See Grandma, my eyes are really dark blue....not big brown ones like daddy

See Grandma, my eyes are really dark blue....not big brown ones like daddy

Ryan and friend

Ryan and friend
Mommy, Daddy, I'm saying Hi to Grandma?

This one is for you, Grandma!


soccer with determination and no airplane distractions

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Responsible for Love

The anticipation is growing... soon to be spring. Today, after leaving church following the Liturgy of Saturday of Souls, when we pray out of love and Christian duty for those who have gone before us, I found new signs of life. There they were little tiny green tripods, creeping out of the ground shyly amidst the volumes of snow surrounding the parish grounds. Yet, in that little sheltered row, they were almost hidden. I would guess that these lifeforms, possibly crocus, were overwhelmed by the mass of whiteness still dominating the area and hoped, like we do, that it will melt away quickly. The sun, in all its brightness has given notice for advancement, like it or not. It won't be long when the stacks of snow will be but a memory and the new green will proudly stand with its foliage and flower for all to see in all it's glory. Somehow, when we wait for new life to show itself, it seems like a ponderous time. Especially when it has been as difficult as this winter.

Another sign of the impending spring, is arriving at what we call meatfare Sunday. It is a marker that Lenten Spring has begun and, as we approach the Sunday of the Last Judgment, we realize that all that does not produce in life, is doomed to die. The fruit of our life is "love." We will be judged on the gift of love. We have been given the grace of Christ's love and how we accepted the responsibility to love or refused to love. Love is a decision. Personal love is essential for man to thrive, without it, we are all sick, thirsty and hungry. Personal love is the true mission of the church. For "inasmuch as you have done it onto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me."

I hope that you will find it in your heart to put love first and that you will reap the reward of eternal life when the books are opened and all is disclosed. Love is what you will take with you, and it is all that matters in the end.

Love, which is so wonderful and brings a joy filled step, is like a touch of spring generating happiness as it basks in the sun soaked rays of heaven. It is the kingdom of God within us. It is how the beauty of the whole creation is reflected in a very unique and special way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

For the Salvation of the World

As a child we, as well as most of my family and friends, hung a crucifix on the wall. We were given crosses to wear at our Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation. We knew about the Resurrection of Christ, but the emphasis was on His death. It was the budded cross that led me to Orthodoxy, one that I purchased for my birthday several years, prior, 27 years ago.

On face book today, I read with interest that someone thought the focus should be on the Resurrection, as many were crucified regularly, but no one rose from the dead, except Jesus. Years ago, I would have agreed with that statement. While it is true that you cannot have one without the other, the work was accomplished on the cross. Death was destroyed by His death.

The plan of salvation, began at the beginning of time, and took many years to be fulfilled by the only One that could. This was not an ordinary crucifixion, Jesus is the only sinless One, who carried the sins of the entire world, by His own free will.

It was the most savage form of execution in which exhausted dying people, tried to lift themselves up in order to breathe. Jesus was beaten with tipped metals, wearing a crown of thorns, nail to the cross, pierced in His side, during the heat of the day, stripped of His clothing, spit upon, laughed, and mocked by by standers and those He had created with His own hands, while His mother looked on in terror, was not your ordinary crucifixion.

Everything that was done to Jesus was to fulfill what the prophets in the old testament said would happen. He was rejected, despised, and innocent. He did it for all of us. Who could love you more. Someday, we will all know when He comes again, and when every knee shall bend and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

No one else would have or could have done it. (Read in Revelation1:18) "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Jesus destroyed Death by His Death on the cross. He was victorious in His death and won for us life, for the salvation of the world.

What followed was the Resurrection and Ascension, with many eye witnesses. See (John19:37) "They shall look upon Him whom they pierced." The centurion, who saw Him breathe His last in (Mark 15:39) said "Truly this Man was the Son of God."

It was not the Resurrection that saved mankind, but it proves that Jesus is God. Salvation was completed on the cross with the utterance of three little words, (John 19:30) "It is finished!"

Taken from the Holy Friday Afternoon, HOLY WEEK AND EASTER SERVICE BOOK:

"Today a strange and fearsome mystery is witnessed. The infinite One is held; the One Who loosed the curse of Adam is bound; the One Who tries the inward heart of men is Himself tried; He Who sealed the deeps is sealed in prison; the One before Whom the powers of heaven stand quaking stands before Pilate; the Creator is struck by the hand of the creature; the One who judges the living and the dead is judged for the Cross; the One Who despoiled Hades is shut up in a tomb."

"How could the lawless assembly condemn to death the sovereign of the universe, unabashed as He reminded them of the benefits secured for them: "My people, what have I not done for you? have I not sated Judea with wonders? have I not raised the dead with but a word? Have I not cured all manner of sickness and infirmity? Yet how do you repay Me? How can you be so unmindful of Me as to lay wounds on Me in return for healing; killing Me in return for life; hanging your benefactor on a cross like a felon, the lawgiver like one outside the law, the King of all like a man condemned?"

"When the heavenly Powers saw You falsely accused as an impostor, and the tombstone sealed by the very hands that lanced Your pure breast, they shuddered at Your indescribable forbearance. Yet rejoicing over our salvation, they cried out to You, Glory to Your condescension, loving God!"

Will you be to busy to attend services this year? Are you still to proud to wear the the symbol of faith that people have died for, including the only One that loved you enough to die for your salvation? Do you have a cross in your home? It's something to think about....but don't wait to long, it may be later than you think.

All scriptural references were taken from the Orthodox Study Bible

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Was Lazarus really dead in the Tomb?

Adult education should challenge your thoughts to your inner core. But, this is one question that never entered my mind. There are stories of people who were buried alive because sometimes, they couldn't tell when people slipped into a coma and only appeared to be dead. The evidence in this account, is overwhelmingly tipped toward his death. It does not hurt to ask the question. It makes you think a little bit and reinforces "your" faith. We find the Raising of Lazarus in John, chapter 11:1-44, and is curiously not synoptic., which in the end, probably means very little.

What does say more than words, is the very next course of action, and that is how the Sanhedrin responded. Verse (48) says: "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation." Jesus is a threat to them. Following that, is Palm Sunday. Chapter 12:12 "they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (13) "took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' The King of Israel!"

That sounds to me like the word was out. The facts of the story stand alone. He was dead four days with a "stench". In chapter 44, it says "And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth."

Jesus prayed eyes lifted, (Chapter 41) "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me." The old testament teaching is that God hears the righteous. The by-standers witnessed the Glory of God in the miracle.

The raising of Lazarus is a Prefigurement of the death and Resurrection of Christ, the mystery of the Golgotha events. It is a confirmation of the universal resurrection, and the Power that Christ has over death. There was no indication that Lazarus came out bearing marks of decay, which proves that God is able to "restore" our bodies after physical decay.

Lazarus of Bethany, was sick and died while Jesus postponed his arrival, delaying it two more days, where the Jews sought to stone him. Saying (11) "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." and further, (14) "Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead" (7) "Let us go to Judea again." Jesus, the only sinless One, does not lie. If He said he was dead, he was dead.

The line that nails it for me is (35-36) "Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!"

Weeping is the natural human response to death. (Chapter 11:45) "The many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him." (46) "But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did."

By Raising Lazarus from the dead before His passion, Jesus sealed His own death. Through His death came Life."

So,what do you think? Was Lazarus dead or alive?
All scriptural references were taken from The Orthodox Study Bible"

Having Good Intentions

Meatfare Sunday is upon us, and we all have good intentions. We will follow Christ this time and give our all. We will attend the services prescribed, and take all the other necessary steps. But, where will our heart be?

Today's reading of the day, (Mark:14:43), takes us to the garden, not of Paradise, but Gethsemane. Then suddenly as if in a mob scene, Jesus is kissed on the cheek, not for the sake of love, but for deceit. Several follow Jesus, John and Peter, as he is taken away.

Relationships, formed from the beginning by Jesus in a scene of violence, marked the tone of what's to come, somber and sad. A ban of friends scattered, lost and afraid.

This story would not end in the way the disciples perceived it would that day. But, in the fulfillment of the scriptures, and in a glorious Resurrection.

Peter is the married and boisterous apostle, who tells Jesus three times that he loves Him. He's the one who trusted Jesus enough, like a child who walks to his parent, to leave his comfort zone and walk on the sea with the boat being tossed about, by the command of Jesus to "come." The contrary winds made him fear, calling out "Lord, save me!" (Matt:14:30). Peter is first to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of the Living God, saying: (Mark 8:29)"You are the Christ." Peter was to be the Leader of the Disciples, as seen in (Acts 1:15-26).

Peter, the follower, was privileged to witness, Jesus Transfigured on Mt. Tabor. There could have no been doubt at that point. Peter had good intentions, just like many of us and followed Jesus. (Matt26:69) tells us that Peter sat outside in the courtyard. It was bad enough that a simple servant girl, caused him to deny Jesus for the first time, another girl in the gateway the second, but he again for the third time is questioned by those standing, who approached Peter, saying his speech "betrayed" him. Peter, "betrayed Christ" for the third time.

It hurts to be "betrayed" especially by a close friend, Peter having sinned against the Master, wept bitterly. And as promised, the rooster crowed. Peter, becames like the prodigal, on the outside, in the mud, alone, afraid, and hungry for one he hurt and loves. It is the place to begin on our journey to the road of repentance. A longing to make things right. Desiring forgiveness, reconciliation and renewal of our "failed relationships" and our "brokenness."

Peter will face the Risen Christ at another time, healing the broken relationship. He is given another chance. We are too proud to say, forgive me, I'm sorry I hurt you. We go on hurting one another. Is this what Christ wants? I think not. We have an opportunity to begin anew, let's walk down that road of repentance together.

(Psalm 51:10)"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

(All scriptural references are taken from the Orthodox Study Bible)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spiritual Discipline, & Direction

This evening we had a discussion on why Orthodox Christians abstain from meat on Wed. and Fri. each week, unless instructed to do so on the calendar that reads fast-free week or no fast. It is not for preparation to take Communion on Sunday. But it is a fast that we are required to participate in for reason of spiritual discipline, enhancement and spiritual direction.

Taking communion on Sunday has nothing to do with whether you ate meat on Wednesday or Friday. It should never be used as an excuse to not receive the body and blood of Christ. I believed it was part of my preparation for twenty-five years, wrongly. It's like when your mom said that if you catch a chill, you'll get a cold. We know this is not true, but it's there in the back of our mind. There are countless other examples out there, which are old wives tales, yet believed to be true, even today.

In preparing for the fast coming up, do you know what your allowed to eat or not allowed to eat and when? It will soon be upon us once again.
I just remembered a funny line in a movie where, someone said very loudly to another person who had just told her that her boyfriend was a vegetarian and he didn't eat any meat. (Her reply); "He don't eat no meat? No bother, I'll just make him lamb."

Sometimes, it just is what it is....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Last Night

Saturdays around here are terribly busy. Today was different. Our plans are to lay low and perhaps do odds and ends. If your the woman of the home, or homemaker, then you know that there is always something to do.

The reason we aren't venturing out as planned, is the wind. It is horrendous out there. Last night we enjoyed a fabulous meal by the fire, at an old tavern where the atmosphere and service were second to none.

I had learned during the day that my brother was recouping from his overnight stay at the local hospital in the ICU, on a regimen of pills and, having had tests to determine the cause of his distress, was due to go home. I'm sure it was and still is, a little concerning for the entire family.

Then, on our way to dinner, I heard my little grandson was just returning from the doctor's. An infant of five months, running a temperature, is always worrisome. His mom is a nurse and recognizing the signs of infection, took action immediately. Possibly pneumonia with developing ear infections.

We certainly needed a night to veg out. The evening was dark and eerie looking, not a star in the sky. We kept seeing flashes but really didn't know where they were coming from. Once seated, we learned by a loud clap of thunder, that we were going to be entertained by a storm in February. As we entered the building, we remarked that it was a good thing we had worn our boots, as there was water everywhere from the melting snow banks. The amount of snow shovelled on the piles were so tall, that you felt you were going through a tunnel.

Dark no more as the lightening brightened the room, in contrast to the roaring fire, in the fireplace. Two fiddler's banged out tunes that warmed the heart along with the Samuel Adams Light Ale that we were drinking, and our cornbread, which was wrapped in a black linen napkin, which held a fancy butter knife and homemade butter.

Along came some of the best cream of mushroom soup that I ever tasted. And, before you knew it, we were slicing up prime rib, cooked to perfection, using our famous Russell Harrington/Dexter steak knives. The other utensils were in tune with the 1800 setting, which permeated the room. The fork was two prong and very sharp. Instead of a spoon a dull flat edged knive was to scoop up the mashed potatoes and squash carrot veggie of the day. Wall sconces, dimly lit, were probably fashioned right there in the village tin shop .

I'm very sure the butter was made there, possibly at the Freeman farm. It was dark yellow, rich and tasty. Coffee in an old styled mug hit the spot with a sinful dark chocolate cheese cake with chopped nuts, and vanilla ice cream.

The evening was still mild when we left, 49 degrees which would be temporary, as predictions for cold and wind were imminent. I thought I was dreaming, wearing a fall pink jacket in February. As we approached the driveway all was calm. Of course, I had my doggy bag in hand and noticing that we had not taken in our trash containers in, I suggested that we should.

Last night I woke to hear howling winds, and a trash container rolling around. It was around three o'clock. Since it kept me up, I was tempted to go out and retrieve it. would have to wait until morning. Come morning, I peeked out of the window, and there it sat (empty) in the middle of the road. Now, before the neighbors woke up and had to move it, it was quickly taken care of. Unlike last time that the winds took it for a ride, I did not have to pick up the spilled contents from neighbor's yards, during an a nor'eastern, blistery snow storm.

Things change faster than you can bat an eye, here in New England. But, this is ridiculous. We have had the most unusual weather patterns lately. Somehow, when the groundhog did not see his shadow, and an early spring was predicted, no-one could believe it because of the high mounds of snow and ice-packed gutters, which for the most part are seemingly melting at record speed. Two days ago, a friend told me she had seen her tree starting to produce buds. I didn't question it as my tiny red Japanese Maple, had sprouted red branches which also were developing bumps, which I observe to be the start of tiny leaves, just as my house plants...

Spring is in the air. The signs are visible for those who look for it. Today was the camping show in Springfield....let the dreaming begin. Tomorrow in Worcester, out come the Monster trucks. Soon enough, little Nathan will be showing off his newly learned swimming skills at the lake, where his brother Ryan, will experience the water for the first time.

First though, we will have to clean up the mess from this horrible wind, which has blown my neighbors shingles all over our yard. C' est la vie -- is what my mother used to say all the time. It means in French "such is life."

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Friday Fast-Free

It isn't often that we have a Fast-free Friday. In Orthodox preparation for Sunday Liturgy we normally do not eat meat on Wednesday and Friday. It is due to the fact that Jesus gave His life for world, on Friday. A book that I am currently reading, and suggest is: "For the Life of the World, written by Alexander Schmemann.

The second chapter, entitled The Eucharist, begins by saying, "In this world Christ was rejected." And sadly enough today, many are rejecting Him once again by their indifference. We are celebrating what we call just a glimpse into the Great Fast and Lent, knowing what is ahead. Most of us have been eating meat, and all of our favorite foods, in preparation for the beginning of what we call "meatfare Sunday" when we will give up meat until our Pascha. Then shortly after dairy, etc. Following the long fast, we will certainly enjoy in our home, the best lamb ever.

It is also known as the joyful fast. We will have stood at the foot of the cross, and we will have remembered who is the light and life of the world. Who it is that died in our place, and who we celebrate to be the One Resurrected from the dead. The only One, who ever was raised from the dead. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." (John 1:10).

Alexander said the following: "He was the perfect example of life as God intended it. He was the heartbeat of the world and the world killed Him. But in the murder the world itself died. It lost its last chance to become the paradise God created it to be."

It's not too late to discover the real meaning of the "Cross of Christ." Walk with us, and find out why Christians proclaim the joy of the Resurrection, and continue to be credible witnesses to those seeking the way to Life, and the only Light to men.

The author tells us, "But as we stand before God, remembering all that He has done for us, and offer to Him our thanksgiving for all His benefits, we inescapably discover that the content of all this thanksgiving and remembrance is Christ. There is nothing else to remember, nothing else to be thankful for, because in Him everything finds its being, its life, its end."

Are you ready, to meet the Christ, the only begotten Son of the Living God? The words of Alexander Schmenann: "And in the light of the Eucharist we see that Christ is indeed the life and light of all that exists, and the glory that fills heaven and earth."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are You Obedient to Your Spouse?

This is a follow-up to the previous post, about humbling yourself. Those who know me will tell you that I do not need someone to tell me what to do. I am a strong willed person. Growing in my faith, I have learned that humility is the first brick, so to speak, on the road paved to heaven.

I have never before been the type to ask my husband for permission. The world today does teach women, that is around here, NOT to be obedient as this is considered to be a sign of great weakness. I am learning, that it is not too late to change, if a Tax Collector could, following the example of Jesus, to be humble.

There is a natural order to things and it is normal for kids to look up to their parents and obey, as it should be for a wife and her husband. It is a question of trust. If you believe in the love of your spouse for you, it will guide you to a place of happiness, stemming from the mystery of real love. If that is not the case, you should not be married. If God has given you a protector, then, He has provided the means. We learn to trust by the example a loving God.

If I were in the "religious life" I would be responsible to a higher authority. Priests are accountable to their bishops, etc. As an Orthodox Christian, we must practice humility and obedience to God and, to those He places in our authority. It is a very difficult first step.

It wasn't long ago, as cantor, I was asked to consider wearing out of respect for the Eucharist, place and position, a head scarf. Initially, I was not to happy with the prospect of wearing anything on my head, as I never have, not even as a child. It was only "if " agreed upon by my husband. I was to ask him if he didn't object. Now that sounds silly to some, but it was a giant decision for me. Not so much covering the head, as that was scriptural and very clear. But, accepting my husband as authority over me, was a very big deal. Obtaining his permission, I learned to adapt, wearing the head covering. Surprisingly, I learned a lot in the process about myself.. and our relationship.

This small act of humility has changed my life, and my marriage, for the better. It was a big step. I'm finally getting to see that the world doesn't know anything about relationship, because many aren't happy. Just check statistics. If you want to be happy, then you have to go by the rules. God's rules. It means not only trust, respect, admiration, appreciation, but security, and a sense of peace of mind, sharing an everlasting and new meaning, of the a loving, and committed relationship with your spouse.

The vocation of Marriage is a mystery. That means you cannot fully understand everything but, accept God's will. When you are joined in Marriage, you are no longer two but become one. God looks down on a couple, and that couple has one head. There is only one headship in the church and in marriage. Wives are called to submit to their husbands as "equals," who look out for one another.

Submission is an act of humility. What does humility get you? "Everything. "When do you find obedience in your life? When you are ready....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What type of Guy is he?

Every year when we begin the Triodion, we are looking at the characters of two men. One is a Pharisee the other, a tax collector, and from their example, we learn the message of humility.

Years ago, when a group of us were studying the gospel, we were encouraged to put our thoughts as to how we would look upon these two men today. Then, we were to examine how Jesus may have looked upon them. How does Jesus look upon us?

Matthew tells us that the Pharisees were all about entangling Him in His talk. Remember the famous line "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites"? The other, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

Jesus knew how to silence them, with His questions. He could see right through them, as the secrets of their hearts were revealed to the Divine God, who knew just how to answer their questions in a way that were totally awesome.

The character of the Pharisee was today's know it all, the one with all the answers, because you are nothing and know nothing, just do things as I say, type. He would be the one to want to quickly belittle you in front of other's, to make him look like the big authority. It is all about him. He has you under a microscope and wants to crush you like the maggot you are, so you had better comply to his will. Unable to think for yourself, he must control you. He justifies himself before God and men, saying I live correctly, doing all the things prescribed by the law. Of course he's not like other men, he's better. He's an example of Prideful, boastful and arrogant. Self glorification, and (A look at me kind of guy). God knows just who and what he is....anything but humble.

The Tax Collector is no better. Taking from other's who have very little, in a form of steeling. After all, it is his job. He was a man who was probably despised by many. He was living an extravagant life at the expense of others, having engaged in an occupation that was not admirable, that he knew was wrong, because it hurt his brothers.

They were both sinners, as we all are. If we were to look at both of them, in today's society, we probably would judge in favor of the Pharisee, the upright man over the tax collector. How wrong we are then, most of the time, in our dealings with our fellow man.

Jesus knew that the tax collector had remorse in his heart and wished to change. The heavy burden of the tax collector, is apparent upon entrance of the temple, as he was unable to lift his eyes to heaven, praying to God to have mercy upon him, "a sinner."

The end of the parable teaches us that if you do not become humble, you will be humbled. After all, we are but dust, clay molded and formed from hands of our maker, who loves us more than we are entitled, nor can we understand, in the dept of our unworthiness, who cry out, "Have Mercy Upon Me, O Lord, a sinner."

Step number one is that we MUST be rooted in humility, an example given by Christ Jesus Himself. "Learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly in heart." (Matt Chapter 11:29)

The gospel references are taken from The Orthodox Study Bible. (see also) Matthew 22:15, and Luke 18:10-14.

The Lenten season introduces many of my favorite hymns. This troparia accompanies us throughout Lent: Taken from the Great Lent Journey to Pascha, written by, Alexander Schmemann is the following:

Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life,
For my spirit rises early to pray towards Thy holy temple,
Bearing the temple of my body all defiled;
But in Thy compassion, purify me by the loving kindness of Thy mercy.

Lead me on the paths of salvation, O Mother of God,
For I have profaned my soul with shameful sins,
and have wasted my life in laziness.
But by your intercessions, deliver me from all impurity.

When I think of the many evil things I have done, wretch that I am,
I tremble at the fearful day of judgement.
But trusting in Thy loving kindness, like David I cry to Thee:
Have mery on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.

This is where we begin....Begin, to get our "hearts right."
Without God, we are nothing......

Sunday, February 13, 2011

He Says He's too Old For What?....

Don't make me laugh, that you would allow having someone tell you that your too old for active service, or to do anything! Your only as old as you feel. There are people younger than I am that cannot do the things that I'm capable of doing. Age is just a number, a place that can be used as a cut-off point.

Clearly some people retire at a young age only to go on to a livelier and more active way of life, and live to a ripe old age. We are all individuals and age has very little to do with our accomplishments, if we chose to do something. Just because we can, should not be a criteria for doing something that lacks common sense. The infant who has a mother of 76 years of age, in no way can compare to a younger and vigorous mother, no matter what is said.

Age is a mindset, a marker to realism. A place to start and a measure. Obstacle are what we put in the way of our accomplishments. The 40 year old today, is not the same as the 40 year old of yesteryear's. People seem to be enjoying a longer lifespan. Consequently, if you have taken care of yourself, there may be plenty of time ahead to worry about aging. If, technology keeps advancing as it is now, it may not even be a concern by the time you get to markers that tout you as too old.

Too old for what? Your never too old, it is not how old you are, but, how old you feel. The best way to handle that, is to not dwell on it, but to laugh it off....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting from Here to There

If you want to get from here to there, you need to use your GPS. The course will be mapped out for you, and all you need do is pay attention to the signs. Adding a human touch, a voice will direct you, telling you where to go and when to turn.

We are on the fifth Sunday before Lent. Our journey to Pascha begins with Zacchaeus. The gospel story is found only in Luke, but it has a huge significance. So where is this character, Zacchaeus? He is up in a Sycamore tree. We are en route and encounter a tree. This is no ordinary tree, but one of the oldest species of trees on this earth. Bidisha Mukherjee, published on May 21, 2010 information concerning the tree in which Zacchaeus was perched on. Go here to read more. The huge tree that is capable of growing to 100 feet, is a symbol of strength, hope, protection, eternity, and divinity.

What we know about Zacchaeus was he was a "chief" tax collector, a rich man of short stature. Often, we have to read between the lines to get all the facts. First of all, his name means pure and innocent one, which did not seem to fit him at all. It certainly would seem that Zacchaeus, who was despised by many, had lost his way and like all of us, he was on a journey, looking for something of greatness. Perhaps, he had heard about the blind man of Jericho, who had been healed.

It is said of short men that they, especially if their eyes are small, are known to be shrewd, use a lot of tactics, are intelligent, and are known for mental acuteness. Zacchaeus was no different, as he wanted something and knew how to get it. Being short, he knew he would be able to see Jesus, and desiring it greatly, and in anticipation of His arrival, climbed up this monster of a tree. Possibly, knowing or sensing that Jesus would not approve of him, a known sinner, he would be protected and well hidden.

Little did he know he was on the road to repentence. When Jesus arrived at the place, He looked up -- you cannot hide from Him. Then we read in (Luke 19:5) "And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."

Zacchaeus came down and received Him joyfully.

Lots of things come to my mind when I hear this story. None of us feel worthy to receive Jesus and like Zacchaeus, we sense the majesty of Jesus and know that often things get in our way from seeing Him. I can envision the crowd surrounding Him, just like a superstar in the presence of a multitude of fans, pushing, and taking pictures and rarely allowing a short person to get even a glimpse. Zacchaeus would not miss out for he knew He was going to pass that way.

These same people who surrounded Jesus at a happier time, would also surround Him on the way to Calvary--mocking, spitting, cursing and denying Him.

So that is where we begin, this story tells us that for a short man, he had faith, desire and one big heart. There is always the condition. Zaccheus was willing to change and he gave half of his goods to the poor, and restored what he had taken, fourfold.

(Luke 19:9-10) And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; (10) "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

We've been down that road before. The one and only road that leads to salvation. It begins with the word MUST, the same direction given to Zacchaeus by Jesus. Looking up the word "must", we find it means obligation, requirement, necessity. It is an expression of compulsion and we meet Zacchaeus on the road to the way, holding up a sign. "Desire," and "Change of Heart." You are on the road to repentance. Jesus has come to seek an save that which was lost. All mankind. You and I.

The road to repentance is no ordinary journey. Are you prepared to receive "the invitation" for Jesus to stay at your house? Is your response joy-filled, like Zacchaeus? Even so, let us begin....

Scripture referrences have been taken from The Orthodox Study Bible

Monday, February 7, 2011

Renewal, The Creator's plan

The great psalm of Vespers on Saturday, begins with a poetic rendition of Genesis, which is recited at sundown, the beginning of a new day. (Ps. 104:29) "You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust." (30) "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth."

Another of my favorite verses comes from (Revelation, 21:5 )"Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new," (Scripture references are taken from: The Orthodox Study Bible)

We are designed for change, and renewal, from Genesis to Revelation, this is the plan revealed by our Creator. Renewal is who we are and what we are made of. As we enter this life, our body is designed to replace it's "old cells" renewing our physical composition with "new cells." We are Baptised, putting on the "new man," having "newness of Life" in Christ, which is our renewal, and a prelude to the resurrection of our body at Christ's second coming. (Col:3:10) "and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created Him," (our goal is to become like Christ). We constantly are striving to renew our spiritual selves to that Baptismal state, by God's grace.

Almost everything eventually grows old and tired and needs to be "renewed." Mandated by law are renewals, for example: of your license and registration, if you drive a car. Insurance policies, bank CD's, licenses of all type, which have expiration dates, require renewal. If you are a homeowner, then you know that items like smoke detector's/CO's and the like, require renewal, as required by law due to code modifications.

Essentials such as: tired sneakers, faded wallpaper, and many other items which become worn or torn, eventually reach a point where they must be renewed.

The renewal of marriage vows has become popular after sharing many years, and as well, there are renewals of oaths and made after elections, as one term ends and another begins. There is the renewal of a promise made, or commitment, for whatever reason...

All life requires renewal. We are renewed, sustained and rejuvenated in many ways. We seek to be replugged, and being aware of our need to be renewed, it is a decision that we must make for ourselves and our circumstances. After a good night's rest, or a good meal, a brisk walk, or an encounter with someone we love, we feel renewed.

Taken from Isaiah 40:31 "But those who wait on God shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not hunger." (41) "Be renewed before Me"

Orthodox Christians each year enter into a time of spiritual renewal. A time to refocus, slowing down our lives in prepartion to grow spiritualy and encounter the Living God. We travel with Him down the road of His life, experience His plan of Salvation through the cross, and profess belief in His glorious Resurrection. We are "renewed" by Him as we participate in the feastday, "Pascha," and encounter the fire of His love, and His desire "To Make All Things New." It is an enactment and Renewal of our Baptism, our "putting on Christ," now, and for all eternity.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There is Always An Opportunity to Learn A Lesson

Every situation in life, good or bad, presents an opportunity for growth, and an opportunity to learn a lesson. Each lesson will be different, depending on your experience.

I recall attending a meeting, where I suggested that before we endeavor to consider venturing into a project, we should try to anticipate the needs, problems and provide a plan of action before we decide if it is feasible to go forward. My idea was shot down immediately, with the reaction being, if we have problems, we will address them as they arise.

This January has demonstrated the value of what I said at that meeting. Anticipation of what could happen, and having a protocol in place, lessons the chance of compounding a problem, or avoiding it altogether.

We may not have been able to stop the storms and all the complications incurred as a result of them. Upon hearing about them heading toward us, we're off to the store to buy milk and bread. If this is how we prepare for survival, we simply are not prepared. This winter has taught many of us a lesson. It is a blessing sometimes when we are awakened from the error of denial. Next, I'm sure we could be facing the flooding caused by the endless snow mounds, seeping into the basement of many residents, even those who have not had the experience with run offs previously. Consider moving things to higher ground, if possible--now.

Here are a few things that you should always carry in your car in the winter: boots, a warm hat and gloves, just in case you are on the road and stopped for a good amount of time, no matter what the distance. A blanket wouldn't hurt either and also water. It is wise to fill up your gas tank. How do you know that the station you are relying on is going to be open when you get there? No one wants to be stranded for any reason during a storm. Should you need to spend the night unexpectedly, you should also have additional medications and some extra cash and a flashlight.

Many have experienced damage in their homes that could have been prevented with a watchful eye, and an action plan. Keeping ice off of gutter's is not always possible, but excess snow amounts, near the gutters can be raked down by utilizing a snow rake, preventing excesses from accumulating and causing an ice dam. This was the year people learned about the use of a snow rake, the many who needed one but were unable to purchase it, due to high demand, and unavailability. In fact, I heard where one company had it in stock for rental, raking in the bucks. It's also a good time to have in place a good ice pick and hammer for chipping ice down from the gutter edge, if water is escaping in the form of ice, which accumulates on your building. Sometimes, you just cannot do the job yourself, safely. Know who is available and on-call---in the ready. Hiring someone, can be near impossible unless you have a regular on the payroll, or know a family member/friend who can help out.

Action plans must be developed, like keeping doors operable, that may require your cleaning in front of them several times during a storm. Limiting your entrance until you can get it cleaned out and having prior instructions to those who visit your home, office or facility by way of a sign or "rope " with colored, visible hanging fabric, may be a temporary way to deal with ice or unsafe entrance. Places should be well lit, and battery operated radios and flashlights are most beneficial in an emergency, where you could lose power sources.

I know two people who could not get their snow blowers to start, so off for maintenance, which I'm told required a truck and running boards to transport the equipment, only to find they were number twenty-something. What is plan number two, in the event of equipment failure?

When I hear of possible outages, I always cook ahead. It is better to eat cold than not at all. I usually make hard boiled eggs, a loaf of some kind, cornbread, and of course canned foods--making sure I know where the hand-held can opener is. Water is an essential. Believe me, keeping foods cold will be the least of your worries.

We often hear of evacuation to safe locations. Do you know where there is one closest to your home? I don't. How will you hear of it without a battery operated radio? Most cell phones do not work during an emergency, as we have experienced in the past, your on your own.

Communication is the very most important consideration...Where are your family members and do they know how to reach you, where will they will find you? Do you know who is in your dwelling? Can you give a count? Should the lights go out in a hall or at an event, do you know who was sitting at your table? Who is the go to person? Who do we call that is in charge of the building? A "Plan of Action" should already exist as to who should be called in any emergency and what needs to be done as a result. An emergency meeting may have to be called to "decide" on the best plan of action according to safety and other specifics.

Anticipation of problems, countered with a clear-cut and a well developed plan of action, is the key to helping prevent serious injury and loss. Either way, this opportunity for "preparedness" can be developed either before or after an event, such as we just encountered, the choice is yours. Lack of communication and information, in the end will cost you more than you may be willing to pay--and that is a lesson that may be learned the hard way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's A Long, Long Road

This has been a week for news. Lord help Australia, and the citizens of the middle east. The citizens of the U.S. states and I, are wondering how long the storms will process themselves, dumping more snow than we are able to handle, in a short amount of time.

There are all sort of storms aren't there... and, looking out of our window I want to scream, "stop now"! Nature has always had a huge impact on me. Jesus tackled the winds and waves by His command. The apostles were surely lucky to have Him intervene at a time when they felt they were perishing.

We are being invaded by the white stuff, and if it continues, we will be engulfed in it. Buried in a frozen death, unable to run from it or deterred from it, and we are helpless but to endure it. I'm wondering if this is worse than a summer or spring hurricane? I believe it is, given the problems we will entail when all of this stuff melts, and our rivers will overflow their boundaries. The amount of ice in our gutters, and all our neighbors may be a warning of more fun to come, structurally.

Relentlessly, we have shovelled and removed as much ice as possible. People have tried to get snow rakes which are selling by the hundreds in this area, falling short of the demand. Luckily, since I have used one previously, I was able to lend it out to my immediate neighbors. The good news about where I live, is that we all share our talents and goods to help each other. It is rare these days, where people just take care of their own. My neighbor actually came over to help me shovel my front walk and stairs, after doing her own. Her husband back plows our drive at no charge. We share cleaning drains and fire hydrants. That is what makes America so special. We work together for the good of all. We like so many others in their neighborhoods and work places, are bracing ourselves for more to come. There are distant forecasts predicting yet another weekend storm.

Today is groundhog day and I am hopeful for an early spring. I can see the daffodils, and smell the lilac. We will welcome the nesting birds and their song. I can also envision the open window, smelling the clean, fresh air as it streams through the room, ruffling the curtain in it's way. I will look for signs of new life and the long awaited season, spring. The sun will engulf the room, as I look forward to drinking it in. It is progressing ever so slowly, even now, yet, in about a month and a half, it will arrive, gloriously.

Does dreaming help you get through the storm? Yes, it does. I will cuddle up, snuggled in my fleece comforter and think positive thoughts, sipping my flavored coffee, while listening to one of the newest radio stations WQVRTheeye, which plays some of my favorite country tunes.

If the groundhog didn't come out today, I don't blame him. I don't want to go out either...

The time has come when our burdens can only be lightened by the loving gestures of a friend or caring neighbor. We are all someones neighbor. Tell someone you love them today. Send them flowers, speak to them over the phone. Enjoy a meal together, or a song, or a memory. Remember the words to the song "The Road is long...."a song famous in the sixties? It's something like this:

The road is long with many a winding turn
that leads us to who knows where, who knows where.
But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him,
he ain't heavy, he's my brother.

So on we go, his welfare is my concern.
No burden is he to bear, we'll get there.
For I know, he would not encumber me.
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness...
that every one's heart isn't filled with the gladness of love,
for one another.

It a long, long road from which there is no return,
while we're on the way to there, why not share...
And the load doesn't weigh me down at all,
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

The world is going through a time when we need a moment of gladness and love for one another. Let's clean up the mess together, and help lighten the load...for life my brother, is a long, long road.