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

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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[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.

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“Fear is the enemy of hope.” Dave Ramsey

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“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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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“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!

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