Posted by: geolocke | 2016/05/31

To Pondered These Things In Our Hearts

When I was younger, and was being instructed in the ways of our faith, I mistakenly thought that faith was a mindset, a moral compass as some call it, that keeps us on track in our lives and helps guide us toward the greater good. The Stories of the Old and New Testaments were history and served as examples of how we should judge and live our lives. In my understanding, that is all there was to faith. Nice and simple, easy to put in a box and bring it out when I needed to use it. How could I have gotten that all so wrong?

Those aspects of our faith are real, but I have come to understand that our faith is all that and so much very more. Our Faith is a relationship with the True and Living God. It is a relationship that, surprisingly enough, is founded in our inability to fully grasp how much God Loves us, as we strive to know and understand and Love God in return. We are wholly unsuited to the task, and yet God Loves us for trying, and God sends us Graces to keep us from despairing when we fail in our attempts, as we always do, and damage our budding relationship. God helps us pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and start once more in building our relationship together.

Sometimes God sends us helpers to aid us in our relationship building. In the Bible, God sends Angels at times to help point out the way to go. For us, God sometimes sends people into our lives when we are in need of guidance. Some of the people God sends could be our family, our friends, our co-workers, or even strangers, and yes, even the people in the stories told in the scriptures.

In today’s Gospel reading, we again read the story of the young Virgin Mary as she enters the house of her cousin Elizabeth. Both women are with child and are overcome with joy and exalt at greeting one another. Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith in keeping and believing what was foretold of her by the Angel, and Mary takes Elizabeth’s praise and joy and offers it up to God with her own praise and joy.

I really enjoy this particular story from our Faith. It fills me with joy just thinking of the situation and remembering about Zechariah in the background, unable to speak after having been struck dumb in the temple. Here are gathered before him both the Word and the Voice, and Zechariah can do no more but to hold on to everything that is happening, waiting and hoping and trusting in all that God has promised him. At the birth of his son, and the speaking of his name, John, Zechariah’s tongue is set free and he too adds his voice to the prayers of Praise that Elizabeth and Mary had earlier proclaimed.

Part of relationship building is to sometimes simply be present to another. To listen as others speak, and to rejoice in the gift of their presence in our life. And so it is in our relationship with God. There are times when we are so full of our own concerns, sorrows and troubles that we can’t help but pour out our hearts to God, asking for relief or even a sign that God is listening.

But then we find that there are times in our relationship with God when we still ourselves and listen to the silence of God, that immense silence, and we come to know in our own very limited way that God is present in everything and everywhere all the time. There is no need for speaking, or listening, or seeing, or hearing. There is only the need to accept God’s presence and ponder it in our hearts, and to offer our presence back to God in thanksgiving for God’s very being.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/04/13

Quiet Splendor

A breeze whispers in the trees, beneath the moonless sky above.
The world around me still sleeps, the workday has not yet begun.

Signs of the changing season surround me where ever I look.
Plant and earth and sky and stream; all point to the coming of summer.

The great bear and the swan swing their slow arcs among the stars above.
Then a flash of light streaks across the sky!

Quick, make a wish!
Quick, make a wish!

There is no need.
My wish, my hope, my prayer lives with me always.

To Know, and Love, and Serve you in Truth, not just in name, dear Lord.
To treat my sisters and brothers, neighbors and strangers, with the same
Mercy, Kindness, and Love that you have treated me, dear Lord.
To walk always in humility and awe-filled wonder as I gaze upon
the quiet splendor of all your magnificent creation,
and to live in your presence forever, dear Lord.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/04/07

Prayer For A Young Person Approaching Adulthood

May you live a simple life, not overly burdened by many things that distract you from God.

May you find as much pleasure in the little flowers of the grass as you do the roses of the bush.

May you have quiet times where you can listen for the sound of God’s voice in the whispering of the pines.

May you treat the powerful and the powerless with equal love and respect.

May you always share your food and possessions with friends and strangers alike.

May you always do your best work, regardless of the task that is set before you.

May you always choose Love when fear, misunderstanding, and hatred surround you.

May you have laughter to offset your tears, Joy to offset your sorrows, and patience to offset your frustrations.

May you always lift up a prayer of thanks for all God has done for you, asking God to always lead you in this life, and from this life into the next.

Amen.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/03/27

Easter 2016

To my ultra-right-winged-christian-conservative friends, I’m sorry, but my views are too liberal for you. To my ultra-leftist-liberal-anything-goes friends, I’m sorry, but my views are too conservative for you also.

I believe in Jesus Christ, and I attempt to follow his example as best as I can. That means that I try to feed the hungry. I try to help shelter the homeless. I try to comfort the afflicted. I try to educate the unlearned, to befriend the addict, and give hope to those who have no hope left. I try to welcome the immigrant with open arms, regardless of their status. I try to befriend those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, much less God. I try to turn the other cheek when I am assaulted verbally, mentally, and physically by those who hate and distrust me.

I try to love those who do not love me. I try to accept and not judge those whose beliefs are different from mine while not compromising my own beliefs. I try to speak the truth of God’s immeasurable Love for all of us to those who refuse to listen. I try to pray for those who do not have anyone to pray for them. I try to forgive those who commit acts of violence so horrible that my mind and spirit are left spinning and in pain. I try to share the burden of the cross and to not complain about its weight, or the pain of the nails that pierce my hands and feet, or the spear that opens my side. I try not to be afraid of the darkness of the tomb. And I pray that I will awaken to the light of the new morning sun once again.

I am not republican, I am not democrat, I am not nationalistic, nor anarchist, nor conservative, nor liberal, nor disbeliever, nor agnostic.

I am Christian, or at least, I try to be Christian.

Happy Easter to all of humanity.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/03/03

Being Third

In our local chapter of Madonna House, there is a sign painted on the wall above their back door that says: “I Am Third“. When I asked about it, I was told that when Jesus was asked “what is the greatest Commandment?”, he replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37-40) They then explained to me that if you love God first, and love neighbor second, then that places you third.

Since that day many years ago I have tried to remember those words as I try to live my life according to the Gospel message of Christ. I try to remember to always offer up thanks to God for all that happens to me (good or bad) or for all that is accomplished through my actions, but sometimes I forget. I try to remember to place the well-being of others before my own desires or designs, and often I fail. but perhaps the hardest lesson I am still having to learn is how to accept being third when I fail at placing God first and neighbor second.

I grew up rarely asking for help from anyone, not for school, not for work, not in need or want. I had an attitude that I would succeed or fail in whatever I was trying to accomplish on my own merits. That started to change (did change) when I married and suddenly I found myself part of a wonderful union with another. Living a shared life with another in complete union of bodies, minds and lives does not allow for the “I” to completely go it alone anymore. And so I adapted my attitude appropriately for personal matters, but in matters of work and the world outside the family, it was still all about being self-sufficient.

That term, self-sufficient, is really a silly notion because on a planet of billions of other “selves” no one can truly be “self-sufficient.” And that is where my struggle of learning how to be third comes in. As I see it, learning to place God first and neighbor second are the easiest parts of this equation because with enough focus, with enough trial and error, I will eventually get in the habit of living that way. But to truly learn being third, I have to give up this notion of being self-sufficient when I *do fail*  at placing God first and neighbor second (as surely I will again). I need to learn to not try to deal with it on my own, but asking for help from others and knowing that it is ok to do so because it’s actually a blessing.

That might be the greatest lesson of all I’ve learned about being third. When I truly accept the fact that I am third, then when I fail miserably at placing God first and my neighbor second; when I break down my own defenses and ask  someone else for help, or to pray for me, then I am allowing that other person to fulfill their place as being third, because they are now placing me, their neighbor, as their second. In this manner we are both fulfilled and blessed, and we can both give the Glory back to God.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/02/05

Singing Praises

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.
Let my heart rejoice in your saving help:
Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,
singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

From Psalm 13

For the past several weeks, the first readings for the Mass have been mostly from the book of the prophet Samuel. I’ve been remembering and learning the story of David, how he was chosen and anointed, how he brought down Goliath with his sling and stone, how he suffered under the jealousy of King Saul, and how he mourned when Saul and his son Jonathan, David’s dearest friend were slain in battle, and ultimately how he sinned against the Lord and the price he paid for those sins.

But In today’s first reading from chapter 47 of the book of Sirach I see a different side of David.

With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung;
He set singers before the Altar and by their voices he made sweet melodies,
He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year
So that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound.

As a minister of the Word through the grace and gift of my voice in song, this passage is very familiar to me because, in a manner of speaking, this is how his praises are still sung today. I’ll admit that I do not so much make the sanctuary resound, but in my heart I do.

The life and times of David were not easy by any means, but he still placed the praise of his Maker as a top priority for him, regardless of the circumstances of the day. I would do well to remember that in my own daily struggles.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/01/25

Moments in Eternity

I’ve been fascinated by photography as long as I can remember. I got my start pouring over old black-and-white photos of my childhood birthday parties, and family albums showing long dead relatives wearing strange clothing. In grade school and Jr. High I began using “instamatic” cameras and I even dabbled with Polaroid cameras a little.

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By the time I got to high school, I had my own Nikomat 35mm SLR  and I was experimenting with Tri-X Pan B/W films of various speeds and learning Darkroom processing and techniques. I also began my long relationship with Kodachrome color slides and Ektachrome color prints.

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But these days, I have finally graduated (succumbed) to Digital imaging. I have been captured by the allure of instant imaging and the luxury of being able to take as many shots as I want in rapid succession, having only to worry about the size of the memory card, and the charge on the batteries.

I find the digital experience suits me well, especially when I come across a moment of beauty that “must be captured” before it is lost to sight & memory. There have been times when I’ve hunted for the right setting, waited for the light to be right, framed everything up and then took the shot. Sometimes I’ve been lucky this way. But I find that more often than not, my best photos come from taking the time to notice what is being presented before me everyday, and having the wits about me to capture that moment with the camera.

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God presents these photographic moments to us everyday, these tiny moments in the vastness of time. They are just waiting there for us to look up from our busy lives and take notice. Once we train ourselves to look for them, to take notice of them, we soon come to realize that there are far more of these moments then we could ever hope to capture and save on film or on our hard drives. These many moments can only be captured with our eyes, stored in our memories, and shared in stories written or spoken.

This morning I got up before the sun and walked in the back yard with my dog. The full moon was setting low in the western sky. Its brilliant beams shone down through the pines and the bare branches of winter, casting shadows on the snow-covered earth about me. My every footstep crunched and cracked as the frozen earth gave way beneath me. High above, the stars glinted and twinkled brilliantly against the black night sky, only briefly obscured by the mist of my breath as it rose toward the heavens.

If I could have stopped time for that one moment, if I could have set up cameras uncounted to capture every detail of that one moment, it would still not have been enough to capture my realization in that very instant of how perfect is all of God’s creation, in that moment, and all God’s moments in eternity.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/01/15

The Power of Love

For Jacob

Do not burden your life by holding on to the misfortunes that may fall upon you, but through Love, live your life sowing seeds of love so that others might also learn to love.

The power of love lies not in strength of one’s arms, nor popularity among one’s peers, nor even one’s cleverness or intelligence. No, the power of love lies in persevering through difficulties not of your own making and to greet each new day with a greatful heart, a cheerful look in your eye, and forgiveness for those who have wronged you.

Be strong in Love, True in Heart, and Brave in Adversity, knowing that the Grace of God, my Love and my Prayers are always with you.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/01/07

Little Quiet Moments

This morning I finished my Morning Devotions with such a sense of peace and well-being. I had not begun that way.

Some mornings when I arise, my mind instantly fills with thoughts of work not completed yesterday and tasks waiting to be started today, and it takes time for me to settle into my prayers and readings. This morning began this way, but as I delved deeper into the readings for today, I felt less and less distracted by my thoughts and became more focused on the message that Our Lord wants us to hear, to obey, to live.

Love God, Love your Neighbor, Love your Self.

Here in these little quiet moments, before the world spins around to the day side, I find peace in my heart through these words of comfort, solace, and instruction. And in that peace, I find a clearness of mind in which I feel certain that God is smiling down upon us and wishing us all the happiness and joy that only God’s Love can give to us, if we only take the time to  quieten ourselves and let God bestow it upon us.

May the Peace of Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you today and with everyone you meet, each one your neighbor.

Merry Christmas to all our Orthodox Sisters and Brothers.

-geo

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/01/04

A New Year, Another Chance

I’m not very interested in making New Year resolutions, but there are a few things I hope to do better this year. I list them in no particular order of importance.

Complain Less: For a while I was actively involved in many ministries, too many ministries to be honest. I realized that I was “over ministering” when I started to complain to myself about the ministries I served in. And so, fearing that I was not faithfully performing any of my ministries, I divested myself of most of them and began focusing my efforts on those that remained. But still I found that I was complaining to myself at times. It is time for me to stop complaining and perform the ministries that God has chosen for me under the conditions God has set for me. After all, these are not *my* ministries, but the Lord’s. I must remember to comply with a humble and willing heart.

Write More Consistently: The pace of my writing picked up this past year, but I have too many loose threads of story lines hanging out there un-completed. There is the “Soul’s Journey” series that has sat untouched for half a year, and my journal entries of this past year’s travels in Guatemala lie unfinished. I also have several other postings which are lying about in various states of incompletion, or worse, barely begun. I need to become more serious about dedicating time to writing and spend less time watching the ‘toob’ or surfing the web.

Re-Kindle My Prayer Life: This past year was rough on several accounts and at times I found that all I could do was quietly whisper my prayers to God, asking and hoping that God would let me find my way “out of the desert” of my trials.  God is good and God is patient and forgiving to those who call upon the Lord’s Holy Name, and so God has been kind to me and I can see a glimmer of hope, an oasis if you will allow, on the horizon. I know that further troubles lie ahead, but I would be better armed to face those troubles if I can re-kindle my prayer life with regular recitation of the Rosary and other daily prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

I think that is a gracious plenty to start with as I begin this new year.

Peace and blessings to you all for this new year!

-geo

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