Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Unity In Conversion

I have been a convert to the Orthodox Religion for almost 5 years now.
In that time the road,though straight by faith,was not always so by community.
When you join the Orthodox faith you begin to find out quickly that people of tradition,nationally not biblical,can be very daunting and challenging to deal with.
To a new member it becomes apparent that sometimes the line between belief in nationality and religion can become blurred.
As I have matured,faith wise,the knowledge that I am not only stubborn but persistent has now been instilled in me.
I am coming to peace with who these traditional orthodox people from far off lands, are in their pride of heritage,just as in my own lineage.
Some people convert over to a faith and allow them selves to be lost in an others ethnicity,this is not good,God says we are to lose our old selves,but not lose our personal identity,the good parts of us.
A closed society is never a good thing,if growth is a priority.
One day while reading the bible it dawned on me,that I,like the first Gentile Christians,was trying to fit into an old set of traditionalist,whom at that time were the Jewish Christians.
Exactly how do you believe in the one true faith with out losing the best of yourself in the process.
The apostles Peter and Paul faced this dilemma them selves,Peter wanting these new Gentiles to fit in with the Jewish customs,while Paul pushed for different rules for the Gentile followers,which would be just has sacrifical and meaningful for them.
Accommodation,allows the new people entering the community,to assist the old traditionalist in growing and maintaining a community .
For many years now the Orthodox Church as not deemed it necessary for anyone but their own nationality ,to enter because the numbers were in their favor,now not so much so and those who felt locked out because of language have started to enter in larger numbers.
It's hard to keep a good thing under wraps forever and lets face it we are all God children not just a chosen few.
Inclusion should be the word of the church and with it a need to understand that social,not doctoral,change is needed in the eyes of the old to the new.
When you enter a religion you should take off the old like a cloak and put on the new like a suit of armor,always ready for the battle ahead.
But that warfare should not be with each other in the church.
No one group is better then another and no one idea is clearer.
Instead we should see that the old ideas that one has should be marred with the new.
Just has a marriage between an Orthodox person and none Orthodox person blends to make one a more rounded individual,so should our ethnic communities.
We as Americans are a melting pot for everyone from every walk of life and our religion should reflect this diversity with out changing our faithful doctrine and integrity.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Half Truths

We talk allot about lying and gossiping but what about misleading others with half truths.
Recently I read about how a certain lawyer was upset with the work of a kind local priest and his helper at a Tornado Assistance Warehouse in Southbridge Mass.
When a Tornado hit their town on June the first,being a good and caring Priest,he jump in to help by starting a collection and distribution point for donated food items,in his church hall.
As the need became greater,a near by warehouse offered to allow it self to be used so many more could be helped.
Several weeks passed,and it became apparent that the number of tornado victims were dwindling but those willing to take advantage of the system,were increasing.
With help becoming short and need less,it was decided that the local food bank could more efficiently distribute what was left.
Now as with any intriguing story of goodness comes the villain,who feels that the decisions made were inappropriate because he could not be the hero,so the time had come to rock the boat of happiness.
In this story the evil town official,who belongs to a certain fire precinct,decides its time to get the police involved and file Fraud charges and of course involve a lawyer,who,by the way, is more then happy to use such words to describe said assistant of the ware house as unemployed,out of state and lawyer,just to grab the attention needed to derail this priest on face book and attempt to defame both of their characters.
Trying to turn a good deed into something much less,with the simple use of key words,causing the readers to doubt the innocence and true intent of both involved.
I have come to the conclusion that half truths are probably more harmful then full lies,because we leave only the necessary parts for conviction and suspicion in while deleting the entire story,thus killing a character.
Trust me I have nothing against Lawyers,but it has been noticed by me,that they do have a tendency to artfully use such language in an attempt to gain the advantage.
Jesus talks about loving our brothers and says that we are not to bear false witness against them.
This was so important to God that he placed it as a law in the Ten Commandments,thus making it a command not a suggestion.
Half truths are just that,the bearing of false witness told by one person to another in order to miss lead the hearers thought process,thus leaving the victim no defense,since what is being said is partial yet truthful.
The destruction occurs to ones character because only the negative words mentioned about the victim now stick in the hearers mind.
A word like fraud is hard to shake even when proven innocent with the real facts.
You know the devil works in terrible ways,when ever you are doing good he will attack and do whatever damage he can in what ever way he can.
Your job is to stand up and fight back while still maintaining love for the person who attacked you.
In the Bible there is a passage where Jesus is talking about having to go into the city and how they will kill him,Peter says something to the effect of him not going but Jesus tells him "Get behind me Satan."
Jesus did not mean that Peter was Satan,he meant that the evil one was speaking through Peter.
Satan does these things.
He will tempt you with everything he can and when you will not fall he will use the ones around you to help push you down,including those closest to you.
What can you do in the face of such evil and slander?
You must stand up and bring it to the light.
The evil one loves the darkness because the possibilities are endless in that realm.
Our minds can play terrible tricks on us but once something is brought to the light it is made clean and what we thought was horrible really is only a squabble.
Sometimes bad things happen to us to show us just how much support we really have all around us.
It puts our friends and family in a position to show how strong they are for us and how united they can be with us in times of pain,sorrow or trouble.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food, Weight And Faith

Muscle weighs more then fat,at least that's what they tell me.
Seems for the past three mornings I have gotten out of bed,gone to the bathroom and weighted myself only to find another pound steering back at me.
Personally I think the scale has an issue because heaven knows it can't be me.
My week has been a busy one,what with sweeping the church walk ways,mowing the grass and general house work,tell me how does one have time to put on weight?
OK now true eating better food would help relieve me of some tonnage,but even low fat frozen yogurt,when eaten in mass quantities is still useless calories.
The Bible say that our body is a temple,well this one is in some major need of over haul.
Food is a wonderful thing and we live in a country that spends way to much time hoarding then denying ourselves of its pleasures.
I remember reading a book called "Angela's Ashes",about this poor Irish family whose children,while growing up, never got enough to eat.
One day the eldest son hears how people in America actually diet and restrain the amount of food they eat because they have to much.
Reading that sure puts a light this subject.
We are a nation of plenty and enjoy ever morsel we can get our hands on.
I know more people on diet restrictions related to health or well being issues,then I know people who truly go hungry form lack of access to food.
Some times on weekends,the nurse on third shift will talk to me about the years she grew up in Kenya and how many children there are lucky to get one bowl of oatmeal or cereal in an entire day.
Funny how we have so much and they so little,I hate to say this but even our own poor and hungry people in this nation do no know what its like to go with out,like people in other countries do.
Here we can always find someone somewhere who will help our situation,be it church or government agency.
If you knocked on any churches door,saying "I'm hungry" most would feed you.
Weeks ago while at my hairdressers,we got on the subject of religion and land ownership.
He told me that several generations back his family became Muslim.
When the Turks over threw Macedonia they told people they could live and be fed simply by joining their faith,or they could die.
This religious ploy has been used by many faiths,for thousands of years and has served to do nothing but force most people into religions that today,most do not choose to practice or participate in,do to the bad feelings of being forced to join.
Food and their restrictions have been an issue since the days of Adam and Eve and will remain so til the end of time.
There will always be those with,those with out,those who hold the power and those who do not.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Natural Peace

The nice thing about this time of year is it's warm enough to do yard work but cool enough to enjoy the nature that surrounds us.
The flowers in bloom,the birds and butterflies are everywhere,all that is required of you the viewer,is to sit quietly and watch in wonder as Mother Nature preforms her magic all around.
Thursday afternoon our Church had its biweekly Community Meal.
As the supper was winding down several of us went outside to sit at the table on the deck.
It was a lovely evening to be with each other,recounting our days' events,while the birds came to pick at the newly filled feeders,in the near by flower gardens.
The warm breeze around us and the brightness of our laughter,helped bring a glow equal to that of the soft setting sun.
Roses and flowers everywhere with smells filling ones senses only adding to the enjoyment of our shared evening meal.
It's not hard to feel close to God when nature and fellowship are blended together all around you.
Most people think "church" requires a building with repeated prayers but just enjoying each others company,able to embrace happiness and joy,is as much fellowship to the soul as Liturgy.
Becoming one with the things around us causes us to become one with God himself.
Most people do not realize that what you fill your senses with is what you become.
Some say watching violence,listening to harsh language or seeing things that are not good make no impression on us.
But I remember hearing to a female minister who said "what enters through the brain,goes into the heart then comes out of the mouth."
When peace fills our senses,it also fills our being and makes us better then we thought we could be.
In the Bible Jesus talks about giving and leaving us his peace,I think an evening such as this is exactly what he had in mind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No Job To Small

Growing up I was the middle of three children.
Many times I was either to young or to old to do the things my siblings were,this was very frustrating,since in my mind I knew I could do what ever either of them were doing.
It's hard in this life to realize that although you want to do things,they are not always the things needed from you.
Mother Teresa tells a story of a young woman who was disabled.She wanted desperately to help the poor and sick but in her bed ridden condition was unable,feeling very sad to be of no service she expressed her desire to some how help.
Mother suggested she could be a prayer buddy,she would be assigned the name of a person in the field who was doing the hands on work and she would be that person spiritual pal.
We are all able to do many things,but not everything is up to us to do.
Why when we are able and capable to carry out what others are doing are we not asked?
Sometimes,it's just not our turn.
Not being allowed to do something does not mean we are unable,incapable or unwelcome, it just means it's someone else time to shine.
Prayer is very mighty and although we profess its greatness we never seem to want to be the ones doing it.
Patience is also a virtue but one most of us don't really want to learn.
My son was in the military for 9 nine years and every soldier in his troop had a special position to do.
Some were leaders,some doers and some did paper work but all worked together to get the main job done.
The apostles job would have been much harder if no one had been working back up.
Does this make those people less?
No,in God mind there is no lesser or greater when doing his work.
Mother Teresa talks of how we are like the interior of a watch.
Some pieces great,some small,some expensive and some plastic but together it all works,causing the watch to run.
If even one insignificant piece stopped running the whole watch would grind to a halt and nothing would happen.
If we stopped looking at things in the worldly fashion of only the important do important things and look at in the fashion of God,we would understand that all jobs are important.
From the smallest to the greatest we all contribute to the entire picture.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Giving And Takiing

Let's say it's a very hot day and you're walking down the street,when suddenly you decided to stop at a local grocery store to buy a bottle of nice cool water.
As you enter the store you notice a sale on bottled water,but its a store brand not a name brand.
Thinking the sale is a a good bargain and water is water,you decide to go with the store brand.
The sign says buy one bottle and get one free,so you grab both bottles and happily go on your way.
Feeling that you made a smart money move and knowing that tomorrow morning you will have enough change to treat your self to a cup of coffee,you continue to walk out of the store.
While heading down the side walk,a stranger comes to you and says he is very thirsty,but has no money and really wants some thing to drink.
Being a Christian and thinking this is your opportunity to do good,you pull out your second bottle of water and offer it to him.
Now what if when you handed him the bottle,he looked at the label and remarked this was a store brand and he preferred a better quality brand like Dissani.
What would you do?
Would you go back into the store,take the change you have left and buy him the better brand of water or would you say sorry but this is what I have to offer?
Does a person on the receiving end have a need to appreciate what is being offered or do they have the right to expect more,especially from those they view as having possibly more to offer?
Jesus says if someone ask you for anything you are to give it to them.
But choices were different in his day.
Water was just drawn from a well and food was bread or what ever could be grown or caught.
Many people came to him to ask for cures and healings but what if the man who was given his sight,came back and said "you know I have brown eyes,I really wanted blue ones,they are more stylish you know?"
What do you think Jesus would have said?
I understand that people who donate items to food shelters or natural disasters ware houses,should give at least things,they themselves would use,but what if what was given was done so with love,charity and the knowledge that more could be bought with the money they have,if they where to purchase a store label product.
My mother always said that "A beggar should not be a chooser and you should be grateful for what ever you are given."
Are we becoming a nation that is confusing its wants with its needs?
So whats the answer?
I tend to think that what is in the heart of the giver when donating is more important then the name on the can or bottle.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Caged Soul

M.Gandhi said something to the effect of: If our body is a locked cage,that contains our soul,why would we do something so bad has murder another person,on the whim of a cage,never allowing our soul to be set free at our death and go on to our God.

Family Reunion

Yesterday started with a service of Saturday of Souls,which was very fitting because after Liturgy we attended a family reunion and my uncle's 85Th birthday party.
To say my family as shrunk would be an understatement.
In a two year period we lost about 9 people and not just the elderly relatives.
Families are very important,its good to look back on who you were and what you have become.
Luckily for us we have no relatives in jail,at present anyways..lol...
We have all turned out rather well,we hold jobs,have some education and most have families.
Some of us are parents and most are grandparents.
I believe our own grandparents would have been proud of us,we all established the American dream of life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Growing up we were a close knit group,spending most of our Sundays in the Summer at my parents cottage.
Swimming,marshmallow toasting,bar be queuing and watching the Lawrence Welk show in the evening,before making our way back home.
Now we have very little contact with each other,although Face book has helped to reconnect some of us.
All in all we have mostly had good lives,though bumps and pot holes in the personal road of life was inevitable.
Hopefully next year we can do this party again and maybe convince more of our relative to come and join us.
Next time we'll pull out my fathers 8mm films,now that will be worth a laugh.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Good People

We live in a country where if you do something wrong you will be put in the newspapers,on TV and make the web,for weeks,months or even years,but what about the good people?
Last week a tornado hit the Massachusetts area running from Sturbridge up to Worcester.
Great losses were had by those people laying in its path.
Siding gone,roofs blown off and trees not only broken but some,literally twisted.
Although the media has covered this tragedy for several days it is still a reality for those who now have to face and live the loss everyday.
The scars do not just fill a person with a sense tragedy ,but also a sense of personal insecurity.
Though I have never been a part of such a bad weather occurrence I can only imagine the fear these people went through as storms rolled over their neighborhoods and into their houses.
How does a person ever face thunder or high winds again with out the events of this particular storm playing through ones mind and nervous system.
The media has missed those who are now reaching out to others,with their time and talent.
Carpenters,roofers,electricians and tree cutters,all donating what they have of themselves to others.
The donations are coming in for food and drink not only for man but pet alike.
Several teddy bears sit on the donation table at St. Michael Orthodox Church,holding out their soft fuzzy arms in comfort for any one willing to pick them up and give them a tight squeeze.
St. James says that faith with out works counts for nothing.
We live in a country of people whose ancestors came here with little to no material items or cash.
Though they had nothing to give they taught their children and grandchildren the importance of helping others in times of need.
Here in New England we get labeled for being cold and uncaring,but this is not true,we know when to assist and are some of the most generous people you will ever meet.
I've heard it said we should not call our selves a Christian nation,but when we live a Christian lifestyle,then show those around us the best of what Jesus taught us,we are at that moment,who we are meant to be.
Gandhi said if Christians lived their lives as Jesus taught then there would be no need for any other religion.
The Good people may go unnoticed by the media while the bad make the headlines but that's OK because the light always shines brightest in the darkest part of the night.