Prepare during Advent

sharing a meal

Preparing ourselves is one way of awaiting what returns to us this during this season. We must open our minds and hearts to receive that which is stolen from us throughout the year.

We are continuously bombarded by just about everything negative over the course of our 21st century year, so much so that as Christmas approaches, we add the duties we feel are pressures to us to prepare for the great coming day. In a word, we are exhausted from all the preparations that we do to have a successful Christmas.

It would be phenomenal if we would take this time to step back, step back from all that tears us from what truly matters. My wife and I contracted to have our kitchen refinished. We began planning this project in September with the idea that we would have a completely new kitchen to show off during the holiday season. Watch is that old maxim? God loves it when we plan ahead, or make plans for the future. We are 14 days from Christmas day, and word has it that our new counter tops will not be ready until sometime in January. Disappointing? Yes, but not destructive for the upcoming Christmas day.

When looking at what truly matters, not having finished countertops doesn’t come anyway near what truly matters. This Christmas day, this December 25th, 2017 is going to be beyond question a God-given gift for the Carter family. For the first time in several years, our son will be with us on this blessed day. He works for the government, and with his specialty, he is deployed once a year to the Middle East. For the last several years, he has been out of the country from November through February. He does this to allow those with families, who work with him, can be with their families at Christmas. This year, he will be with us. This is, second to none, the most joyful Christmas present that anyone can give Linda and me.

What will make this Christmas great is our family being together again for the holidays. We do not have to go buy anything, nor do we have to prepare anything special for this, absolutely, one of the greatest gifts a parent can receive. We have prayed for this, and this year it will happen. We didn’t do anything special to receive this gift, except wait in Love, praying for the best.

This is a little like what Christmas should be . . . always. I would like to take this family promise and extend it to a much broader, a much more important, yet much less demanding situation. As we prepare for this Christmas, let us step back from our daily man-made pressures and rejoice in what is rapidly approaching. The renewal of the Christmas story is a beautiful annual treasure for us . . . if we open our hearts and minds to what is truly important.

God gives us every gift we receive; we do not have to ask for it. If it is important, we receive it from God, because he Loves us. As our son is our child, we are children of God. We rejoice when our love for our children is returned in kind. We glory over how well our children have matured into responsible adults with families of their own. In our case, our son’s family, at least one that is very important to him, is those family men and women who work with him. He gives freely of his love for his family, just as we do for our family.

This is exactly what God does and feels for us. His gifts come freely, because He loves us; because She Loves.

As we prepare during this season of Advent, can step away from our everyday self-inflicted tensions to realize that we have already received the greatest gift of all, and this greatest story ever told as repeated to us during Advent? I pray that my friends near and far, my friends whom I cherish,  and those I have yet to meet, will all take the time to open our hearts and our minds to the gift that genuinely matters . . . and share this gift with all.

Focusing on Gifts

xmas gifts

Focus in Advent – 12-9-17

One of the more difficult tasks we face on a daily basis is focusing on who we are and what we are doing. During Advent, while we await the renewal of our faith in Jesus, our ability to focus is challenged more than any other time of the year. We are distracted by year-end duties at work; I am busy grading final essays.

As we think about all society calls us to do, we lose focus as to what we really must do. We must take time from each day to reach our inner persona, the one that belongs to God. If we are trying to live a life faithful to what Jesus taught us, we have to put all mundane chores aside and meditate; focus on who we are and what our spiritual relationship to all aspects of God truly is.

Over millennia ago, God gave us Peace on Earth; we immediately lost it. We are overly primed by society’s rules to prepare for battle, be it war, or conflicts at work, or in the family. It does not have to be this way. When Jesus offers peace, he is referring to eternal peace, peace in our relationship with God, ourselves, and our neighbors. When Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is with you,” he is assuring us that God is with us, no matter where we are, or what we are doing. Perhaps if we put our unnecessary conflicts behind us, focus on the fact that God promises Heaven on Earth for all, not just us, we will be able to truly enjoy and be enriched by this Advent season.

Since this is the season for giving, we have to determine what we must give. I always find it difficult to find the correct gift, when I possess the best gift of all: Love. This takes focus; this take intent; this takes nerve. If we are truly interested in giving a gift that will last, that means the most to its recipients, then Love is the answer. We must focus on why we are giving this gift, realizing that our intent is to improve the eternal lives of our loved ones.

Our gift need not be something of monetary value. Instead of a gift card, or an ugly sweater, or a Christmas tie, our gift should be something that we know will be truly appreciated and accepted by those to whom we give. For example, before my sister died, we exchanged gifts of donations to our favorite charities. By doing things as these, we give Love to our loved ones and Love to those we do not know.

By God’s Grace, we are here; we are here together, needing to boost each other when needed. When we give of ourselves, and not some trinket of marginal monetary value, we spread the Joy of God to all. Our gift creates ripples, ripples that can spread throughout humanity.

Gathering during Advent

gathering

Jesus said that when two or more gather in his name, He will always be with us. This is a very comforting thought. I know as a prayer minister, there are times when we can feel His presence around us. I have many thoughts on why this is not always the case. After serious consideration, I can only assume that those times that Christ’s presence is with us in our prayers is when we are present in the moment, not thinking of this past or things to come. As we all know, this is a very difficult task.

One of my most joyful times is when I am praying with others. I feel that I am sharing God’s Love the only way I know how, to be understanding, patient, and present in the time with my prayer partner. As a reader of Proverbs, I take heart in the message that God wants us to be givers, cheerful givers in the expression used.

I always search my heart when giving to the operations of or church. Am I giving enough? Am I giving too much? After all, I am retired with a reduced income. But then I think on what Proverbs is offering. God gives us Grace; it is our duty to chare his Grace with others. When we offer our brothers and sisters Grace, we are giving something far more valuable than silver or gold, dollars or Euros. We are giving of ourselves, the part of ourselves that truly does not belong to us. It belongs to God; therefor, it is not ours to give or to share. We are merely opening the part of us that belongs to God and offering it to our brother or sister.

When we gather is His name, we lift ourselves to a standard that God desires for us. We are restoring our relationship with Him, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of those around us. Jesus said that we must love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor.

When we gather is His name, we are doing just that.

Journey through Advent

journey

Journey through Advent

There are times in my life when I just feel like quitting, giving up, letting others do for me.

This fall has been challenging to me, both physically and spiritually. I do not recover from mishaps as I did when younger. This is very debilitating, especially on a spiritual or psychological level.

Last evening during our church’s Lectio Divina prayer group, I spoke of how we rejoice when in the presence of God. I ask then why can I not rejoice always; because, I know that God is with me, God is within me always, during good times or bad. I know that during group sessions, such as last night, my prayers become stronger, because I am with other like-minded children of God. The Gospel assures us always that when we bond together in prayer, we create transformational relationships with each other and with God.

On Sunday, I attended church, knowing that I would not be comfortable physically; I was praying to God, hoping beyond hope that spiritually I would improve, while being with others. It was not working; my mind and soul was closed to God’s Love and Compassion. Through the prayers, which I silently recited, the excellent sermon by Gay Rahn, and the wonderful music, I remained spiritually destitute.

I then noticed that the scheduled healing prayer minister was not in church. I ask the liturgical coordinator if I could step in. He agreed. I reluctantly joined other servers at the Table to celebrate communion. I was not sure if I was spiritually capable of truly passing God’s Blessings to others. After receiving the Sacraments, I positioned myself in the prayer corner, not expecting anyone to stop and pray.

How wrong I was; two parishioners joined me asking for communal prayers to God. I spoke from the heart; I have no idea what the words were that I used. What I do know is that by the time the service was over, my spiritual condition had changed dramatically. The power of two of us praying for God to touch our lives is a wonderful experience.

When we pray, no matter how dire the situation seems, God listens. When we pray, the bond between us, and between God and us strengthens to such a point as to change our very lives. When we ask God for anything, thanksgiving is increased innumerably. When we give thanks to God, something within ourselves returns to its natural state and returns our world to the way God meant for it to be.

In our journey, in our awaiting for the renewal of Christ in our lives this Advent season, may you experience all of the love and understanding offered freely by God.   

 

Caretakers

reapers

Caretakers

One of the more impressive protests over the past years was done by the indigenous people at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. These brave people stood against government and corporate power to oppose the wanton raping of planet Earth. They spoke for all who are concerned about the fate of our planet. All too often, people take from the earth without giving back to the earth. This is risky business. I am 74 years of age; my life will be drawing to a close before the final effects of our pillaging come to fruition. But my 15-year-old grandson will suffer. Do we realize that the ozone hole over Antarctica is over 9 million square miles? That, my friends, is huge. We are not taking care of our home; you know, the one God entrusted us with. All good things come from God; and She is a most compassionate and caring God. She is also very patient with us. When things finally begin to fall apart on Earth, men will pray to God to be more compassionate, which is impossible, when we consider that God is all compassionate now.

We are the stars in the night sky; all of eternity is watching us. Our message is being read by every village in the world, by every city and nation; what is that message, one that we don’t care about future generations.

If my understanding of science is correct, we are in the 15 millionth millennium of the universe, the 4.5 millionth millennium of earth, the 4 millionth millennium of life on earth, the 2600th millennium of humans, and finally, the 4th millennium of written history. Is our written history doomed due to our incompetence?

Jesus says, “Only one thing is necessary; if you are present, you will be able to know what you need to know.” Are we present. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve committed the original sin by betraying God; we are ignoring God. Whose crime is greater?

As a part of Mankind, we are one; we are one man, one earth, one universe. Our betrayal of the greatest gift, life, will condemn us for the remainder of man’s time on Earth.

If we are one man, one earth, one universe, there are ways that we can and should react. One is storytelling. We are a storytelling creation. If we are in fact the latest in a 2600 millennial line of development, then we must continue by telling stories. If the written word is only 4000 years old, then we must realize that any history prior to that time was passed through the spoken word. After all, the written Bible is only about 2600 years old, although others think it may be slightly older.

We have to tell our children and grandchildren the stories of the past. My father was born in 1890; he did not share much of his life with my sister and I. However, since he died, I have read his letters to his parents, while he was in college and while serving in the United States Cavalry. I also have several pictures of him and his brothers growing up in northwestern Connecticut. From these I am able to construct a story of what life was like before radios and cars, and even cell phones.

I look back to these times and say that life was tougher, but easier. Tougher, because I cannot imagine myself having to walk wherever I go. Living in the Fredericksburg area, I find it necessary to drive everywhere because the distances are too great for my 74-year-old body to navigate on a daily basis. Easier, because in the 1890s, we lacked the distractions that modern life offers us. As much as I love reading, and I teach English, I sometimes find it difficult to deny my addiction to the TV set and sit down to read.

When I was in grammar school in East Orange, New Jersey, I read all the time. In my 4th-grade year, I read every biography that was available in Columbian Grammar School. Guess what? We did not have a TV.

I love my radio, my television, my cellphone, and my SUV. But I also love the fact that I can tell stories, and I do. I have been chided by those around me to use lean of speech. Do I talk too much? Yes, but then again, I am a college professor and that is my job, at times. I talk for a living, and I encourage my students to talk. But they don’t; their noses are buried in their cellphones.

As a part of Mankind, we are one; we are one man, one earth, one universe. Let’s act like it.

 

 

What I Believe

unity

I have been reading and teaching the writings of Leslie Marmon Silko and Louise Erdrich; both are Native-American authors. Their apparent contact with nature and the mysticism and spirituality that accompanies this contact convince me that we enjoy eternal life. Once we shed these imperfect bodies, we join a much greater existence in what we refer to as the afterlife. This departure from scientific thought answers the questions of the imbalances we experience in our lives.

What I believe:

  • God supports us during times of hardship and stress
  • She gives us joy of Love, of Prayer, of Strength, allowing us to share our lives with all
  • With joy we find happiness; both are God’s gifts
  • As much as I believe that prayer is a personal gift, we need group that church gives it identities to establish us and fix us in the world we live in
  • God makes his home, our home
  • God gives me wide-open eyes to all that is and all that is illusory, and the patience and questioning with the instinct for discovering Truth
  • God is within me, and is within you; thus, a level playing field
  • When I need God, He heals me
  • God is present in me now; in the past; in the future. All time is the present for God, keeping us illuminated by his presence
  • Even though we live in troubled times, God is within us, assuring us of his kingdom

I pray that as I live my life that what I do models these beliefs. I also pray that during the times I fail to model these, my brothers and sisters will guide me to the right path. We are all in this life together and cannot succeed as individual islands. Our culture uses every strength it has to define us, addicting us to everything that does not matter.

Tolstoy commented that wrong is still wrong, even if all believe it. We need each other and Wisdom (God’s Wisdom) to correct this societal evil. We are burdened and driven by every societal need and societal oppression; we must remain steadfast in our ability to correct these problems with God’s Truth and Love.

If we are all people of faith, regardless of the religion we practice, then we must come together to recognize God in each of us.

Thanksgiving: being thankful

thanksgivingthanksgiving2

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: an appeal, an invocation; the act of giving thanks. It is a day set apart to give thanks to God.

I can hear some of you now: “Big deal! But what does this all mean?”

We are living in a time of turmoil, a time of dissatisfaction with ourselves, our families, and our country. This can be very upsetting; it can be the reasons for not celebrating what today is truly meant to be.

For one day, we must put aside our differences and be loving toward each other. As we sit around our various tables of feasts, preparing for the upcoming holiday season, whether that holiday is Christmas, Chanukah, or Milad un Nabi, the prophet’s birthday.

We have much to give thanks for this year, primarily that we are living children of God, and with luck, surrounded by friends and family.

So, let’s put aside our differences for one day, eat until we are bursting at the seams, and watch our favorite football team . . . together.

Happy Thanksgiving, to all my loving brothers and sisters.