, or metanoia occurs.  When one accepts Christ into their lives in a real way, the world turns upside down and nothing should ever look the same. For those of us who practice a different Christian expression, we come alive when the Word is read in Liturgy, when certain prayers and verses are read at certain times of the year, when we smell a particular incense or Holy Oil.  We are humbled by the Presence of God in the Divine Liturgy, when He is present on His altar. Metanoia can be a recurring theme in our lives as we progress towards our goal of Theosis, which is defined as:

“In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theology, deification (theosis) is a transformative process whose goal is likeness to or union with God. As a process of transformation, theosis is brought about by the effects of katharsis (purification of mind and body) and theoria. According to Eastern teaching, theosis is very much the purpose of human life. It is considered achievable only through a synergy (or cooperation) between human activity and God’s uncreated energies (or operations).”

When you walk with God and everything seems to be in accord, you are moving towards a greater synchronicity with Our Lord and peace becomes the feeling you enjoy most often. Just like those May flies getting a ride on my son’s arms, occasionally we need a lift, too. Sometimes it is just a subtle reminder that we are not the power in the universe, nor in our own little orbits. But rather, God moves the world, the universe, and we are hitching a ride with Him. Often it is a friend who reminds us to rely on God more in our lives; but it can often be that soft whisper of Our Lord, calling us to Him, to His Word, to allowing Him to carry us.

Footprints. Carried you