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Archive for December, 2014

Time Out

Several days ago the reading for the day was the story of Zechariah and the announcement of the pregnancy of his wife, Elizabeth, with John the Baptist. (Luke 1:12) Zechariah naturally doubted that his ancient wife would be able to conceive, so the angel Gabriel warned him that because of his doubt, he would be struck mute until the child was born.

For the next nine months Zechariah was unable to say a word, until his long awaited son finally arrived. Then, when friends and family asked for the boy’s name, Zechariah was able to proudly write on a tablet “John is his name”. “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke, blessing God.”

I love an interpretation of this verse by my friend John Harvey, who explained that God put Zechariah in ‘time-out’ for nine months.  Just as we put our children in time-out when they misbehave, or become obnoxious, so God sometimes gives us time to cool down, reflect on our mistakes and take a break from our daily activities.  Time-outs should be focused more on shaping behavior, rather than punishing, and I’m sure everyone has a pattern of behavior that needs modification.

Perhaps you have been experiencing a ‘holding pattern’, or feel as though God placed you in a time-out.  You may be stuck in a dead-end job, with no promotion in sight, or perhaps you are experiencing cardiac, lung or other health issues.  This is a great time to increase your prayer time and discern the changes God may be asking you to make.

Or you may have heard God’s promise as Zechariah did, and you are doubting His ability to perform a miracle.  And it is entirely possible God is answering your longings with a slight twist, such as when several friends who longed for children, but were unable to conceive, became parents by adopting foster children.  Their prayer was answered, but in an unexpected way.

My husband attends Epiphany Byzantine Church, in Roswell, and the week before Christmas a ATF agents were on the scene Sunday afternoondemented person set fire to the land and building in the wee hours of the morning.  Since the church is made from wood, the fire burned fiercely until a father who was out getting medicine for his sick child saw the flames and smoke, and called 911.

The rectory is smack dab right next to the church, so I am grateful that God answered the prayers of parishioners by protecting the pastor from harm.   He was in a deep sleep and only woke up when the firemen knocked on his door.  Also,  the building is a one of a kind Capathian architecture built completely by hand, so it would have been a real tragedy if it had burned to the ground.  Just one wall was damaged, and thankfully is in the process of being repaired. Many pray for Fr. Scott’s safety and well-being, but never anticipated it would come by way a sick baby!

We should never forget just how powerful, yet caring our God is, that he can untie any knot or solve any dilemma.  From sparring with a prickly neighbor, to a failing business, to a mysterious illness, trust that God does care passionately and will address your problems.  Your neighbor might unexpectedly move, someone may make you an offer to buy your business, or a friend may have the exact symptoms and be able to provide a diagnosis.

Don’t be surprised if things work out completely opposite of the way you had anticipated.  God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, so don’t limit Him or put Him in a box.  Quit worrying and fretting, go deeper into prayer, and relish your time-out!

Time-Out Techniques
http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/discipline-behavior/10-time-out-techniques

Arson: http://www.13wmaz.com/story/news/local/georgia/2014/12/14/roswell-arson-suspect-arrested/20409469/

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With the mad rush on Black Friday, and the frenzy on Cyber Monday, I don’t think Americans have gotten the message that material things aren’t what matter most. From standing in line all night to purchase the latest Iphone, to getting the best deal possible on Ipads, Xboxes or flat screen TVs, Americans are driven by materialism. China has their equivalent busiest shopping day of the year called “Single’s Day”; single people celebrate their singleness by buying themself something extravagant.  I would call this the epitome of selfishness.

Americans want to look trendy and fashionable and many update their wardrobe every year to get the latest ‘look’.  So of course last year’s old fashioned outfits are donated, adding up to a whopping 4.7 billion pounds of clothing donated annually.  The amount of clothing is so astronomical that the global trade of used clothing has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry in Africa.  The problem is that so many used outfits flooding the market has stymied manufacturing in Africa, helping to stagnate the economy.

Our culture is so consumer driven that our faith is often pushed to the back burner.   Many don’t go to church, or if they do make the effort, they are often too busy to pray.  Take a spiritual checkup today – how much do you spend on stylish clothing, fancy electronics or expensive cars?  Are you generous in tithing to your church, or donating to charity?  How much time do you spend praying daily, compared to the amount of time you spend surfing the net or watching television?

Now look at your circumstances in life; is your life challenging?  Are you pedaling as fast as you can to keep up with work and your family, yet you get further and further behind?  Perhaps you are undergoing painful chemo or radiation, or recovering from knee surgery.  You might be struggling to make ends meet financially because your income has dropped, and of course the price of groceries and utilities has risen dramatically.  There might be tension between family members or friends.

If your spiritual life is lagging, God could be trying to get your attention by allowing obstacles to pop up.  Just as God punished the Israelites by making them wander in the desert for forty years, He may be allowing you to toil through the wilderness to “test you and know what is in your heart, to know whether you will keep his commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).  In Deuteronomy 8:3 God warned that He would “…let you be afflicted with hunger, and then feed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know it is not is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord”.  Echoing the phrase “seek first the Kingdom of God”, this verse means that everything is a gift from God, and if we draw closer to him every day, he will provide for our needs.

Perhaps you are faithful in your spiritual life, but are hanging on to anger or unforgiveness.  Perhaps pride and self reliance are impeding your relationship with God and you need to grow in trusting God’s providence.  Greed or avarice could be a problem and you might be obsessed with jewelry, stylish shoes or finally owning a Rolex.  If you are in the desert God may be trying to reveal those dead and barren areas in your heart, or He may simply be trying to strengthen your faith.

This advent is a great time to examine your heart for spots that need pruning or spiritual growth.  Take time to ponder your past and reflect on the ways God has been faithful in dark times.  Perhaps you were out of work and friends dropped by groceries or simply left a gift of a check; perhaps you were involved in a nasty lawsuit, which suddenly was resolved.  No matter how difficult the circumstances, God’s grace carried you through.  It is also a time to ponder the First Commandment and the importance of putting God first in your lives.

Related articles:

What Really Happens to Donated Clothing http://shannonwhitehead.com/what-really-happens-to-your-donated-clothing/

Bitter Roots http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2014/04/15/wild-onions-and-dandelions/

Faith Tested by Fire http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2012/10/14/faith-tested-by-fire/

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