“…you were bought with a price…”

 

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“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Corinthians 6: 19-20

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faith-words

Guess where I am at today? Yeah; I am there. It seems like there is a push in our culture to expose us to uber-sexuality. It is everywhere. It is temptation surrounding us. And it is pervasive. The evil one is sitting back and laughing. The movies, the TV shows, song lyrics…and those are the legitimate sources of temptation. I just found out there is an alternate universe of YouTube that is dedicated to pornography (Red something or other). And it is free. There is Snap Chat where kids can sext each other and the image disappears after a few seconds. Except nothing disappears. And our children can find porn so easily. I read an article today that said 97% of all young men before the age of 18 have watched pornography. And it is not like trying to find a centerfold in a Playboy magazine. No. This is hard cord porn. There are images and videos of “rough sex,” and even group sex. Children as young as 11 and 12 are becoming addicted. And they are becoming reclusive and disordered. There was a court case this week against a father, accusing him of sexual abuse. A secondary charge of bestiality was dropped because there was no “penetration.” And that, as sick as it is, unfortunately, is now in our legal system and can set precedent for other cases of child abuse. Pornography and the culture surrounding it is all out there, easily obtained. And it is killing our country’s cultural base, and our families, which are the foundation of our culture. It is creating this disordered sense of what family is supposed to be, our sexuality, and all of our interpersonal relationships. And it is scaring me. And it should be scaring you.

christwhostrengthensme

I am not sure how to combat this epidemic. I do know that I need to change myself, before I can help anyone else change. Do I watch porn? No. Do I read porn? No. Do I allow it in my home? No. Is it here? Probably. Because we allow sexual innuendo and jokes, and poor vocabulary, to sneak into our home and our lives. We slowly allow the level of purity and modesty to sink. It is like the story of the frogs in hot water. You place them in a pot on your stove in warm, tepid water. You slowly increase the heat until the frogs are boiling to death, and they are happy all the way, because they do not notice the water getting increasingly hot. Do we laugh at impure jokes? Do we allow movies rated “R” for sex or violence into our homes? We allowed a movie in that we still regret – the “F” word was used more than 300 times during that movie. That’s more than 1 time/minute. That is ridiculous. It is in the trash. I have to stop this from invading our home. I need to judge myself and see where I am lacking, in that I am allowing this cultural deviation to have a place in our home and family. It is part of the actions that I need to take; that each of us needs to take in order to combat this evil pervading our country, one person and one family at a time.

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What I find so interesting, is that this whole issue was noticed by me, over the past few days, coming from several sources – commercials about this new 50 Shades movie, comments on a couple of ProLife pages on FB, and news reports, even comments from people I know. And the timing is so much the Lord’s. Because this weekend is MeatFare Sunday. This weekend we enter into the preparation for Great Lent. This weekend we turn our focus inward, onto how we are preparing for the sacrifice God made for every one of us. A sacrifice that He would make, even if each of us were the sole person on earth. He would die for my sins alone. He would die for your sins, alone. He is that magnificent of a Creator. He values His creation above all things. He desperately wants each of us to belong solely to Him. Not this world. Not the evil that tempts us in this world. Not the wrong that is trying to invade our righteousness, our holiness, our future of eternity in the presence of God. Because sin separates us from God.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”” John 3:16-21

If we read part of that in light of pornography and evil, we can see how clearly God is talking to us. When John says, “The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Pornography seeps into the world in darkness – behind closed doors. There are have been studies showing that kids can spend hours in their rooms, on their computers. These computers are tools that can help them with their schoolwork, yes, and can be invaluable tools for education. But think of the study that said 97% of boys before 18 have watched pornography. Where? How? Have you checked their laptops? Do you allow computers, Play Stations and the X-Box in their rooms? Did you know they have internet capabilities? I did not realize they are like having another WiFi Hot Spot. Have you scanned their phones or looked at the photos on them? Do you have their log in codes for the internet or their phones? Do you understand the apps they have on their computers and phones – what they can and cannot do on those apps? Do you have all their passwords? They are sometimes alone, in their rooms, with temptation swirling all around them. We trust our kids to become the people we set the example for them to aspire to be. We instruct them. We pray with them, and for them. We go to Church with them. We send them to Youth Group. We monitor their “dating” practices. We know their friends. Some of us homeschool, in order to keep an extra eye on our kids. But are we with them every moment? Is what we are doing enough? The evil one is laughing, because it is NOT enough. Don’t fool yourself. It is NOT enough.

prayersformyson

As we enter this preparation period for Great Lent, we are asked to focus more on our prayer life. Yes, we fast from certain foods; the list for Melkite Greek Catholics is quite lengthy and strict. Many Catholics and Orthodox give up chocolate or coffee. Some give up Facebook or the internet. But for me, fasting is a exercise in self control that I should be trying to do every week; it is not enough of a sacrifice for me (it doesn’t “hurt” enough to be memorable, if that makes sense). We should be fasting from meats on Wednesdays and Fridays all year long (in the Eastern Churches, we do). What works for me is to add something; to intensify the good, wholesome, faith-filled and inspiring things in my life. Doing so helps drown out all this evil and all these ungodly influences. Paying attention to what influences you can even include how you present yourself to others – too much make-up, or even flashy or revealing clothing. Because ungodly attire is a distraction to everyone and it can come from both males and females. How do others perceive you just from how you look when they see you? What is the first impression you give off to others? Are you a wholesome and Godly young person (or older person) or are you projecting the world and its influences? Are you trying too hard to be a part of the world? Try doing more in the religious and faith-filled part of your life. Go to Church more often. Sit in the presence of God in the Tabernacle, where He waits for us. Spend more time praying. Add volunteering with those who are less fortunate. Donate your time, and the money you save fasting, to those who are in need, to those who are suffering. Dedicate a portion of each day to silent prayer. Read stimulating, religious works by some of the Church Fathers. (The Ladder of Divine Assent by John Climacus and Our Thoughts Determine our Lives by Elder Thaddeus are two of my favorites). Stimulate your mind and your heart with thoughts and prayers of God. Divest yourself of the things of this world that make you less than what God calls you to be. Stop allowing the world and its bright and shiny temptations to skewer your relationship with God. Go to confession. Find a mentor or Spiritual Father you can chat with. Have coffee with your Youth Pastor or confessor. Make Godly relationships a priority, while pulling away from those who would do your soul, your eternity, harm. The evil one is laughing…let’s shut him up.

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Take this time of Lent to get yourself right with God. Work on your relationship with your parents, siblings, children, and friends – but most importantly, with God. Cement the Godly and be rid of the evil. Christ endured beatings and belittling for us. God, Himself, hung on that cross for 3 agonizing hours – just for you; just for me. Do not throw His sacrifice back in His face.

crucifixion

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

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Quiet Extrovert….

know ourselves

Today I took a personality test. It is free and online. (16personalities.com). What an eye-opener. I do think it is the first time I have participated in one of these where I felt like I was accurately and succinctly described. It sort of threw me for a loop. Today became a benchmark day for me, because I learned so much about myself. Well, I know myself, but someone who doesn’t know me accurately put into words what I think about myself. And that can be a tad bit unsettling.

Most people presume that I am an extrovert because I am a good talker. Ha-Ha. I love to chat. For hours on end. And I have an ability to strike up a conversation pretty much anywhere I am. However, I can be superficial about it, too. I can talk weather, or sports, or social media garbage all day long. And then I can leave it at that. And although I can participate in society at that level, anything more can leave me completely exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. When I feel like I can connect to someone on a deeper level, I will extend my emotional feelers and delve into deeper subjects. But that doesn’t happen too often. As I have aged, it happens less and less.

ereader

I am an avid e-reader. I will read a traditional book off and on, but my Kindle Paperwhite goes with me everywhere. If I have a spare moment, I am reading on it. I take it to bed every night and read until my eyelids have gravel in them and it is hard to focus. I prefer, more and more, books to social situations. I prefer a certain genre and through this personality test, I understand why I love the genre I love. I have found that I can go entire days, if no one else is home, without sounds coming through iTunes or the TV. I can be silent. I can tap-tap-tap on my laptop (which I love so much. It’s a new MacBook…with a delicious purple cover – thanks to my DIL!) and that can be the only sounds in my home, aside from my snoring dogs. But I am still communicating, like now, only it is still being a “quiet extrovert.”

Another thing that this test showed me was what is important to me insofar as relationships and career/workplace needs go. I realized that I blog about issues important to me. And most often, there is a spiritual connection. Spirituality and morality are the most important attributes I seek in friendships and workplace environments. Boy, I wish I would have learned this sooner in life. I had it in me, but this test laid it all out so nice and concisely. My nature is to be diplomatic when I can, but I also will not compromise my beliefs. I am always seeking authenticity from others – quality trumps quantity every time.

blcoked on social media

Why do I address this? Well, today several things happened. Someone got through a “block” I had for one of my social media accounts and somehow was able to put a call through to me. And it took me by surprise. My safety net has a rip in it somewhere. So my sense of quiet and alone was attacked and I found out I really don’t like that. And secondly, I learned why so much of what is going on in the world insofar as violence and this ugly, ugly election process truly bothers me. Why I prefer ignorance about some of it. The process for delegates to the convention? Who knew all that? Who knew votes could be disregarded? Who knew prominent party members could opt out of the convention? Who knew there could be so much disregard for human life that simply shooting police officers purely because they are police officers is seen, by some people, as a viable option to fix their situations???? And I realized this bothers me because deeply rooted within my personality, I have a need to contribute to humanity on a personal level, all the while valuing honest, integrity, and morality above all else. Where are those attributes in this political climate or in the culture of violence we see out there even today? And it hurts me, on such a deep level. It is almost like I am realizing I am too soft in some ways, to deal with it. Which I also realized today is another reason why I prefer my Kindle time to socializing, more and more.

kindness

I think that just a little kindness is needed. I posted yesterday about touching people, one soul at a time, one person at a time, just person-to-person. We need, I believe, to shut down all this noisiness and spend some time thinking about our neighbors. Our neighbors who may not exhibit kindness to us, but to whom we need to always be kind. This can be quite literally the person next door to us, but it can also be the idiot who cuts us off on the highway and who we realize needs way more driving experience. It can mean the clerk who is rude to us, or a waiter who messes up our order. It can be some jerk on the TV we see who obviously needs some attention or care. We need to show kindness to “the least of these” –

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed.’ Matthew 25:40

I do not want to be separated from the love of God, ever. Some theologians say that hell is not some hot place with demons attacking you, but rather it is the knowledge that God has removed Himself from you, and the absence of the love of God for eternity is what hell truly is. To come to that point in your personal salvific story line to realize there is a God, and that you did not believe nor accept Him, and He has removed Himself from you for eternity. Wow.  We come to many realizations in our lives, and my continued prayer for others is that they will come to acknowledge God in their lives and accept His will for them. I do not want anyone to be without, or stand outside of the love of God. And I see that lacking kindness towards others (we need to always struggle to be kind to everyone), to be fearful for your own safety, and to want to retreat away from others is sort of something that leads to a further decay of our culture. Those of us who recognize the shortcomings around us are the only ones who can affect a positive change. We sometimes have to fight our inner selves in order to help our society. Yes, I might have to pay attention to this ugly election thing we have going here, where no one tells me what they can do for me, but they sure can tell me what the other guy cannot do! I have to keep myself current in order to be a participant in the process, although I would love honesty and forthrightness within our political climate. As for the violence, I think that will only change when we fundamentally change how we all view the sanctity of all human life. When we can so easily abort the unborn or kill the sick and dying, people will not value one another. When we extend kindness to others, with no expectation of recompense or deservedness, but purely to be kind, we teach them that they have value – that their lives matter – that all lives truly matter.

sanctity of life

One of the traits this test showed me was that I need to feel like I am constantly improving myself, and am inspiring others, convincing others to passionately and altruistically improve the world around them, on a personal level. And to me, that means I need to touch someone positively each and every day, to be sure I am contributing. Right now, I am blogging, and hoping to share with more than one person, so perhaps they will be inspired to reach out, too. I have comforted another person today, and that makes my heart sing. I am trying to make it a personal goal to touch one other life, each and every day. Together, we can reorient this culture before it becomes so warped, no one would recognize it. Together we can grasp one another’s hands and literally pull each other towards a better tomorrow. Yes, I am a quiet extrovert, but even I can affect change.

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“I just needed a time out…”

My aim, when I first started this blog, was sharing my “musings of a mom.” I had my first child almost 31 years ago, and our baby will be 18 soon. I have experienced many things as a mom. I have been filled with such an immense joy that I thought I would burst, and with such sorrow that I thought I would break. God intended us moms to be pretty strong, because bringing new life into this world and sharing in the gift of creation with our Divine Creator, is pretty amazing in and of itself. But then there is the whole raising of these children. That is another chapter. One that I do not think will be done until I draw my last breath, and at that point, God and my child will be on their own! Ha-Ha!

I have embarked on some new journeys recently, and through them I have walked away from some things and some people, and have begun new things, meeting new people. I don’t think that life is something we ever stop exploring unless we choose to, or we are dead. I have heard some amazing sayings and one of them recently was, “Stop being in love with your couch.” This could mean laziness in a physical sense, and that truly applies to me. But the context within which it was stated had to do with business and being a self-starter.

AncientPaths.

Sometimes we get stuck. We dig trenches of our own making. We get so deep into what we are doing, we cannot see out of our habits.  And while in those habitual trenches, we develop a “comfort zone.” It can be so debilitating we cannot function well too far from our zones, or outside of them. We freeze. We fall in love with our couches. However, there are ancient pathways, tested paths, that help us to find our way and keep us close to God.

THINK – PRAY – ACT

This is something that can be so hard to do, because we have lost contact with our own sense of the “go-getter,” that person we were when younger or more motivated. I often watch my 2-year-old granddaughter and long for her energy level, as well as her joy in life. She seems to just enjoy every day, moment to moment. She throws tantrums once in awhile (more often as she is growing up but is not quite where she can communicate what she is feeling. She then gets frustrated with life and just comes unglued – I can relate to that, as well!!) and I often wish I could behave with that abandon! However, being the mature adult (cough-cough) that I am, I am reduced to stomach acid that sometimes goes into overdrive, and having to realize that I am a child, too. A child of God. I need to run into the arms of my Lord like my granddaughter runs to her mom’s outstretched arms. And there I need to rest. I need to gather myself, pray, and then act.

I recall my kids having tantrums and we’d send them to their rooms, until they were better company (or could behave around others in a way that was acceptable to us). As they got used to that, quite often they’d run to their rooms on their own and then as I would check on them, I would hear, “I just needed a time out.” Wisdom from the mouths of babes. We all need a time out now and then! And when I think, then pray, then act – well, it turns out better than “re“-acting to my environment with my own “adult” tantrums.

Silence

As I have mused over events and memories of being a mom, I have learned a few things. One of the most profound is to keep silence in situations where speaking would result in turmoil. Keeping silence and your opinions to yourself often results in untenable situations becoming more tenable, and even forgotten, as time goes on. Teenagers, but often strong-willed and undisciplined children, will erupt and spew their newly acquired opinions, creating strife in a relatively short amount of time. Poorly disciplined kids are relatively hard to deal with, especially when they grow into poorly disciplined adults. And that is when the balm of silence can truly help a situation. When you throw all of that undisciplined humanity into a group’s gathering, it can be quite tense. It is at that point that I will retreat inward and think and pray…my action is my inaction…it is my non-contributory silence. And I recently had the opportunity for silence and the action of being silent and although my inner self was in turmoil, I did not contribute to the turmoil around me and I found great peace in that. It calmed me and provided a salve for my inner-self, my heart, my nous, my center where God resides. He reminded me of the many opportunities I have been given to contribute and that now, silence is often my best contribution to a situation and/or a person.

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I was staring at my bedroom today (this is just an image; not my own room) and I still love the craftsman-styled furniture we bought for ourselves. We finally got our own bedroom set after we had been married for about 15 years. Today, as I was dusting our dresser and holding items precious to me, I just started to bawl. I looked around, wondering who would be dusting this dresser that I love so much, in 30 years? Who would care about this flower bowl I got from my grandma and kept because I love the way the pink and purple colors are all swirled together? Who would be making this bed, and for whom, in 40 years? Because, I realized that my days are numbered here on earth. That we all truly die. And I do not think I will be dusting anything in 40 years, nor making beds, nor admiring my grandma’s ceramic flower bowl. Someday relatively soon my family and small group of friends, well, they will only have me as a distant memory. And that I will cease to be a part of their lives. And I am not ready for that, yet. Oh, I know it is coming. Getting closer by the day. And all of this musing about sharing and not sharing, being silent, and choosing ancient pathways brought me to this point of my weeping at my coming death. I pray I will be worthy of the nosebleed seats in heaven; that God will share His Mercy with me and I will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6). But that still means I will not be with those I love. And my circle has shrunk over the years. Boy oh boy, has it shrunk. And as I wept, I thought of those I would like to be with me, as I draw my last breath. The list is small. And I found comfort in that. Because as we go through this journey, those who truly matter are there for us, regardless of our weight, our success, our homes, our choices, our gray hairs…they love the inner me; the me Our Lord sees every time I seek Him in silence and in prayer – the child of God I am when I run to the One Who comforts as only our Creator can.

candles lit

Today I wept, and I kept my own counsel; I didn’t call a friend or my husband. But I also sought my Creator to center myself. As I mused on motherhood, I mused on the many choices I have made for my family. I truly feel I was led by Our Lord to make the choices I made. I know He watched over us and has each of us in His hands. And as others criticize the choices I made for my kids, make fun of the choices I am making for my family and my life now, I realize that Our Creator has got all of this. I place my trust in God, in my salvation with Him for my eternity, and I will enjoy the precious moments I have left with those I love. I will keep silence when it is better to do so. I will also continue to make choices based on my keeping my silence, but also with thinking, praying, and acting within the Will of God.

God words

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ghandhi

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Infinite possibilities twisted together with definite change. Life is about learning, growing, adapting. And being open to that process until your last breath. I have discovered that changing does not always sit well with those around us; those who have known us as we are. People get used to certain things, certain ways, certain habits from those around them. We are incorporated into others’ comfort zones and we become an integral part of how they identify themselves. Quite often when we are in a process of changing, we upset other people because we are messing with their comfort zone.

Change

I have resolved, over the past few months, to become a completely different person. I am learning so very much. One way in which I am changing is that I am open to learning things that, for most of my life, seemed out of my range – definitely out of my comfort zone. I am incorporating a chemical-free life in our home. I am learning to “eat clean.” I am learning to listen to others, who have experience and knowledge I do not have, and am open to adopting some significant changes in my life. This upsets some of the people around me, and for that I am apologizing. But deep in my heart (or in the “nous” as the Orthodox would say) I am certain that God is letting me know I am on the right pathway. And I just do not see that turning back is really an option for me.

Quite often we are led to change because external things exert an action upon us, and unbeknownst to us, they bring change with them. It can most certainly be the actions of others towards us, the words of others spoken to us or about us, or even a geographical change. But nonetheless, we become a changed person. The impetus for me was learning about a healthy lifestyle. Exerting changes on my own perspective and realizing choices I was making (and had made) were not healthy for me or my family. That, coupled with an amazing learning experience, caused me to shift my views on things. Several other things happened to coincide with this movement within me, to cause me to abruptly stop actions I had been used to making. Stopping habitual things abruptly, changing from one day to the next. I was stopped in my tracks. Literally, and figuratively.

SilenceGodSpeaks

And out of this stopping cold in my tracks came a wonderfully peaceful silence. I do not need to respond to others. I do not need to add my voice to the cacophony of sounds in this world. I will keep Holy Silence with my God, Who comes to me in those quiet moments when I have come to a complete stop. Those times when I let no other distractions interfere with our communication. And I take His lessons to heart. And I rejoice in the fact that I can still learn and incorporate new paradigms in my life. I can affect change in others’ lives simply by living mine, as an example. And when asked, by sharing what I have learned with others. And I don’t have to play in the same sandbox any longer. I can enter other playgrounds and make new friends. I can grow and move into areas that perhaps I would not have gone a year ago. What a blessing some actions of others can be. Things I had thought were painful have become instrumental in moving me forward. A year ago I would not have chosen to take on an online class or open my home to strangers, sharing what I have learned. And I would not throw things away simply because I have learned how bad they are for me – I would have used them up and not replaced them. But now, I toss them out. And it feels wonderful. I am stretching and growing and becoming. And it does not allow me to keep looking back and thinking, “What if…?” because it is no longer germane to the person I am becoming.

Dontlookback

Musing on this, I realize that God certainly is not done with me, yet. I am learning. I am moving on in my life to be a better me. I have 4 (so far) adorable grandchildren I want to be around to enjoy. I am improving my health, my mind, and my soul. I may not be the person I was last year, but I think that is a good thing. I am placing priorities in order. For me, it is faith, family, and friends. There is a great book called, “Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World,” which I have mentioned before. In it, there are 7 areas in which we can strive for balance and they are faith, family, friends, fitness, finance, field, and fun. I am working hard on learning to find that Oola Balance. When we try to find balance, we are occasionally working with several plates in the air on sticks, and it can be tricky. I am prayerfully moving forward, hoping to balance all these areas well. But I am prone to error and hope I am not leaving others behind, or becoming exclusionary, either. Growth involves learning. We sometimes stumble our way through, but I am determined to keep picking myself up, and working on that balance. Change can be painful for those who are used to our “same old selves.” The person I am leaving behind is not the same person you met even 12 months ago. Be patient with me. And if I happen to move on and you can only see me from a distance, perhaps that is God’s way of urging you to move on, too. I think being stagnant and accepting the “same old thing” is a form of slowly dying. And I am not doing that any longer. I am excited and embracing a new life for me, and for my family, too. I am blessed to be married to the best person in the world for me, and he is fully on board with all of this. God is so great and put two unseemingly-compatible people together for life and we feel blessed to have found one another. It has been working for 31 years of marriage and 33 years of relationship and we are moving forward, together. I am also striving to move forward in wellness, purpose, and abundance in all areas of my life. Yes, I am different. Yes, I am still growing and changing. Yes, I have adopted a different lifestyle and I have moved on spiritually, socially, and emotionally. God is not done with me, as I said before. And hopefully I will continue to become the change I hope to see in the world.

wellness

 

 

 

Golden moments stolen out of time…

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This month, my 5-week preemie turns 30. I am blown away. When I concentrate on solely that one life, I am filled with memories, like a kaleidoscope of short films. My pregnancy was a difficult one and I was hospitalized for most of it.  Once the doctor sent me home, still on bed rest, I waited. It didn’t take long; just 5 days and my water broke. My husband was so funny, prepping in that new-father sort of way. He laid large, black, yard-sized trash bags on the seat of our car, with a towel on top of that – just in case. Our drive was uneventful, but about 30 minutes in traffic, with me sitting on plastic trash bags!  When I arrived at the OB’s office, they tested me and said that yes, my water had broken and to walk down to labor and delivery. I took a few steps outside the office door and grabbed onto the railing and went to the floor – my first real contraction! After he was born, I shared with my husband how tired I was. I asked him the time and he said, “It’s 4:30.” I replied, “Wow! 4:30 in the morning! No wonder I am so tired.” He corrected me, “It’s only 4:30 in the afternoon – you were only in labor 4 hours!”  Ha-Ha.  Felt like forever; I was taken, for 4 hours, out of time; I had experienced kairos. And so began our life as a family, 30 years ago. I just cannot believe that little boy is now a married dad himself. So much has happened. But every so often, time stands still and we are given moments of insight and memory. This morning, when I gazed at the foggy trees in our yard, I was swept back in time to a precious moment with my newborn son, and it seemed like I was there. I could smell him and feel the weight of him in my arms. And my heart was swollen with renewed love for him.

Hand on baby's back

I was thinking on this today and was brought up short when it hit me – this is exactly how Church is sometimes. Chronos versus Kairos! Our firstborn seemed to love being in Church. He would pay attention and was quiet when we needed him to be. Our middle son was so funny as a baby/toddler, because the moment we would enter the Church, he would get drowsy. He always slept on the pew, through the entire Mass. I was worried he would never participate in the Mass, that he would not know what was happening. One early morning on the freeway traveling to Church, he started saying the entire Eucharistic Prayer I, in Latin, from the back row of the van. He was about 4 years old, I think. I guess I was worried for nothing! Our youngest regularly slept on the floor under the first row in Church, while I sat in the second row with the other deacon’s wives. He would awaken in time for the end of Liturgy, happy as a clam. I was worried he had no concept of being in Church, but when he began serving on the altar, he required very little instruction. He’d been mystically as present as his older siblings, absorbing the things of God, even in sleep.

Orthordox Church.interior

The Church offers us “other” when we attend Divine Liturgy. An opportunity to leave chronos behind – the worries and pressures of our lives, our day, our hours. We enter fully into kairos – the moment, the perfect experience of God. The ancient Greeks gave us these words for time – chronos and kairos. We still use chronos, when we measure the passage of time, in words like chronology, anachronism – when we do we speak in seconds, minutes, hours, years, centuries. Chronos is quantitative, whereas kairos is qualitative. Kairos is something apart from chronos. It specifically speaks to moments; to the perfect moment, the right moment, the opportune moment. It is when the world stops and takes a breath and life is changed. Forever. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, in Ecclesiastes, “to everything there is a time” and kairos is this moment in time; it refers to the perfect moment of God. In Church, we are transported into the moment of worship with our Supreme Being, surrounded by the Heavenly Hosts. This is from the Anaphora of the Eucharistic Canon:

“For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son and to Thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen; and we thank Thee for this liturgy which Thou hast found worthy to accept at our hands, though there stand by Thee thousands of archangels and hosts of angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many eyed, who soar aloft, borne on their pinions, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

I love that our Liturgy reflects the action of the angels and that while we enter into the sanctuary that is Church and the Divine Liturgy, the angels are surrounding us, constantly singing to Our Lord, in Divine Worship. And I love to lose myself in Liturgy. I’ve had people experience a Divine Liturgy for the first time and one of their reactions is usually to the length of the service. (And the singing and the incense…) And for me, it passes in a moment. As the mother of young children, it can take much longer. Getting children to experience kairos only happens when we expose them to it on a regular basis. It’s hard to expect infants, let alone adults who have never been to a Divine Liturgy, to not have questions or get antsy because of the foreignness of it all. Babies are just short adults; we need to be present to their senses in how we share our worship. It can be confusing for all of us and we ought to encourage the experience of kairos for others. So many adults are annoyed by the noises and wiggles of infants in Church. Personally, I rejoice with the angels, because those children are our future.

St. Nikolai

There is a beauty to experiencing kairos. Chronos ages us. Chronos makes us tired. Chronos gave me gray hair! In mythology, Chronos was always depicted as evil, or as Father TIme and an old, decrepit man walking with a cane, barely escaping the Grim Reaper. Kairos is always young, handsome, and full of love and happiness. Kairos brings joy to people. Kairos lives in the perfect moment. Our souls soar in kairos, when we give ourselves over to the experience of God in His Liturgy. And God gives us glimpses of those perfect moments, moments of kairos, throughout our lives. It is just hard to recognize them sometimes. As I typed this, I remembered the first time I felt my firstborn son move in my womb. I recall placing my hand over him and reveling in the gift of life. I cried with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, that I was allowed this divine gift of life. And that moment was a kairos moment. Time, as chronos, stopped for me, as I felt my child wiggle in my womb. 

Miracle baby toes

So I pray for more perfect moments in my life. I pray that I can stop, be still, and experience more perfect, sublime moments. God moments. Time loses its hold when we step into karios and live with God. The angels are singing, miracles are happening, and life will never be the same. The world holds its breath in kairos. Eternity is glimpsed. The miracles all around us are a part of the complete experience of God. We can find those kairos moments, and we want to treasure them. God gives us kairos to raise us up, for those perfect moments, moments we forget time itself and live fully in that golden moment.

Trust me, moments come and moments go. Some are hard to get past and cause us intense misery. Those are the moments when we live in chronos, hoping beyond hope that they are over and done with. With a moment of kairos, we are transported outside of our own timeline and we come truly alive – for the sole moment. I related in a previous post how I cried at the Phantom of the Opera – that is a kairos moment. I completely let the angst of the traffic, of feeling harried, fall away in that moment of bliss. That moment of bliss erased all the other chronos I’d spent getting there. Those are golden moments. Golden moments that are not repeatable, nor should they want to be. We relish them because of their uniqueness. Spending time, outside of chronos, in the presence of God, refreshes us and quite often brings us to our knees. We are separate, we are apart. We are alone, and yet with the choirs of angels, worshipping God.

BVM Laundry

When I look at my dirty laundry, I long for those moments of kairos.  And yet I know that if I dedicate myself to the task at hand, even washing clothes can be golden moments, if we use them to pray and offer our labor for the good of those who need it. And I can often lose myself in menial tasks, being transported in memory to those moments that spur me on, that guide me in my chronological march through life. Kairos is our gift from God, but it is also His invitation, to seek Him out.

Kneeling Prayer.Orthodox Church

 

And so I muse… comings and goings…

“He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.'”            Job 1:21

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”    Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been musing over many things lately. The Lord’s providence in my life, for sure. I see blessings all around me. And I see the empty places, as well. Sometimes we wonder why we “end up” where we are. I have had some interesting conversations recently with a disparate group of people; some friends, some acquaintances. And I have come to realize that the “empty places” in our lives are sometimes there for our blessing. Even if we notice them and they become bothersome or we become sad for the noticing. 

cartoon-lady-closet

I often see people struggling with their “things” – and our “things” can be literally junk we pay to keep in storage. I had a friend who had a storage unit for all her “seasonal decor” because she was over-the-top at decorating and had no basement space to store her decorations for every holiday. So she paid for a storage unit, where she kept each season’s/holiday’s decorations. She always had her house perfectly decorated for every holiday, often using a professional to assist her. But I never got over the fact that she spent money on a storage unit to keep all that stuff. I have friends who are constantly “cleaning out” or “organizing.”  I completely get that. When we left our large home and downsized in California, and then when we left California for Washington, we got rid of a lot of extra furniture, and decor.  We simply had no place to put it. When we finally relocated up to Alaska in a 30-foot U-Haul truck, I downsized in a large way. We live very simply, but I am constantly getting “the urge to purge”!  Our things, or attachment to them, can weigh us down in so many ways. I love that saying, “You can’t take it with you” and the quote from Job at the beginning of this post sort of brings that out – “Naked I cam from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.” Our things are here to assist us, to make life easier, and to bring us joy.  Have you ever walked into a museum and been brought to a hushed silence in awe of what you are seeing? Oh, I have.  On several occasions.  A memorable one was a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for an exhibit of Icons and Illuminated Manuscripts from Saint Catherine’s in the Sinai Desert. I could not even speak, but just whisper in the presence of some of these original icons, holy artifacts, and manuscripts. That is a case of storing things for a purpose!

Illuminate manuscript

The Lord allows us to experience the fruits of creation throughout our lives. Being in the presence of those who are creative, for me, is overwhelming at times. I am not very good at things “artistic” and am in awe of artists. I have wept at ballets, especially when my very gifted daughter-in-law danced in a production in college. I have wept at plays and operas. Once the “Phantom of the Opera” began and Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman sang, I started weeping and did not stop until it was over. What an experience to see them in person, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles! So, so blessed. We are given people and things to make life especially joyful and to bless us in a special way.  But there are times for all these things, for all these people, and all these experiences.  And there is also time for simple, quiet, and unadorned. “For everything there is a season.” 

Take people out of your life

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we hang on to people, and have them in a sort of “storage unit” just in case. It is not fair to ourselves, nor them. Because of social media, the word, “friend,” has been highly – ridiculously – over used. There are, in fact, very few friends in our lives. We have acquaintances by the score through social media sites like Facebook, but how many friends?  I mean, real, honest, “lay-their-life-down-for-you,” friends?

No one at funeral

Why do we place such emphasis on Social Media? Is it really necessary in our lives? It has come to replace real-life interaction, in so many cases. I have seen wedding invitations only on Facebook. Birth, graduation, divorce announcements, only on Facebook. Communicating with friends, only on Facebook. So many not commenting at all, just watching everything on Facebook (how creepy is that?). The ability to be that much removed from someone gives people a lot of leeway in their communicating. Some people revel in the anonymity of Twitter and Facebook and Snap Chat. They are removed from directly interacting with people, allowing them to say some of the most outrageous and hurtful things. And it’s one of the profound ways I have seen my “Christian” friends behave very, very un-Christ-like. How easy it is to cut people down and be cruel, without having to look them in the face and see the hurt you cause them. In addition, the milieu itself is completely artificial. It is not real life. Just like reality TV is not real. (Cannot believe how many people don’t get that whole premise). We are playing to our worst selves, by allowing this computer I am using and the screen I see to be the sole way we know one another, or communicate. And do not even get me started on cell phones, especially “smart phones.” It’s one of the ways we disconnect from people, even in a crowded room. I am guilty of this and is one of the myriad of reasons for my musing, and posting, today.

High Tea

One of my most-favored places for communicating is a local coffee house. Not Starbucks, because those are more for the computer-using workaholic/college student. No, I mean a real coffee house, or tea shop. I love high tea. (If you’ve never gone to a real, British High Tea, try it sometime. It is delicious and wonderful and one of my most treasured memories with my dearly departed Grandma). These days, I love choosing a delicious scone and trying a new brew concoction, and then sitting down with a close friend and gabbing away the hours. I have friends I have moved away from and we have reminisced that those are the times we miss the most – coffee around my kitchen table, often with bread baking in the oven (especially when we lived on dairy farms!). I have realized that people and things are put in our paths for our enlightenment, our joy, our appreciation, by a gracious God, Who loves us. 

I cannot save everything I have ever owned, and everyone cannot stay my friend. Perhaps we don’t share the same activities, the same lives, any longer. It is okay to say goodbye to a friendship, just like that comfy sweater or favorite pair of jeans. Some relationships are formed out of camaraderie and convenience. When either support is removed, the friendship falls apart. And it is okay to lose a relationship that way, most especially if it was based on things like soccer schedules and living next door, or carpooling and church attendance. When we move on, we take aspects of these people and things with us. We have grown because of them, and hopefully learned from them. We move on. 

cartoon-coffee-cup-clip-art-196859

When I was younger, my grandmother gifted me with her tea cup collection. God bless her. Each cup had a story, and I remember them distinctly. I have been blessed with sons. Sons do not care about tea cups. What am I going to do with these tea cups? I chose to gift them, a couple at a time, to people who mean something to me. Sharing my Grandmother’s tea cups became a way I could leave a part of myself with others who have shared my life. And each tea cup I give away, I write down the story my Grandma told me about that cup. I cannot keep all these cups and saucers. There are so many of them, as in literally dozens of them. Some of them appeal to me and I will probably hold onto them longer, but some are not my particular “cup of tea” and so I can gift them a bit easier. I am planning on each grand daughter, and daughter-in-law, receiving tea cup sets. Some have cookie plates with them, that are for enjoying high tea. But I am slowly gifting them all away, as I know I cannot take them with me (as in the quote from Job above). The same holds true for friends. It is okay to give them up, to let them go. Each person, each thing, has a time in our lives. It is difficult sometimes to let people go; we mourn that particular relationship and we miss the person. But it is healthier to allow the relationship to wither on its own, and allow God to work in our lives by allowing new people into it.

And I am feeling more and more confident that as I age (and hopefully mature) and my circles tighten and shrink, that it is okay. It is also okay to become quieter. Sometimes keeping silent in the face of harsh words, whether spoken or written, is the “better part of valor.” (To paraphrase Shakespeare). Discretion, being that better portion, can be said to be silence in many instances. We can be discrete in how we handle ourselves insofar as friendships, both the making and letting go. As I was perusing my “friends” on social media, I came to see that the ones I hold especially dear are not a part of the social media frenzy, and it is not how we communicate. Several on there I also communicate with through emails, and shockingly enough, actual conversations. My closest friends will stay my friends whether or not I post my status on Facebook for that day. So as I ease into my 60s, I am seeing that my life can quiet down, can be even more simplified through the purging of social media outlets, as well as too many “things” in my life. Simplicity is something I think God appreciates. A simple, direct approach to life is actually freeing. Keeping your schedule simple, your “appointments” simple is also a way to be more in touch with God. Less time with others is more of an opportunity to spend in quiet contemplation. Do not get me wrong, I will still go to museums, plays, concerts when I can. I will attend school plays and productions for my grandchildren when I can. I will continue to dine with friends, and meet for a “cuppa” at the local coffee house. I am not locking myself away. But I am being more discrete in more aspects of my life. Sometimes all this “stuff” out there just gets to be too much.

sit with you lord

“…God and man are one…”

“…in such moments God and man are one, and God’s Spirit works in him…”                                                                                                                      Elder Thaddeus

PathwayWe are all searching for peace.  It is elusive, especially in our noisy world.  We have become, in this country, a people of “instant.”  We want what we want, and we want it now.  “If it feels good, do it.”  “Just do it.”  There are so many slogans bandied about that encourage us to live to our hedonistic worst selves.  I listened to a brief piece by Mark Hart, the Bible Geek this morning, which he had posted on his Facebook wall. It was from a presentation he had made. In it, he lamented at how we want all these things from God and we keep talking incessantly and praying “without ceasing,” but for so many of us it has become more “noise” and not true prayer.  We need to be still and allow God to envelope us in His “whisper.”

Elder Thaddeus’ book, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives” pretty much changed me, my outlook on life, and how I try to deal with life.  God will interact with us.  God will give us that elusive peace we are all searching for, but He is more likely to wait for us to “be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).  I have tried so many different things in my lifetime.  I have attended the Ritual Baths in downtown LA at a major Jewish Temple.  I attended what I lovingly called, “Let’s be Jewish Classes” for the better part of a year when I was foolishly engaged as a young woman to a Jewish man whose parents really disliked me because I was not Jewish, but who did invite me to witness many Jewish holidays, services, and traditions. I love Judaism.  The wonderful Rabbi who was trying to instruct me became a life-long friend and I very sadly attended his funeral many years ago.  He often told me, “I love how you think, but you will never be a Jewess.”  Ha-Ha!  The old Anthropologist in me just could not let go of all the evidence of a Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.  But it made for delightful conversations!  I also explored Mormonism as a teen.  Even gave a testimony and talk my parents attended at a Stake meeting.  I attended many different Protestant denominations. I even went to the Chrystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA with my youngest step sister. What an experience! Ironically enough, the Diocese of Orange County purchased that property and is in the process of making it a Catholic church and educational center.  When I was a young adult and was initially dating my husband, I was a declared Geneva Presbyterian and loved my Church in El Toro, CA.  The one big thing about that Church was the architecture (it spoke to me) and oddly enough, the smell.  The walls reminded me of a castle and I loved touching and smelling them – they had a sense of history to them, even though it was relatively new construction.  (I am a history nut, in case you have not figured that out and majored in Forensic Anthropology/Physiology in college, with a minor in Biblical Archeology). My heritage is British and that Church was British and Scottish in culture, Geneva Presbyterian in theology.  I have heard some great preachers, and some very poor examples of Christians as preachers.  Through it all, my sense of history drew me into the Catholic Church, and kept pulling me east, as I found the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

Through my formation in the Melkite Church, I was led to read some great, formidable, and amazing early Church Fathers; I have read the Desert Fathers, as well.  Not in completion, by no means, but words they have left us, which have touched me deeply.  The Philokalia is something all Byzantine Catholics should own and refer to often, as a source of spiritual nourishment.  (I think everyone, regardless of Church affiliation, would benefit from reading it).  In the four-volume set is found words that will take you a lifetime to digest.  And when, in formation, our pastor and our spiritual director suggested some further reading, some of the books truly impacted my life. “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” is one, and Elder Thaddeus’ book is the other.  Some people shy away from Orthodox writers and I believe that is a shame.  It is a loss for them and it does not acknowledge the bond we share, theologically and spiritually, with our Orthodox brethren. I think that Elder Thaddeus really had his finger on the pulse of our emerging cultures.  Even though he wrote long before our lives and in a far different environment, his advice still holds true.  When we truly connect with God, “in such moments God and man are one, and God’s Spirit works in him.”  It is something you never forget, those moments when you really are touched by God.

I have experienced the touch of God through his Saints and his vessels on earth, in some profound ways during my lifetime.  God allows us to experience His love when we renew our determination to rid ourselves of the dross we accumulate in this life and focus on the life we will have with Him in eternity. There are some funny sayings that relate to this, that show where our culture is heading.  One that always tickles me is, “The man who dies with the most toys wins.”  I have seen that bumper sticker on trucks that require step ladders to get into!  I always imagine boys holding on to their Tonka Trucks and GI Joes well into adulthood, adding cars, off-road vehicles, and other toys to their piles of “things.”  I have heard of some weird funerals wherein people are buried in their favorite car or dressed as their favorite sports team.  And even though imagining it makes me giggle (I know people who fit into this category!!) I am also very sad that their view of eternity is limited to what they can see out of their rear-view mirrors.  God is so far beyond what we can see and touch in this life.  There are sublime moments when we touch Him in this life, yes, and it makes it real!  Holding a newborn baby; holding the hand of a loved one as they pass from this life – these moments touch us and give us a glimpse into the life of God. Why do you see so many older people in Church?  I believe it is because we all wake up one day and realize that we do not have that many more days to wake up.  Each day becomes precious.  It is a shame we don’t start, as a general rule, much younger to strive for God every day.  I know some people who never think of God or Christ, except when they buy the latest Easter dress for their children, Easter Baskets with all sorts of bunnies in them, or start their Christmas shopping and put up their decorations.  They go most of the year never giving a thought to God.  But boy, do they complain about this and that, always sighing at not having peace in their lives.

Easter Bunny....This past week has been stressful.  We live near a military base that has been having a week-long “exercise” wherein they shoot off mortars, 50 Cal guns, have Chinooks flying over head, and paratroopers jumping out of C-17s.  Our little house is older and every time a mortar is fired, the windows rattle, the cat runs and hides, and my nerves are rattled to the migraine point!  I feel, so much, for those who live every day in a war zone.  I feel, so deeply, for our PTSD vets, who lived through bombardments like this, on a daily basis, for real.  And I am grateful our troops are being trained to protect us and to keep us safe.  But I am so over it!  My nerves are frayed, our skittish cat may never resurface, and we are operating in a holding pattern, waiting for the next blast!  And so I thought to write about peace.

Ukrainian priest.warSometimes our peace is taken from us, as recent events in Ukraine demonstrate.  But the Ukrainian priests and monks there showed the world that they are clinging to the presence of Christ in their lives.  That freedom from oppression is important, even with guns on your back.  In this country, we pretty much have lived in peace in our land…we’ve had a couple of attacks on our land, but we have been blessed.  We have not had to fight for our right to believe and attend the Church we do.  We have not been rounded-up like the nuns in Syria, kidnapped and held because we live what we believe.  The world struggles for freedom to worship, and we struggle to obtain more toys.  I know that not everyone does.  There are good and bad everywhere.  But what is pervasive in our culture?  Our media barely touched on the unrest in Ukraine.  Many of my friends knew nothing about it, and many still do not.  But they know who won the Super Bowl.  They know what channel the “real housewives of….” is on.  Their DVRs are set to record so they don’t miss a moment.  And we are surrounded by and bombarded by sound.  By noise.  By the dross (The term dross derives from the Old English word dros, meaning the scum produced when smelting metals. By the 15th century it had come to refer to rubbish in general. Metallurgical dross is referenced as a metaphor for worthless material in the Bible and in other religious texts) of this world, floating around us and clogging up our lives.

Simple and humble, simple and humble…that has become our motto.  It was our motto when we relocated up here.  We got rid of so much that we truly did not need (well, I wish I had been a little less generous because I do miss quite a number of things I gave away in my haste to relocate!!).  We live smaller, simpler, and much more humble lives that we ever have.  And we have far more quiet than we ever have.  We can go an entire day, and night, with never turning the TV on.  And we are all fine with that. I spend time ruminating on the readings of the day, articles of religious import, or Scripture.  I think, I ponder, and I pray.  And I experience more peace than I have ever known.  And I feel that peace ebbing, or it being pulled from me, I am more aware of it and struggle to cling to it.  Quite often, I retreat and symbolically fill the moat with water and pull up the drawbridge, to regain my sense and center of peace in Christ.  My wish for my family and friends is more time with God, in contemplation of Him in their lives, and to know “such moments [when] God and man are one, and God’s Spirit works in him…” 

Man before clouds