Once upon a time, in a place called America people spent most of their time at home focused on family. They would venture out greeting neighbors as they worked in their yards and take walks around the neighborhood daily. On an average day one could see whole families out on their bicycles toward evening. Commonly each day they would enjoy a meal of fresh fish casually caught on the shoreline or out in the family boat.
Over time life became more and more complicated and the priorities of the people became skewed. Happiness became more and more difficult to find, to claim, to recognize. The people began to see one another more as a means to their own advancement than relationships to be cherished. The people began to drink to excess, eat to excess, do everything to excess.
One day a ferocious monster invaded all the land and the people scurried into their homes. They used the internet to communicate with one another and share the latest news. Each day they read how many of their neighbors were injured by the monster and how many lives the monster took. They saw stories about how the monster was all over the entire world doing this same thing. Businesses were closed, traveling restricted, schools closed, jobs lost and life began to feel much much smaller and restricted. It was the best way to protect not just themselves but one another. Fear threatened to overcome the people.
As time went on, the people began to realize how much they truly cared about one another. Each day as the numbers of those injured or died went up and even just one more each person was touched with sadness and prayer for the rest. They began to care about how they affected their neighbors. With less and less income and absolutely everyone in the same “boat” they began to share food with neighbors, making sure no one was forgotten.
They dealt with their free time by cleaning up around the house, taking care of things that needed mending long ago. After 2 weeks of this quieter simpler life they began to recognize the value of relationships, free time and they were surprised at how they were learning how to live without spending money. They became creative in ways to connect with one another in worship, study, and just being in groups safely. Their priorities began to shift again and happiness re-entered their lives.
The people so valued the lessons they learned they realized that they wanted to reorganize their way of living, their priorities so that even after the monster was slayed, their lives would stand for so much more than they ever thought before.
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“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.” Words by Alfred H Ackley, 1933
What wonderful opportunities we’ve had over the past few weeks to enjoy the joyful busyness of our lively honey bees collecting pollen everywhere the possibly can. Each day the beautiful blossoms proudly display new life about to burst forth on every tree, bush and flower.
Imagine our joy last week when my husband and I discovered that our native Satin Leaf tree that we’ve had for 8 years, began providing us with succulent purple plum like fruits to increase our health. Our black sapote tree supplies the entire neighborhood with plenty of chocolate pudding fruit every day. The Valencia Mango tree exploded with beautiful yellowish/orangish/brownish blossoms everywhere. The Holy Basil bush is delighting our honey bee friends every morning with tons of flowers along with the Brazilian cherry blossoms. The sopadilla tree hangs heavily with ripening fruits. Our yard is bustling with life and busy happy honey bees because we keep everything organic. Birds are making their nests high in the trees loaded with berries, puppies are chasing the lizards around, opossums are keeping the unwanted insects away, mosquito fish keep water clear for the wildlife, God has a plan and we are blessed to watch it and help it along. As we love this earth it loves us back.
What signs of life are you witnessing? Where in your neighborhood are you experiencing hopeful signs?
I just love those times when everything is going well, life is good, family’s doing well. A long time ago, I learned not to allow myself to dwell on the anxiety of when the next shoe will drop. Life is too short. Now when those nice, good smooth times come I live deeply into them. Continually I thank God for all the blessings I can name in those times. I breathe deeply of the life giving spirit filling myself and healing. Seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, sensing God’s presence and saying yes to my Creator’s invitation to join in the great joy of giving life everywhere I can. I’ve learned to be intentional about these times because I’ve learned that there are times when all this becomes so hard to see, sometimes even impossible to recognize and by being so intentional in the good times I can remember them when the haze becomes overwhelming, even blinding. I follow the breadcrumbs planted along the way.
The hard, blinding suffering of our lives and living can so easily turn our hearts to stone. Our eyes can become blind to blessings forever. Our hearts can become cold and angry forever. In these difficult times we can reject God, stomp our feet and insist that because we don’t understand what’s happening, God can’t be good. What kind of benevolent loving God would allow children to suffer? What kind of all powerful God would allow good people who have dedicated their lives to God’s ways to be tortured, abused or attacked in the many ways we’ve seen and experienced? Why does God give suffering a voice? And why would we serve such a God?
Platitudes have no place in this discussion. Why God, why? Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending this doesn’t exist doesn’t work. Getting angry at God, at our neighbors, our families, everyone doesn’t work. Becoming an island onto ourselves doesn’t work. Digging our heels in and stamping our feet throwing temper tantrums of various manifestations never works. None of it works. Pulling away from others, pulling away from God … none of it works. So what are we to learn from all this? How do we put the yin and yang of life together and survive?
These are some of the things we’re going to discuss and take to the kitchen of our faith over the course of 6 weeks. We’ll be using Lysa Terkeurst’s book: It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way alongside our Bibles and our life experiences. Come join us. You can participate for all six weeks or however many works for you. The SE District Office of the United Methodist Church is providing the books for free for the first 10 people to sign up. You only need to pay $10 per session or $50 for all six sessions. Your weekly time commitment would be 1 group session and 4 days of 20-30 minutes private study.
Let’s work together. Alone can lose our way or together, we can choose to follow the breadcrumbs.
Are you wondering what’s on the other side of New Year’s Eve? Maybe you had a great 2019 or maybe not. Either way, as we look toward the new year we all wonder what it’ll bring. For some people this time is filled with trepidation, others excitement and yet others just really don’t even think about it.
The good news is that we each have more power over what can happen than we usually realize. Sure, our very best efforts can be thwarted by evil that is in this world. But what’s important is what we do and how we respond, in the long run. After all, that’s what we have power over and no one can take that away from us. Some choices are easy to make and others build character, but they are ours through and through. And since we must claim responsibility for our choices, why not make the very best ones we are able to make.
My husband and I have chosen to pray that we love and respect one another every time we pray together. This will help us to remember, especially in those tense moments, to catch ourselves and speak the truth with compassion. What are some things you could do to help you be your best self this year?
Here are a few guidelines to help you:
The world is full of good and evil. Our focus determines of which we become most aware. We see what we look for and everywhere we go we find ourselves.
“As for me and my household, we will (love faithfully, live peacefully, give generously, forgive gracefully, play joyfully, pray daily) serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
When I was young, learning new things was exciting most of the time. However, when I was in my mid to late teens oh how I couldn’t wait to be taken seriously. I had a plan to study music in college and was very excited to embark on this new, more independent “leg” of my journey. I was certain that life as an independent adult would be so much easier. Oh how much I had to learn.
Of course, instead of simply getting easier, life just gets more complicated. For so many Christmas time isn’t a time of joy, rather this time brings memories of lost loved ones, lost jobs, relationships, especially the frustration that comes from having unanswered questions we want to ask God, and so many more struggles that seem to glare at us through the tinsel and lights. This year, my heart and my prayers are for those struggling in this way.
How I would love to be able to gift everyone with unshakable faith that God’s loving embrace with never, never let us go especially during those times of unspeakable pain that seems so senseless to us. I do promise you that God will always love you and every person anywhere. I promise you that Divine Agape will embrace you even in those dark scary shadows of life. I promise you that there is a Divine response to all those questions we want to ask and that response SOMEHOW will show us that even these terrible experiences demonstrate God’s love for us.
Anyone who knows my history or who has read my book, knows that horrific experiences are very much a part of my life. I don’t know why people suffer, but I do know, in a very real way, that God’s healing life-giving embrace is very much present and working for us throughout even these experiences. As I’ve suffered these experiences, each time I’ve grown in my ability to recognize God’s presence in and through all things. After the train-wreck, as I fought for my life and didn’t have the ability to put words together to even make sentences; I discovered the gift of being able to pray without words. My prayer was simply a knowing that somehow God was there fighting for me and empowering me. I was clutching on to that hope to get me through. Now, I know there is nothing that I can’t face because God is with me in a very real way no matter what. Yes, there are times I need to specifically remind myself. Re-membering our life and our faith is a great gift that the One Who Loved You Into Being offers to you too.
May you truly know God’s Agape through all things this Christmas season and New Year.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9
What does peace mean to you? Is it nothing more than a lack of violence? Or perhaps it’s a quiet, serene atmosphere? I took a survey to see what people in the keys think and here are some of the results:
“A clearer state of mind; ability to function without worries (anxiety)”
“Inner peace means being okay and still in Christ even when things are crazy on the outside. Knowing where I belong in Christ and that it is all for His glory, even if I hate the situation, or love it. That God is enough.”
“Understanding and Comprehending”
“Peace of mind to me means knowing that I can hand my burdens to God constantly and He will help me through it.”
In Judaism there is something called “Shalom Bayit”. This literally means peace in the home. It’s about getting along with one another. But even more, it’s about healthy ways of resolving problems and conflicts. It’s about working together, believing the best in one another, learning to truly hear and understand what is important to the other.
Shalom Bayit relates, very closely, with what Christians mean when we say the marriage vow, “for better or worse”. Unfortunately, both of these very healthy concepts have been perverted by so many to keep victims in abusive marriages. Neither Shalom Bayit nor “for better or worse” provide ANY justification for abuse of any kind for any period of time in any family unit. Rather, they both call especially the adults in the family unit to work together as a team in covenant with one another AND God YHWH. We are to admonish one another IN LOVE, and that love is agape. It is not the fuzzy warm philios or passion of eros. Agape is love in action that can only exist in covenant with the One Who Loved Us Into Being, God, YHWH, Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer.
We are also charged with teaching the ways of agape to our children. We teach them when we guide them in healthy ways of settling differences. In Matthew we learn: 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Our demonstration of God’s ways in our own living is the best teacher yet. We know we are living in this peace when our home life generates Hope and Life.
Sometimes we must leave our homes for safety. God, YHWH, never intends any of us to live in abuse in any of its forms: physical, sexual, emotional, economic, spiritual, emotional. One of the most powerful statements I’ve heard any pastor say is, “For better or worse does not mean until your spouse kills you.” So often victims think that they are breaking their vow if they leave the one abusing them. Absolutely not true, the one abusing you broke the vow when they first abused you. There is no longer a vow for you to keep. There are people who will help you. Your local abuse shelter, Living Springs Counseling are two of the safe places to contact. The 24 Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 305-743-4440 in Monroe County, FL. Or you can call the Florida State Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-96-ABUSE.
May your home life generate Hope and Life. May we all continue to grow in our ability to navigate disagreements and other challenging conversations with those we love. May we continue to deepen our ability to live into God’s love both in receiving and giving. May the peace of God.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another that together you may with one voice glorify the Creator of all, Source of all being, God, YHWH, Sustainer, Redeemer, the One Who Loved Us Into Being.
John tells us that Jesus the Christ said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Peace my friends, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my colleagues, my neighbors. Peace.
Love – Pam
Living Springs Counseling is proud to introduce you to our new Hospitality Hostess, Sylvia Maltzman. Sylvia has a beautiful heart and wants to give back. She has great compassion for God’s people, her brothers and sisters. Starting in September she will be sending email cards from 123Greetings to anyone who has given us their email address as well as their birthday or anniversary date. We do this because we care very much about all who have interacted with our agency in any way.
So, if you would like to receive beautiful cards and aren’t sure if you’ve given us your information please fill out the form below. Pam will be the only person to get the information from this form and will pass to Sylvia only email addresses and birthday and anniversary dates that we don’t already have.
Sylvia is a Messianic Jew who lived most of her life in Miami Dade County. She has recently moved to Islamorada. Thank you Sylvia for your ministry.