Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar 2015

11/30   Read some verses from any book of the bible. What does the reading say to you?

12/1     Create a “God Account” – a “bank” where you will put any amount of $ each day. This money will be used for God’s service, as the Holy Spirit leads you to use it!

12/2     ENJOY your favorite food today – savor it!
1Tim 4:4 “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”

12/3     Pray for the “Family Promise families being served by the members of Christ Church Ridgewood

12/4     Do something that you find difficult, whatever that may be.
            JN 16:33 “Behold, I have overcome the world.”

12/5     Pray the Prayer of St. Francis (attached)

12/6     Attend a service, or spend 30 minutes with God (pray, read, sing, play music, etc.)

12/7     Bring a gift, or some token of friendship, to your neighbor.
            “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love…”

12/8     Refrain from having something today (cup of coffee, snack, etc) and put the money you would have spent into your “God account.”

12/9     Go out of your way to smile today, especially if you come in contact with other people.
            Prov 15:30 “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart…”

12/10   Relax with your favorite beverage, hot or cold. Thank God for your blessings as you sit and sip.
            MT 11:28 “Come to me all you who labor or are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”

12/11   Pray Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.”

12/12   Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or other service organization, or donate to them

12/13   Attend a service, or spend 30 minutes with God (pray, read, sing, play music, etc.)

12/14   Be intentionally kind to a service person, like a cashier, or anyone who works for the public. Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind toward one another, tenderhearted…” OR
            Attend bible study and bring in a donation of food for St. Paul’s pantry.

12/15   Send a Christmas card to someone with whom you have lost touch.

12/16   Listen to your favorite Christmas carol and SING ALONG!
            “He/she who sings prays twice.”

12/17   Pray Luke 2:10 “Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy…”

12/18   Let someone go in front of you, whether in line, in traffic, etc.
            Luke 6:31 “And as you wish that others would do for you, do so to them.”

12/19   Spend 10 minutes in total, unbridled gratitude…and smile about your blessings.
Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever.”

12/20   Attend a service, or spend 30 minutes with God (pray, read, sing, play music, etc.)

12/21   Decorate your home with a very special, meaningful decoration, new or old. Thank God for its meaning, and the people/person/event that the decoration reminds you of.

12/22   Spend 30 minutes with God (pray, read, sing, play music, etc.)
            Or sit for a while facing the sun, or light a candle.
            JN 3:19 “The light has come into the world…”

12/23   Spend/donate your “God money” from your “God Account” in whatever way the Spirit leads you.
            MT 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

12/24   Light a candle. Listen to, sing, or pray the lyrics to “Silent Night.”
            “Silent night, holy night,
            All is calm, all is bright.
            Round yon virgin, mother and child,
            Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
            Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.”

12/25   Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Merry Christmas! Share the joy!
            JN 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Short time

"The Brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light to all the world."
by Ann Voskamp

I work for a German company and I have many German colleagues who are here on a 3-5 year assignment (expatriates or expats). They all acclimate to American living very well. Most if not all are not interested in going back home to Germany and I have wondered why.

Those I have asked why they don't want to go home have answered in various ways.

"I like that I can go to the supermarket any time of the day."
In Germany, the stores close around 6 pm and are open for limited hours on Saturday.
Only churches and restaurants are open on Sunday.

"I like the freedom of being able to wear what I want."
Americans are less judgmental than Germans.

"I like the excitement of living so close to New York city and that there is always something planned for the weekend because I only have a short amount of time here. I know it will end one day and I want to do as much as I can while I am here. You know, when I am in Munich, well, I am just another German and I have lived there forever. There is no excitement and I don't feel special."

When I am in Munich I feel like this colleague feels, excited! Everything is new and interesting. I am an  American in Germany. I am special. I like the challenge of not knowing the German language, yet I can find my way around and enjoy my time there. Did I mention the beer? Oh my, it is so pure and delicious. It is like drinking water.

The idea of a limited amount of time and excitement in my experience got me to thinking.

What if I applied this attitude to my daily life.
I have a limited amount of time.
There is so much to experience.
I have the freedom to choose the what and the how of my life.

I can be an expatriate of my own life, seeing it new eyes and using a different attitude.

And as Ann says, become a change agent for the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Smile

I was exhausted, it was hot and I was outside under the afternoon sun.  I had my two year old son in a stroller walking along outside of an event I really wanted to attend.  There were friends I wanted to talk to, people I wanted to meet, and things I wanted to see.  The event was outside along a beautiful stretch of beach in the Caribbean ocean.  I lived there so, as one does, I sometimes took its beauty for granted.  That day was one example.  I was walking along not feeling present in my lil' guy's life or even in my own life.  I was just thinking about what I wasn’t getting at that moment.  I was stuck in my own little world.  YUP- I was being selfish.  

Then like a flash of light on a dark night some guy walking in the other direction smiled at me.  His smile shook me out of my funk and suddenly I could see the beautiful shades of color in the Caribbean water, where the blues leaked into green and in some areas a dark secret hue of blue that only served to magnify the brilliance of the other shades.  I could hear the ocean and its tranquility took over.  I took a moment to talk with my son to settle him a little more so he could finally fall asleep because he was comforted rather than just because it was what I wanted.  I walked about 5 more minutes taking in the sights and sounds with a new appreciation.  Nothing had changed except for this random man and his smile.

When my son was asleep I turned around to return to the event and I saw the same man again, this time; like me, walking in the opposite direction. This time I smiled at him first and he smiled back with a gentlemanly nod of his head.  Again his smile seemed to shine.  Without thinking I heard myself blurt out a comment as he passed me. “You have a beautiful smile.”  I blurted out over my shoulder.   I remember thinking to myself, why the heck did you say that?  Oh, well… it was harmless; it was nothing…just a silly comment.  

Little did I know how wrong I was.
Maybe 5 minutes went by as I continued slowly down the beach back to the event.  This time enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean, my son's little chubby toes sticking out of the stroller and his gentle snore.  I was enjoying this new peace.  Suddenly, the man came running up to me.  He stopped in front of me and I could tell he had something to say, but he wasn’t speaking.  I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder and I asked if everything was okay.  He stumbled through his words as he asked if he could tell me a story.  My son was finally asleep, and I love to hear stories, so of course I agreed.  
This man explained how he was in a drug rehab facility and he had to be clean for a certain number of days before he was allowed out unescorted.  This day was his first outing as a clean man.  He was feeling uncomfortable.  He felt as though he did not belong.  When he saw me he felt even less like he belonged, especially around a woman and her child.  He wondered if he was going to make it, if he was strong enough.  He felt alone and abandoned.  He was thinking of everything he had lost, his wife and children, his job. He had lost the love and respect of those he cared about. He was lost in his own little world, in his own misery. 

He said that when I smiled at him the first time that he started to feel a little better about himself.  Remember, my recollection was that he had smile at me first and it was he who had shaken me out of my funk.  Regardless, as he saw it, because of the smile I threw at him, he began to feel stronger.  He said he had not smiled in years until that day.  Then when our paths crossed again, I accidently allowed the thought that was in my head to bubble up and be heard.  I didn’t mean to.  There was no intention to the thought or even to the action.  Regardless, he said he felt completely reinvigorated and confident.  He felt that all would be well.  He began to tear up as he explained the courage he felt just because I commented on his smile.  He took my hands and began to pray.  It was a simple prayer of gratitude.  He thanked God for sending him and angel to take away his fear and remind him who was in charge.  He saw our chance encounter as a sign that everything was going to be okay, that he was not alone.  The words that came out of my mouth were not mine, but I heard myself tell him; “You have never been alone.  You will need this experience to make you who you need to be now.  You have had this experience so you could meet the people who will allow you to do what God has intended you to do.  From now on you need to make choices with a purpose. You have taken a big step today to change your life.  Stay close to God and when you feel weak, know that He is stronger and He is with you.  With your new strength you have not only changed your life, but you will change the life of others.”  This man threw his arms around me and embraced me with more love than I’ve felt from a complete stranger.  When he finally released me I unleashed a barrage of “you are an angel”, “thank you” and “God Bless you”.  As he walked away, for the first time I could see his shabby clothes, his drug pocked complexion and his snaggly teeth.
I walked away feeling a bit rattled and entirely shocked.  I had no idea where those comments came from or what the heck had prompted them.  I don’t talk like that.  I mean, I believe in God and all that but, still… I don’t talk like that: “Choices with a purpose?”  What do I know about what this total stranger will do to change people’s lives?  What the heck just happened?  I was confused.
When I returned to my husband, he looked at me funny and asked if I was okay.  I shook my head to clear the fog and just said "I had an interesting conversation with someone." 


A lot has changed.  My life has fallen …not fallen apart, but more like fallen back together.  My head has cleared and I am now aware that my husband has had numerous affairs.  I can now see the multitude of ways he has tried to hold me back, pull me down and de-grade me.  Worst of all, I had forgotten how to believe in myself. 
Just like the drug addict, this set my life on a path that I would not be on without the travails that have shaped me. Needless to say, we are now divorced.  I have started my own company (the first of at least three in the next 5 years) and I feel more on track with my life and what I am supposed to do than ever.  I am convinced that the words that I may have spoken to the drug addict were intended for me, just as much as they were intended for him.

He thought I was an angel, but I am convinced he was the angel.  I look back now and I can see the hand of God working through this drug addict to bring me closer to God because in less than a year from the day of this encounter I needed His strength to get me through the  next 18 months.  I came closer to God in that time.  I’ve always wanted to leave this world knowing I’ve made a positive impact and now I am clear on just what I need to do and I am getting more and more clear on how it will all come together.
So please:
Smile more.  You may change someone’s day, or you may change someone’s life. 

Interact with people who are different from you. Do it fearlessly without regard for what others may think of you for talking with the homeless man, the prostitute, the person whose faith is different from yours, the person who is older than you, or younger than you; the person whose skin is different, whose body is different.  You never know what gift they will share with you.  Those people who are different from you, they all have a gift for you.  The question is whether or not you will see them in the right light.  Will you see them with love or will you see them with judgment.  It is only when you see them with love that the gift is revealed to you.  Once you have that gift, your life will be altered irreversibly.  You will see a new type of love that you can’t get from someone who is just like you.
Permission to publish this story granted by my friend, a gifted and wise story teller.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is it enough?

Is it enough for me to know that Jesus saves me from my rebellion with God (Savior)?

This is a question posed to me last week and it has been hanging around. The best way for me to understand something that lingers is to write about it.

Here it goes.

Is it enough to just know this? And if I do know it what am I to do with it?

The answer for me is yes, it is enough for me to know this because this is the starting point for faith to grow and as my faith grows I will change. I will become less rebellious.

I see this lived out in the lives of the Saints. Many of them were extreme rebels. And in time they became great ambassadors for God. The story I know best that is found in the bible is about Saul who became Paul. Do you know this story?

Acts 9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Saul obeys Jesus and in time becomes one of the biggest advocates for Christ.

When I ponder the fact that the Creator of all and everything chose to become human to experience in the body of Jesus Christ horrific suffering and extremely painful death I am compelled to learn more so that I can change. I do not what to be the same as I am today tomorrow.

As we see demonstrated in Paul's story God meet us where we are.
Maybe it is in a difficult relationship, a challenging work environment, chronic pain, mental suffering, physical illness, life threatening disease, financial issues…..

When God is meeting me in these areas of where I am, what do I do? I have a choice to stay as the situation is or I can change. In my experience I did not make the changes on my own. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I changed my attitude, I surrendered all the I could not change with the willingness to change myself whenever needed. I walked the challenge with Jesus through continual conversation, prayer.

Is it enough to know that Jesus is our savior? Yes. Because this is where we start. We are the salvation story unfolding minute by minute, day by day.

Friday, July 10, 2015

One for everyone

The automobile is considered a weapon of death and destruction if it is not used properly. Everyone who wants to can get a drivers license. And everyone with a drivers license can drive a car.  One for everyone.

People driving their cars are careful not to hurt themselves or anyone driving near them. And then there is road rage and drunk driving. Some people are easily irritated by they way other people drive. So they beep their horn, cut them off and even shoot them. Others drink alcohol and get in the car without thinking of the harm they can cause. One for everyone.

The Gun lobby would like to have the same process available for guns. One for everyone.
The idea is if everyone carries a gun, just like everyone being able to drive a car, those who are prone to cause harm will hesitate to do so because they may be shot in the process. One for everyone.

We see this is not the case with automobiles. The aggressor or drunk person acts and the recipient of their action is injured or killed. The recipient of the road rage or drunk driving does not retaliate with their car to protect themselves or cause harm in return. Generally, the recipient is in shock or too injured from the attack to take any action. One for everyone.

If people get bent out of shape because a person is not driving in a way the makes them happy. Or they drive a car while intoxicated, what is to stop that same person from shooting someone who is not doing something they like?

I was in the supermarket waiting to speak with the customer service person. A man came in to get a money gram redeemed. The customer service person could not retrieve the money because the sender did not send it properly. The man became angry and was cursing at the customer service person. His body language and energy was highly charged. If he had a gun he would have used it regardless of whether I had a gun or not. He would have made sure he shot first and shot us all quicker than we could shoot him. Could you imagine living in such a way? It reminds me of the western TV shows and movies I watched as a child.

One for everyone does not work. People who cannot control their emotions, drive while intoxicated or who have mental imbalance will continue on their path of causing harm because that is the only way they know how to cope with what they are feeling and experiencing in the moment.

I would like to see more training in emotional intelligence, mindfulness and meditation for us all.
Maybe by adding this type of training to the driving and gun licensing we will see a reduction to drunk
driving, road and gun rage.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tin pan

I walk our three dogs every morning.
I bring two grocery store plastic bags with me.
I use these bags to pick up after the dogs and to pick up garbage in the street.
My eyes are trained to spot garbage. My mind and heart is motivated to pick it up so it does not get into our waterways.

First step in the three dog walking process is to get them out of the door with untangled leases. Then we proceed down the front steps to the sidewalk. Bailee, the german shepherd, is the first to go.  Luna and Dash take a little longer. Dash, the maltese, likes to sprinkle a little bit here and there as we walk. We begin our stroll and I see, after passing two houses, a tin pan and plastic lid in the street.
I wonder how this is possible? Was someone eating a meal and tossed the pan with lid when done? I walked past it and picked it up on the way back. No sense carrying the thing for the whole walk. I was very confident it would still be there when I retuned because there was no wind to take it away and my past experience proved the case time after time.I have definitely 'cornered the market' in picking up street garbage.

The dogs and I had a very successful walk. All three did their thing and I captured their duty in the plastic bag.

On the way back the tin pan was there. As I picked it up I remembered a conversation I had with my husband a few days ago. I had just cleaned out the tin pan that captures the grill grease and asked him if he could pick up more tin pans. The one I cleaned is getting a bit worn and will be ineffective soon.

He was unable to find the tin pans in the size we needed and said he would look again in a few days.

Is it possible that our creator (for me, Jesus) was intimately involved in this whole story? So much so that the tin pan is made available in the time it is needed?

Could it be that Jesus knows me so well, he knew I would pick the tin pan up. And that I would have the idea of seeing if it fit the grill after I picked it up (or maybe the idea was given to me as a a part of the tin pan gift)? Abundant gifting!

My life and all the struggles I experience are lightened and even vanish when I live my life with this faith and trust in Jesus' promise;

+ Matthew 6:25-27
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air that do not sow, reap or gather the harvest and yet they are cared for by our heavenly father (creator). Are you not more than they? And who of you by worrying can add a single hour to you life?

We are cared for just as the birds. Resting and reflecting on this turns my worry into peace. +

A prayer

Our creator who lives in and around us
And is glorified though our living a moral and just life.
You exist and your will is done with or without us.
Make us aware of your abundant provision.
Forgive our unjust and immoral choices.
Help us to forgive those who cause harm.
Guide us from temptations and evil.
You are life, love (power) and peace now and forever.

By Barbara Monahan