Sunday, March 31, 2013

Alleluia! He is Risen!

My favourite part of Easter is finally being able to say Alleluia again.  After the period of Lent in which we don't say it, it is especially joyful, knowing that we say Alleluia! He is Risen, and our spirits lighten, knowing that this is the basis for our Faith.

For those interested in knowing where the tradition of eliminating Alleluia came from, there's a good explanation here, and a cute explanation by Miss Mannerly on Page 2.

Happy Easter to all!  He is Risen indeed!

 

Monday, March 25, 2013

End of Lent

Well, for some reason, I've always thought that Lent went from Ash Wednesday through Easter, but apparently, it stops at Palm Sunday (which I likely never would have known had I not been writing daily blogs in response to the Credo reflections).

This has been a challenging and fun exercise this Lent, allowing me to focus more on what fasting and feasting is really all about.  With luck, this has made enough of an impression on my habits to keep up a weekly blog on this site. 

Happy Holy Week to all, and may you have been as blessed this Lenten season as we were at Holy Trinity.

Hosanna!

(My apologies for the lateness of this blog entry.)

The reflection for Palm Sunday talks about Hosanna, and how it was a chant of sorrow in the author's childhood. 

For myself, I have always enjoyed this particular version of Hosanna:

The words are below, and although there is a sorrow there, overriding all of that is hope and the joy at the concept of being united with the Savior.

Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You, we turn to You
Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You, we long for You
'Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day
In Your Presence all our fears are washed away, washed away

CHORUS
Ho- san- na, ho- sanna
You are the God Who saves us, worthy of all our praises
Ho- san- na, ho- sanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here, Lord Jesus

Hear the sound of hearts returning to You, we turn to You
In Your Kingdom broken lives are made new, You make us new
'Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day
In Your Presence all our fears are washed away, washed away

CHORUS
Ho- san- na, ho- sanna
You are the God Who saves us, worthy of all our praises
Ho- san- na, ho- sanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here, Lord Jesus

'Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day
In Your Presence all our fears are washed away
'Cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day
In Your Presence all our fears are washed away, washed away

CHORUS
Ho- san- na, ho- sanna
You are the God Who saves us, worthy of all our praises
Ho- san- na, ho- sanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here, Lord Jesus
(Repeat)
Ho- san- na, ho- san- na
Ho- san- na, ho- san- na

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fasting from the Past

Today's reflection talks about fasting from what we've known, whether that be advice from doctors, in the author's case, or beliefs about abilities or simply a new direction that you've never tried.

This year, I chose to fast from my belief that I have a brown (really black) thumb.  Just because it has been true in the past is no reason that I cannot change that going forward.  I am nurturing to children, animals, people - I'm a natural caretaker.  I can grow things and help to feed my family, can and preserve things that I've grown - all with the help of God.  (Have I got you convinced yet?  Spring's coming - I'm still working on my attitude...)

So what would you like to change - what beliefs would you fare better fasting from as you move forward into the future?  (Hey, accidental alliteration - not bad for a Saturday morning without caffeine yet.)

Do you think yourself to be clumsy?  Have you reinforced that opinion over the years?  Some options for changing that (as I used to do that myself, so I'm using the voice of experience here) would be to take a dance class, yoga class, martial arts class, meditation class.  Of course, you don't have to spend money for such classes - grab a buddy and learn on your own.  Practice, practice, practice - until you find that you can walk with grace, and that something will warn you before you walk into a wall or trip over an imagined line in the sidewalk.  It really does work.

Do you think you're less educated, less wise, less cultured than what you would like to be?  There are tons of free classes on the internet.  Over 400 can be found at Open Culture where classes are taught by university professors from all over the world.  Take a look at your local and surrounding area for lectures, museum days, volunteer someplace that provides training to their volunteers.

All of this boils down to fasting from your past habits, beliefs and practices.  There is a feast of opportunity waiting for you.  And don't tell me that you wouldn't know where to start because the list of things you want to change is so long.  Make your list!  Close your eyes.  Pick something.  Now go - do something about it!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Feast of Opportunity

Today's reflection opens a whole new can of worms.  Politics and religion - the two subjects we're supposed to avoid in polite company, right?  Well, fortunately, this is a blog, so we'll wade in and take a stab at things.

It is estimated that over 80% of the farm workers in this country are immigrants, with estimates anywhere from 48% to 79% as being in the country illegally.  Part of this has to do with slow-downs in issuing H2A and H2B visas for temporary farm work, or the lack of employers who can guarantee that 75% of the farm workers' time will be filled with work at one area.  It's also been said that these workers do the work that will not be done by citizens within the United States, often because they will take a lower wage for what everyone describes as back-breaking work.

We will leave the questions of legality versus illegality for the politicians, or for Ceasar, unto whom we render those things due. 

As Episcopals, we are concerned with people - with families, with children's education, with housing, feeding and caring for those who come to work at the farms in the United States. 

This article documents stories of farm workers in the 1960s in Connecticut, traveling from Puerto Rico to find any job they can.  The historical perspective is interesting to read about.

North Carolina has an Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, which details the areas of need for the farm workers in that part of the country.  One of the other churches in that area has a ministry called Bag of Hope that provides the very basics for the migrant workers at a low cost.

Focusing on the verse:  Whatsoever you do to the least of these my sisters and brothers that you do unto me.” (Matt 25:35), the Bishop for the Episcopal Church in Vermont issued a press release highlighting the needs of migrant workers.

No matter what one's political beliefs, the difficulties faced by farm workers, most of whom are migrant workers, are here, and provide an area of service that we can help to fill.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Modern Day Gleaning

Today's reflection talks of an absolutely awesome gleaning program that the author's church provides for people unable to afford the prices at the farmer's market, or without room to grow their own food.  Another excellent resource talks of a variety of gleaning programs available.  And this site talks about gleaning as a method of self-employment and self-sustenance.

In today's society, gleaned food may be marginal, just on the threshold of becoming bad, and so many won't eat it, knowing that it will make them ill.  Our stomachs don't have the intestinal flora to keep up with such things.  However, one of the things learned from working within the Renaissance reenactment community was how people of the Renaissance time used spices to make such marginal food digestible.  Those spices that are currently used most often in baking (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice) and those that spice things up a bit (cayenne, curry, any of the peppers, etc.) will actually help your body digest things that it might not otherwise be willing to.  This works with both meat and vegetables, and can lengthen the shelf life of your food.  You might want to take a look at recipes to provide with gleaning programs.

It might also be an option to assist those who are homeless, unemployed, by providing them with transportation to help with the gleaning programs, raising their self-esteem as they know they are not only providing for themselves, but also helping others in a time of shared need.

In our town, there are areas in the wild where huckleberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, apples, etc. grow.  As we're also competing with bears, we tend to organize groups to go and pick, and then parties for canning and preserving.  Willing hands are all that are needed, and those unused to the process will have those experienced to teach them and help them along.  Don't forget to share with your neighbor as we all have the feast provided to us by the Divine. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Doors

The title of today's reflection brings to mind one thing for an Episcopal - Red Doors.  Interestingly, no one has a definitive answer as to why our churches have red doors.  This article puts forth many suppositions, from religious to tradition to whether the mortgage is paid.

A conversation I recently had with our priest had to do with the different feeling inside Episcopal Churches themselves.  There are churches that, when filled with people, are welcoming and filled with the Spirit - and they're wonderful.  And there are churches that without people in them, feel like buildings.

Episcopal Churches though, give a feeling of welcome and peace and sanctuary, even without someone in them.  To my way of thinking, it starts with the red door, stating to all in a bright, bold manner, this is a place of refuge - not to be violated by anyone.  It's a place of prayer and meditation and worship - and all are welcome.

Like the author of today's reflection, we have several people who need a wheelchair friendly entrance - and what's awesome about Holy Trinity is that not only the main sanctuary door is red, but so is the other entrance.  And like the author's church, Holy Trinity has a Feast to offer behind those doors - and all are welcome.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stomachs and Souls

Today's reflection talks about the community garden the author has at her church.  This is a very popular activity among Episcopal churches, and churches in general.

This article has a huge list of parishes where churches have either created or sponsored the creation of community gardens.  Our own St. Luke's in Libby will be sponsoring a community garden when the weather gets a bit warmer, and has the Kids' Kitchen going now; St. Michael's and All Angels has a soup kitchen once a week to help feed the community.

An apologetics site, however, makes the purpose of the community garden very clear:
If there’s one focus a Church should have, it’s on evangelism and missions. It’s almost a little redundant to separate those since missions, properly understood, is evangelism. If we’re truly doing the will of the Lord and making disciples of all nations, we can’t do that by giving people clean water without giving them the water of eternal life. We can’t give them bread to fill their stomachs without teaching about the bread from heaven who can fill their souls. We can’t provide shelter from the storm without telling the story of the One who has the power to calm the storms (and I’m talking about literal storms here, not “the storms of life”).

Am I saying we shouldn’t feed the poor, clothe the naked, or be philanthropic in our communities and abroad? Absolutely not! However, we must never sever these actions from evangelism. Evangelism is the only reason the Lord has left us here on earth. Seriously… think about it. What good are we if we take the light given to us and hide it under our beds?
Much of these concepts hearken back to the time when Christ used the loaves and fishes to feed a multitude.  He understood that:
"...it’s really difficult to pay attention to one’s soul if one’s stomach is growling. So, he filled their stomachs hoping—maybe even assuming---that once their stomachs were full, they’d realize just how empty their souls remained. But to do that, to realize how empty we may feel, is not so simple. There’s no definitive signal---like a growling stomach---to tell us we’re spiritually empty, that we need some spiritual nourishment. It takes awhile to figure it out. 
And, apparently, it takes awhile to explain it as well.  In John’s gospel, Jesus spends four Sundays trying to get his followers, those then and us now, to distinguish between physical and spiritual hunger.   It’s annoying as we hear, again, again, again and AGAIN that the manna from Exodus and the multiplication of loaves and fishes in the gospels is nothing…NOTHING compared to The Bread of Life...the bread that is Jesus.
That last quote is taken from a blog by a priest at an Episcopal Church in New York.  The whole blog entry is quite interesting.

So as you work the soil and share with neighbors, remember that even as we help to fill the stomachs, we need to help them fill their souls as well. 

 

Monday, March 18, 2013

God's Presence

Today's reflection discusses the presence of Christ in all things, the animating force as reflected in the works of Jyoti Sahi

It might be that Sahi is influenced by Hindu beliefs.  Some might argue that this viewpoint is what is referred to as panentheism:  a belief system which posits that the divine, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it.  God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe.  The Bhagavad Gita states in verse IX.4:  "By Me all this universe is pervaded through My unmanifested form.  All beings abide in Me but I do not abide in them."

The psalmist wrote:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there; if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (Psalm 139:7-12).
Generally, panentheism is more of an Eastern belief than Western, but it has been found in some Christian sects.  The idea of seeing God all around you is easy when you look into the face of a child, contemplate the beauty and complexity of the universe or the human body or helixes in DNA.  We get to see glimpses of God in everyday things, and still only touch on a small part of the Divine, who is infinitely greater than we can understand. 

We have a feast of God's presence all around and within us.  Does that make you uncomfortable, like the author of the reflection?  Or comforted, that God is indeed, omnipresent?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Living in the Present

Today's reflection brings to mind several concepts.  The first being that of basking in the love of family and friends - with the foreknowledge that what comes after will be much less pleasant.  There's the knowledge that at this point in time, as Thomas states, they are willing to die with Christ.  They are united.

The words that came to mind about not wanting to rise from the table were "Let us eat, drink and be merry; for tomorrow we die."  Those words occur two places in the Bible.  The first is in Isaiah 22:15 and the link takes you to the whole chapter, because reading the context is important.  In verses 1 through 15, Isaiah is seeing in the Valley of Vision that what should be a time of mourning, as decreed by God is instead a time of feasting, with the attitude that they should eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow they die.  The warning in the very next verses is that should you continue to disobey God, the death will be eternal.

The second place the quote occurs is at 1 Corinthians 15, verse 32.  Again, in context, Paul is telling the Corinthians that if they do not actually believe that Christ rose from the dead, that there is life everlasting through belief in Christ, and that Christ died for the sins of all that we may have that hope - then they may as well follow what Isaiah said, and eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die without the hope of rising in Christ. 

As the apostles spent their evening with friends, and basked in the warmth and love surrounding them, only Christ had the knowledge of what was to come.  Knowing that He could live in the present, take joy in good company, good food and fellowship - but that to protect all from the eternal death of "tomorrow", He would have to leave the table, and continue His mission. 

Could you follow him?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Food in the Bible

In today's reflection, the author discusses how her community follows some of the food strictures in the Bible.  There are quite a number of people who believe that the Bible describes the perfect method of eating for mankind, and there are generally "fad" diets created about raw foods being Biblically endorsed.

This site goes into the details of Jewish dietary laws, what "keeping kosher" is, and what it actually isn't.  Kosher isn't so much a matter of blessing the food as it is the manner in which it is prepared.  Interestingly, the preparations have to do with being aware, consciously preparing the food in a manner that makes it more than something to feed your body and give you fuel, but literally helps to feed your soul as well.

Another interesting challenge is set forth here, which gives you a start on a Bible study on eating healthy, and reminds us that "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  (Philipians 4:13)

Finally, there is a fascinating discussion of types of Fasts in the different traditions of Christianity, written by a doctoral student in Canada (references all included) that goes into the great and small fasts discussed in today's reflection.

There's always so much more to learn!

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Are You Fasting From?

With the beginning of the last ten days of Lent, we have a new author again for today's reflection.  Like many of us, she lives a hectic life, where oftentimes care of one's body is far down on the list of things to do, and where convenience often overrides healthy choices.  In the end, she wonders if her fast is not so much from a type of food as from neglect of the physical body she is entrusted with by God. 

So take a look at what you've been doing in this lenten period.  Is it something that common sense would tell you would be a healthy thing to do always?  If so, is it possible that your fast is from some form of abuse you inflict on yourself at times outside of Lent?

And if you've added something to your routine that you didn't do before, were you perhaps neglecting yourself by not doing it before?

So the concept of fasting from abuse and neglect of ourselves and our needs seems like a very good idea.  Will you be going back to your old ways at the end of this time?  Or will you continue as you have been during Lent?  Or will you simply try to be more aware when Lent has ended, so that you are good to yourself in your actions or inactions?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Five Things

Today's reflection suggests that we can reach equanimity by remembering to praise God, His blessings and His creations.  The author gives a great exercise that I'd like you to break down first.

Think of one small thing for which you want to offer praise or are grateful.  Just one.

Notice your breathing.

Equanimity is defined as mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium.

Think of two more small things for which you are grateful or want to offer praise today.  Just two.

Notice your breathing - is it slower, deeper, more mindful?  So take a big breath in and hold it, for a count of 5.  And breathe normally again.

Pick two more small things out of the plethora of things for which you are grateful that came flooding into your mind just then. 

 


This video shows what can happen when you put a bunch of musicians in a room and tell them to wait - this song reminds you that everywhere there is mention of God, is blessed.  We have a feast of things for which to be grateful.  Find your equanimity in that feast.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sharing Food

Today's reflection could have been written about our own little town of Troy, except that we're not quite big enough for a doctor.  However, the barter and trade system is alive and well, and food is a very common item for services.

The challenge the reflection provides could easily be filled by Libby's Kids' Kitchen (there are two opportunities there), or the upcoming work by the same group of people to help plant a kids' garden and keep it going. 

With these days of genetically modified foods, antibiotically fed animals that become our meat, etc., knowing how to grow your own food is quite important, and a skill to pass along to the next generation.  Taking or, even better, teaching, a wildcrafting class to emphasize edible foods in the wild, useful plants and herbs is another service that can be provided.  As Genesis 1:29-30 says:
And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.
 From the beginning, God provides for us - but we must still help teach the children.  Come out and volunteer some Saturday!
 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

God's Time

Today's reflection reminds us that God's time is not our time, but uniquely His.


This opens the door to questions about science and religion, prayers and how they are answered, and offers the big question of "Why?". 

But the reflection offers an alternative method of dealing with God's time - to stop, and appreciate an "interruption" of our routine, to embrace God's time and appreciate it for what it is.  (But do turn your oven off first...)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Obligation with Heart

Today's reflection discusses obligation versus desire - head versus heart - in connection with attending church. 

Growing up, my parents were very good at help us see opportunities, and at the same time, making sure that we had enough self-awareness to be honest in our evaluations of ourselves. 

If we were going to attend church out of obligation to society, recite the service by rote then we were welcome to stay home and not insult God with our presence.

If, however, we were willing to be open to the opportunity that God might speak to us through someone at church; or God might use us to speak to someone who needed to hear what He had to say; or that our hearts, while possibly not entirely in the moment, could be opened to the moment and we could be absolutely present with not just our body and mind, but our heart and spirit as well. 

Of course, we were also taught that God is present everywhere, not just in a church, and our walks after church were filled with a different sort of splendour and praises to God, with flowers vying for most beautiful and trees most full; birds for most beautiful song and the Sun shining brilliantly down on it all. 

Our world was filled with God and while obligation might play a part in getting us to church, it rarely remained the reason we stayed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Judgment/Compassion/Discernment

Today's reflection gives us a reminder that judgment is reserved for God. 

What many people don't understand is the concept of discernment, as opposed to judgment.  A very good article on this concept concludes:
We’re not supposed to judge; we’re not supposed to make a call on what is wrong OR right based on our own internal moral code. We’re supposed to discern, with the guidance of the Spirit, what God has already judged. To do otherwise is to say you believe you’re smarter than the creator of the universe. So give up your gavel to God and leave the judging up to Him, but don’t neglect discernment; those with the spirit can discern all things.
 Of course, the author's point was the judgment tends to push out the ability to feel compassion.  This author believes that discernment and compassion can coexist without problem, if people practice a bit of common sense:

How do we balance compassion and caring for one another with the need to think critically, to question what is happening around us, and to discern? The only conclusion I have made in response is simply, I don't know .. but we HAVE to find a way.
When groups polarize … they stop listening to one another. They are not even willing to engage in the discussion BECAUSE the behaviour of the other group is seen as deplorable and sometimes even dangerous. It is very easy to dismiss the substance of important information based on reaction to behaviour.
 A Bible study on discernment lists quite a few verses to help us understand the difference between judgment and discernment. 

So while the reflection helps us to realize that judgment is not within our realm of authority - it is God's alone - common sense should not be thrown out the window as we work to have compassion for those with differing points of view and discern the correct path to take, as we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Feast of Comforts

Today's reflection talks about treating yourself to a fast of some sort - fasting from anxieties, fasting from food, fasting from the people surrounding us daily, fasting from television - in order to feast on the comforts provided by God.  Here in Troy, we are surrounded by such comforts in most obvious abundance.



 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Plums

Today's reflection reminds us to find the plums in what might otherwise be an eyesore - to find the feast within the fast.

Being reminded of the nursery rhyme about Little Jack Horner, I found the earliest rendition of the rhyme from 1725 by Henry Carey:

Now he sings of Jacky Horner
Sitting in the Chimney-corner
Eating of a Christmas pie,
Putting in his thumb, Oh Fie
Putting in, Oh Fie! his Thumb
Pulling out, Oh Strange! a Plum.
 

The concept children were taught from this and other rhyming children's stories, is to find the opportunity, represented, of course, by the plum, in whatever you're doing:  the ultimate optimist who is given lemons and makes lemonade. 

When I was a child taking flute lessons, my teacher at one point yelled at me for a mistake.  He said, "If you're going to make a mistake, MAKE the mistake, and then don't ever make the same one again."  Apparently I would get quiet during passages I was unsure about, and he would have a hard time telling whether I was playing it correctly or incorrectly.  At least if I played it with confidence, he could then correct the mistake, and we could move on.

There is a feast of opportunities within our mistakes - opportunities to learn, to grow, and to eliminate that mistake from the whole feast of other mistakes out there that we can make.  Why make the same one twice?  Learn the first time, and find the feast.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Preparing for Spring

I think the author of today's reflection is ready for Spring, and like all of us experiencing Lent, waiting for the rebirth that is reflected all around us.

It's fascinating that we are in the midst of the fasting period, with snows in the morning, gentle rains in the afternoon, but the knowledge that the resurrection will begin soon.  With temperatures in the 50s during the day, the brave crocuses are just beneath the surface, getting ready to send forth their beautiful blooms at the first sign of the Sun. 

From this site: 

According legend about the crocus is connected to Valentine's Day. Valentinus was a 3rd century Roman physician who administered natural remedies. He was also a practicing Christian priest and prayed for his patients' healing. Unfortunately, Christian practices were not permitted under the reign of Claudius II, and Valentine was arrested and sentenced to death.

The jailor's blind daughter was one of Valentine's patients. Just before his excecution, Valentine handed the jailor a note for the blind girl. In the note, he had wrapped a yellow crocus, the source of one of his healing herbs, saffron. As the jailor's blind daughter opened the note, her sight was restored and the first flower she saw was the yellow crocus which rivals the sun in its brightness. On the note, the physician had penned the following message:
~From your Valentine.~ It was the physician's last message and the world's first valentine. The day was February 14, 270 AD.
So as we remember and experience the fasting of this lenten season, remember that we too, will experience the feast of resurrection with the Son for whom we wait.  Like the jailor's daughter, we will see His glory, and like the crocus, we will bloom under His sight.  How do you plan to show that in your life?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

First Reactions

Well, today's reflection provides disturbing images that vividly demonstrate the world in which we live today. 

A young pastor I know has an immediate response to absolutely any problem - Pray.  Then we'll figure out where to go from there.  He knows and immediately turns to his solution to the violence, and the numbness that many of us feel in response to today's violence and atrocities, sometimes committed just next door. 

Humanity is providing us with a feast of opportunity to develop a better response than we currently have.  How many of us read the news, think, 'Oh, how horrible', and then move on to the next story?  How many of us hear about a community problem, and think, 'we should do something about that', but never actually do?  How many of us complain about politicians or the government, but never actually do anything to change it? 

Perhaps it's time to find your first, immediate reaction to things like this, and make it something active.  Once again, what would Jesus do? 

What will you do?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cultural Differences/Stories

Today's reflection is from a new author, who asks us to take a look at our childhood and the images created in our minds that give us pictures of people, and make us think.

Growing up in a military family, I grew up colorblind, but rank conscious.  Later, I learned to differentiate between those who had seen war and those who hadn't - and it didn't matter their rank.  They shared that bond.

Christ serves as a bond for Christians - whether you see him with blond hair and blue eyes and pale skin, or brown hair with brown eyes and brown skin, or black hair and brown eyes with black skin.  And the stories about him change from culture to culture, but the meaning behind the stories are the same, teaching love for family, love for one another and love for God.

One of the stories from my childhood, growing up in Germany, involved the Forget-Me-Not flower used by the Masonic Order as a symbol by which German Masons could recognize each other during WWII, as they were not in favor with the regime in power.  Rather than the square and compass, they wore small forget-me-not pins.  They had taken this idea from when the Christians were persecuted at the beginning of Christianity, and the sign of the fish.

Later, when researching St. Mary's flower stories, we come across the story of Mary and the Christ child.  "The young Jesus, looking into his mother's eyes one day in front of their home in Nazareth said: 'Mother, your eyes are so beautiful, everyone looks at them in wonder.  What a pity those who will be born in future generations will not be able to behold them.  Because in your eyes one can see my paradise, and whoever looks into them cannot help but be drawn toward it.'  Then he touched her eyelids and passed his hands over the ground as though sowing seeds.  Immediately forget-me-nots sprang up, hundreds of tiny blue eyes with golden centers, as a reminder for people of future generations of Our Lady's pure eyes."  (Taken from Mary's Flowers, by Vincenzina Krymow.)

Obviously, this is a European story, told to children there who recognize blue eyes most commonly.  But the concept of a mother gazing at her child with love is universal, and the idea of the Christ child wanting to provide such beauty and love to future generations, preserving it in the flowers of the area are a great way to remember, and to teach children the values you'd like them to learn.  We have a feast of stories from all cultures, all teaching the same lessons, but changing the details.  What a gift that is!

Monday, March 4, 2013

WWJD

There is an awesome quote in today's reflection:  "I may have lost my sight but never my vision." 

In this portion of setting goals, the vision of the final outcome is our ideal toward which we strive.  As Christians, our model is Christ - and while we're all aware that we'll never actually reach that goal, that vision should be what inspires us.  WWJD or "What would Jesus do?" shouldn't just be a catch phrase, but a way of life.  As we travel toward our interim goals, and find ourselves straying from the path we've laid out, it's the question that should guide us back to where we either originally intended to go, or sets a new course if the goal needs to be adjusted.  The accountability is not just numbers, words or actions - it's also the Spirit who guides our way and helps us keep that vision in sight.

As followers of the Holy Trinity, keep the feast of Spirit incorporated in all we do, so that your Sight may be clear.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Evaluation

Interestingly, today's reflection begins on a train, not quite like the one brought to mind by the end of the reflection.  The Little Engine that Could is a story that we teach to little kids, but often forget as adults.  How many times do you need to remember the mantra:  "I think I can.  I think I can!"?

We've come to the portion of goals where we begin to evaluate our results.  If you've been accountable throughout your journey, you've got a fair idea of where you are, how you've done, how many times you've "fallen off the wagon", so to speak, and how many times you've "climbed back on" (to completely mix my metaphors).  Now it's time to actually sit down and focus on the short-term and long-term goals.  Look at timing - are you accomplishing what you wish as quickly or more quickly than you wish to?  Does something need to be adjusted?  Look at those times you've failed in your goals - was there a similar trigger each time?  How can that be changed?  Look at the times you've begun again - what caused you to do so?  Is there a way to keep that attitude prior to failing?  An interim goal to be added to help?  And look at the bottom line - where were you when you started?  Where are you now?  Is there a positive or negative change? 

And here again is where feasting and fasting come in.  Goals are (fortunately) not set in stone.  Time, circumstances, and reality all play a part in adjusting them.  And they do need adjustment periodically:  do you need to fast more (cut down on excesses) to achieve your goals within your timeline?  Do you need to feast more (celebrate the little successes in order to reach the big successes as an incentive)?  Do you need a combination of both?  Should we again be looking at balance, and getting ourselves to a place of balance through the focusing provided in feasting and fasting?

Do we need to change the mantra from "I think I can" to "I know I can" and move forward with that premise?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Accountability

Today's reflection talks about the next phase in goal setting - what's known to many as accountability, and finding accountability partners as you stick to whatever goal you have set.  In businesses, you've got business meetings that go over goals and progress, whether you've met your short-term goals, and whether you're still on target for the long-term goal. 

Finding someone to exercise with you is a form of accountability - someone other than yourself expects you to be there, and to help encourage them in their goals as well.  Weight loss is another fairly easy one to find accountability partners for. 

But what if your goal is a bit more private?  What if you want to prove to yourself that you can do this on your own?  Why not let God be your accountability partner?  Pray.  Ask for reminders or conscience jabs or something to get your attention.  Be certain that it's something you want, though, 'cause God as an accountability partner can really be a huge responsibility.  When God expects you to follow through on your goals, it's a bit more difficult to make excuses...

This next link has nothing to do with today's reflection, but I thought it was a cool story that should be shared. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Your Calling

Today's reflection discusses how your vocation or calling in life is supported or suppressed by your career, avocations or hobbies, and the busy life that seems to surround us.

Another author suggests that finding your true calling is combining your birthright gifts with your passions in life.  The problem is, discovering your gifts.  While this particular blog is written for men, the advice is quite good on how you might discover what those gifts are.  First would be finding that method of quieting your mind, letting go of the outside voices, that have often become "inside" voices (how many of you have your mother's voice reminding you about eating or neatness or hair style, etc.?).  There's a link at this blog that talks about methods of using activities that settle your mind, and take you back to a simpler time. 

Part of the reason we have such a difficult time in finding our vocations, or in becoming all that we were meant to be, is that we look for external validation of what we do.  Rather than trusting our own thoughts, feelings and sense of "rightness", we seek to emulate others we consider greater than ourselves.  But as Rabbi Zusya has said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?” They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’"

Knowing that you can learn something from every other person you meet is a good thing.  Realizing that everyone you meet is also going to learn something from you puts the responsibility back on yourself to figure out who you are, and what your calling is, so that you are fulfilling your own responsibility to God.

Fast from the world for a bit.  Focus.  Experience each thing in life, one at a time - for at least a little while - and listen to the voices within.