Midweek Mirth

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

So, let’s smile a little!

Just A Note

The first graders were attending their first music lesson. The teacher was trying to begin at the beginning. She drew a musical staff on the blackboard and asked a little girl to come up and write a note on it. The little girl went to the blackboard, looked thoughtful for a minute and wrote, “Dear Aunt Emma, just a short note to tell you I’m fine.”

And now for the bonus …

Call The Bank

A daughter called her mother at work to say she was to phone “Josh” at the bank about her account. So, she called her bank and the operator asked her what Josh’s last name was, and she explained he hadn’t left his last name.

“There are 1,500 employees in this building, ma’am,” the operator advised her rather sharply.

After a few more brusque comments, the woman was becoming angry so she asked the operator for her name. “Danielle,” she said.

“And your last name?” the woman asked.

“Sorry,” she replied, “we’re not allowed to give out last names.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Laughter is the sun which drives winter from the human face. — Victor Hugo

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Why

So, you want to write a book. We have been tackling the five Ws and the H … that’s What, When, Where, Why. Who, and How. We started a couple of weeks ago with What, followed by When and Where. Today we’ll discuss Why. They are all interconnected.

This is perhaps one of the hardest parts for a writer. You can have the greatest idea in the world. Your thoughts can be riveting. Your story might click mechanically, words flowing like a master wordsmith. But if you can’t answer the question — “Why am I writing this?” — the sustainability of your work is in peril.

For some — especially journalers, poets, and to a large extent, bloggers – the answer is self-satisfaction. They’re not necessarily writing for profit. They are satisfied capturing their words and sharing them with a narrow audience.

For others it is the prestige of seeing your name in print and, hopefully, a few coins to offset the costs. As I mentioned before, we’ve glamorized the author profession and we’ve made it easier to self-publish at low cost. The reality is the majority of writers are just squeaking by or writing to an audience of one. You do have to realize most writers sell very few books. Most writers look at their sales reports and do back flips when one book is sold at a time on Amazon.

That’s not to say there are not success stories. All I am saying is, take off the rose colored glasses and recognize successful books and authors are the result of hard work, perseverance, and sometimes a little bit of  luck.

I always advise prospective authors to write for themselves first. It might be a reflection of your beliefs or your history. Remember, these are your thoughts. The value is in the eyes of the reader. Count yourself as your No. 1 reader and expand from there to family and friends, then outside your circle. Don’t try to do it in reverse.

The “why” is the heart of your story. It drives your tale and leads to development of the other W’s and H as you develop the story scene by scene. But, always remember to ask yourself, “Why am I writing this?”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Beware of your thoughts for they become words. Beware of your words for they become actions. Beware of your actions for they become habits. Beware of your habits for they become character. Beware of your character for it becomes your destiny. — Diane VonFurstenberg

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Eat That Frog

There’s an old saying that says … “If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!”

Brian Tracy says your “frog” should be the most difficult item on your things to do list, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate; because, if you eat that first, it’ll give you energy and momentum for the rest of the day. But, if you don’t … and let him sit there on the plate and stare at you while you do a hundred unimportant things, it can drain your energy and you won’t even know it.

And those are our Words for the Week.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If God is the author, trust Him with the end of the story!

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Using Time Wisely to Cultivate the Seeds of Faith

Every day has 1,440 minutes. If we sleep eight hours a day, that leaves us awake 960 minutes a day. What do we do with those minutes? How do we pass the precious time God gives us each day of our lives?

Of course, many of us may work eight hours or more each day, yet that stills leaves us with around 500 minutes, or eight hours each day to ourselves. How much of this time do we use to cultivate an intimate relationship with God?

Many of us spend hours and hours on the computer, watching TV, or on our phones. And how much time do we pass in superficial conversation, or in gossip and negative talk? Then there’s the hours we give to our hobbies and pleasure-seeking activities.

In other words, each day God gives us a precious gift — 1,400 minutes of life. He then gives us the freedom to do whatever we want with that time. As Christians, however, we must ask ourselves, What are we doing to use that time wisely? Are we being good “stewards” or administrators of this sacred gift of time? What are we filling our minds and lives with each day, and what are we cultivating within our spirit?

We who profess a love for Jesus Christ and His Church, do we find 30 minutes a day for concentrated, intense prayer and conversation with God? What about 20 minutes? Or even 15 minutes?

Imagine, we are awake for 960 minutes a day, and many of us struggle to find even 15 minutes to stand before God and fill our souls with his presence.

Along with prayer, what about cultivating something holy, pure, and Christ-centered within our hearts? Through spiritual reading? In fellowship and conversations? In our actions with others? What do we do to dwell with God, and cultivate His Spirit in our lives?

The Gospel reminds us of the many obstacles which hinder us in our walk with our Lord. The Gospel describes the word of God as a seed that the Lord wants to plant in our hearts. Jesus Christ wants to cultivate within us His love, His peace, His joy, His faith, His hope, His abundant life! Unfortunately, while He tries to plant these seeds within our hearts, the devil obstructs and hinders the full growth of this faith!

The Gospel describes this battle of the heart as God’s word falling on four types of soil. One soil is so hard it doesn’t even allow the seed to penetrate the ground. Another soil is shallow dirt with a layer of rock underneath it. The seed can penetrate this soil, but then has no where for its roots to grow and with shallow roots, the young plant quickly withers. A third soil is filled with weeds. Once again, the seed takes root, and a plant of faith even grows, but the weeds and thorns quickly strangle and kill the young plant. The fourth soil is rich, nutrient-filled dirt. Here, the seed not only takes root, but bears a blossoming tree that offers sweet and healthy fruit!

As Jesus told this story, He obviously wanted His listeners, many of whom were farmers themselves, to make the correlation between the type of soil needed for a seed to bear fruit, and the type of heart needed to accept His word and bear fruit of an authentic Christian life.

Jesus Christ promises us an abundant life — a life of soothing love, a joyful peace, an unconquerable hope, and an invincible faith that overcomes all life brings. This is the fruit Christ wants each one of us to bring forth in our own lives. Unfortunately, we don’t all experience this dynamic type of Christian life. Why? What hinders this fruit of faith from growing within us?

Well, we should remember, just as Christ is actively trying to plant seeds of faith within us, the devil, whom the Bible describes as a roaring lion prowling about, is working nonstop against us. While God plants the seeds of faith, Satan tries to take them away. And if he can’t hinder them from penetrating our hearts, he then tries to suffocate the seeds of faith before they can bear fruit in our lives!

For those of us who are in church today, we’re most likely not like the first type of soil that is hard and unresponsive. Considering each of us comes to church, I would say we have allowed some seeds of faith to enter into our heart. We obviously believe something, and consider ourselves followers of Christ and His Church.

We must take care, though, and not imagine this automatically means we will bear the fruit Jesus desires. When Satan doesn’t hinder the seeds of faith from entering our hearts, he advances to his next plan, which is keeping the roots of faith from delving deep into our souls.

How does he do this?

By filling many minutes of our lives with superficial things — with meaningless conversation, irrelevant and time-consuming actions, constant noise and plenty of busyness. By filling our lives with things not concentrated on the Kingdom of God, we begin to live our lives at a shallow level. The word of God, which is something serious, authentic, and profound, cannot grow any roots in our soul if we don’t take the time to meditate upon serious and deep issues. If we don’t allow deep roots of faith to develop, the initial joy of the good news will slowly fade away.

For people who do think at a deep and serious level about their faith, the devil has another method to sidetrack us. He fills our lives with many cares, anxieties, and even serious problems which may make us forget about the word of God. Or, he fills our lives with many comforts and pleasures of life, which anesthetize us from the vigilant call of carrying a cross and offering our lives for the Kingdom of God. As we enjoy pursuing these temporary comforts and pleasures, we often don’t even realize it, but we no longer have time to cultivate the holy seeds of faith within our hearts, and even those seeds that have roots bear no concrete fruit in our lives. They get squeezed out by our daily, comfortable lifestyle.

Remember we each have 1,440 minutes in each day. Think of the countless ways Satan fills so many minutes of every day with shallow things, with temporary pursuits of pleasure and comfort, with even things contrary to the Gospel.

I often hear people say, “I just can’t find time to pray, or read the Bible every day.” Or “Sunday morning is the only day I can sleep in, that’s why I can’t get to church every Sunday.” Or other such time-related excuses for not helping the needy, visiting the lonely, or using our talents for the glory of God. Of course, we fool ourselves because we all have the same amount of time the saints themselves had – 1,440 minutes every day. Our problem obviously isn’t time, but priorities. We have other interests and desires that are more important than God, and thus we find no time for holy things!

Of course, the Gospel does point out some seeds of faith fall into rich and ready soil — in hearts that nourish and cultivate God’s spirit within them. People with such hearts find time in the morning to pray to God. They make time throughout the day to read the Bible, and fill their minds with holy thoughts and words. They guard their conversations and actions, so they will be serious, meaningful and sacred. They pause throughout the day to talk to God. And they always end their day remembering the Lord, thanking Him for the day that passed and asking for His mercy for their sins and shortcomings. Such people follow St. Paul’s advice to the Christians in Philippi, Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy, meditate on these things.

This reflection is by Fr. Luke Veronis, Presiding Priest at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Webster, MA, parish in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston (MA). He and his wife Presbytera Faith have served Sts. Constantine and Helen Church since December 2004. They have witnessed a wonderful turnaround of this parish, which has grown from 90 families in 2005 to presently 180 families. Fr. Luke also serves as the director for the Missions Institute of Orthodoxy Christianity, which is located at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and teaches as an adjunct instructor at both Holy Cross and Hellenic Colleges. He taught for four years at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York (2005-08), and has guest lectured at St. Herman’s Seminary in Kodiak, AK, and St. Tikhon’s Seminary. He serves on the board of directors for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St. Augustine, FL. Fr. Luke has been involved in the Orthodox Church’s missionary movement since 1987. Together with his wife, he served as a long-term cross-cultural missionary in Albania for ten and a half years (1994-2004), and as a short-term missionary in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ghana for 18 months (1987-91). Since 2010, he teaches a summer class entitled “The Missiology of Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Albania,” where he takes 12 students each year from various Orthodox theological schools or seminaries to Albania for two weeks. He has led eight short-term mission teams from Sts. Constantine and Helen Church to work with Project Mexico in building homes for the desperately poor in Tijuana, Mexico. His published books include Go Forth: A Journal of Missions and Resurrection in Albania (2010) Lynette’s Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe’s Life and Death (2008) and Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations (1994). Fr. Luke graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission (ThM in missiology) in 1993, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (MDiv with Highest Distinction) in 1992 and Pennsylvania State University (BS in secondary education/mathematics) in 1987. Fr. Luke and Presbytera Faith have been married since 1994, and have four children — Paul, Theodora, Panayiota and Nicholas. He can be reached at frlukeveronis@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Love people for who they are instead of judging them for who they are not.

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Give us This Day …

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

Let’s remember to approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

Jim has been a little ill for the last week. He was hoping it would go away, but it continued to get worse and ended up back in the hospital. He has been very dizzy, hard to hold his balance, nauseous, feeling faint, and a little short of breath. He was diagnosed with labyrinthitis which is similar to vertigo but with a huge difference, possibly caused from exposure to bio toxins which is what took him off his Ride Across America for addiction awareness. He was also diagnosed with dyspnea. He is home now with a new regimen of medications. He asks to keep him as he continues to heal.

Sisters Marianne and Barb are a concern for Cindy and her family. Little sister’s surgery is Tuesday. Middle sister leaves for Cleveland Clinic Tuesday to for tests to prepare for her heart surgery. Cindy feels so far away and is worried about how her mom is doing with all of it! Please lift them up.

Tara had an interview this weekend but North Dakota weather didn’t cooperate. Prayers for rescheduling. Emm also has a job interview planned, one she is in desperate need of!

Paula is still working on getting the house sold.

Roger was sent back to the rehab facility, despite not doing well at all. He’s frustrated and depressed and didn’t eat even a bite of breakfast. The doctor is prescribing an appetite stimulant but the problem is getting Roger to take it. He gags and vomits up even water. Prayers asked by JoAnn for him to start eating again and for his mental outlook to improve.

Mary Jo is having an extra mammogram tomorrow at 1 p.m . Please uplift her.

Carmen is having one of her breasts removed.

Karen asks for prayer God fills her with His love and strength as He removes her anxiety and depression.

Janet is asking for prayers God will restore her health.

Sarah is struggling with her faith in God lately. She feels like she has no connection to Him at all and her belief in Him is pretty much gone. Pray for revival.

Ventura asks for continued prayer for her and her baby, safety and good health all throughout this pregnancy, delivery, and recovery! She is 30 weeks pregnant with nine weeks and five days to go.

Shane started aggressive chemo for metastatic small cell carcinoma  He will be in the hospital for three days for the chemo treatments and then off 21 days, then back for three days in the hospital, etc. Please pray God will remove this aggressive cancer, and Shane will be able to tolerate the chemo. Also pray for his wife Maranda; his daughter, Emzie; his son, Milo; his parents; and brother and family.

A new neck tumor has restricted Andrew’s head movement, but he keeps plugging along with a deep faith, song in his heart, and positive words. Wife/caregiver Barb continue to hurt as her dad and husband linger on and there is nothing she can do. Please keep her in your prayers.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week — some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. I ask for Your blessing as I minister to the Howland (ME) congregation. Please be with me, Lord. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We thank You for the blessing of Ivy Lynn and all newborns — Your promise of a future. We thank you for Annie’s recovery . We also know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up Jim, Marianne, Barb, Cindy, Tara, Emm, Paula, Roger, JoAnn, Mary Jo, Carmen, Karen, Janet, Sarah, Ventura, Shane, Maranda, Emzie, Milo, Andrew, Barb and all those needing Your healing touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

 

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Five Minute Friday — Deep

Five Minute Friday. Just to remind you what the exercise is really about, it’s free-style writing on a specific prompt word for five minutes, then linking and sharing at our place on Facebook.

I’ve also been sharing snippets taken from Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. They are a testament to the value of the exercise. This week, I’ll share some perspective from Elizabeth, who I hope inspires you to check us out or, better yet, encourage you to try your hand at focused, unscripted writing for just five minutes. And don’t forget to share it on our page.

“Lisa-Jo’s blog [the originator of Five Minute Friday] was one that I started following and pretty soon, I couldn’t keep myself from joining in FMF. At first, I tried to limit it to the comment box but I had things to say, and I needed a place to say them. I started a blog strictly so that I could participate in FMF. My blog became my writing incubator and I didn’t share it with anyone except the lovely FMF participants. My own mother didn’t know I had a blog! I needed to start writing again but I wasn’t ready to share that writing with the world. FMF gave me a supportive but private community with which to share my heart through writing again. I’m incredibly grateful for the push that joining this writing community gave me.”

So, there you have it. Each of us has a story to tell. One of them is how we found this unique group and what it has meant to us. The simple format — one word per week — often is the catalyst that forces us to write. By getting in the habit, we hone our word skills, while honoring the Skill Giver.

Enjoy. This week’s prompt is DEEP. The time has been set so it’s time to GO …

I’ve been known to venture into the deep end of the pool a time or two or a hundred, And I’ve gotten into some deep doo doo when I neglected to keep my kids in my travel loop. It seems when I focus on me rather than the end game, I certainly can get in trouble.

It’s usually a slow migration — cut a corner here, shave a few minutes there, stop the heavenly conversation for a day or two. Next thing you know, you’re {I’m} flailing along treading water with my toes far from the bottom of the pool.

Luckily, I have a Lifeguard {who I keep is far too busy} keeping an eye on me. More than once He has tossed a life preserver my way. He has even come to me and lifted me out of the surf and back on solid ground.

I don’t like calling for help but it is comforting to know there is Someone around when I need Him keeping an eye on me … and making sure I don’t venture out too deep. It’s a blessing I deeply appreciate … STOP

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Find joy in the ordinary! — Max Lucado

 

 

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Video Gaming

My six year old grandson is typically very mellow. I often have to ask him to repeat what he says because of his Massachusetts drawl and the softness of his voice.

The other day I saw a different side of him. He was playing an age-appropriate video game, Lego Batman, which unfolds with Batman’s greatest foes escaping from Arkham Asylum and creating mayhem throughout Gotham City. Tracking criminals, including The Joker and The Penguin, players utilize Batman’s gadgets as well as build and operate fantastic vehicles in one or two player cooperative gameplay.

As he was playing, mesmerized by the flashes from Batman’s gizmos, his demeanor markedly changed. He got louder … and louder … and louder. He contorted his body as he maneuvered the controls. You could sense a rise in his anxiety as the adrenaline kicked it. And it continued well after play was stopped.

Now, I’m not suggesting video games are harmful, just making an observation. I could see the change in demeanor — first hand and up close and personal. I suspect it happens more often than we old timers realize.

Certainly, visual stimulation has changed over the years. Growing up, our stimulation was multi-sensory. We did things. We played. We ran. We scuffed and interacted with others in real time. I don’t see that as much any more.

The stimulation has internalized. It’s learning controls. It’s pushing buttons. If there is interaction, it generally is with another “player” {although I understand there are online games connecting scores of unnamed and often unknown ‘players”}.

I admire the fact a six year old can differentiate between the buttons on a control stick (?) — up, down, jump, shoot, get additional gizmos. I had a hard enough time controlling PacMan through a predetermined maze. But I do worry this fascination with a TV screen or laptop or IPad or phone has robbed the youth today of real interaction. I’ve seen it with the young adults and teens in the family. Apparently it has now filtered down to elementary and pre-schoolers as well.

I’m too old for this shift.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Talk up the good things.

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