31 January 2013

A Separation of Church and State?

Where do I start?  After last week's MLK retreat and presidential inauguration, I was left with a lot of food for thought and a new hopefulness for our country.  I came back refreshed and renewed, but over the course of this past week, I've heard so many negative comments about the ceremony itself, and just general negativity about this presidency.  It's been a big energy suck.  Seriously.

This past Sunday at church we had a visiting priest, a monk from one of the churches in Armenia.  As he gave his sermon, I couldn't help but connect the attitudes regarding our church, with the attitudes regarding our country.  Fr. Asbed is assigned to a small monastery in Armenia.  Since most of the older adult population  grew up under the communist regime, he didn't have many in his congregation that were true believers.  But he was happy to report about the children.  He had 22 children coming to Sunday school, a handful of altar servers, and a children's choir.  He was hopeful.  But, he reported, that most people that come to his church, view the church as a museum, some "antique" building  to visit.  And what unnerved him was that the people that came to "visit" were very critical of the church complaining that the grounds could use maintenance, or that the place looked run down.  To which he would respond to them, "Excuse me?  Who are you to come here and criticize.  I've never even seen you here"  He went on to remind us that the church was not "his" or the country's but it belonged to ALL of us.  And it was up to all of us to take care of it.  Whether we had the blessing of financial ability or we could volunteer our voices in the choir or serve on the altar, or if we can help with physical maintenance, we should all understand that these talents are entrusted to us by God and that we should use them to his glory. 

Okay, a simple message, right?  Take care of what is entrusted to you by God.  It's up to you to take care of it.  And so what about our country?  What about our world?  For those of us that are blessed to live in the U.S., or in any democratic society that allows us to vote for our leaders, whether you agree with your elected officials or not, it's our country.   We are entrusted to take care of it...to make the best of what we have, and if not, to use our talents to bring about change to make it better for everyone.  Not sit back and bash and bad mouth. 

When I got back from Big Bear last weekend, I asked a friend of mine if he had watched the inauguration.  The response was no, that he wouldn't want to watch it.  I filled him in on what he had missed - the prayers, the poem, our president's speech.   His response was that the president has speech writers who write the speech for him and therefore it's not sincere and that, oh, by the way,  Beyoncé lip-synced the National Anthem of all things! (how could she?)  Really?  Okay, so he didn't view the ceremony, yet he knew all about it from various media outlets.  And to be clear, it wasn't the fact that he didn't watch it that upset me - certainly, everyone has a right to choose what they want to do with their time  - but what upset me was this person's negative and pre-conceived speculation on programming he didn't watch based on political bias - based on the commentary of pundits and speculations by media talking-heads.

Our country was built by the sweat of our people.  People who worked together for these United States. Every four years we elect a president.  Your political party either wins or loses.  Are we like the people that come to visit the little church in Armenia?  Detached and removed by choice, and then filled with negativity and complaints failing to see that this country belongs to ALL of us, and it's up to all of us to make use of our God-given talents to make it great?  We learned last week at our retreat that we CAN make change happen.  It requires patience, persistence, hope, prayer but more than anything, change requires action. It's easy to sit back and criticize.  I, too, was not happy with our president's first term, but I am hopeful that this next term will be better.   If we're not happy with the current situation, then we can work together to make it better.  And it's okay to complain (because we shouldn't just sit back and drink the Kool-Aid), but we should at least be informed on what we're complaining about and then work toward fixing it.

Is this democratic system that was created to unite us and give us a voice, creating separation and complacency among us?  I pray that we can set aside political party bias and prejudice and use everything in our ability to make things  better for all.  The office of president is a difficult and challenging one for anyone, no matter what their party affiliation.  Let's pray that God grant our president the wisdom to lead our nation toward peace and prosperity.  And also, pray that He gives us the courage and wisdom to judge a man not by his political party, but by the content of his actions.  And then after that informed judgment is made, to create in us the passion and fire to either work toward implementing those programs or create new ones that are better!

Finally, I'll leave with you a quote I read from one of our past presidents - Franklin D. Roosevelt:
There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."  Let's work together to move beyond our prejudices and work to achieve our highest potential...and let's do it together.

Tea Wisdom: Inspirational Quotes and Quips about the World's Most Cele (Google Affiliate Ad)

29 January 2013

Volunteers Needed for LA's Homeless Count 1/30 and 1/31

Just a quick post to ask for volunteers.  Every two year's, Los Angeles does a Homeless Count.  This year it's taking place today, tomorrow and Thursday, and volunteers are needed on January 30 and 31.  Some of our In His Shoes team will be working the count tomorrow evening.  Please share this, and click on the website link for volunteer information.  Together we can help to end homelessness in our city:  http://www.theycountwillyou.org/

They count!  Will you?

26 January 2013

Manipulated Coffee Art

It all started about a week or so ago.  I was at work typing up a quote, and I grabbed my coffee cup for a sip of coffee....but the cup was empty.  Looking in the bottom, there was just a drop.  And the imagination got the better of me and before I knew it....well, it's become an almost daily ritual.

Manipulated coffee art.  What do you see in the bottom of the cup?

Patience, Perseverance and Faith

This past weekend was our annual MLK Retreat.  We came together - all of us with different reasons - for friendship, for community, for a getaway, for an excuse to get out of work - but all of us came together knowing that we would be spending the next three days together learning about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his teachings.

There is so much that went on.  So much that I'd like to share, but it's so wrapped in emotion.  I did a lot of soul searching this weekend.  I was able to define my own personal "ah-ha" moments as we shared stories and tried to relate our lives to Dr. King's teaching based on Christ's principles of love and non-violent resistance.

I think what I personally focused on was our ability to effect change when we lead a Christ-centered/love-centered life.  I thought about the Montgomery bus boycott and how effective it was in bringing about the civil rights movement.  I have known the facts for years, but what never occurred to me was that this change, this boycott, lasted over a year before a result was achieved.  Unlike the union strikes of today, an agreement was not reached in a week's or a month's time.  Over a year.  Why was this important to me?  Because it involved patience (not my strong suit), and it involved persistence, and faith.  It was a huge sacrifice for the protesters to be without transportation.  Given that most did not own their own cars, giving up riding a bus and having to arrange your own ride was not easy.  Yet they persevered, because sitting back was no longer an option.  And they achieved their goal of equality while riding on the bus.  And then the greater goal of equal rights was inevitable. 

I have a lot of goals in my life as well.  And all too often, they seem unattainable.  I've been trying to make a go of my jewelry business, but it's difficult with a full time day job...and then family obligations.  BUT it's not unattainable.  It's going to take time, persistence, patience and faith.  So I took this lesson away with me from the weekend.  Keep dreaming!  Keep praying!  Keep believing!

We were also asked to choose one of Dr. King's quotes and share why it spoke to us.  If you read my blog a few weeks back ("The Jumper"), I wrote about a person who was contemplating suicide by jumping off a freeway bridge.  Our building overlooked the scene and I was taken aback when some of my coworkers were going and coming out of the corner office laughing, making fun and just waiting for the poor man to jump.  As disgusted and saddened as I was by their actions, I was more disgusted by my inaction.  So you can see why this quote struck a chord with me:  "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."  I still don't know why I remained silent that afternoon, but the following day I did speak out about my disappointment.  This quote helped me to focus on the fact that I do need to stand up, even when I'm standing alone.

Finally, on Monday morning, before leaving to come home, we were able to watch President Obama's inauguration ceremony.  I don't remember ever being so moved during this ceremony as I was this time around.  I think it was because of the emotions of the weekend.  And the president's inauguration was the perfect ending to it.  We sat in front of the laptop watching.  Tears streaming down some of our faces.  I thought of how young our country was and how much there was to learn.  But I was hopeful because of how far we had come since Dr. King's time.  But there was still so far to go.  There was still racial tension and hatred.  We prayed along with the prayers that were recited, and I was renewed with hope when they prayed in Christ's name.  Obama's speech was moving, hopeful and inspirational.  It was filled with love and hopefulness, and embracing diversity.  And the poem that was read by Bronco was the tip of the iceberg for me.  It was filled with imagery of our country.  Of all walks of life, or our day, of unity.  I posted it here on my blog if you missed it.

So we packed it up, and headed down the hill, forever changed.  I'm hopeful for America.  And I am hopeful for peace and for change.  But if we want change, we need to work toward it.  And not lose faith in our dreams. It's going to take patience, inconvenience, perseverance, and faith.  It's going to take action, and prayer, and a God-centered life.   But it is achievable if we truly want it.

Click HERE to  hear this blog entry  read by the author in an audio file on Next Step #242

Want to learn more about Dr. King?  See these links below.

22 January 2013

"One Today" by Richard Blanco

This is Richard Blanco's poem which he read at President Obama's inauguration.  I was very moved by it and its imagery.  I thought it was beautiful.

"One Today"

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

17 January 2013

Cauliflower and Baby Potato Stir Fry with Red Chard

This is a great vegetarian main course served on brown rice or quinoa.  If you're having it as a main course, it will serve 4 generously.

What you'll need:
1 large cauliflower, cleaned and broken into small florets
2 cups of small baby potatoes
1 small bunch of red chard, sliced
garlic - add 1 to 3 cloves depending on your taste
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp good quality Paprika
1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes, cut in pieces
salt and pepper

I use a wok pan to make this recipe.  Use a garlic press for the garlic.  Saute garlic in the olive oil.  Add onion and baby potatoes.    Stir fry this for about 5 minutes.  Add cauliflower and continue cooking, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes more.  Add one 28 oz can of tomatoes.  If they are whole tomatoes, you'll need to just cut them with a knife or your fingers. Add all the liquid from the tomatoes.  Now add 2 Tbsp paprika, salt and pepper.  Stir in incorporate all the ingredients.  Cover with the lid and simmer on low heat.  Stir every 5 minutes for about 20 minutes.  Add the chard and quickly stir in.  Turn off flame, cover the pan and let stand a few minutes until the chard wilts in to the vegetables.  Serve on brown rice or quinoa.  Serves 4 as a main course.

Creating the Next Generation of Social Activists

Do you remember the 70's?   That's when I was a teen.  Kent State, the end of the VietNam War, great music, and all those protests and rallies and marches.  I grew up during a time when it was the accepted norm to take part in social protest.  We protested with Greenpeace wearing "No Nukes" buttons and holding signs at Diablo Canyon.  We Saved the Whales and stopped the clubbing of baby seals.  We protested the war.  I don't know if it was like that where you were growing up, but as part of the young generation, that's what was expected of us, and we wouldn't want it any other way. 
We grew up with social conscience.

I don't recall a lot of that in the 80's and 90's, but maybe it was just a different time in my life.  But what I do know is that I have heard, over the course of the past decade about Generation X, and the "me" generation, and about the general apathy of our youth.  But I'm not buying it.  I think it's more about opportunity.

Our monthly homeless outreach took place this Monday evening.   We had with us three twenty-somethings who put their heart and soul into our outreach - collecting clothing all month, baking treats for the homeless, and offering a helping hand and an open heart to our friends on the street.  I was really impressed with this group who so willingly offered their caring and compassion to our outreach.  After church this past Sunday, I spoke to a 13 year old young man who wanted to know how to run a homeless outreach.  He was from the Santa Cruz area and interested in helping.  His mother offered that though he was too young to go out on the street, he was looking into helping at the shelter where he could serve and eat at the same table with the homeless of their community.  These are just a couple examples that touched me in my life, but I know there are many other examples if we open our eyes and hearts to them.

I was discussing all of  this with my daughter Ani.  I asked her opinion about organized protests, wondering if they were happening,  and it was me that wasn't aware of them.  She brought up a very good point.  Back then in the 70's, there was no internet.  My friends and I banded together for a common cause - for peace, for the environment, whatever the cause - solidarity was the social media of  OUR day.  Back then,  if you wanted to write the President a letter, you would have to sit down, get out a pen and paper and write that letter, put the letter in an envelope.  Hopefully you had a stamp to put on it, then you'd drop it in the mail box and mail it off...and then wait for a response a month or so down the road.  Today, everything is instantaneous.  It's not that the protest is not there...it is, and LOT of good is done through it.  But it's done individually, with your computer or your smart phone and all your  Facebook friends united on the same "cause" page.  Today at the touch of a screen, you can address the President and receive a confirmation that your letter reached the White House all within the same minute.

Back then, the news would give time to stories about non-violent protest and world issues.  Today, our news media would much rather cover the fact that Kim Kardashian is pregnant than show in-depth coverage of the violence going on in Syria or Darfur. If there is coverage, it's just for a quick minute, while we then sit through lengthy sports reports.  We're desensitized to the human suffering that is going on around the world and in our own communities until something terribly tragic happens like the shootings in Newtown, and then suddenly we are focused on it for a quick week or two until the media decides how next to grab our attention.  In the meantime, there are wars going on, rights being violated, children dying of hunger, and record numbers of homeless on the streets.

Time is also a factor.  Who has an entire morning or afternoon to stand on a corner holding up a sign for peace?  We tend to overbook our lives with things to get ourselves/our children ahead, but are we giving up getting ahead as a society in exchange?  I think there is something very powerful in getting together as a group - with people that share common views/beliefs to get to a specific goal.  It's the feeling of unity.  Of hope.  Of working together for the greater good.  Isn't this also true of our Sunday worship?  We are united in Christ, together as a family, working together to be the hands and arms of Christ toward others.

We can promote social activism for our children by creating opportunities for it.  My daughter never really had a choice.  We were going to fast for hunger because that's what we were doing.  As parents, I think we sometimes offer too many choices to our children.  Scouts or church?  Visiting grandma and grandpa or hanging out at the mall with your friends?  It has to do with priorities. And also a belief that our actions - however small they may be - can bring about great change.  But it begins at home with compassion and caring.  Our children have to see from us that we all belong to a community, and that when one suffers; all suffer.  When we can embrace the fact that we all belong to one another, and we can act on this with loving  hearts, there will always be hope for the future.

06 January 2013

An Ordinary Armenian Christmas

I love Armenian Christmas.  I love the fact that as an American-born Armenian, we get to celebrate Christmas with the rest of the country and enjoy the Christmas carols, gifts, Santa and all the trappings of the season, but then come January 6, we get to celebrate the birth and revelation of God.  My earliest childhood recollection is a view our priest dripping the holy oil into the large bowl of water during the traditional water blessing.  I remember the view of all the heads below me as I sat perched on my father's shoulders above the crowd.  "Watch..see the dove," he said to me in Armenian, "watch carefully and you'll see the oil will drip from its beak."  And as he said that, I remember my priest reading the prayers over the water and the muron dripping forth from the beautiful silver dove - the vessel for the holy oil.  To this day, I think of that image every time I witness this service.

In our family, the "celebration" of Armenian Christmas was more of a celebration of worship and faith.  My parents both sang in the choir, and later I would join them.  My brothers served on the altar.  My grandmothers sat in the pew with my younger sister.  We went to Christmas eve service, and then the following morning to church again. We would prepare ourselves for this holy day by fasting.   Of course, after church we would have a small family dinner with my grandparents, but it wasn't the feasting and merriment of American Christmas. And I was always good with that.  Until this year.

This year, things are different.  Times are changing, and I felt it.  My daughter and son-in-law's schedules didn't allow them to attend church this Christmas.  My son doesn't normally attend.  My mom came to Christmas Eve service, but she's getting older and attending Sunday morning was too much for her.  My husband came with me last night, and when I asked if he was attending the Christmas morning service, I didn't get an answer.  I took that for no.  My sister and her family had plans.  So this morning, I woke up, got ready, woke my husband to say goodbye, and headed down to church.  Along the way, I snapped a picture as I was driving.  There was no traffic, it was just like any other normal Sunday.  And it felt very "ordinary."

Maybe it was the fact that Christmas fell on a Sunday this year.  When it's fallen on a weekday, I take off work.  It somehow makes it less ordinary to get the day off to celebrate your holiday.  As I drove I was reflecting on how things had changed.  What had happened?   Today is a Holy day - the birth of Christ, and the revelation that He is God.  This is a big-time holiday.  It deserves our attention and effort.  I'm not saying it needs to be commercial, but maybe our idea for a lack of pageantry, is causing this important celebration to fall by the wayside.   If we don't preserve the specialness of this day, who will?

I arrived at church, and walking in I was greeted by members of my church family.  They were welcoming and joyous, greeting each other with the day's greeting:  Krisdos dzunav yev hydnetzav; Ortnyal eh hydnootiunun Kristosi!   Church was packed.  And the energy level was high.  The entire congregation was singing the hymns with the choir.  I started feeling better.  The sermon was powerful; and the congregation was happy as we heard of all the work we did this Christmas season: collecting toys for children in the shelter; caroling for the people in the hospital, feeding the hungry; making handmade blankets for the children who are suffering from cancer. It was a celebration of LIVING our Christian faith. 

When we were called up to communion, I looked back, and there in the crowd of people, I saw my husband.  Whether he felt the calling to attend, or he knew it was important to me (or both), I was happy to see him so we could celebrate this day together. 

During the water blessing, I watched my brother (our priest) pour the holy oil into the water, and I flashed back on my childhood....and the view from on top of my father's shoulders.  Even though things seemed to have changed this year, there was comfort in knowing that our service had remained the same for hundreds of years...and that this same service was going on in Armenian churches on this day all over the world.

I vowed to myself to start a new tradition to preserve the specialness of this holiday for my family.  Next year, I'm inviting the family over on Armenian Christmas Eve, after church. And I'm going to INSIST that they come.   To come together and celebrate life and the blessings that we are so fortunate to have.   This old tradition of celebrating Armenian Christmas in the celebratory sense has taken a back seat in our westernized life of "getting back on track in the New Year."  But it deserves focus and preparation.  It's time to make the old tradition new again!   The importance of this day is determined by each of us - do we choose to make it a priority in our lives? or have it be just an ordinary day?  
I wish you all a very blessed Christmas!  Christ is born and revealed; Blessed is the Revelation of Christ!

How to Seed a Pomegranate

    By now you know that I love everything about pomegranates.  They're the symbol of our homeland Armenia, and they also symbolize abundance, prosperity, and fertility. To me, they are magical.  When I first take the "lid" off of the pomegranate and see the seeds, it's like opening a treasure chest and seeing the jewels inside.
    They're very good for you, filled with vitamins and anti-oxidants and over the past several years, they have really gained popularity.  Despite the benefits, they can be a little intimidating when it comes to serving them.  Okay, maybe not intimidating, but they can make a mess, and because the juice can stain, there are all kinds of ways that people have approached seeding them.  I discovered this method of cleaning pomegranates on a website which I can't seem to find any longer. An old Armenian woman was demonstrating how to do this, and after watching it once, I had to run out and buy a pomegranate to try it.  It was so simple.  And since then, I've had a great time demonstrating this to my family and friends (seriously).         
    About a month ago, my friend Seline told me she came across lots and lots of pomegranates and had the task of cleaning them.  I tried to explain the method to her, and her husband Shiraz said I should do a video and post it online. 
    Yesterday, as I was cleaning one, I thought I'd photograph the steps along the way.   I wrote this step-by-step  "how to" on seeding, and  I created a hub on HubPages.  If you're interested in learning this simple method, please follow this link to my article:  http://ahnoosh.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Seed-a-Pomegranate

03 January 2013

What's My One Little Word?

Have you heard of the One Little Word phenomenon?  My daughter Ani first introduced me to the concept about a month ago.  An avid blogger, Ani read the blog of Ali Edwards who started the idea of choosing One Little Word to be "your word" for the year.  A word that you can focus on in your day-to-day; something to help you in your self-reflection/self-improvement.   Interesting idea, right?  I started thinking about what word I would choose.  And then with Christmas, and the birth of our grand daughter,  I forgot about it. And then in Chicago, of all places, my step-daughter's best friend and I were talking when she asked, "Do you read Ali Edwards' blog?  Have you heard about One Little Word?"  Since returning home, I have been giving some serious thought to what my word might be.

Some of my close contenders were the words believe, hope, and love.  But after thinking about my New Year's goals, I found the right word for me.  BALANCE.

I'm a busy person by nature.  My life is full, and I tend to throw myself into all kinds of projects.  I'm active in my church, our homeless outreach, being a mom (and now a new grandmom).  I'm trying to build my jewelry business and my artwork. 

I LOVE the fullness of my life; BUT more often than not, my life tends to get out of control.  I get too busy, too tired, too indulgent, too intense.  And it ends up lacking balance. 

In order for me to reach my goals for this year, my life will need focus on this important word. 
I am hoping that by owning this word and making it mine, I will be able to be healthier, and therefore happier.

Balance will help me to not be excessive (whether it comes to food choices, getting enough rest, over-committing myself, taking care of myself).  I am trying to balance vegetarianism and weight loss; exercise and rest; committing myself to causes that are important to my heart and yet getting enough rest so I don't burn out.  Balance.

So that's the word.  I'm going to try to check in once a month on this blog and let you all know whether my balancing act is working or not.  : ) 

What's your word?  I'd love to hear from you.  Let me know what it is and why you chose it.  If you'd like to learn more about the One Little Word, here is the link to Ali's blog.  And here's the link to Ani's blog: "Love Well Crafted" where you can read about her word, and also about her 52 soups project.

02 January 2013

Pray Like a Child? - or - The Five Fingers of Prayer

Last year I made a conscious effort to set aside time to pray.  Sure, I have always prayed, but it had never been very formal, but more of a conversation with God throughout the day, while driving, while walking, etc.  Those conversations are still going on as I see God in so many things throughout my day, but I do make time - first thing in the morning - to spend serious time in private, quiet prayer. 

When I first started, I noticed that my prayers were kind of disjointed.  Giving thanks for this; and asking for that.  Then I discovered this simple way to keep the dialogue open, and to remember who/what to pray for.  Of course, there are many, many ways to pray.  And your prayer time with God is private and personal.  So I am only posting this because it has helped me.

The Five Fingers of Prayer

Whether you pray with your hands in traditional prayer pose or not, picture them as such.

Thumbs:  Your thumbs are closest to you.  So pray for those that are closest to your heart.  Your family, your friends.

Index Finger:  This finger is also known as the "pointer" finger.  Pray for those who point you in the right direction -- in the path of light.  Pray for your priest, your teachers, maybe a person who has guided you to live a better life.  Pray for their ministries, their work, and that God give them strength to continue guiding us.

Middle finger:  Your middle finger is the tallest.  Associate this with someone in high office.  Pray for the leaders of our country and all countries worldwide.  Pray that God open their hearts and minds toward peace and compassion that they can lead their people in the right path toward peace, harmony and justice.

Ring Finger:  Have you tried holding up your ring finger by itself?  The ring finger is the weakest finger.  Pray for those that are weak.  The oppressed, those that are victims of war, domestic violence, cancer, sickness, weak in spirit.  Pray for those that are hurt and suffering; for the widows and orphans.  Add the names of those that have asked you to pray for them. 

Little Finger:  The little finger is the least of the fingers.  Finally, remember to pray for yourself and your needs last of all.

It's very simple, I know.  But it makes sense and it works for me.  Whatever works, right? 
I hope you find it helpful in your prayer life.  If not for you, then possibly to explain prayer to your child.

May our New Year be filled with blessings and a renewal of faith for all of us.

01 January 2013

New Year, New Beginnings, and a New Look

Happy New Year! 

2012 was a wonderful year for me.  So many life celebrations happened.  I celebrated my first year of being cancer free. My daughter Ani got married, and just last week we went to Chicago to meet (and love) our first grandchild - Grace - my step-daughter Robyn's baby girl. 

But there's more good stuff:  I was team leader for an amazing group of walkers - Team In Her Shoes - and together we walked 39.3 miles in two days to put an end to breast cancer, and in the process we raised in excess of $35,000!

On the creative front, I completed the illustrations for my first children's book which is coming out this year, and I expanded my use of metals and started working in bronze and copper (as well as silver).   

Last night, as we toasted in the New Year, I reflected back on New Years Eve 2011.  I was "done" with that year.  It was a tough one filled with cancer and surgeries, yet it was also a year of strength and focus, of hope and faith.  As tough as that year was, it was still triumphant because we lived through it.

I can't hope that 2013 will be "better" than last year.  Last year was pretty great.  But I do hope that it will be just as good.   There are definite goals for 2013.  I'm declaring it a year to be healthy, to be happy.

So here is how I plan to achieve this:
1.  Take the bus.  Starting tomorrow I'm back on the bus.  I've been driving to work for the past year (post surgery), and now I'm ready to switch back to public transportation.  This will do a few nice things for me not to mention the environment -
a) It will force me to walk (I'm planning on walking the 6 blocks from our home to and from the bus stop); b) It will allow me time to read/crochet - both of which I love to do. It's a win/win!

2.  Weight loss and Vegetarianism:  I plan on tackling both.  A couple months ago, I gave up eating meat.  I'm having a bit of trouble balancing the food.  No animal protein has meant higher carbs.  I'm feeling it.  It's time to get a grip on the balance.  So I'll be working on finding the happy medium.  Along the way I want to work out some good vegetarian low-cal recipes.

3.  Continue to make time for daily prayer.  I started this last year.   Early morning, alone time with God before starting the day.  I find that this prayer time sets the tone for the rest of my day.

4.  Grow my business.  Make time to create, photograph and list new items.  www.pomegranateandeye.etsy.com

These are the main goals.  I've got lots of ideas  I'm thinking I'd like to walk in the Avon Walk again.  The training will help my health goals (plus it's a lot of fun and for a great cause).  I'd also like to make sure I get to bed earlier than I have been.  But that remains to be seen.  And then there's blogging.  I'm hoping to blog regularly.

What about you?  Do you have goals for the new year?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Need motivation? Let me know!

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and blessed new year filled with love, compassion, peace and joy!