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

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Cantor's Confession

My dearest friend Brigid recently said, "maybe she's weird," as Christians sometimes feel, like ducks out of the water, because we sort of go against the grain. If you've done any sanding of any type, you'll understand that going against the grain can ruin a perfectly good floor or piece of furniture. Yet, we are "called" to go against what the world would say at times, to serve Christ. This takes courage and conviction, which does not come from us. All we have to do is let go and let God.

Today, I'm not lest physically. But, joyfully, I am praying for others around me who have also got this horrible virus that is going around. I am in a state of happiness, overflowing from the healing that I have received and rejoice in hearing about the healings and stories pouring in from last weeks presence of the Myrrh-Streaming Icon of St. Anna. So many came, were touched --and in some way, everyone received a blessing. Father revealed interesting stories during his wonderful homily.

We have a wonderful priest serving St. Michael Church. He is a great leader. I am so grateful for all the hard work he does. It is not about the size of your church, or how glorious it is, lest anyone boast or deceive you, it is about the sheep of the Great Shepherd. (Ps:23)"He leads me in the path of righousness for His namesake." He is always with me, even when I'm not at my best. It's not about numbers, it's about you. You alone...

When father greeted me at the door yesterday, I don't think he knew how badly I felt. Jokingly, he said, "are you going to make it?" (Maybe he heard me coughing in the parking lot.) I said, "I don't know." I was there, hoping that my wheezing and coughing would not interfere with the singing of the Liturgy, and would not present itself loudly over the mic. Father and I would do our best to get through it, as he also was in distress.

I went with confidence, having taken my asthma meds and prednisone, allergy and aspirin, and other pharmacy delights all for the sake of being able to breath, never mind sing. The virus had travelled to my eye, and ears which left me feeling far away and not able to hear well. All I had to do was hear him, and then sing the responses, praying, Lord have mercy...

Throughout the service, I could not really hear the people singing as usual, and I wasn't aware of how many had come to church, focusing on the task at hand. I recalled something that Fr. Steven had told me many years ago, and that was that "the angels fix it on the way up" and I always laughed, thinking it was a joke. I hoped the angels would help me, I knew somehow.

During the Liturgy, after I sing "We Praise Thee" in English, several people sing it in their native language, tuning in, in different octaves, not usually together, but sort of a mishmash of sounds. Father used to say that this was the highlight, out of all the songs he'd heard sung, in which I had no concept of where that came from, until yesterday. I wasn't prepared to hear what I heard. It was the most beautiful harmonious sound coming forward in perfect unity and with richness and fullness, that I literally, turned my head to see how many people were singing. Then I understood, that just like we all do not see the same things, we do not all hear the same things either. I recalled the words of Jesus in (Matthew 21:16) "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?" The beauty was about the sound that came from the humbled, suffering people, and their genuine love of their God and His holy church, as they praised Him. We in our spiritual infancy, just do not get it! I was so thankful for this glimpse of this heavenly comprehension and understanding. I had been given a blessing and great gift upon hearing it. Perfection never comes from us....It is only through Him, through His presence in us.

Today, I am reminded in (2Corinthians 12:9-10) "And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10)Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I couldn't have said it better. Praise be to God in all things, known and unknown. God honors weakness and humility. As a woman in this world, where it no longer acceptable by many, to wear a head covering in church, or to allow your husband to honor you as the weaker vessel, while you join together, being heirs together in the grace of life, are deprived of the greater opportunity. For in unity, your prayers are not hindered. So, let me who am foolish to the wise of the world, be so. For it is written in (1Cor3:18) "Let no one deceive himself, if anyone among you seem to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise."

Let me be then, a weird and foolish Christian, for (1Cor3:20)"the Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."

All scriptural referrences aretaken from the Orthodox Study bible.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Are You Being Deceived?

Are you, one of the many who are being deceived, by the end of the world prophecies and predictions for the year 2012? It is a diversion. A mind occupier, that subscribes to hopelessness and fear. It does not have to be this way. Orthodox believers do not subscribe to the occult. Rather, we are instructed to be praying always in the spirit, with confidence, in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God has our back....

If you are not trusting in God, then you've placed your trust in men. God tells us that we are to be keeping our eye on Him, while loving each other, our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone. If we haven't the understanding that we are all brothers and sisters on this earth, then, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. A Kingdom of Love. We are especially, today, called to focus on that love, by outreach to one another, seeing in them their sufferings and trying, by anyway possible, to alleviate the pain inflicted by the adversary, by acts of kindness and by prayer. The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison and deceiption. How hypocritical and contradictory our speech can be at times. Is it today expressing the heavenly which is planted inside you? One that says God is in control and has not forsaken you, because of His great love for mankind and His desire that all be saved?

A Christian's hope springs Eternal, as God is Eternal. Learn in any circumstance that He is always there, with words of encouragement. So that in every trial and endurance: Love God! For He Himself has said, (Hebrews 13:5)"I will never leave you nor forsake you." We can proclaim (6) "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear, What can man do to me?" Man cannot take from you what has been given to you, by way of Baptism and through the Sacraments of the Church. Be peacemakers. Extend a smile and a handout. Show the way by your hospitality and kindness "love", rising above every down-troden situation. God is aware of it, He knows all things and is in control. It should be His will, not ours.

The only knowledge that has merit, is if it points to life eternal. (John 17:3)"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 3:15) "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Who and what is your focus on? Is it life, and life eternally, or is it death? If you are consumed with end time theories or predictions, which do not lift you spiritually and fill you with the joy and peace that you should be experiencing, It is suggested that you refocus on the "truth" which tells us there is no end, but life eternal, through the only source of life, Christ the lifegiver, who tells us that He has come to give us life and life in abundance.

Knock and the door shall be opened unto you. Seek and you will find. (Matt: 7-7 Rev. 3:20)You will find that perfect love casts out all fear. (1John 4:18).

(1Peter 5:6) "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist Him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever." Amen.

All references are taken from: The Orthodox Study Bible

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Icon of St. Anna

As many, having bent their knees and crossed themselves went forward to kiss the Icon of St. Anna, with her full aroma present, unfaded on the Icon, they formulated prayers for themselves and their loved ones.

Present with us in the middle of the church, in front of the Royal Doors, having been placed on a huge wooden stand, during our Great Vesper Service and Liturgy, one would send up and additional prayer, for something or someone, that they had forgotten when standing in front of her, to venerate her Icon.

It occurred to me, that many were called by "her" to be there. She didn't come without intention, no she came to answer the prayers of the faithful. She came as a beacon of hope. No matter what or how you suffer, it is not eternal, if you place your "faith in the Son of God", her grandson, Jesus.

The greatest healing you can have, is for your "blind eyes" to be opened to receive the truth, which leads to salvation, or healing, and everlasting life.

As all came and kissed the Icon, some forgot that there were two saints presented to us on the wood. The opened case displayed a relic, in containment, on the sleeve of the Blessed and Ever Virgin, Mother of God, the daughter of St. Anna, the Theotokos.

Icons are theologically written according to the truth they represent. It presents to us a glimpse of heaven. Both saints are wearing jeweled crowns, and St. Anna embraces her daughter, the Virgin Mary around her neck, explosing one hand, raised to honor her. Indicating to us the way that we must go. She is indicating that salvation comes to us, through her daughter, the Ever Virgin Theotokos, who is the Birthgiver of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God.

Icons , unlike a statue, have colors which depict human tones, showing us association, in proper ranking, as this Icon does, and much more. I asked several people, "was it Anna holding the Virgin Mary, or was the Virgin Mary holding Anna? (Funny how they hadn't noticed that.) Virgin Mary, holds the smaller person presented to us in this Icon, her Mother Anna, in a very loving embrace. It wouldn't be that way "ever" in an ordinary artistic painting, or photograph. We all are given a measure of faith, like babies, growing in knowledge and understanding that comes to us by instruction and the Word of God, through the Orthodox Church.

The people kissed the mystically-given, myrrh-streaming Icon, without having concern over the fact that it was not being wiped off in between, not having a care for germs, as one recalls, it once was such a "hot" topic on face book. Nor, was receiving Communion, (the Body and Blood of Christ), from the spoon. Anna came to hear, and take away our pain and suffering, by her intercession, and not to give infirmity. In "faith" we approached, reverently, as we should always approach the Holy, knowing that they are powerful intercessors, and that we are asking for favors and miracles. Anna was the receipient of a great miracle of her own, as her Troparion tell us.

"O godly, ever-blessed Anna,
You bore the pure Mother of God
Who conceived Him who is our life.
You have now passed to heaven
And are rejoicing in Glory.
Asking forgiveness for those who faithfully honor you.

Today the bonds of barrenness are broken
God has heard the prayers of Joacheam and Anna
He has promised them beyond all their hopes,
to bear the Maiden of God.
By whom the Uncircumscribed One
was born as mortal man
Who commanded an angel to cry to Her
Rejoice! O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you"!

Anna was given a great miracle, conceiving the Theotokos through God's dispensation, bringing forth the One who is to bear the Ineffable Word. On Saturday and Sunday, Anna came to show us the way. There were miracles, some, we will not even hear about. The priest blessed us with the Holy Oil taken from the "unexplained Myrrh-streaming", and placed it on our heads. This is a physical manifestation and "gift" from someone who loves us very much, a grandmother.

I pondered on the fact that she began to stream myrrh on Mother's Day, 2004, giving great importance to "motherhood" and to the "Mother of God, Mary Ever Virgin." Recalling quietly, that today, Christians will arrive in Washington, to again state their understanding, that conception of life begins "in the womb," giving voice to the unborn, which cannot speak for it's self. We also have a great Mother, the Orthodox Church, which also teaches us that "all life" is to be respected, and having the fullness of faith, calls us to enter into a journey that leads to everlasting life.

Our Church, is a beacon for the lost, the hungry and those seeking peace and rest. We welcome you as we did St. Anna, at St. Michael Orthodox Christian Church.

Thank you, St. Anna, for remembering us the faithful of St. Michael Orthodox Christian Church, in the town of Southbridge, and our neighbors. As our arms are also open to the community, the lost and seeking, and we implore your blessing and prayers, especially for our increasing fold. Steady our path, ever guiding us. We appreciate your visit, and thank those who brought you to us from St. Tikhon's in PA.

Today is not just an ordinary Monday, as we bask in heavenly gifts and wonder....and thank all who came to share in this joyful event with us. She who was blessed in the Church of the Resurrection, in the tomb of Christ, came to bless us. This Church, of the Holy Sepulchre, which is located within the "Old City, Jerusalem", is a site known for original, Christian veneration. In a very special way, she brought us to where death is made to life, by His death and resurrection, and earth is made to heaven, and by their intercession, we are renewed.

By her coming, we are strengthened and refreshed and made steadfast in our journey of life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Never cry wolf

Somewhere in my past, I recall the story about "never crying wolf." I think it may have been a good method to use for those who tended to be, "cry babies". They are the type that amplifies negative thoughts and situations. Their intent is to wail far beyond what is necessary in a given situation, and sometimes for nothing at all. This behaviour must be curtailed before it becomes habit forming.

My parents did not allow one to "carry on" and they would nip in the bud. One, having learned that the squeeky wheel gets the grease, will stop at nothing. What they are doing with their over-the-line exhibit, is to try to gain attention.

The punch to the storyline is simple. If you cry all the time, when something really bad happens, no one will believe you, and your calls for help, even though legitmate this time, will be "ignored". This is hard lesson to learn.

It is our situation today, having cried wolf so often and so long. The world's attitude is in a stupor. And in it's apathy, is oblivious to the apocalyptic signs and groanings of nature, who has been crying out to us for years. This is your final warning.

It is saying, no matter what you call it, "clean up your act before it's too late." Can one survive without water? Without Love? We are on the cusp of destruction and to not do anything, will be a grave mistake. We must all do our part, even if it seems small.

We need to be better stewards of the place that God gave us to live, our planet. Just think of what we could achieve together with one voice. Let it not be through desperation, that we learn to love our brother. These lessons should have already been learned.

All we need to do collectively is stop crying wolf, and do something about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The WIIFM Principle

There is a basic principle that everyone has and that is WIIFM. This means, whats in it for me. The answer to that question is determined by asking what does everyone want, and need? We do not always get what we want, nor do we always know what we need. But this one word can change you forever. Once you find it, you will never want to leave its source wherever you find it. It will make you happy, change your vision. It will make you do things that you didn't even know that you are capable of. You will never stop wanting it until you are consumed by it. You will never grow tired of it. It will bring out the best in you. It will be contagious, and others will want to have it, too! It will energize you, and you will be illumined and focused.

You've probably guessed it by now. The word is love. God is love. Love is immeasurable and unending. Love is the greatest gift of all and a joy unspeakable.

How do we find love and where do we go? We go to the source. God, who is faithful to us invites us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, whose desire it is to fill us with all good things.

First rule, is humility. You must become needy. Empty the cup, wanting it to be filled with the love you seek. You can't hear when your doing all the talking because you have all the answers. God knows what your need is. (James 4:10)"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." (6)"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

If you have not love, you are a clanging bell. Just making noise--an annoying distraction. A turn-off. You can not have "Love" without God. (1John4:12) "No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us."

I have often heard others say, that change begin with me. (Be the change that you want to see in other's) If you want to be loved by others, you must learn to "love" (first). That might require you to change. Change, with the help of God, because often, we cannot see ourselves being blindsighted by our pride. Often, we discover ourselves "through the eyes of others". Separating from others leaves us lonely and needy and we seek to be loved. Remember, God loved us first. We are following His example. Love requires that we look "within," beyond the package. He does not make junk. Find value in others, uplift them and the reward will come back to you. Yes, it will require "work."

Why are we so afraid to love? In becoming a loving individual, you will be loved. WIIFM? True happiness...Do you want to be happy?

(reference for scriptures--The Orthodox Study Bible)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ongoing Temptation

Yesterday, I looked upon information which in its design, from several different sources was intended to scare the living out of us. But once again, we see the answer in the scriptures, having been there all along. (Taken from Orthodox Study Bible) Ephesians 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against prinicpalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of the age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places"

Clearly, we are up against many unknown and difficult battles. The answer to those unforseen events, which are promised to come our way, is found in Ephesians 6:10 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in power of His might."

We cannot do it alone, it isn't our battle, but one in which God is fully aware of. We must place our trust in Him. We have been given a guardian angel at the time of our Baptism. Make no mistake that church provides for us all that is needed and required to do battle with the unseen. Luke 4:10 "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you.' "and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.' "

The battle that we endure, will not be easy, but make no mistake, although we are tempted at many opportune times, we have not been left orphans. (Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be valiant and strong, do not fear nor be afraid of them, nor be terrified before them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes before you and with you and among you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." This is true for all times, as God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. We read in the New Testiment in Hebrews: 13:5 "For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," (6) So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

Hebrews 13:20 "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, "that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

An everlasting covenant means "forever." We are to let go and let God. Our greatest temptation is to not have complete "trust" in Him and His plan for us. (1John 5:4) "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. (5)Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"

This is the question? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who lives the way that (Christ) commanded, and who loves others? To them, He will give victory over sin and death. Because of this, we have no fear as it has been replaced by love. (1John4:17)"Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us."

Finally, in Matthew 28:20, the words of Jesus..."and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

We took a class last night on Icons. The icon of Jesus always has three letters within His crown. OWN, IAM. Whether in Greek or English, the message from the beginning of time is "I AM" ...He shall always be...... the Victory is His.

No one said it will be easy, but in the end, if you do not have Him, you have nothing. Place not your concern in the things of this world, but keep your eye on Jesus, and do not fear, but trust in Him, always.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Myrrh-Streaming Icon Coming Soon

Many questions arise when a Myrrh-Streaming Icon is scheduled to arrive at your parish. First, one has to ask what does it mean to be Myrrh-Bearing? Then, why is she coming to "your" church? There are also those who wonder about how this can happen. Others, question where did she come from, when does it happen and why?

What do I know about this Icon? She is St. Anna, some call her Ann or Anne. I also know she is the grandmother of Jesus, the mother of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. As I know how much my grandchildren love me, I know that she must be a very powerful intercessor at the feet of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. I have been told that many claim healings and have had "special prayers" answered.

Many will remember that in a neighboring town, there is a shrine dedicated to her, where upon entering, one can see things left behind, like notes and canes, crutches and pictures where miracles have been known to have happened, by St. Anna's intercession.

What I do know about this particular Icon is that she once was in Jerusalem, completed in 1998, having been at the Mt. of Olives Convent, and that she was blessed in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, or the Holiest Church known, (where the rock hewn tomb of Christ is located), in the Jerusalem Church of the Ressurection.

She was brought to the United States, after her completion, in 1998, where she was noticed to have been "sweating" (which implies that she began to exude or excrete sensible moisture or perspire) and in May 2004, wept for three continuous years. Droplets of Myrrh have been contained, after flowing into cotton balls in which the myrrh freely flowed, streaming down. It is said that the scent is so strong, that she does not even have to be weeping or bearing "myrrh" for one to become filled with the sustaining aroma. It is said she weeps during fervent prayer at times.

St. Anna, is known as an Ambassador who represents "hope." Currently, she resides at St. Tikhon Monastery, which is located in PA, having been brought there by Fr. Athanasy when he retired.

Why is she coming to St. Michael Orthodox Christian Church on February 21 and 22? We will find out. But we know that as a loving grandmother will, she is coming with intentions. She is on a mission! She is coming to very small town, in the state of Massachusetts, to a very small community, where many have neither heard the name Southbridge nor, would find it easy to locate our very small and somewhat "obscure" parish church. Much like Bethlehem, hidden in a cave, was our Lord and Savior Jesus born in Bethlehem, in secret. Miracles are not "unknown" or foreign to us Orthodox, but infact, they are "commonplace." You don't hear about it. Its like "Orthodoxy, our best kept secret." We accept the unknown in quiet humility and in thanksgiving. I understand that there is an investigation and process in all these things which I am unsure of in it's complexity. There are others that I have seen, like the one called "Quick to Hear," an Icon of the Blessed and Ever Virgin Mary, which was at a church years ago, in Willimantic, CT. There was also one that I read about, in the eighties, in Chicago, IL.

It is said that on occasion, St. Anna begins to produce Myrrh-Streaming tears, which can be accumulated into containers, "at will". This is a mystery, one, that no one can explain. Some say that it means that a blessing is coming your way. Others say, she is coming to warn. If you are a skeptic, make your own determination. We embrase your right to question. Come and see! Sometimes, seeing is believing.

I will be praying for my church, and my family, hoping to bond with this beautiful saint who shares my namesake. Lord knows, that we need all the help we can get. We are certain that she is coming with great purpose! The wooden Icon, written of St. Anna will be placed on a venerating stand after a procession, in which those who attend, will petition and extend their love, bidding her welcome and favor.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Children Know

Yesterday we celebrated Nate's sixth birthday which was on Wednesday. He will be having a birthday party on Sunday, with his cousins and friends. It was thoughtful of his parents to have a small adult gathering in which we also celebrated his uncle Steve's birthday.
This called for two cakes and an evening of fun with the boys. Upon entering the kitchen, Rye was sitting in his high chair, drinking from a cup with a straw. I was shocked, usually it is a baby bottle or a sippie cup. So I asked his mother, "when did he start drinking through a staw?" I didn't know he drank through a straw, and she replied "we didn't know either until we saw him drinking out of his brother's cup."
Little do we know, what children know. He is a brilliant child. We saw him riding a jeep which he knew how to start and run, with no instruction. Keeping a close run with his brother who drives a larger vehicle in their yard and long driveway. This is a sixteen month old child, who just recently learned to walk. Infact, he is not even talking yet, but is driving a jeep.
One of the stories also amazed me. His father later told me that Nate received a scolding from his parents, something he had done....probably attitude as most kids will. Witnessing this, little Ryan confronted his parents and loudly told them off, in his "own language" with his finger pointing at them, and then, left to comfort his brother, giving him a big hug and kiss.
Sometimes children amaze us. I wonder if Ryan knew what was going on. He is so young, yet so smart and so protective of his brother. There is bond between them that nothing will ever separate. This bond clearly exists in my two sons. Although, there was a time when, do to an age difference that wasn't the case.
Brothers, share something very unique like sister's do. Later that evening Nate hurt his head on a truck while playing. Nothing major...but Rye was seen going over to him while he was playing on the floor, to rub his head.
They will always look out for each other. Their is no greater gift than love and companionship.Steve got tickets to a group that he will enjoy seeing from his brother. He always knows just what he likes and that is why we celebrated his birthday early.
Of course, we will need to get together to celebrate his "real" birthday and have more cake.What children know is more than we give them credit for.....Love is not something that you teach. It just is...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Common Sense and Leadership

Everyone has their own view of a good leader. I think a good leader is one that can help you avoid the banana peel that will ultimately cause your demise.

One of the responsibilities of good leadership is to anticipate and resolve potential problems with clear cut solutions.

Deficits are among the concerns leader have to face and require firm hold on a budget in order to be able to pull oneself out of the mess, sometimes caused by inefficiency.

Three questions need to be asked that are important when making decisions regarding a negative budget. Is this something that I need? Can I make the process less expensive and how? Is the allocating of cash required to offset the need, justified?

A quick fourth would be where do we get the funds? Are we certain that the money is available and how long will it be? Is it enough to just say, "costs are going up everywhere, we need more money" or, is that a copout that leads to habitual unresolve and red-bottom lines. What I'm suggesting is fine-tuning. Sometimes it is a little of both, negligence and costs spiraling out of control. How do we look at cost? Is it based on what we spent last quarter, or season, with a percentage of increase? Or rather, is it our increased usage that has resulted in the higher costs. We must do the math. Then ask, what measures are we taking to correct the situation, if possible. Can the need for more money be a potential risk to your operation?

Overindulgence leads to inflated budgets and each area needs to be evaluated as to what is the cause and, is there a need? We should always ask, what can we cut out. For example, is this something we need, as sometimes change like consolidations, make items or methods obsolete. Business courses that I have taken teach-- "do the ends justifiy the means?" Never over extend especially, in an economy such as this is.

Survival is what everyone that I know in business is talking about right now. Some of the ways that they have dealt with increasing costs and low revenues is to cut down staffs hours, saving when they can, on utility expenses. Some have even changed their salary offerings, and have cut back on vacations and bonuses just to be able to hold on to their personnel. Others, have closed shop one addional day during the work week. Extra curricular activities have been suspensed, and at other times, events have been consolidated, with a realiziation of cost savings, all in an effort to reduce an inflated budget.

How do you keep from having a deficiency in the first place? A good leader has no deficiency in judgment, having a complete understanding of the cost at hand, vs the potential income having also an anticipation for increases and other needs like replacement costs. I knew someone that was so concerned about over-draft penatities, that she, not having the ability to reconcile her account, always made sure that the deposits were larger than the debits-- (checks written). She never bit off more than she could chew. I think that is sound judgement, keeping ahead by anticipating your need. We should all learn to "live" within our means, cutting back when we have to. Overextending has been the demise of several companies in this area, which in trying to grow too fast, failed. This is how we are to survive.

Look before you leap, what are you proposing to do and how much will it cost, and do you have the funds? Basic business procedure.....Before you attempt to grow something, how successful have you been? What did it cost you, and that means each and every detail and full exposure to every line item. How much more can you expend in it's development? And, is this a good time to do so. Will it break the bank. What is the risk? Is the risk worth it?

I heard that the cost of oil will be skyrocketing. I'm prepared to bring down the dial even more. My friend places plastic around her windows and even cuts drafts from around her doors. I use lined and thermo drapes, and door draft stoppers. Rooms that are colder, can be closed off. Outside walls are colder, furniture can and should be more centralized. Rugs against doors, and extra warm materials like carpet, pillows and throws absorb heat in a structure. Carpeting is warmer than hardwood floors. Electricity is at an all time high. Baking at night when the house is cold, as opposed to a sunlit day, is another way to add comfort without largely increasing costs. It used to be that you could set your tank to create hot water, at less peak hours. Making sure your humidity level is adequate, is another way to help. The list is long. Wasting water is also a huge concern in most homes as the cost sky-rockets.

It is the little things that add up. My mom used to be very careful about closing the door, right away, not allowing the heat to escape. Years ago, people used draperies to cut drafts in the home. Your probably all familiar with the canopy bed, the four posts and their coverings. She ran a line through the house to dry clothes. They do sell indoor clotheslines still. Have we become more efficient or have we become negligent and wasteful in our homes businesses and office. Efficiency is what needs to be acquired, and that means all of us must work at it, being on top of everything that we consume.

We can pay the fee of our errors or prevent it in the first place, by being frugal and watchful. This takes honesty and integrity, intellect, and determination to succeed, by righting the wrongs, and with clearcut directives, leading with strength. Eliminating or cutting back, will be necessary for most of us, business or not. It will require the use of the word No, which we do not for the most part, want to hear.

A good leader knows that it is not a good idea to increase costs when you have a deficit budget, and risk taking should be avoided at all cost. If you are a leader, then you know that leading is very difficult and sometimes places you in an unpopular role. A role, that may require all the courage that you may have. So ask yourself who is depending on you and lead with confidence, one step, one hour, and one day at a time.

By what you say

How will people remember you, perhaps, they will remember you by what you said, rather than what you did.

Thinking back a few weeks, my son told me that someone in the family introduced herself to him while he was working, and asked me if I remembered her. She was a cousin to my first husband, who I have not seen for many years. Back then, families were raised in the same neighborhood, and she remembered his dad well. We chuckled about the language that was used at the time, as they called people by pronouns like, Mac and Pal. Swear words braced the air regularly, leaving one shocked as to where a young child who attended Catholic school, could have acquired such language and get away with it. I recall him saying the nuns were F'n penguins and that, was when he was being kind. Could be a hint a relationship gone wrong. Maybe he got his knuckles whacked repeatedly because of his language. He knew every French swear ever created, and it did not come from his parents.

The point is, we are often judged by what we say and it is often what you said that is what someone will remember about you many years later. I still hear my mother and father's voices and their sayings which still ring clearly in my head to this very day.

The word is a powerful medium. My sons, even at a very young age, could repeat slogans that they heard in commercials and favorite movies and shows that they viewed on television. Even, perhaps, before they even understood what it meant, they were hooked.

My daughter-in-law and son guard their children from hearing words that they don't want them to repeat. Today, there is so much filthy language around you have to be careful where you take your children, at the risk of what they might hear, especially from other children. I call it "noise pollution."

Our society is falling fast when we allow "pollutants" to enter into our livingroom by our entertainment systems. One moment is all it can take to pollute the innocent mind. Once it is out, it may repeated. Mommy what is....blank? Words become visuals.

What we see and hear on television sets the moral climate of our existance, and there is no turning back. Over the years, producers have taken liberties, to promote that which gets noticed, (good or bad), there it is. Much that was not permissible years ago, now is flaunted shamelessly, without notice, in front of our faces. If you see it enough, after a while, it becomes acceptable and permissable, right or wrong. Victoria's secret is no secret anymore.

What do children hear and see in your home? Visuals are powerful messages, or sponsors would not be spending the time and money "to entice you" to look at them. What is the message? You need me, you want me, you've got to have me. We've all seen this, --children playing away from television, (having an open ear), will run to see certain ads or programs when hearing "catch sounds."

Yesterday, I learned about a show, which some call funny, humor which I find objectionable, and certainly not what I would consider a show for children. Yet, a child will be made to say words that children should not be saying at all, never mind in front of a television camera. It is said that children should be seen and not heard. That is a thing of the past. Children should be heard, and what comes out of their mouth is vitally important to their moral character, yours and others. What is important is the moral character of our children and young adults. What is important is the word, RESPECT. What are teaching our children?

What you see is what you get. Put a stop to it now, or who knows what is coming down the tubes tomorrow. Tell the sponsors that we will not support any company who participates in the demoralization of our children, family, and country. Do not wait until this plaque comes upon us, dealing with consequenses after the fact. Nip it in the bud now. In the words of one of my favorite hosts, "wise up."

What you say, how and when you say it .....does matter! We need new voices in America, ones that will stand up for decency and for a better tomorrow-- for us, and future generations to come.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Choosing the Road Less Travelled

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days in January that we have had for a long time, with the sun so brilliant that if one didn't have the luxury of weather forecasting, would not have anticipated the storm ahead. This morning, as I write this post, there is a thin blanket of snow outside, one that is due to dissipate by afternoon when the temperatures are expected to climb to the forties. It is that way with life, always having the unexpected storm which lies ahead.

My youngest grandchild, Ryan and I enjoyed our walk yesterday, after bundling him well in the carriage, alongside his home. It was so peaceful in the wood, a road less travelled. We experienced the sounds that I love best, the peaceful sound of the many running brooks visable from the side of the road, having also heard many tweets from the various birds inhabitating the area. Ryan loves to observe all things and is as quiet as a mouse the entire time. I used to take Nathan around my neighborhood when he was little, but now, is all grown up at six and going to school. Nathan always wanted to see water drains and flags. Ryan loves to see doggies. A beautiful dog unrestrained, walked part way with us and Ryan was in his glory making noises that only dogs would understand.

Later, Nathan was greeted at the bus by his parents who planned it as a birthday surprise. Ryan, waiting at the door, was so excited to see his brother running up the driveway. He probably had been waiting for him all day. His mom, in her capacity at work, has the ability to be flexible with schedules and sometimes even works at home. Dad had his usual day off, Wednesday, like golfers. I enjoyed watching him open his birthday gifts, ones that Santa forgot to bring him on Christmas, Nate thought. They are very lucky boys being raised in a beautiful loving family. A road less travelled today. I am glad to have had the opportunity to be with them, on Nate's "special" day.

Ryan cried at the door looking out as I left to go home, as he has done in the past. Driving home, I thought about the many days ahead, that spring-like, we will go for many more carriage rides. As I drove on the road, less travelled, I thought about my own life. I had always been a person that did not do what was popular, and followed the narrow path, which led me to become Orthodox in my late thirties.

Orthodoxy, is my way of life. It is the road less travelled, one of peacefulness and gladness, and joy unspeakable, where there is so much love and hope. The Orthodox life is like the springs we saw from the road yesterday, sometimes having a little ice around the edges, but steams flowing evenso with the sun resting upon your head, crisp and clean. A refuge, amongst the throngs of life, and a refreshment for the weary traveller who is on the road less travelled. It is not the popular faith here, as in the world, yet. Numbers mean little to me.

I think it will be an early spring, I think...yet, somehow spring is always within me, an eternal spring.

The words of Jesus, taken from the The Orthodox Study Bible, (John 4:14)says... "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

Life depends on water. The quality of water determines your wholesomeness. This is the month we talk about the Baptism, and although there is a physical manifestation of water present, what happens is much deeper than the ocean. We are raised to "newness of life" our life in Christ, a "new birth" to a life totally intimate and a continuous communion with our God.
It is a rite of passage, given by Christ to the Church, as an entrance into the Kingdom of God and eternal life, having died to our former self, we are transformed and united to Christ, that we may have life though Him.

I wonder if the kings hat that Nate wore home from school, along with the sticker on his chest would be as appealing at the age of lets say, sixteen. Somethings are a kind of given, are we know that he most likely would find it an embarrassment at that age. There are things left to be discovered "later," like how much God loves him like we do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How far will man fall

Christ came to redeem fallen man. The state of the fallen man has always been evident by his lack of care for others and through his quest for destruction. Christ did come and He saved us from death, showing us the way and giving us Commandments that lead to life. We have churches, sometimes called hospitals, to help us learn wholesomeness.

The first commandment taught to us is to put God first and to love him above all else, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Are the created goods we now have, and many commonly used for ways of communication, taking something precious from us. The use of them may allow us to engage with more people at once, and worldwide, but at the same time, they are impersonal. Interaction, face to face with a human creation has become sometimes frightening to some, as it discloses much in a way of understanding the other's feelings, and sensitivities. Hidden over emails and telephone prompted messages, one avoids the needed contact to fully understand and receive the full picture by the response of another. Prewritten at times, we can divulge as much or as little as we care to. We are afraid to be made known, or to be hurt. And we can hide the truth sometimes, that way. It makes confrontation that much less painful at times. The bible is clear about it. All hidden will be revealed.

Things are different when you must look into the eyes of another. It's like looking into their soul, making it more difficult to hurt or ignore their need or request. Especially, if you love them. We are called to love our neighbor. God does not make junk people, everything has its full intention, unbeknown to us.

Some of the problems that now have risen because of our choice in the use of technology, is in the way mankind can no longer communicate with real people. Conversation is an art, it is something that we must learn. Years prior, people were better skilled at listening to others, and responding adequately, sometimes, in just a passing hello, or a quick how are you doing? Greetings are necessary even in a world so technologically advanced. Can you see ones smile over the internet? Do not underestimate the importance or the warmth of what can set you aglow for an entire day. It is "normal" for people to be people. Remember what a famous song taught us, "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world." It is good to hear someone's voice over the phone, but you can't see them.

Why have we become impersonal? Is it a crime to have feelings, when it is that which makes us human? Are we afraid of our own humanity? How far and how fast is mankind falling? Are we aware of it?

Are you becoming out of touch, and maybe "out of reality". I watched a show last night that sickened me. It was about men who sadly could not interact with real women, and in their desire to share their life with someone, and in some cases more than one, because of their own failure, inability to communicate, have artificial creations to fill their loneliness. These dolls, are their pleasure and "they do not talk back." Some call them their wives. I don't think that was God's intention for mankind. It is more than a sick perversion, it is a form of idolatry, (that which has been created on which the affections are passionately set). A breaking of the very first Commandment. It can also be other material things, like money, or cars, maybe even sports. What or who do you worship?

So how are we doing with human communication? It is said that hearts of many will grow cold. Are we there yet? Maybe it's time that we become "real" again. Oh! bye the way, have you hugged your child today? If you are not concerned by what you just read, reread it, and get away from your isolation and go and greet, hug someone before its too late. Human interaction is what is "normal." Are you at the stage of abnormal, yet? All to often we are taught, look but don't touch. Some people are having trouble discerning real from artificial.

Sometimes, we ignore things we shouldn't. And because we fail to see it for what it is, other's catch on, and it becomes the norm. Become enlightened, the truth will set you free.

Put an end to this coldness....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Getting Over Yourself

Can you fool yourself, as you do others? You can learn to fool yourself, by getting over yourself, if that make any sense at all?

I guess, what I'm trying to say is that you can learn to "overcome" by tricking your brain. For example, if your hungry for something, lets say chocolate with all those wonderful fat calories and exotic flavorings, you can settle for a low-cal, hot chocolate product, or something that you like, instead. The aroma says that you have just had a wonderful chocolate treat. So it's not a candy bar, but by all means it worked. Changing the mind, and doing something else instead...sometimes works.

You can make yourself feel as though you were as happy as being at the beach, by surrounding yourself with artifacts, shells and beautiful paintings. Sounds of the water hitting the shore, can be purchased, which can lull you into feeling a sense of deep relaxation. The mind may settle for that, instead.

In my shyness, I never felt comfortable reading or singing in front of crowds. I guess it is a secret that most people do not even know about me. I get the job done. This is how I found the way to do it. Once, a monk from Connecticut told me, that feelings are not as important as the mission. Such concerns stem from pride. It matters not how I feel, but what I do. So, what I do, is to keep my eye on my goal, not even looking at the crowd. There is no crowd... I tell myself, but just Him whom I serve.

In December, a group came to sing at our church. The leader had a speech impediment but apparently, the brain could not stop the most incredible voice I've ever experienced in Orthodox music, from flowing from his heavenly voice. He has apparently learned to ignore "self" for the greater good, knowing, "it is not about us."

Recently, the Community program which I have served since it's inception, is becoming fine-tuned. I applaud the effort going forth. It takes a special person to deal with the suffering of others wanting to help those in need. The climate has always been a happy one, one of feeding others, not only with food, but with conversation, and in a caring, creating an atmosphere of joy, hope, and good will.

Just greeting someone with a smile that needs it, often transforms the inner soul of the lonely, forgotten, and hurting person. It says you need not suffer alone, I care. Then there is the "hug."Some say, "where's my hug?" I have come to understand the power of the human embrace. There are others who will say, "don't touch me," and, I understand that as well. It is a scientific fact that babies that are held, do better than those who are not.

How close do you really want to get to someone? Do you want to know their problems? Can you put on their sufferings, without carrying them yourself, as you ponder their tears, and pain, over and over in your mind? Are you the type of person that is strong enough to listen and walk away, unblemished. Or, will it scar you, becoming another slash mark on your own throden down body, one consumed with its own cross to bear. How do you bear anothers burden without it affecting you? You can't, unless you become "selfless."

How do I handle the stress of seeing other's suffer? I try to let go of it, by praying for them. Some people have learned to handle this better than others. It requires a great deal of strength. There is no fooling the brain here. It is telling me, don't go there without giving this a whole lot of thought.

Can you really get over how you feel about others? Still working on that one. You may be able to fool the brain, but not the heart.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear? said the Night Wind to the Little Lamb. It just occurred to me that we are not all in that state of awareness. A state where all nature speaks out to us and we are no longer blind sighted, like Paul. Once the shackles are removed from our eyes, we become "new creatures" and can both see and hear. Who are we that have tasted this newness of life? We are Christians. We have put on Christ and are enlightened.

Maybe you did not get the message proclaimed by the angels. He who was born in a "secret cave", is no secret anymore for He has been made Manifest. There was the Voice of one called, John the Baptist, crying out in the wilderness, proclaiming preparedness, John's baptism was of repentance.

When a storm is coming, we can see signs of it and we prepare. John knew that Jesus was coming, and said that "He coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matthew 3:11)

Jesus approached John, coming from Galilee to be baptized, and John recognized Him. It is not odd to know that John knew Jesus, as John was aware of His presence even while he was in his mother's womb, and lept at His appearance, even while Jesus was in His mother's womb. Yes, life begins at conception. John tried to prevent Him from being baptized saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and are You coming to me? (Matthew 3:14).

Only a slave would carry a King's sandals. Here was the King of Kings, coming to be baptized by John, and, because of the baptism of Jesus, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. (It was the Spirit of God who hovered over the water at the first creation). Jesus, at His baptism santified the waters and all nature.

The images in the hymns reveal so much. The waters saw Him and were afraid and turned back. The clay (John) to the potter, (Jesus) "why do You command me to do what is beyond me; for I rather should be baptized by You." (taken from the stichera).

"The streams of the Jordan received You, "their source", and the Comforter descended in the form of a dove. He who bowed the heavens now bows His head. He who covers the heavens with clouds is Himself covered today by the streams of Jordan. He who takes away the sin of the world is cleansed, that I may be made clean. The only-begotten Son of the most high Father receives from above the testimony of the consubstantial Spirit."

For the great feast we hear the following:
"John saw You coming to him in the Jordan, O Christ God, and he said: "You have no uncleanness, O Lord, why do you come to Your servant? In Whose name will I baptize You? in the name of the Father? But in Yourself You bear the Father. In the name of the Son? But You Yourself are the Son incarnate. But by Your breath You can give the Spirit to the faithful." O God Who shone forth, have mercy on us!"

The elements knew Jesus and so did John, (The Word incarnate, made flesh coming to be baptized).

Taken from the Troparion of the Feast: "When You, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to You, calling You His Beloved Son; and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ our God, You have revealed Yourself, and have enlightened the world, glory to You!"

The Trinity has been revealed to us. The voice of the Father, (taken from Matthew 3:17) came from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove to anoint the Messiah, the Son of God, the Holy Spirit always rests on Him.

On Sunday, we were annointed with holy oil, after being blessed with holy water, a reminder of our own baptism and our new creation, having put on Christ.

John tells us in (Matthew 3:12) "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." The figure of the winnowing the threshed grain from the chaff is a metaphor for divine judgment, which always separates good from evil." (taken from the Orthodox Study Bible ).

The Orthodox believe, that there can be no salvation apart from Christ, making Baptism a requirement, in the name of the Trinity.

(Mark 16:15) "And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (16) He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."

(Romans 10:17) "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (18) "But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed. "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."

I have to wonder why people today are not in belief of the Sacrament of Baptism, and in not coming to church, place their unbaptized children in great peril. Have they not heard, or do they not understand?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Best Gift of All

I was sitting here, pondering about "what is the best gift", having come to the end of the year, and through the start of another year, which began with a church service, and off to a cozy restaurant with friends. It was the same restaurant that my husband and I used to enjoy, years ago while dating, because of its romantic atmosphere, and great food. Then, I recall ordering strawberry daiquiri's, as calorie counting was not the objective. We would sit at our favorite table, right in front of the fireplace. Our gift to each other was always friendship, and lots of laughter. We always enjoyed being together, and through the years, although the menu has changed some, we still frequent that quaint restaurant, from time to time.

Last night, I was watching television, a program called hoarders. Obviously, it is a sickness, like the extreme, of being too clean. We all would like to think of ourselves in the middle of that, somewhere like clean enough, but able to accumulate a few favorite things. I heard over and over, that most of the hoarders claim the problem is that they don't have enough space to store the collectibles. Again, it is clear that when you have a problem, your the last one to see it or admit it. Some had infestation of rats and droppings, and still would not believe it was because of their disorder.

Lately, I've noticed that some of my church friends are cleaning out their over abundances to share with those who have not...a very good idea. I usually do that in the fall, and end up buying more to replace whatever I got rid of. Mostly, I find it is because nothing "fits" as the body consistently changes in measurement. And, I admit, I am a person that likes change. Not major changes, just "color" changes, like curtains and throw pillows.

Coming back to the hoarders, the one things that they cannot give up is their children, and once they see through the caring social worker's help, how much harm is being done to them by their creating "the pigpen" atmosphere, they begin to change. Sometimes, it's at risk of losing their most precious gift, their children, through state intervention.

This month is the month where some of our friends will take their annual bus trip to Washington DC, in an effort to do their part in "saving unborn babies" from destruction. Their combined effort in saying to lawmakers, is "we are still here" and we, more now than ever, need your help in overturning laws that should have never been on the books in the first place. Killing infants is not the answer...Just like hoarding is not the answer to "solving problems."

Just having come from the season of celebrating the "birth of Christ" we implore you to not take the road of Herod, in the killing of the innocent, but instead, know that it is through the birth of children that we find the "Best Gift of All."

Today, I read that one women practically stood on her head, being bed riden, not to miscarriage, once again, and she delivered a beautiful daughter, prematurely. Sometimes you have to go to drastic measures to get what you want. We will never stop thinking about the injustice done to those babies lost.

Children are priceless. It's time you see them for what they are, beginning from conception on up. If the hoarders can see how precious children are, and you can't, what does that say about you? God does not create junk. Life is invaluable.