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Expanding Your Gaze

Affirmation: I choose peace and love.

 

Jean2-2Have you heard of Yogaville? It is a yoga ashram located on 750 acres in Virginia. It was founded by Swami Satchidananda. The shrine, called the LOTUS was opened in 1986. It’s an acronym that stands for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine. I was looking for something to do with my granddaughter, Isabelle (age 17), for my birthday because my husband, Sandy, had told me he would be traveling at that time. Isabelle and I had been practicing yoga together for a while before this and I thought it would be a great adventure for us to share. It turned out to be only a three-hour drive from our home. I signed us up for a course called “Healthy Relationships in Yoga & The Path of Heart.”

God bless my granddaughter. What a light she is and what a good sport! The diet was strictly vegan and we were quite challenged to find something on which to focus other than kale and tofu. Also, she was the youngest by about ten years. Her youthful spirit and presence alone brought joy and smiles to everyone we encountered. We laughed, we ate weird food, we met new interesting people and most importantly we created some wonderful memories.

Jean3One of the first things we were told when we arrived was not to miss seeing the shrine. We were in the middle of nowhere and I envisioned a small concrete or wooden structure with maybe a Hindu deity in the middle. The next morning we headed out to walk about a mile through the woods to take photos and see what there was to see. We reached a road and followed it up a hill and then from out of the valley below rose a giant pink and blue lotus shaped building. It was, I guessed, as large as the White House in DC but it wasn’t white. We were stunned. It’s one of a huge complex consisting of three buildings that started at the top of the mountain and ended down in the valley. What would we find inside?

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On Tuesday, February 2nd, 2015 Kate Cook was the yoga teacher at Fire Fly Hot Yoga here in Cary, NC. She leads an hour and a half Intensive Slow Flow class. She’s one of the best Yoginis with whom I have ever studied. She is so precise in her language and she always brings a lesson with her to deepen our practice. This last week she instructed us to gaze on the ball of energy we created when we cupped our hands and placed them in front of us. As we breathed in our hands moved together, as we breathed out, they expanded. Then as we were doing our balance poses, she encouraged us to “change our gaze.”

Normally, when one is balancing the instruction is to focus on one point. In Yoga it’s called a “drishti.” Kate reminded us that our mat practice is a metaphor for our life practice. What we learn on our mats, we have the opportunity to take with us out into the world. As far as I’m concerned developing balance is one of the most important qualities we can cultivate for ourselves. I do like to remind myself, however, that as one yoga teacher said, “There is no balance, there is only balancing.” We are either coming into balance or falling out. I know this is true for me. As I stood there on one leg with my fingers wrapped around my big toe and my lifted leg straight out to one side, my drishti was on some unmovable object in front of me. Trying to stay upright and trying to remember to breathe, Kate then suggested we “change our gaze” and look in one direction and then the other. I fell over and I tried again and I fell over and again. I lost my balance. Without a focus I couldn’t stay steady with a focus I couldn’t see the rest of the space. Which is better? I decided neither. Sometimes one is needed and other times, a grater perspective is essential.

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It’s good to be focused. It helps me accomplish the tasks I set before myself but when it’s limits my perspective on life, it shrinks my world into a smaller box and I need to get smaller to fit into it. I don’t want to be small. At five feet tall, I’m small enough. I want to take a big giant breath and expand my world to include all sorts of people, places and ideas. Then I have to decide what to allow to stay with me and of what I want to let go. What is “of God” and what is not. What will enhance my life and what will diminish it? It’s a mediation, don’t you think? We are faced with this choice day in and day out. Sometimes it’s about food. Sometimes it’s about activities. It can be about people and most certainly it’s about our ideas, our beliefs, our concepts.

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The shrine in Yogaville is dedicated to all religions in the world, those that are well known and those that are yet to come. There are twelve altars in the lower level with reminders of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, the Moslem faith and eight others. It was respectful and well presented. It was a home for all, even the atheist. My initial reaction was small minded but I prefer to be an inclusive person and Kate’s recently taken yoga class helped me respond in a more open, accepting, non-judgmental mode.

93df774313ec5583c878fb90c91ea8f8-2I’m reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He too talks about accepting all faiths, not judging, even accepting the non-believers. Peace. I believe this is Peace. I know we are instructed to “spread the good news.” We are actually commanded to do so. The best way I know to do that is to try to always be a kind and compassionate person but when someone tells you they are right and you are “so very wrong,” what is your reaction? It’s not normally a peaceful one, is it? The course Isabelle and I took was led by two of the founders of Yogaville, Jeevakan & Priya Abbate. They were kind, gentle, compassionate people. I could see why so many are attracted to this place. It radiated peace and acceptance. One of the lessons was around the concept that, “We can be right or we can have peace.” I’ve also heard it phrased, “We can be right or we can love.” This is the difference between having a focus and seeing the broader picture.

I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic. Here I sit with a focus on Christ but for me, God is everywhere. God is everything. I am not here to limit God’s unfathomable power. Yogaville was a good place for me to share an adventure with Isabelle. It was a great birthday weekend. I was outside of my comfort zone. I had to broaden my horizons and see God in all things, even within a giant pink and blue concrete flower rising out of the Virginia valley.

Transforming Suffering

Affirmation: I choose to find the blessings that arise from my suffering.

 

2015-Predictions-World-War-3-Fears-Tick-The-Doomsday-Clock-Close-To-The-End-Of-The-World-665x385-2The newspaper article explained that the Doomsday Clock has been moved forward to two minutes before midnight. It is closer now to the bewitching hour than it has ever been since the end of World War II and the creation of the atomic bomb. The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging biotechnologies, and cyber technology that could inflict irrevocable harm, whether by intention, miscalculation, or by accident, to our way of life and to the planet. (http://thebulletin.org/overview#sthash.KlhM9quB.dpuf.)

I wasn’t surprised. The world as we know it will end. I’ve seen all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator movies and the ones about the meteors and the aliens. How about a worldwide virus or the bird flu? Hollywood and fiction writers have been predicting our demise since its inception. How about the Walking Dead or the movies about the Rapture? Yes, the destruction of our lives as we know them can happen in many different ways and any day now. If the world doesn’t blow up, it’s also true that our own personal world may implode or explode.

BePrepared-2Recently the magazine Cincinnati had an article about being prepared for the challenges of life, especially as we age or as our loved ones age. It was about being aware and taking steps to bolster our resources. As you probably know if you read this blog I am the ultimate Girl Scout. “Be prepared” is their motto. I am the queen of preparation and while it’s true I see the changes taking place in my life and the lives of my family and friends, I don’t want to walk around always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” It is so very easy to await the next mishap or disaster. It’s so easy to allow my mind and imagination to go to the difficulties that might arise, to enter into “the cave of phantoms.” So, I’m working on finding a balance between being overly prepared and letting go of the probability of pain and suffering.

The word “transform” keeps showing up as I search for an answer to this question. The first time it appeared was in Richard Rohr’s, The Art of Letting Go. He talked about developing the ability to transform our suffering because everyone does suffer and the longer one lives the more suffering one will experience. Oh my! Therefore, you need to find a way to transform it or it will transform you into a sad, mean, worn out human. The second time the word appeared was in Father Ryan’s sermon at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. He used it to describe what happens to someone who finds themselves connected to the Divine, either through prayer or when they receive the Sacraments.

TheArtofLettingGoThe secular approach to pain and suffering is to simply be the obverse of whatever is, not to judge it, not to get caught up in the dualistic mind of good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. It’s one of life’s simple concepts that is without a doubt one of life’s most difficult to practice, impossible to master. The Christian faith, however, takes the simply observing concept to a whole other level. That which we judge as pain and suffering, if laid at the foot of the Cross or placed in the arms of The Christ is transformed into blessings beyond our wildest imaginings. The naked, tortured body of God, nailed to wooden beams over two thousand years ago was the ultimate gift. His message was not clear as he was going thorough His persecution. Once He had given up His spirit, however, this poor, itinerant, misunderstood preacher turned our civilization inside out and upside down.

Station-12-Jesus-Dies-Upon-the-Cross-2Many can’t and don’t fully appreciate how he changed the value of human life and dignity. If we lived in some of the third world, repressed regimes today we might better appreciate the impact of Christ’s teachings. He came to teach us that no matter what happens to us it is all redeemable and we get to choose how we perceive our lives. We can see ourselves as victims or as victors. His message was that we are all children of the Divine and we are loved. Our afflictions are not punishments.

I once heard someone say, “Suffering is one of our common denominators.” We all suffer. Some suffer more than others, of that I have no doubt. It doesn’t take too much awareness to know of the horrors that have taken place or are taking place in our world today. Once we head out into the world figuratively or in reality and listen to the ailments with which so many of our fellow humans are dealing, we are faced with story after story of sadness and challenge. If one has not developed the ability to simply be an observer of one’s suffering, how is it to be transformed?

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I don’t know. I want to place an answer here for everyone who is suffering and I know there are the wise, learned people out there who might be able to do that but I’ve decided I am not one of them. In bringing this topic to several of my friends and guides the only “answer” that has presented itself is for me to look at how I personally can and do transform my pain and suffering. What has worked for me in the past? How will that work for me in the future?

My personality lends itself to looking at the bright side of most situations. It can be quite obnoxious for others but it sure has helped me get through some really tough experiences. I’ve studied what is recommended to help one deal with life altering challenges and have taken note of those skills, which I believe will strengthen me when I am again faced with those issues. Simply writing that last sentence out gives me a sense of strength and hope. Hope. I carry hope in my heart. I believe, truly believe that every event I label “daunting or miserable” I will eventually see as a blessing. I believe each challenge no matter how sad it makes me is an opportunity for something amazing. I know on my own, I may not be able to transform all the difficult happenings in my life into something wonderful. There will be many times I need the support of my family and friends. Let them come! I accept. And I know I will also need my faith.

What has worked for me has been to trust God, not that nothing difficult or unpleasant will happen to me but that I will be able to transform what happens to me into something that will give glory to God, or at least peace to myself. Even if I’m faced with the end of the world, I am hopeful that with my trust in Christ, His Blessed Mother and all my Angels and guides that whatever comes my way, I will be that person who sees the good, who rises to the high ground and if I can’t, I am trusting that someone will come along who will help me overcome my grief or my despair.

How have you dealt with your pain and suffering? Have you developed a philosophy that will support you in the future? What can you do today to “be prepared” for the adversities that life will surely present to you? Be a light for others. Share your coping mechanisms. Perhaps one of your pearls of wisdom will be exactly what someone needs to help them turn their suffering into a blessing.

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Being Catholic

Affirmation:  I love being a Catholic
During this month, October 2014, the Catholic Church has been front-page news.  It’s not unusual for the Church to be in the headlines.  It seems to me it’s an easy target for criticism, especially in this day and time.  This time the initial news being reported was more positive.  Pope Francis called a synod, a group of bishops from around the world, and the discussion that came from that meeting was highly publicized.  It’s unclear if everything that was written about the meeting was true but that’s nothing new for the media.  The initial bent of the stories would lead most people to believe that the Catholic Church has decided to become more liberal. 
At St. Benedict’s Church in Linville, NC Father Christopher Gober’s homily revolved around the procedures that are required before the Church, or what I would prefer to refer to as the hierarchy, makes any changes in Church doctrine.  “It will take years.”  Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.  The two thousand year old church has never been quick to make any changes.  It took them several hundred years to forgive Galileo who they excommunicated because he claimed the earth revolved around the sun.  With a history like that those of us, which includes me, who are ever hopeful that our church will become more open and accepting are not holding our breath.  But, there are some signs that our Church, the people who make up the foundation of our parishes may see a greater shift towards compassion and inclusion that hasn’t appeared to be the main focus until lately.
Before the synod ever began I was listening to a Tapestry podcast with Mary Hines called, Liars, Cheats and Sinners and the writer she was interviewing, described as a Roman Catholic thinker, Mary Gordon, said she didn’t expect anything would be discussed that would make a difference for the laity.  She, however, I am pleased to say, was wrong.  Even if the doctrines are the same and it takes years, if ever, to make changes, Pope Francis seems to bring a whole different flavor to the meaning of our faith.  When the leader of an institution calls for compassion and inclusion, when a leader in an institution is humble and deferential and when a leader of an institution leads by example and not simply with words, the institution will reflect those qualities and that, it seems to me is Pope Francis.
I may be grasping at straws here, hoping that he will bring our church to a place where many times people feel as if they simply can’t ever get it right, where many people just find it too difficult to be part of such a restrictive environment.  I know in many ways the Catholic Church is a liberal institution if you compare it to many other fundamental faiths of the world but in my opinion some of the stands it takes on issues which affect so many of it’s faithful are just wrong.  My hope is Pope Francis will lead these men to a place of compassion and openness so that the fastest growing religion in the United States today is not “former Catholics.”
Our Church has so much to offer and because of all the bad publicity some of which is very justified, we aren’t recognized for all our Church has done and continues to do to make this world a better place.  For example, the Catholic Church feeds, educates and tends to the health of tens of thousands of people a day.  The people they serve aren’t asked about their belief system or about their religion, they are simply helped.  Why isn’t that ever written about in the news? 
I once had someone tell me she was an Protestant because unlike Catholics she didn’t have to leave her brain at the church door.  I can’t even imagine why someone would think it was all right to say that to anyone but trust me that’s not true. I have carefully considered whether or not I want to continue to be a Catholic.  I’ve headed out many times; I’ve studied many faiths; I’ve read many different theologies.  I finally had to recognize that I was always called back to Catholicism. That’s my home.  Maybe, just by being who I am I can make a difference in the way the church responds to some of these controversial issuers.  Certainly, I have a better chance than if I walked away, if I simply quit. 
I had one very powerful experience of asking God in prayer what path I should follow.  I didn’t’ know how the answer would come but I believe in answered prayer and I did expect an answer.  The answer came in a dream.  Jesus floated down, He wasn’t very clear but I was pretty sure a white floating being was divine and He said, “Jean, I am the answer for you.”  I believed it then and I still believe it now.  I have a dear friend who has told me for years, “I don’t let the Church interfere with my relationship with God.”  That’s not good enough for me.  My Church needs practices and rituals that enhance and strengthen my relationship with God and with that, my relationships with my family, friends and even my enemies and it does provide those practices.  Unfortunately, the emphasis on Jesus’ message of love and compassion gets clouded and our beautiful faith gets tied up in the rules and regulations.  
I love the Catholic Church.  I love being a Catholic.  Yes, I know it has zits and dysfunction.  What family doesn’t?  I have chosen to stay in this family, this place where the people I interact with are more often than not, kind, generous, compassionate and loving. I’m still a Catholic because of my belief in the sanctity of the Eucharist and the rituals of the Mass and our seven sacraments and because it has led me to this relationship with Christ that sustains me in all things.

The last headline I saw about the synod before I wrote this said, “Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of new things.'”  Yes, I believe we are presently in the hands and heart of a loving, compassionate person who will bring our church to a place of more acceptance and kindness; who will help our parishes become places of refuge and hope; who will guide the hierarchy towards being less rule oriented and more people oriented.  I’m not too hopeful about changes with the perception of women’s roles but that’s a whole other blog.  I do believe, however, that our Pope Francis hasn’t left his brain or his heart at the door and I don’t believe he expects us to live our faith and our lives without deep thought and commitment. 

Growing in Faith

Affirmation:  Something wonderful is about to happen.

On
Belleruth Naparstek’s chemo tape she has a phrase she uses about getting a
sensation that something wonderful is about to happen and about how you may
have not felt this sensation in quite a while but right now you do.  Have you ever had a sensation like that?  That sense that something marvelous is coming
your way?  I wonder if that happens when
we are preparing for an event or a trip or maybe a change in our career.  Perhaps, it’s that feeling when a loved one
and you are to be reunited.  I know a
change and new things can also bring with them a feeling of anxiety and maybe
we get anxiety and excitement mixed up. 
But, when Belleruth describes this marvelous feeling of expectation, I
know it; I feel it. I fully recognize it even though I can’t remember when I
last felt that way and it feels good!

For
the past several months I have had a growth in my faith experiences.  As I’ve shared before I have been
“working” on my faith for many years ever since I met my evangelical
neighbor, Shaun McLean in Cincinnati, Ohio and when shortly thereafter my
father died.  When Shaun showed up at the
back gate of my new home she proceeded to become a constant thorn in my
faith.  I am so grateful to her for that
nudging. She was so certain about her relationship with God and with Jesus
Christ and I was a cradle Catholic who didn’t feel sure about anything. I
didn’t envy her but I did find myself questioning, questioning, and questioning
even more.  What did I truly
believe? 

Let’s
admit it, the story of Jesus Christ, his birth death and resurrection is quite
unbelievable.  It defies natural
law.  I for one have had my doubts.  I have not been a compliant subservient
faith- filled follower.  I wanted
proof.  I’m sure if one searches for
proof that the “Good News” is not factual, one will find answers
supporting that premise but I chose to go the other way.  I’ve chosen to seek out reasons to
believe.  I have also found that at some
point if one is to truly have faith, one must set aside disbelief and just
decide to have faith in the mystery.  I
decided to believe. 

I’ve
watched movies about the “facts” of His life and ministry.  I’ve read the bible and listened to lectures
and homilies.  But, the reason I believe
is because I want to believe.  I want to
believe He came to change the world.  He
came to teach us to love.  He came to
eradicate sin and evil.  He came to show
us, to show me unconditional love.  He
came to prepare a place for me in the afterworld and to show me that this life
is not the end.  This life is simply a
transition before the next, before I can finally rest in a place of peace and
pure love.  I want to believe this and so
I do and once I made up my mind to accept this belief system amazing events
have taken place to support my journey.   

My
faith journey has led me many places.  It
is not just about things related to my church. 
I was reminded this week by Sister Judy Hallock one of the women who
facilitate A Place for Women to Gather that our lives are interconnected with
our faith.  If we are truly faith-filled
people we cannot separate our mind, body and spirit.  Every aspect of our lives, every single one
of them, is affected by our faith. 

 
I
am on a continual search for a deeper, richer relationship with God.  I want to feel that peace that I believe
comes when one connects to spirit but even more importantly when one develops a
relationship with a personal God, not just some ethereal concept.  This last week I have been feeling that sense
of expectation that I have not felt for a very long time.  Something wonderful is about to be
manifested.  I haven’t a clue what it is
or how it will come or from whom but I can feel it.  The feeling is palatable and I am simply enjoying
it and waiting to see what or who appears.

My
faith journey this year has taken me to some amazing destinations.  I’ve shared some of them with you here in
this blog but as the holidays approach and the end of the year comes closer, I
find myself thinking about all that has taken place.  One of my affirmations is, “When I stay
connected to the Divine, miracles occur and without struggle my life is
transformed.”  I think that’s
exactly what’s been happening.  I don’t
know why I’m so surprised.  I’ve never
created an affirmation and focused on it where it hasn’t worked.  Never! 

 
Several
months ago I discovered a new prayer that I’ve incorporated into my nightly
prayers.  “Come Holy Spirit, fill
the heart of Your faithful.  Enkindle in
me the fire of Your love.”  I found
it to be a comforting prayer and truly the desire of my heart.  I think the Holy Spirit has accepted my
invitation.  I’m always a little curious
about where my faith journey will take me. 
It shouldn’t surprise me that it has brought me further into the fold of
the Catholic Church.  I’ve gone off
looking for alternatives many times but I’m always led back to the church of my
birth.  Certainly, I have kept an open
acceptance of other modalities. I’ve studied Reiki.  I practice yoga and I love the insights
afforded me with the Enneagram.  I
facilitate Artist Way programs and have attended many mediation sessions with
leaders of different faiths.  I read many
different books about different spiritual concepts.  All of these experiences have led me to a
deeper faith and a greater awareness of a personal god. 

This
year, however, has brought with it the additional gift of several new female
friends who are practicing Catholics and it has been a wonderful, heartwarming
experience.  We certainly are not all in
the “same place” in our faith journey but there’s no judgment.  We simply are accepting of our different
stages, accepting and yet still supportive. There are many studies showing the
healing qualities associated with belonging to a support group.  I feel like I’ve discovered a gift with the
friendship of these women, the gift of being supported in my faith journey and
I am grateful that this new community has added to this feeling that something
wonderful is about to happen.  Now,
there’s an affirmation I can focus on and wait for it to come to fruition,
“Something wonderful is about to happen.”  The really cool part of this affirmation is I
have discovered that that Something Wonderful is having this feeling of blessed
expectation and that that in itself is just marvelous.

Peace Be With You

Affirmation:  I live a Christ centered life of love,
peace, joy, gratitude and compassion.
Once upon a time
an amateur golfer could purchase hole-in-one insurance.  If the golfer made a hole-in-one, he or she
would receive an all-expense paid trip to anywhere in the world.  I knew this because one of my husband’s
business associates at that time had just returned from a trip to Hawaii that
he had “won” through this program.  My
husband had a birthday coming up and I thought this would be an excellent
present for him (for us!)  I probably had
a slight attack of conscience because I mentioned it to him to make sure this
was something he’d really enjoy.  He
would not, he told me.  What he really
wanted was a new set of golf head-covers. 
That’s what I bought him.  He was
happy.  The following week my husband had
his first hole-in-one.  It did not make
him happy.  He certainly didn’t want to
call me to tell me about it.  I think if
he could have kept it from me for the rest of his life, he would have but we
lived in the tiny town of Norwich, New York and word would reach me probably
sooner than later.  As you can imagine I
was very disappointed.  I can think of
several things I might have done differently had I known he was to have this
hole-in-one after telling me not to buy him the $40.00 hole-in-one
insurance.  But, it’s always easier in
retrospect, isn’t it?  We’re always so
much wiser in retrospect, aren’t we? 
What would life be like if we were people who knew ahead of time what
was going to happen?  
I love those
sci-fi movies about people who are time travelers.  I especially like the ones where people go
back to the past.  Two of my favorites
are Back to the Future with Michael
J. Fox and Peggy Sue with Kathleen
Turner.  In both films they were able to
impart helpful knowledge to people in their past to help them improve their
lives in the future.  In Peggy Sue,
Kathleen Turner had a nerdy friend who believed her story that she was from the
future.  He wanted to know what he should
invest in.  “Panty hose,” she
suggested.  What should I invest in now
that will insure my future success?  Do I
need to be able to see the future to make those decisions?  Maybe I would be able to pick out the winning
power ball number or I could buy some sort of unknown stock, like Apple, before
it went through the ceiling.  Perhaps one
would know who not to marry or what job not to pass up.  Oh, the places one could go and the things
one could do without any concern, without any confusion. 
I have several
dear friends whose early married lives were very difficult.  One friend’s husband left her with three
children and declared bankruptcy.  Right
after he left, her house burned to the ground. 
These were only a few of the challenges she faced at that time. Her husband
then began a new relationship and a new business and she was left to figure out
how to survive.  The really good news is
she did more than survive, she thrived! 
It’s been a few decades now since all this began but recently she found
out he was dying.  She held a lot of
justified resentment towards him but she picked up the phone to talk to him and
instead of venting all her frustration and anger, she found herself thanking
him.  For what?  For her three wonderful children, for her
stamina and fortitude and for the life she now lives.  If she could have seen into the future with
all the travail she would face, she probably would have still chosen the same;
a different choice would have meant she would be a different person and she’s a
marvelous human being because of the trials she’s overcome.  She has made peace not only with her
ex-husband but with life.
In the Catholic
Mass we have one phrase that is used three times.  “Peace be with you.”  Three times the priest says, “Peace be with
you.”  No other phrase is repeated even
once but this one is repeated three times. 
Why?  Because it’s the one gift
everyone desires, peace.  When we are in
the middle of war most of the population wants it to end.  They want peace.  When we are in the throes of caring for someone
in pain, we pray for their peace.  When
someone has experienced the death of a loved one, we ask for them to have
peace.  When we or someone we know is
faced with any sort of difficulty, financial or physical, we want to see them
come to a peaceful place.  Peace.  What does it look like?  Can one find it in any situation?  Recently, an acquaintance confided that his
job might be at risk.  We reacted with
alarm.  He, on the other hand told us he
wasn’t worried.  There was nothing he
could do about it right now, so he wasn’t upset.  He was at peace.  We may not have a definitive definition for
peace but we all know when it’s missing. 
We all know when we are not at peace. 
It is one of God’s greatest gifts. 
We can claim it whenever we want.  Sometimes all it takes is a short prayer, a deep breath and a silent few moments.  Once we are at peace with ourselves, we can radiate that peace out into
the rest of the world. 
It might seem like
foreknowledge might be a better gift than peace but it doesn’t matter.  There is no such thing, no matter what the
psychic tells us.  There’s no guarantee
that we’ll ever know what the future will hold. 
But, we can find peace with whatever life has brought us.  We can let go of the disappointments, the
trials, the hurts, the not so wise choices and we can ask God to let us go
forward with the gift of peace.  We can
go forward knowing that our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly are exactly
as they are supposed to be and that with God’s gift of peace, we can rest in
all of it.  

P.S.  Because of Sandy’s career we have not only traveled to Hawaii, we have traveled the world.  We really didn’t need that hole-in-one insurance.  

Seeking a Better Life

For four nights
during the week before Holy Week, Father Jim Sichko from Texas spoke to over
1000 people in my church of St. Michael the Archangel in Cary, NC.  We have a very large parish, over 16,000
people. The church has daily mass, Saturday evening mass and five masses every
Sunday.  Our services are blessed with
the gift of an amazing music minister, Wayne Cushner and a very dedicated group
of choir members.  I love going to mass. I’ve
gone my whole life and I love the ritual. 
I find it comforting.  I am also
grateful for the gift of the Eucharist. 
I’ve seen my church’s faults and I’ve chosen to stay and work at change
from the inside out. I’m blessed to feel this way. I know not everyone can
understand. I am one of the lucky ones. I was born into this faith in which I
feel so at home.  

Mass is an
obligation for Catholics.  We are told
that if we miss Mass without a legitimate reason, we have sinned.  Father Sichko began his introduction to the
parishioners by telling them they were welcome to leave if they were at the
Mass because of obligation and not because they wanted to attend.  I’m not sure if he had the church’s blessing
on that direction but I understood what he was saying; don’t show up without an
attitude of gratitude, embrace the gift, embrace the mystery.

How many times in
our lives have we simply shown up physically to some event but didn’t commit
emotionally?  What we invest in our
experience is directly proportional to what we receive from it.  How about school for an example to which we
can all relate?  Everyone knows the
amount of time and effort one puts into their education directly affects what
one learns.  Yes it is easier for some
than for others but that isn’t the point. 
If we aren’t fully invested in the process we miss out regardless of
whether or not the learning comes easily. 
We may not only miss out on how much and what we learn from the classes
but from our teachers, peers and the environment.

Catholic Mass is
not an entertainment form.  Regardless of
the music or the priest’s personality, it is a very traditional ritual.  We stand, sit, and kneel, over and over.  I’ve heard it called “Catholic
aerobics.” The readings change and the hymns are different weekly but the
words are always the same.  I can go to
Mass anywhere in the world, and I have, and regardless of the language, I know
most of what the priest is saying.  I
tell you this because I understand how other, more contemporary fun services
can attract people.  I can understand why
some people come to mass out of obligation and not out of want and it is
obvious when a church is filled with people who really would like to be
somewhere else.  Many won’t be singing,
they vie for seats in the back of the church; they don’t bother to say the
prayers and they leave as soon as Communion is distributed.  I understand why Father Sichko gave
permission to those unappreciative Catholics to leave. 

The people
attending the mission were there because they wanted to be.  How could I tell?  People came early.  A half hour before the mission began, the
church was almost full.  Everyone sang,
they were still singing after Father Sichko had walked out of the service.  It was an awesome sound.  I stopped singing for a short time to just
listen.  It was like the Mormon
Tabernacle Choir!  All those people
singing a joyful sound.  Why, I wondered
did so many people choose to spend four evenings here in this church?  What was of such value that they made an
effort to attend?  Certainly, this is not
the first event of its type.

I’ve never
attended a traveling preacher’s event. 
Even living here in the heart of the Bible Belt, I’ve never gone to hear
Billy Graham speak or Joel Osteen who regularly visits our area.  My only revival experience is from watching
the movie Elmer Gantry with Burt Lancaster a “hundred” years
ago.  I would hope that’s not a good
representation.  From the little I
remember he was not a very upright person. 
But, I can understand how one can get caught up in the experience.  I guess it is like the Super Bowl of
faith.  It’s exciting, all these people
gathered in one place with a similar outlook, rooting for the same team.  My question is why are they here?  What is everyone looking for?  What do they hope to gain? People seem to be
seeking something most of us cannot seem to find alone.

 

My mother was a
great fan of Robert Schuler and the Crystal Cathedral.  Thousands of people attended his services and
millions watched every Sunday.  Joel
Osteen is very popular now.  His church is
a former basketball stadium and holds over 18,000 people.  It is full every week and millions more watch
his service from home.  You don’t have to
look to the media for popular preachers or venues.  Here in Cary alone we have other churches
that attract large throngs of people each week. 
It’s the same throughout the rest of the country.  They represent every denomination:
Protestant, Mormon, Jewish, Non-denominational, Muslim, etc.  Why? 
Why are people coming together? 
Is it simply for community or are they looking for something else?  And, why do they continue to return week
after week, year after year?  Why did
over 1000 people come to St. Michael the Archangel every night for four nights
the week before Holy Week?   Was it
because it was free?  Maybe they had
nothing better to do?  No, I believe it
was because we are all looking for something beyond ourselves, beyond our
understanding, beyond our wildest imagination. 
We are looking for that which will complete us.  We are looking for God. 

People came
hoping.  They were hoping they would hear
something that would inspire them to lead richer, fuller lives.  They wanted to know more about their faith
with the hope that that would lead them to lives of more value.  They wanted to know what knowledge their
faith has gathered over the last 2000 years that would bless them and their
loved ones today and in the future.  Did
they get that?  Did they enrich their
lives and their faith?  Father Sichko had
a very direct message, a simple one but not an easy one.  He told us to “live the
gospel.”  Have you read the
gospels?  Have you read the words of
Jesus Christ?  His lessons are very
clear; care for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the suffering of this
world.  Love at all costs, all the
time.  Don’t be attached to your material
possessions and trust that God is always here to care for you.  Simple, but challenging mandates.  Father Sichko repeated these directives.  He was able to weave them around some very
entertaining stories, some very humbling stories and at the end of the fourth
night, he received a standing ovation. 
His message seemed to reach everyone there.  It was a very inspirational experience.  The energy in the church was palpable.  It was exciting! I knew I was in a holy place
with others who chose to be there.  No
one I believed was there because of an obligation but solely because they
wanted to be there. 

One of my newer
affirmations is “I read something inspirational every night and
motivational every morning.”  For
the four nights of Father’s presentation I was inspired.  Listening to him was even better than doing
my reading.  It was the difference
between looking at a photo of a bowl of my favorite ice cream and actually
being able to eat it.  I came looking for
a way to enrich my life and to add to the blessings of my family and friends
and perhaps some part of the world and I found it.  I found it in Father’s reminder to “go
live the gospel.”  I know I’ll need
reminding.  I’m sure to find a reminder
in my daily evening reading of the New Testament.  That, along with Father Sichko’s lessons will
sustain me, I hope for quite a while to come. 
I only wish, and hope that some of those non-appreciative Catholics did
show up on a night or two and they too were inspired, inspired to the point
where they find themselves wanting to come to mass, not just showing up because
they think they need to in order to escape the everlasting fires of hell but
because something magical happened, something mystical and the veil that had
hidden the blessings of their faith from them was pulled back and they can
finally see the beauty, the gift of the Mass and especially of the
Eucharist.

Is God is a Feminist?

Affirmation: I
believe that when the gifts of women are recognized and honored, the world is a
better place. 

This week, the
second week of March, 2013 the Catholic Church elected a new pope, Cardinal
Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. 
It didn’t seem to matter if you were a Catholic or not, the event
dominated the headlines around the world. 
World headlines are normally dominated by some dreadful disaster or
horrible tragedy.  I found this focus on
the election of a new the pope to be more uplifting and inspirational. The
election only took two days and five votes before white smoke, the symbol
announcing a new pope, rose above the Sistine Chapel.  Tens of thousands were there waiting in the
rain for the news.  Curiosity was
abundant.  There had been much
speculation about who the new pope would be and now, we were to finally find
out.  The questions were about whether or
not he would be a Vatican “insider.” 
Would he be from Europe as were most of the former popes or would he be
from another continent?  Would he be
younger than popes of the past?  Would he
possess a conservative or a more liberal theological perspective?  The questions and speculation were endless
and went on for weeks.  There was only
one question no one was asking.  Would
the new pope be a man?

This same week of
March there were at least two specials, one on 60 Minutes and one on Good
Morning America about a new book that had just been released by the COO of
Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  When asked if she was trying to reignite the
feminist movement she said “yes.” 
She gave the statistic that only 4% of the Fortune 500 companies were
led by women and that women still only made 70 cents to the dollar that men
make.  “The woman’s movement has
stalled.” she said.

This year is also
the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, her
book being the reason many attribute to the beginning of the woman’s
movement. 

Whether or not you
consider yourself a feminist you cannot deny that the role of women here in the
United States and in many civilized parts of the world, has changed.  Many would argue it has not been for the
better.  Many would argue women have only
begun to make inroads into being the dynamic influential presence they need to
be in order to bring more balance and compassion into our universe.  It seems to be a topic with many emotional
ties and not a simple one.  Women’s roles
in the Catholic Church have always been a topic of discussion and
controversy.  Change comes very slowly to
my church but with the election of Pope Francis, I have renewed hope. 

In the short time
he has been pope, the one word that is repeated most often is
“humility.”  His first act
after being elected was to ask the throngs waiting in the rain to see him and
to hear him was to ask for their prayers. 
Stories abound about his association with the poor, not just in name but
in deed.  He cares deeply about his
people, us the church.  His theology is
conservative. There will not be any
changes made to the church’s stand on the sacredness of life from the womb to
the tomb.  I can guarantee that.  But, perhaps with his humility he will be
more encompassing of the role of women in our church and see them as not just
holding a place of service but also deserving a place of leadership. I once
heard someone say that Jesus Christ was one of the earliest feminists.  He promoted the ethical treatment of all
people without regard to their status, race or sex. 

My thirteen year
old grandson asked his mom if I was a feminist. 
The word feminist was said with a tone of derision.  “Why” she asked. He told her it had
been explained to him that feminists hate men. 
Thank heavens for the wisdom of my daughter.  “Yes” she answered, “grandma
is a feminist.  I am a feminist.  Your step-father and your grandfather are
feminists.”  She went on to explain
that a feminist doesn’t hate men.  A
feminist promotes the well being of all people regardless of their gender.

I received the message
at an early age that I needed to be responsible for myself.  I needed to be independent.  It was before the feminist movement but it
was clear to me that I needed to find a way to care for myself. A married life,
if I married, of total domesticity would tie me to the success or failure of
another and of that relationship.  Many
women have suffered devastating losses because they did not take any steps to
create a life whereby they could care not only for themselves but perhaps for
others that might come to depend on
them. 

I clearly
remember reading The Feminine Mystique. 
It was a time before the Internet, before Oprah Winfrey and Doctor Phil.
I had just had a baby and quit my teaching job (not in that order) when we
moved to Norwich, NY, a town of 7000 people. 
I knew no one and I was lonely. I was lonely and I couldn’t figure out
why I was struggling.  I had, I believed,
everything I needed.  The baby was
healthy, I was healthy.  My husband was
kind and generous and we were beginning a whole new life.  Help! 
I think if I had already read Ms. Friedan’s book, I would have wondered
if my sense of frustration was created because of it but I had not.  When I read it, I knew she had written some
of it just for me.  I was not alone.  It gave me some comfort and a sense of
hope. 

I read that most
men today want their wives to work.  They
want them to bring in another income. 
The days of Leave it to Beaver, Dick VanDyke or even the more recent,
Raymond are gone.  The main issue however
is that women are still the main caregivers for the children and the home.  It’s a heavy load and I don’t have any easy
answers for how to lighten the burden other than to choose a partner who will
willingly do their share.  I am in awe of
any single parent who manages not only to balance all their responsibilities
but guides their children to successful, productive lives. 

I know there are
young women out there who never think about the opportunities they now have as
being hard won by women and men before them but they were hard won.  If it weren’t for their efforts, we wouldn’t
have women physicians, scientists, politicians, and attorneys.  It needs to be remembered there are women in
third world countries who are very aware of the opportunities available to
women in other parts of the world and they can only dream about them.   

Sheryl Sandberg’s
book and Betty Friedan’s book lead women to believe they can have it all.  I hope that’s true.  I hope it’s true too that with the
installation of Pope Francis my church, the Catholic Church will finally
recognize what it has been missing all these centuries.  They haven’t uplifted at least half of their
population, the women of their church so many of whom are keeping the faith
alive and vibrant.  Yes, I am a
feminist.  I’d like to see women
priests.  Id like to see a woman
pope.  I’d like to see women being
treated with respect and dignity and women having the same opportunities as
anyone else.  Who knows, if my wishes are
granted maybe I’ll even get to one day see a woman become president of the
United States.

Rising with Christ

Affirmation: I know by meditating on Jesus throughout
my day, I am in union with the Divine, miracles are created and without
struggle my life is transformed in ways beyond my imagination.

Lent is upon us. As I write this Ash Wednesday has passed. Lent is
one of my favorite times of the year.  In
the Catholic tradition, ashes are smeared on one’s forehead in the sign of a
cross with the words, “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt
return.” Genesis 3:19.   It is a
reminder of our mortality and of the promises of Christ of our life to come.
Lent in the Catholic faith is the time to prepare for the death and most
importantly, the miraculous resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Wow!
What a story! And, we are called to travel with Him on His journey. We are
called to stay present to the time, the season, the death and the rebirth. It’s
a time that takes many of us out of the depths of “winter” and into the
fullness of “spring.”

One of the challenges offered to us during Lent is to make it a
time of sacrifice. We are encouraged to deny ourselves and to do works of
mercy. Oh, I don’t think it has to be any great effort but we are called to do
something so that we are more aware of the 46 days; so we stay more present to
the Lenten season. It’s a gift we give ourselves.
 

If you grew up with this concept of Lent, you know the first
question most people are asked about their Lenten practice is, “What are you
giving up for Lent?” While I understand it is a season of fasting and
abstinence, it’s also a time to rest in the Lord, to take time to listen to
God’s voice, to the voices of our Angels and Guides. It’s a time to share those
things that are truly precious to me; my time, talent and treasure. It’s a time
to plant some seeds and to tend to them so they may produce the flowers and
fruits of love and joy. Now, that is something that takes quite a bit of
guidance. What needs to do be done to create such a bountiful harvest?

Several years ago, Father Emmanuel from Africa gave the Ash
Wednesday homily. He had a very eastern approach to Lent. He said he had
watched our American culture take on more, do more and struggle more during
Lent and he wondered if maybe we shouldn’t consider “doing less.” Doing less!!
Oh my, now that’s a self-discipline I might find very difficult to embrace. I
like to “do.” I like to be busy, busy, busy. I like to think I’m making a
difference in the world. I’m contributing; I’m making the world a better place
to live. And now, I am being challenged to do less.  At another time another visiting African
priest also presented the concept of doing with less.  This time he suggested we fast not only from
food but from the internet, the TV, radio and newspapers.  Instead of focusing on worldly events, he
suggested we use all that free time to connect to God.

How can denial and service be a gift we give ourselves? Well, it
takes 40 days to develop a habit and this type of exercise can be seen as an
opportunity. I know many people who use the Lenten sacrifice as a time to diet.
I can’t count the number of people who have shared with me that they give up
chocolate or sugar. Maybe that’s worked well for them. Perhaps every time they
have that craving, they find themselves more present to Christ and his
sacrifice. But, besides a restrictive diet, we need to take up the badge of
service, find something we can do for another. There are so many in such dire
straits right now. How can I be of more service than I already am? Maybe I need
to go through the house and give up a few coats and other items of clothing.
One of my dear friends is always reminding me that someone else could be using
the items I have left untouched for months and in some cases, years. Perhaps,
it’s a time for me to be a prayer warrior. How can I add more prayer to my daily
practice especially for those most in need? Maybe I can send a note or make a
call once or twice a week to friends I haven’t touched base with in a while? I
can pray for them, offer up a day for them, and send them a visible sign of my
love, like a note or a card, even an email might work. I’m sure you can think
of many other ways to give back.
 

And, what can I give up? What new habit can I develop over the
Lenten season that won’t simply reduce my waistline but will add to the quality
of my life, my life and hopefully the lives of all those I touch? I decided to
give up ingratitude. Ingratitude is defined in the dictionary as “forgetfulness
or poor return for kindness received.” A synonym is “thanklessness.”

I live a life full of abundant blessings. I am a very lucky woman.
I am loved by my family and have many wonderful friends. I need and want
nothing. I am beyond lucky and extremely grateful. I am safe, secure, and
healthy. But, every so often envy slips into my psyche. I’m admitting it. I can
still find myself listening to or watching others and wonder what I did wrong.
Why didn’t I make that choice; why didn’t I travel that path; why do their
lives appear so easy, so full? Sometimes it’s little things that I find myself
dwelling on and other times, it’s some major issue. But, that doesn’t serve me
or anyone else. Whether I give credit to God, to fate or to my own hard work
for the life I now live, being ungrateful is plain wrong. By giving up
ingratitude I found myself noticing when I undermine my own happiness and I
stop and let it go. Perhaps by letting go of ingratitude for 46 days, I’ll
develop a new habit. Maybe by the end of Lent, I will rise too, to a new
awareness, a new way of thinking about my life; a way that brings me and those
in my life, a sense of greater peace and joy.

I have accepted the challenges presented to me for this season and
have decided that with my “free” time, I will pray more and I will listen
harder. I believe that with these steps in practice, I  open myself to God’s grace and move forward
in whatever direction I am led. I’ve decided not to be in charge but am hoping
that by focusing on my faith, on my relationship with Christ, I will be led to
that place where it’s not up to me how I use my time, treasure and talent, but
up to God and that with the guidance of my Angels and Guides in those quiet
moments, I will be used as their instrument.

This is my Lenten practice.

You Can Change the World

Affirmation:  All
things are possible through God.

Forty
women were present at the weekend retreat. 

The
command was “Women of God, you are called to change the world.”  I panicked. 
Maybe now would be a good time for me to run out of the room.

I’m
working hard enough trying to be the best me possible or somedays I’m working
on simply accepting myself just as I am. 
I really couldn’t imagine being responsible for the entire world.  I’ve felt responsible for my entire world for
years, my family, friends and community. 
It’s a daunting exercise and now here I am being told, not asked, but
told I am being called to take on the entire world. 

Yes, I
believe the world needs help.  I believes
it needs to change.  It doesn’t take much
awareness to know our world is very troubled and sad.  I pray daily for wisdom for our world
leaders, a prayer introduced to me by a friend of long ago and I pray daily for
world peace.  Can you imagine how
different life would be were we all at peace with one another?  At the least maybe they’d take away the
security lines at the airport and we could leave on our shoes, belts and
watches. 

“Let
there be peace and earth and let it begin with me.  Let there be peace on earth a peace that was
meant to be.” We sing this song often in church, The Prayer of Saint
Francis.  My dear friend and guide,
Valerie Kelly, use to emphasize the need for more feminine energy in the world
and how much better off the world would be with a stronger female
presence.  I would hope that if we have
not moved too far away from our feminine selves, women running the world would
lead to a kinder, more nurturing place and people.  I believe most women are very protective of
the greatest product of their lives and would do all in their power to prevent
sending their children off to suffer war and perhaps to die. 

At the Not
So Big Life Workshop
, Sarah Susanka encouraged us to “run towards
those things” of which we are afraid. 
She suggested some of our greatest learning experiences would come from
not retreating from that which repels us. 
I took a deep breath and decided to continue with the church program for
which I had registered.  After eight
weeks of study, a weekend retreat was being presented and I decided to go all
the way and see what other life lessons might come my way. 

The
number of women who had taken the time and made the effort to attend this
event, made me realize how much need there is for women to spiritually feed
ourselves and to join forces.  I had
decided not to worry about the command to “save the world” but
instead to allow the richness of the rest of the program’s material and the
power of the women’s spirit to empower and nurture me.  Our first speaker was Theresa Davis. 

There she
stood a tiny woman perhaps in her late 70’s or early 80’s ready to share with
us the secret of leading a rich, powerful life. 
She had been with the lay ministry Madonna House for fifty seven years
and as she spoke, I felt the walls around my heart fall.  Her manner of sharing did not cause me to
erect any protective barriers. I had no resistance to her.  I just wanted to absorb all she had to
share.  It was a very unusual response
for me.  I must confess to being quite a
skeptic, always questioning but not this morning.  This morning when Theresa’s time was up, the
whole group moaned, “no, let her continue.”  She too was calling us, the women of God, to
change the world but not by ourselves, together and by allowing God to work in
and through each of us.  “Yes”
I thought, “all things are possible with God.” 

Theresa
went on to say that we are all being called to become saints.  Oh, no! 
I was just getting my head around “saving the world” and now,
I need to also become a saint!  Being a
cradle Catholic I’m somewhat familiar with many of the saints and I am here to
tell you, they did not have an easy time of it. 
The saints of old were tortured and killed.  Many appeared just plain crazy, hearing the
voice of God and going off to do really weird stuff.  Our most recent saint, Mother Teresa had a
very difficult life.  The women and men
of her order only posses a few worldly items: a sari, a bucket and a thin
mattress.  Certainly, she made the world
a better place and I am in awe of her and her works but I like the comforts of
home.  I like bathing in a tub or shower
and not using a bucket and I really like my bed, and my clothes.  No, sainthood is not something I’d ever had
on my radar.  But, Theresa Davis was not
going to let me off so easily.  Her words
and her tone had already drawn me to her and now she was going to give me a few
tools to help lead me down a holier path. 
The first tool was being present to “the duty of the
moment.”  So simple, so very
difficult. 

The call
of every spiritual discipline I have ever studied or read about is, “be
present to the moment.”  Live
consciously!  Theresa shared that
“God is only present in the moment.” 
Then came the second step towards sainthood. She echoed Mother Teresa’s
famous saying, “Do little things with great love.”  Again, so simple and yet so very
difficult.  Finally, she extolled us to
live more simply.  The question was,
“What’s holding you back? What is the baggage you are lugging
around?”  I immediately thought this
was going in the direction of the sari, bucket and thin mattress but no, it was
way harder than that. Our “baggage” Theresa said, was our: anger,
resentments, pride, self-deceit, envy and greed.  I immediately wanted to grab that bucket and
just go with that.  This was way more
difficult.  Yes, difficult but certainly
well worth working towards.  Certainly a
project which I’m sure God would like to be involved. 

My faith
teaches that once we die and enter into heaven, we all become saints.  I think this is a good thing because while I
want to do my part to “save the world” and I’m willing to accept that
I’m being called to be a “saint,” the probability of my achieving
these feats even with God’s help seems to me quite slim.  So, on days when I’m simply trying to accept
myself as I am, I’ll know there’s great hope for me, for all of us, in the
future, in the afterlife. 

Ingratitude

Affirmation:  I let go of ingratitude.
Lent is almost upon us.  Ash Wednesday is next week.  Lent in the Catholic faith is the time to prepare for the death and most importantly, the miraculous resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Wow!  What a story!  And, we are called to travel with Him on His journey.  We are called to stay present to the time, the season, the death and the rebirth.  It’s a time that takes many of us out of the depths of “winter” and into the fullness of “spring.” 
One of the challenges offered to us during Lent is to make it a time of Sacrifice.  We are encouraged to deny ourselves and to do works of mercy.  Oh, I don’t think it has to be any great effort but we are called to do something so that we are more aware of the 40 days; so we stay more present to the Lenten season.  It’s a gift we give ourselves.

How can denial and service be a gift?  Well, it takes 40 days to develop a habit and this type of exercise can be seen as an opportunity.  I know many people who use the Lenten sacrifice as a time to diet.  I can’t count the number of people who have shared with me that they have given up chocolate or sugar.  Maybe that’s worked well for them.  Perhaps every time they have that craving, they find themselves more present to Christ and his sacrifice.  But, besides a restrictive diet, we need to take up the badge of service, find something we can do for another.  There are so many in such dire straits right now.  How can I be of more service than I already am?  Maybe I need to go through the house and give up a few coats and other items of clothing.  One of my dear friends is always reminding me that someone else could be using the items I have left untouched for months and in some cases, years.  Perhaps, it’s a time for me to be a prayer warrior.  How can I add more prayer to my daily practice especially for those most in need?  Maybe I can send a note or make a call once or twice a week to friends I haven’t touched base with in a while?  I can pray for them, offer up a day for them, send them a visible sign of my love, like a note or a care, even an email might work.  I’m sure you can think of many other ways you can give back.

And, what can I give up?  What new habit cans I develop over the Lenten season that won’t simply reduce my waistline but will add to the quality of my life, my life and hopefully the lives of all those I touch?  I have decided to give up ingratitude.  Ingratitude is defined in the dictionary as “forgetfulness or poor return for kindness received.”  A synonym is “thanklessness.” 

I live a life full of abundant blessings.  I am a very lucky woman.  I am loved by my family and have many wonderful friends.  I need and want nothing.  I am beyond lucky and extremely grateful.  I have hit the jackpot of life.  I am safe, secure, and healthy.  But, every so often envy slips into my psyche.  I’m admitting it.  I can still find myself listening to or watching others and wonder what I did wrong.  Why didn’t I make that choice; why didn’t I travel that path; why do their lives appear so easy, so full?  Sometimes it’s little things that I find myself dwelling on and other times, it’s some major issues.  But, that doesn’t serve me or anyone else.  Whether I credit to God, to fate or to my own hard work for the life I now live, being ungrateful is plain wrong.  With my newest affirmation; “I let go of ingratitude” I find myself noticing when I am undermining my own happiness and I stop and let it go.  Perhaps by practicing letting go of ingratitude for 40 days, I’ll develop a new habit.  Maybe by the end of Lent, I will rise too, to a new awareness, a new way of thinking about my life; a way that brings me and those in my life, a sense of greater peace and joy.