Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Em/Ashton's Graduation::22/52::May 26

(I told him to "smile"... so he closed his eyes really tight :) )

I'm so proud of her! At the beginning of the year, she was told that there was no possible way for her to graduate with her class at the charter school. The plan was to have her get as many credits as she could, and then take more classes at the adult high school.

Day 1 of school, she had a melt down. The next day, I checked her out of the charter school and headed to the alternative high school.

After jumping through hoops, I got her registered at the alternative high school, paid her fees, talked to the counselor, and learned that according to Utah State requirements for graduation, she was only .25 credit shy of graduation, as long as she passed all of her required classes throughout her senior year.

Well, the school and Emily worked miracles together, and she was done with all of her credits in March... which leads another story that I'd like to tell.

Emily has struggled with depression & anxiety for years and has had to be hospitalized for it. In March, with a week left in the term that she had been doing so well in, the depression kicked her butt and she had to go in for a week. She was disheartened, because at the charter school, it was so hard to make up a week at the same time as trying to keep caught up with the regular work that she ended up never catching up during the first term of her junior year. We were worried it was going to be the same scenario...

When I talked to the counselor, he said that he had talked to the teachers and had agreed that they would just freeze her grades where they were and she could be finished. I LOVE that school, the teachers, the counselors, and the administration! They treat students like people. At the beginning of the year, when she met with the counselor, he said that at their school, they believed in mutual respect: teachers showed respect to the students, and in return, the students were expected to show respect to the teachers. Emily was surprised and said, "That's not the way it was at my old school! Teachers don't show respect for students there." Unfortunately, she was telling the truth about many of the teachers there. I am amazed at the alternative school, and I couldn't be happier with her experience!

She has had a hard 4 years, and I couldn't be prouder of her that she stuck it out and saw it through! Congratulations to my 2015 Graduate! <3

♥ Melody

Yes, I do get obsessed...

I've noticed a pattern in my life: I'm obsessive about things that interest me. I eat, sleep, and breathe it. And then I tell about it here on my blog. I'll bet you can guess what has caught my interest lately, huh?

I need to learn balance. Actually, I could tell you about all of my favorite tv shows, you know, because they are my other obsession. Grey's Anatomy, Elementary, Supernatural, The Blacklist, and my newly acquired Scrubs, are a few of my very favorites. This summer, Steve and I will catch up on Person of Interest and Castle. Maybe we'll catch up on BONES too, but that would take some work, since we are 2 seasons behind on that one.

So, yep, religion and tv. That is balance in and of itself, right?

And if you're not into religion (or at least my preferred brand) or tv, we'll go back to the basics...So, how about all this rain we've been having?
♥ Melody

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quote from "Searching for Sunday"

I've been reading the book, searching for sunday: loving, leaving, and finding the church by Rachel Held Evans. It is an excellent book that I can relate with in so many ways.

Today, as I reading along, I read this passage and I loved it so much! She told about the scene in the Bible where the woman caught in the act of adultery is there with all of the men who were her accusers and also Jesus.

"'Where are they?' Jesus asks the woman after they have gone. 'Has no one condemned you?'

'No, sir,' she replies.

'Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.'

We tend to look down our noses at these ancient people with their religious codes regulating everything from the fibers in their clothing to the people they touched. But we have our own religious codes these days. We have our own scapegoats we cast from our communities and surround with Bible-wielding mobs. We have sins we delight in taking seriously, biblical instructions we interpret hyperliterally, issues we protect over-vigilantly because it helps us with our sorting system. It makes us feel righteous.

'Let's not forget that Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more,' some like to say when they think the church is getting to soft on other people's sin.

To this I am always tempted to respond: So how's that working out for you? The sinning no more thing? Because it's not going so well for me.

I think it is safe to say we've missed the point when, of all the people in this account, we decide we're most like Jesus. I think it's safe to say we've missed the point when we use his words to condemn and this story as a stone.

Billy Graham once said, 'It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge, and my job to love.'

Perhaps it would be easier for us to love if it were our own sins we saw written in that dust and carried off by the wind."
♥ Melody

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Talk at St. Mary's::Stewardship:The meaning and purpose of our lives.

When Peter explained Stewardship during the Lenten Study, he broke it down into 4 parts:
prayer, work, service, and hospitality. I appreciated what he said last Sunday about how our Stewardship changes throughout our lives.

In my talk today, I will break down my Stewardship into the same four categories that Peter did, and tell how each of them relate to me.

Prayer. As long as I remember, I have always said my prayers, though they’ve changed through the years. As a kid, I said them at night and they consisted mostly of keeping me safe through ‘til morning. Turning off the lights and being away from everyone else was scary for me.

As a teenager, my prayers were that I would get good grades. That the cute boy I liked would like me back. And that my mom would understand me better.

When I became a wife and mom, my prayers turned more toward the safety and peace of my entire family, asking God to keep us ALL safely through the night. And the day. I try, along with Steve, to know God’s will for us and for our kids as we make decisions that affect us all.

Trying to discern what God wants me to do has been my goal for years. Sometimes it has taken knocking me upside the head rather than just a still small voice, but I keep trying.

Work. This is the doing part of trying to figure out God’s will for me. There are lots of good things to do and not many hours to do it. First and foremost, I try to be a good example for my kids and my grandkids and to be a good wife to Steve. Often, I am asked advice by my kids, but I realize that I lack a lot of needed information, so I try to rely on the promptings of the Spirit, continually asking God to help me to say and do the next right thing.

In the church, I am the Communications Coordinator, which is a fancy way of saying that I try to get the news out to everyone about activities that are coming up and help us to all stay apprised of what is going on in the church. The newsletter, the blog, and facebook posts are the way that I do that.

Next, service. I serve St. Mary’s every day as I post uplifting things to the facebook page. I serve people in my community by taking a meal to those who need to be taken care of for a while. In my extended family, I call my dad to see how he is and to visit with him. I call my brother to see if he needs anything & I take him to his doctor’s appointments and run errands for him when he needs me too. In my own home, I wash clothes, clean toilets, wash dishes, do laundry and all of the other things that you need to do to run a house. For my kids, I make orthodontic appointments, chauffeur, and help with homework, and for my older kids, I babysit their kids, my grandkids, just to name a few things. For Michael specifically, I give him baths, I cut up his food, and I teach him what he needs to learn about caring for himself and living with others.

Hospitality - I try to live by the wisdom that my mom gave me about not judging anyone until walking a mile in their shoes, metaphorically speaking. By trying to empathize with everyone, I find it easier be more merciful and to strive for justice for all. I try to stay pleasant and kind as I care for the people in my life. I try to be kind and polite to the people I come in contact with every day. I say thank you for things given to me, And I offer a smile and hello to everyone I see.

There is a story that I read many years ago that has stuck with me. It is a story that Robert Fulghum tells in his book, It Was on Fire When I lay Down on It:
The story says that a traveler from Italy came to the French town of Chartres to see the great church that was being built there. Arriving at the end of the day, he went to the site just as the workmen were leaving for home. He asked one man, covered with dust, what he did there. The man replied that he was a stonemason. He spent his days carving rocks. An­other man, when asked, said he was a glassblower who spent his days making slabs of colored glass. Still another workman replied that he was a blacksmith who pounded iron for a living.

Wandering into the deepening gloom of the unfin­ished edifice, the traveler came upon an older woman, armed with a broom, sweeping up the stone chips and wood shavings and glass shards from the day's work. "What are you doing?" he asked.

The woman paused, leaning on her broom, and looking up toward the high arches, replied, "Me? I'm building a cathedral for the Glory of Almighty God."

That story seems to embody my own. Very often, I am the one that figuratively sweeps up the stone chips, the wood shavings, and shards of glass left from the day’s work. There is a choice that I make every day, of how to view those circumstances. One choice is to be frustrated, and sometimes I choose that one. The other is to take up my broom and be grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to serve Him as I serve others - I try to do that one more often. During my days, what I do might be just small acts in the bigger picture, but in those acts, I am building my own cathedral - my life - for the glory of the Almighty God.

(added as an after thought)

Since David asked me to give the talk several weeks ago, every time that Peter has said one certain part at the end of the service every week, I have thought to myself that I wanted to include it in my talk. I forgot it, as I wrote my talk, but I remembered this morning.

This is the part:
"And now, Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever."

And I think that portion sums up our Stewardships and the Meaning and Purpose of all of our Lives.

Friday, May 15, 2015

"There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God."

I read something today that made me say, "A-ha". I hope that you enjoy it too.

The Bishop's Daily
May 15 - Psalms 85, 86, 91, 92; Ezekiel 1:28-3:3; Hebrews 4:14-5:6; Luke 9:28-36

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NRSV)

In the Baptismal Covenant (Agreement) of the Episcopal Church we have this question: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

The response that question is: I will, with God’s help.

The verses above from Hebrews assures us that the reception we will receive when we fail will be understanding and sympathy. Because of this we can approach the throne of grace with boldness and "receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (pg. 304 BCP)

So when we fail we do not run and hide from God. We "continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers." (BCP 304)

This is the confidence that we have as Christians. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
♥ Melody

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Life of Purpose and Meaning

Back during Lent, Peter, my priest, taught a discussion group about Stewardship, which he defines as Living a Life of Purpose and Meaning. A few weeks ago, I was asked to give a 5 minute talk on my Stewardship. Not a small or easy task.

So I've thought. And thought. And thought. And thought some more.

Stories have come into my head as I try to figure out what my personal credo is. Stories like the lady at Chartres. (you can read it here, starting on page 72.)

And the story that Robert Fulghum's tells about Dr Papaderos' meaning of life. (you can read it here.)

So after thinking and pondering and praying (repeat that several times), I came up with a list in bullet point form:
Live life on life’s terms (don’t kick against the pricks)

“To love justice, to do mercy, and to walk humbly with [their] God.”

Love God; Love my neighbor as myself

Agreeing on things is nice, but being nice is mandatory. Find common ground & build on that.

Reflect God’s light & love into other’s life

Accentuate the positive. Live a life of gratitude.

Always try to see the bigger picture.

I give the talk on the 17th. Wish me luck. I'll post the actual talk when I figure it all out. (if I figure it all out)

♥ Melody

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Things I've been thinking about::May 7

Over the past few days as I have studied my scriptures, there have been many scriptures that have resonated with me. I wanted to write them down, so in a few days (weeks, months, years) when I remember that I read some great scriptures & thoughts but can't remember exactly where they were or what they said, I can come back here and remember.

Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-9
1 Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster;
2 But deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world.
3 With whose beauty if they being delighted took them to be gods; let them know how much better the Lord of them is: for the first author of beauty hath created them.
4 But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them understand by them, how much mightier he is that made them.
5 For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen.
6 But yet for this they are the less to be blamed: for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find him.
7 For being conversant in his works they search him diligently, and believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen.
8 Howbeit neither are they to be pardoned.
9 For if they were able to know so much, that they could aim at the world; how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof?

I love nature. I love a good book. I love it when my photography turns out exactly how I envisioned it to. All of these things are great things to think on, but to go back one step (or several) is to go back to the original Artist and Creator.

I am always so impressed by the colors of a sunset, or the intricacies of a leaf or of a bug (did you know that a grasshopper has striped antennas?) The first time I ever went to the zoo, I had the thought that God has quite a sense of humor and is very creative; how else would He come up with the giraffe?!

There is a part on "Shenandoah" where Jimmy Stewart's character, Charlie Anderson, says a blessing on the food. It goes like this:
We cleared this land;
We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it.
We cooked the harvest.
It wouldn't be here—we wouldn't be eating it—if we hadn't done it all ourselves.
We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel
But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat.

I think it is easy to see the humanness in that prayer. It appears that we do it all ourselves, but when we get sick, what is the first thing we do? We pray for our health to be restored so that we can work and take care of ourselves and our families. It always goes back to God, doesn't it?

Romans 13:8-10

8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

As I have been intensely studying the life of Christ and his words through the Gospels, I am discovering that "it" is all about love, service, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. He wasn't harsh with anyone except the Pharisees. With the ones called sinners, he instructed, forgave, cast out their devils, and took away their infirmities (and the list really could go on and on). Most of all, he just teach love, he was love.

Grace is a controversial subject. Without fanning the flames of that controversy, I will just say that once a person feels that God truly loves them, it changes them from the inside out.

If you want to preach the Gospel, focus on the fact that God loves all of His children. Really loves them. Everything about them. He doesn't love them in spite of their weaknesses, casting aside a part of us, He loves the whole of us. He doesn't love us anyway, He loves us. Period.

One thing that attracts me so much to the Episcopal Church is these five core affirmations:
* We are committed to worship that expresses the depth of God's love for us and the transcendence of God's grace for us.

* We are accepting of others, by honoring differences of opinion, and by accepting one another regardless of who we are or where we come from.

* We are a sanctuary for those who are searching, grieving, hurting, lonely, or in recovery, and a place where people can heal and be equipped to live as God intended, in peace and love.

* We care about the communities in which we live, and we seek, as individuals and as a congregation, to reach out to others carrying with us the good news of Jesus' love for us.

* We are rooted in historical Christianity, particularly as it is expressed in the Anglican tradition of scripture, tradition, and reason.

I was in the Adult Study Group on a Sunday morning recently and a homeless person walked in and sat down. The response from the group to him was to "see Christ in all persons" - He was listened to and responded to as if he was an invited guest. That spoke volumes to me about the doctrine taught. There is a saying that goes, " “What you do speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you are saying.” I love it when actions and teachings are synonymous.

I wholeheartedly believe in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

Luke 8:22-25

22 Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”

I know that often I feel like I am perishing in a great windstorm. Life has a way of doing that sometimes. I need to always remember that nothing is too great for God.

There is a children's song that I often think of that says, "Nothing's too hard for the Lord, for the Lord. Nothing's too hard for the Lord. If we have a job that He wants us to do. It's not hard for me and the Lord."

Things might get too hard for me. But with the Lord's help, and with His guidance and understanding, I can do it and He won't let me perish. (Which is an easy thing to remember when the sun is shining, and a lot harder to remember when my boat is being pushed around the sea by fierce winds.)

From Forward Day By Day: Romans 13:10 Love is the fulfilling of the law.

A famous story concerns the founders of two academies for students of the Torah (Jewish law). Both schools began in Jerusalem just before the birth of Christ. A would-be convert asked both Shammai and Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Insulted, Shammai drove the man away with a cane. But Hillel converted the man by saying, “What you hate, do not do to your neighbor. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”
Hillel’s gentle approach won him many friends and became the norm for later rabbinic Judaism. Jesus’ moral teaching often echoes that of his older contemporary.

Hillel was the leader of the Pharisees, who sought holiness of life. Why, then, did Jesus have so many run-ins with the Pharisees? Perhaps it was because some of Hillel’s disciples forgot what their great teacher had stood for and redefined faithfulness as obedience to the letter of the law.

Christians often do the same. When we seek to enforce strict uniformity, in either belief or behavior, we follow neither Hillel nor Jesus, and we end up worshiping ourselves and our opinions. The word for that is pharisaical.

I am a mother. I have six children, if you don't count the ones adopted in through marriage and a few more when you do. I can understand the frustration that Shammai felt. Sometimes I feel like my kids don't take things that I value seriously enough. At those moments I find that I get frustrated with them and metaphorically drive them away with a cane. When I take the time teach them the way that they need to be taught, rather than expecting them to just do it my way, I have greater success - I need to always remember that.

From Forward Day By Day: Romans 12:18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Sometimes it’s not possible. You can’t live peaceably with someone who prefers war. So do what you can, anyway. When someone spread false rumors about my moral character some years ago, defending myself would have gained me nothing. So I resigned myself to behaving courteously toward that person.
We can do more to live peaceably with all. For example:

Listen. Particularly when controversial questions arise, it’s tempting to talk louder and longer and to try to get the last word. Try instead to listen for something in the other person that you can honor and affirm.

Apologize. Nobody is right about everything. Acknowledge when you have erred.

Laugh. Nothing defuses anger more quickly than laughter—but not just any laughter. Don’t laugh sneeringly at others. Sarcasm can be very funny, but it doesn’t make for peace. Rather, laugh at yourself. It’s hard to remain angry at someone who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.

And this is something else I need to learn. I can't solve all of the world's problems. I can't create peace in the world or the nations. But I can create peace in my heart, which will affect my relationships and most especially my inner peace. And who can't use more inner peace?

♥ Melody

Monday, May 4, 2015

Asleep::May 4

These pics were taken a couple of weeks ago. There seems to be a theme going on here! They are awake a lot more often than they are asleep, but they are so sweet when they are asleep.

Love these little guys!
♥ Grandma Mema, AKA: Melody