Lent Vignettes: On Denial & Affirmations

The practice of Lent has often been associated with denial and giving up certain things in order to remind Christians of the sacrifices that Christ made for us. In the practice of Lent, there has been an emphasis on fasting, on denial, and on taking things away. In a different pattern, the idea of Lent can be practiced with mindfulness. Tracking your Carbon Footprint Instead of thinking about ways to fast or to give up, the idea of  simply drinking a glass of fresh water and saying a prayer of thankfulness for clean water can be a new practice. And visiting the site where you may track your Carbon Footprint may lead to new ideas about ways to ‘green’ your home. These are affirmations, and positive ways to declare your intentions of living pro-actively and mindfully going forward. In keeping with the practice, the Book of Genesis in the Bible begins by telling us that God asked his newly created human to tend to the Garden and till the Earth! (Genesis 2:15) We are keepers of the Garden and the little blue dot which is the beauty of Earth. Think of a list this week of affirming actions you can take to help become a better steward of the Earth during Lent.

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Your Monday Muse: Awakening your Enthusiasm!

Enthusiasms In the Bible, Romans tells us this: Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord-Romans 12:11. How wonderful it would be to become like a child again! Waking each day with enthusiasm for something new and wonderful. We are all children of God so that enthusiasm and wonder is still within us. When we wake each day, there is something in our core, our inner spirit, that can be awakened to perceive the wonder of something new in our lives. That zeal for living that is mentioned in Romans, is something we can find in our lives if it has been missing. When we help others, and if we are of service to those in need, we can find fulfillment and a new kind of zest for living. But when we are spiritually quiet and we find time to center our thoughts, we can explore new ideas and make plans and goals that will energize us.  And so it follows that when we are passionate about our lives, and thankful for the opportunities that are before us, that childlike enthusiasm can be found within us. Being Still Sometimes it is hard to be still in this world. Right now, I am preparing for the coming Tropical storm in our area. So the world moves at a faster pace around us. From past experience, I know that many people will ‘panic-buy’ and they will become agitated and at times even downright crabby and rude. It would be nice to just hand out cards that say: Be Still (& Chill) and Know God! The line we always hear that is easier to say and harder to do is to “Be Still.” That stillness is what we speak of as an inner peace that is not easy to grasp. But when we take the time to listen, it will help us to be still. In one book from Unity teachings, The Seven Whispers, author Christina Baldwin talks of being still and moving ‘at the pace of guidance.’ We are guided by many things in the course of our busy days. And when life is speeding up, it’s hard to listen and even harder to slow down. Meditation is one way to begin to move at the pace of guidance. But we should also look for signs during the course of the day, and trust in our own inner voices that will help find the space we need. By focusing on the thought that there is a higher power guiding us, who is the one in the drivers seat, it will help us to pace ourselves and discover the space of guidance that helps and heals. Awakening There is a wonderful movie based on a true story called Awakenings. It stars Robert De Niro as a man who has been in a comatose state and suddenly a new drug helps him to awaken and discover the world around him. Sadly, the drug has side effects and the awakening doesn’t last. And in the beloved movie that has lasted for about 80 years, The Wizard of Oz,  it tells of a young girl who awakens and finds herself in another realm of reality. She discovers that the power she seeks is with her all along, and it was a simple task to bring her back to the home she loved. Awakening to discover something new and exciting is one of the most joyful parts of our lives. When we see new babies and then grandchildren, or if we find love or have joy for those who have now discovered a long-lasting love, we want to celebrate. The story of the Prodigal Son ends with a joyful celebration for a beloved son who has returned at last. All of these are awakenings in our lives that bring us joy and energy. We spoke last week of doubts that are there to haunt all of us at times. When we trust in our inner voice to guide us and be still, we can awaken to new discoveries and joy in our lives. We awaken with enthusiasm each day when there is something new and wonderful out there on the horizon. The passage from the Bible in Genesis this week tells it all. Jacob awakens from sleep and realizes the Lord was with him all along, but he did not know it! That is the awakening that brings us our enthusiasms to begin each new day. Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place-and I did not know it!”- Genesis 28:16 Mantra: I will awake from sleep with enthusiasms and joy to begin the day. Each challenge I can meet with zeal and a renewed focus on what I want out of life. I will be still and know God and the holy spirit that I seek in my life through prayer and meditation and focus. And finally, I will plan for a new awakening to the continued enthusiasm and zest for life that is part of my own awakening.

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Monday Muse: On the calm before the storm in our journeys

Calm We have often heard the phrase, “The calm before the storm,’ when we know there is some incident that will occur to disrupt and upset the calm that is felt in our lives. We can connect the feeling with an undercurrent of unease. In our lives, there needs to be deep roots where we may travel, in our own minds and in our center of consciousness, and then find a calm that will last. In the Daily Word, the suggestion is to ‘enter the sanctuary of my heart.’ When we seek the inner peace we have often alluded to in our musings, we can understand that there is a centered place in our hearts and souls that will become a sanctuary of calmness in any gathering storm in our lives.   Journeys We often speak of the journeys we take in our lives. There is a wonderful quote from the late David Bowie that speaks to that. “The truth of course, is that there is no journey…We are arriving and departing all at the same time.” I believe our journey continues throughout our life, and that the core of what Bowie is telling us is the celebration of life we need to be aware of. The mindfulness and appreciation of the sights and sounds that we find each day become valuable when we realize the fleeting nature of time. And after the year of Pandemic, it also helps us to appreciate the journey we are on. When we travel to new places, or simply get busy with work and exciting new goals, we often lose sight of the world around us. That is the journey that we can appreciate when we focus our core being on the calm that is found within us. Those of us who love writing and film can appreciate the stories that tell of exciting journeys. One of my favorite films is still the original “The Wizard of Oz.” The tale centers on a fantastic journey to another realm, and yet the core of the story is about a young girl who wants nothing more than to return to her simple life in a farmhouse in Kansas. That speaks to the journey we are all on. We seek nothing more than love and happiness in its truest form.  Breakthroughs In our life, we are always looking for breakthroughs. New developments are some of the most exciting and even blessed of occasions. Witness the breakthrough we have all experienced with the miracle of a vaccine that has helped millions upon millions to prevent the dreaded disease of COVID-19! We all know of scientific breakthroughs, and the technological breakthroughs in our lifetimes. But in everyone life, there is a breakthrough of sorts when we discover something new about ourselves and about those we love. We often call them “AHA!” moments in our life. The breakthroughs that allow us to succeed and to learn and to find new ways to make our lives easier. These are all blessed events and exciting discoveries that we learn to look for and to pray they will help us in our journey. That is the reason the Growing Group is so called…Breakthroughs that allow us to grow in our spiritual journey can mean that we have the will and the strength to move mountains. The reason for the journey is a wonderful and transforming part of life that gives us hope and strength, courage and conviction each day. When we focus and find the inward calm, realize the journey of discovery allows us to meet new people and to seek out wonderful places and things. We can then allow that our entire life makes up a miraculous journey of discovery. The breakthroughs in our lives leave us with wonder and awe in our hearts and minds. And we realize the new challenges that we face each day allow us to arrive and depart at the threshold of a breakthrough in our spiritual journey of life. The Lord has made my Journey Successful- Genesis 24: 56  

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Monday Muse: The Laughter and love found in a Father’s Blessing

Fathers’ Blessing The blessing of a father figure in your life can mean so many things. For those of us who are and have been lucky enough to have a strong father figure or a positive role model in our lives, then Father’s Day is a day for joy and laughter, for celebration and reflection. In my own case, my father has been gone for many years now. But the memories we share as well as the love that he shared with his family, along with his ideals, are always there to carry with us through life. So even when your father is no longer physically there, in spirit he is always a part of your life. Togetherness Togetherness is defined as a happy feeling of affection and closeness to other people, especially your friends and family. It’s a warm fellowship among members of a family and includes the quality and state of, or condition of, being together. With spiritual love that can widen the circle of fellowship in your life, we can know that with strong role models as our guide, we are blessed. Why? Because we have the ability to open our hearts to the Spirit within, and to embrace others in a circle of love and respect, of honor and care. Laughter Laughter is one of the best gifts that we can bring to others. It has a healing balm. My family, often described as “Black Irish,” nonetheless is one where there is much laughter and fellowship within the confines of the circle. And that has always been a spiritual balm that helps to heal many inner wounds we may suffer in our lives. The Bible encourages laughter often. Jesus would surround himself with those who were ‘salts of the earth’ types where laughter is abundant. And in the Old Testament, Sarah says, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”- Genesis 21:6 So in the ways of family and friendship, and for the ties that bind us together, we should seek joy and laughter in our friendships and in our own lives as well. Bible Verse: I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness-Proverbs 4:11 Mantra: This week, I will reflect upon the many blessings that are bestowed by my Father in Heaven, and for those that were passed on from my spiritual father on Earth. Along with those role models who have served as Father figures in my life, I will honor the living and those who have died. And in seeking bonds of togetherness, with friends and family, I’ll bring the ideals that my own father would want me to bring to the table as I serve others. And one of the main things I will seek out for myself is to bring joy and laughter to the table when I am together with friends and family.

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