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AUTHOR
Mark  »

Purchasing Disney+ as a Christmas present for our five-year-old daughter, and two-year-old son provided to be a wise decision. With sheltering-in-place (what week are we on?) there has been an uptick in screen time for my kids. To be fair, there’s been an uptick in screen time for my wife and me too. 

 My kids have similar tastes in movies. When they argue amongst each other it’s not too frequently about what to watch but rather who gets to sit in the “best” corner of the couch. Recently, they have been watching the Toy Story series -- the adventures of two toys, Woody (a cowboy) and Buzz Lightyear (a space ranger). First released in 1995, twenty-four years later, Toy Story Four was released just last year. I am roughly the same age as Andy, the boy to whom the toys belong and I’ve very much grown up with this series, enjoy it, and thus am most pleased my children request to watch these films.

Circumstances change; newness arrives and oldness commences; adversity cycles through. The values of loyalty and commitment conspire with self-identity to sculpt the edifice of love. The name of this type of love is friendship. Through thick-and-thin, joys and sorrows, strenuous disagreements and the like, these movies are about creating and maintaining friendship. How prescient for my kids to select films, animated allegories, about friendship in the time of adversity. Friendship is a wonderful, beautiful thing. And thanks to Toy Story, that ear-worm of Randy Newman’s, “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” is on repeat in my house. That’s a good thing. If my kids can cultivate friendships they will do well and go far. So far, they could repeat the words of Buzz Lightyear with gusto and shout, “to infinity, and beyond!” 

 

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AUTHOR
Joan  »

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
(Romans 12:12)

At first, this quote from Romans is easier to read in “normal” times.  But, without a doubt, these are not in any way normal times to most, if not all, of us.  However, I find a surprising sense of calm emerges when I reflect about the circumstances in which these words were written.  The people this admonition was directed at were having some pretty rough times.  They probably often felt besieged and unsteady in their daily lives.  The uncertainty of the future was very real and they had little to depend on BUT hope, patience and prayer.

I remind myself of this passage often as I move along in these challenging times.  To be “patient in (my) troubles” often seems too high a bar but when I pray I find it is possible not only to be patient but to be joyful.

What simple phrase can help you sustain a sense of patience, hope and joy during these days of uncertainty?

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Unknown Faith
AUTHOR
Jill  »

During this time of uncertainty, we must remember to keep the faith. Our days right now are being strung together with news broadcast and media, that continue to alter our daily existence. It feels like a “tall order” some days to have faith in the unknown of tomorrow, but we must remain vigilant in the encouragement of one another. As we safety connect from a far via our phones, computers and through our prayers. We must keep our faith in God our redeemer; He has brought humanity through the wilderness and will do it again. For all the uncertain things, have faith we will overcome together.

Share your faith, and think of ways to encourage someone today?

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AUTHOR
Joan  »

When I consider the aspect of my life I’ve always had faith in I am struck by how this faith was based upon assumption.  I had “faith” that I would go to my job and earn a paycheck, my grandchildren would get up and go to school and learn with their friends in their classroom, I would go to the store, and get my haircut and hug my friends.

The word Faith comes from the Latin fides meaning Trust or Confidence.  I had confidence in these aspects of my life.  I trusted the normalcy of my life.  I rarely considered God in this equation and in that way I suppose it was not truly Faith as traditionally viewed.  But for me it was a foundational container for life.

Pandemic has led me to reflect upon what I really should place my faith in.  The foundation of my daily life has been shown to be only assumptions.  I need to reach out to God each morning for the grace to embrace a much stronger and less presumptuous source of Faith.  My faith is grounded in a daily renewal in a belief in a loving and consistently present God.  My hope is that once I am allowed to once again assume haircuts, hugs, classrooms and offices I will recall my true source of Faith in the time of pandemic.

How do you find faith in these times?  Has it changed with this altered reality?  How do you maintain your sense of a loving and present God? 

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No Out Doors
AUTHOR
Jill  »

In this time of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, let us be mindful that our obedience is better than our sacrifices.

 Like most children I frequently spent my summer afternoons under the rays of the beautiful sun. Skipping rope, riding bikes and mapping out grand adventures with my closest pals. Round 6 o’clock each eve I could hear my mother call for me, cause dinner time had arrived. Off I went, each evening tracing my shadow against the endless palette of the pebbled cement. In for meal time and if it was a nice night I could join my mother and other neighbors on our front porch taking in the full body of the sweet summers night air.

 Now there was one unparticular day while letting the afternoon pass with my brother out front, a new face appeared on our block, a lightly freckled face girl with braces. Her lanky limbs shot out from her cutoff jeans and overly decorated puff paint shirt like fresh bamboo. As she grew nearer she shouted “Hey, yall live here?”, her accent gave me pause, was it Georgia or maybe Florida, “how cool” I thought. “Uh, yeah” my brother spoke before I could finish my thought. Cinching in every inch of my beaming excitement, “a new friend…YES” internally I exclaimed. As I gained my composure, responding with a faint “yea”, and a follow up “where you from?”. So poised I was (not, eye roll), well as you can imagine we became fast friends. I introduced her to the neighborhood crew, and later learned she was visiting from Virginia, and her aunt lived at the end of my street.

 And so now with each cascading afternoon I lunged myself down my front steps breeching the threshold of our daily escapades. This one day stood out among the rest, time seemed to stretch and glide by like a good piece of 25 cents sticky bubblegum. As the warmth of the sunset rolled over our backs like a snug tide, our laughter drowned out my mother’s distant call.  I knew I had to go, my shadow grew bigger with each additional 5 minutes I tacked on to my now sunless fulfilled afternoon. “Jillllllllll…..” I could hear my mother from the front porch, I was in deep to say the least. “See you tomorrow” I yelled while reaching for all my lil’ knick-knacks. Scurrying toward my house I began to rehearse my apology, as I reached home my face puddled in remorse, quietly climbing the stairs towards my mother, “Mom I’m sorry”. “No TV, no outdoors and no front porch  til the end of the week” she exclaimed as I shrunk passed her. Up to my room I went, fell upon my bed of fluff filled baby animals. I lingered for while clacking my sneakers together, trying to rewind each tid bit of the afternoon. “Three whole days…it wasn’t even that late…I should have just come home…” on and on I debated my actions internally. My mother peaked her head in “Your plate is on the table”, before she closed the door I yielded another “sorry” passed my lips and buried my face in my pillow.

 Well if you are reading this, I survived. The following Monday I got home from day camp, tossed my backpack by the front door and swoosh toward my friend’s house I went. Buzz…Buzz, I could feel the electricity of the door ring from the first floor of her Aunts apartment. “Hellooo” I hear a woman from the back porch yell out. “Hi, my name is Jill and I ammm uhhh…”, and before I could stammer another word the woman said “oh yes, Jill I’m sorry you just missed her she left for home this morning. “School goes back in session for Chany soon, but she left you this note.” The side gate creaked as I passed through to grab the glittery sticker covered letter. The woman could see the sheer sadness that had come over me and tried to assure me should be back to visit by the holidays. It made it no better, but I thanked her anyway. As if I was walking in damp sand my legs felt cumbersome, approaching the bottom stair of the porch I plummeted my eyes mystified, with unease I opened my pleated note and read:

“Dear Jill, sorry for getting you in trouble. I had lots of fun this summer. Here is my phone number so K.I.T. 703-555-1993, stay cool, Chantel”

 

 

 

 

 

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A Sacred Act
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Ah…the things we seem to sacrifice as we move through our lives.  We might sacrifice a night’s sleep to sit with a dying friend, a big expenditure in order to save money for a grandchild’s camp fees, a Saturday in order to help an elderly friend move  When we do this we are reflecting the true meaning of the word Sacrifice.  The genesis of this word is sacrificus – sacre meaning holy or sacred and facere meaning to make or to do.  This seems important to me.  When someone sacrifices for me I need to see the holiness, the sacredness of this act.  And when I am called to relinquish something important to me can I do so with a sense of the holy rite of compassion and love that this action reflects.

What have you recently sacrificed and did you feel the true depth of how this impacts your world and those around you?

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The True Cost
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Be careful what you sacrifice. Be mindful of how your sacrifice affects both you and those around you. Do discernment.

 

Two be’s and one action help buttress how we engage in sacrifice, because by itself, I believe sacrifice is neither good nor bad, it simply is. I believe this because some sacrifice is brought on due to external factors, such as a change in health, income, or relationships. These changes prompt us to perhaps make sacrifices to our routines to ensure health, make sacrifices to ensure ends-meet, and make sacrifices to improve relationships. Some sacrifices are brought about by internal means: spiritual discipline, psychological well-being, a new goal that requires you sacrifice the amount of time you’d spend elsewhere.


If we “have” to sacrifice, or if we “choose” to sacrifice, we must employ discernment to know the true cost of the sacrifice and to take into consideration how our sacrifice might affect others. Discernment is key. If I choose to give up caffeine, to sacrifice caffeine either for the sake of a spiritual discipline (like Lent) or simply to assist in better health, I need to ensure that my going into caffeine withdrawal should not make those around me miserable.  If I sacrifice my time to help the team at work, I need to be mindful that the time I’m giving up outside of work is perhaps time I might spend unwinding, not time I’d spend with my kids, if at all possible. We are interconnected, what we choose to sacrifice can very well affect us and those around us and so it’s very important to be careful, be observant of our sacrifice, and discern if the sacrifice is achieving the positive end and/or how the sacrifice is affecting other aspects of life.

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A Path Above
AUTHOR
Jill  »

If I had to create a timeline of my life, it would not be a linear image of my fondest memories. But it would be an unambiguous fanciful record of my life’s heartbreaks against the backdrop of my hopes and dreams. The unveiling truth of where my focus has resided gives me pause, I can trace the intermission of my soul when I chose to inhabit the promises of God. For years uncertainty and doubt caused chaos and confusion, but the day I shifted my view toward Jesus I became liberated in the path ahead.

 

Where is your focus leading you? Try to develop a daily practice of focusing on the promises of God when you feel yourself veering off your path.

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The Household Hearth
AUTHOR
Joan  »

The genesis of the word “focus” is Latin for household hearth.  This makes perfect sense given the hearth in the house was the focal point of the household.  It kept the family warm and fed and was the gathering place for all the members of the household.  As I pondered this I became aware of the appropriateness for my life.  What I focus on does play a major role in how I feel about life – how well I am kept warm and fed emotionally and spiritually.  When I focus on the greater good, the world outside of my small needy self, I do feel a part of the great whole.  The things I focus on in my daily life do impact how nourished and sustained I feel.  My focus in life is my “household hearth” and I am called upon to be as conscious as possible to keep the fire warm.  I try to do that with prayer, meditation, mindful action and reaction and a focus on the important things in my life and the lives of those around me.   

What do you focus on and how well does that nourishes you and those you love and care for?

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Life In Focus
AUTHOR
Mark  »

What’s in focus is what we see in front of us. Equally as important to our sight is our peripheral vision, which is not in focus but rather blurry and off to the side. Pope Francis speaks often on focusing on the peripheries. To do this we must turn our heads, our attention, to bring the periphery into focus. When we make this movement to look at, observe, or otherwise pay attention – which is focusing – that which was previously out of focus and off to the side is transformed into our center of interest and clarity. As such, we first have to choose what we want to focus on, and then we must move in the direction of that object to make it clear, make it our focus.

As an example, if we want to focus on a person or focus on the conversation we are having with a person we must make sure we move our sight unto that person and away from things such as the cell phone in our hand. To focus is to provide definition through attention, and people – not things – should be our focus.

What helps you focus? For me, I prefer quiet and order. Noise, even music I like tends to distract me more than it enables me to focus on a person or a task.

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