Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

This time of year

When the year dies in preparation for the birth
Of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth,
Then saving and calamity go together make
The Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break.
Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began…

C.S. Lewis, Launcelot

DSCN2272
(a December’s fading light / Carrollton, GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

And just like that the passing of a season has quickly come and gone…
as the taking stock of another year has all too soon begun.
With the sun resting lower against a sagging horizon, as evening shadows grow ever long…
we pull our jackets and sweaters a bit tighter as we hurry our way along.

With the time for merriment quickly filling the air, a waning season holds fast and tight.
We hurriedly now race from here to there seeking good cheer on a cold winter’s night.
With gifts being bought and packages to send…expectation quickly fills air.
Our hearts grow a bit bigger as our eyes grow wider under the whisper of each tiny prayer.

Endings bring about beginnings as the the second candle is silently lit.
While those captives of ages past now recite the holy writ.
With festivities quickly underway and hearts now merry and bright,
our hopes and fears have met again during the course a single winter’s night.

With the cards having all been written and the invitations quickly sent,
well wishes and good tidings are the sentiments now kindly meant.
The carolers have gathered together offering their glad wishes to those who give ear,
As their songs once again offer up hope and joy to a suffering world this mystical time of year.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

Are you a blamer or maker?

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.
G.B. Shaw

DSCN6284
(lovely patch of wild flowers Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)

Our lives are an endless procession of choices.
To do or not to do
To go or to stay
To walk or to run
To move or to be still
To quit or to act
To speak or to be quiet
To act or to react

There was one thing, one bit of cookie advice, that I would tell my high school students. . .
“Life is full of choices and you will certainly have your share. . .”
“But the number one choice you’ll always have will be that you can either choose to be a victim in life or not—
you can choose to be proactive or reactive—-
always choose to be proactive!

Sadly today we hear so many people, from all walks of life, bemoaning the stacked deck of cards Life has dealt them— lamenting over the unfair, painful, paralyzing circumstances divid out by this cruel master card dealer.

There is whining, wailing, complaining and the heavy gnashing of teeth.
The energy and time spent over the layers of excuses, the rationalizing, the oh woe is “me-ing”. . .
Which in turn leads to the stagnant inability to move forward
“We’ll I can’t because of this”
“I won’t because of such and such”
“I wish I could, but. . .”

Layers upon layers of the cant’s, the “woulda”s, the “shoulda”s, the “coulda”s
We are creating a society that prefers to sit back, watching and waiting to receive rather than one which prefers to move forward. The recipients are beginning to outweigh the doers.
There are those who are so busy explaining their poor circumstances and the reasons as to why they’re down on their luck, spending precious time wallowing in inactivity, that they miss the opportunities to get up and move their way forward.

Life is about hard work.
The old saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” has been sadly transformed today into an expected free lunch.

It is important to offer help, aid and assistance to those hurting and indeed, as at some point in life we will all find ourselves in such a position—but, and this is the key, it to also exceedingly important to be able to offer opportunity for growth and movement forward as this is the essential key to the wellbeing of the Human Spirit.

A hand up will be needed by all of us at some point, but then to be sent forward is the most important component to that offerings of aid and service.

Human beings are wired to be doers in life.
We are not hard wired to be inactive receivers.
Sadly we grow spoiled and lazy, preferring to sit back waiting for whatever it is that
will seem to fill our needs and make us happy.
Life is still about building and making.

May we be mindful that we still have so much to be done
and it won’t get done with us merely sitting back waiting and watching.