Winter time urges me to put a puzzle together. Snow can fly outside while I sit inside and look for the right piece. The longer I look at the broken up puzzle, the more often I reference the complete picture on the box cover, the more familiar I become with the scene and can find pieces easier. It reminds me of life. Life can feel like a puzzle. Sometimes the pieces come falling together, other times the pieces seem scattered. But, I take a breath and become familiar with the scene of God’s work and then look for pieces that fit in life, truth, and love. I don’t need to fret about creating a life but can image forth a life of love, God. From 21st Century Science and Health, “Does God create anew what Life has already created? Nothing is new to God. The Scriptures are definite on this point, declaring that God’s work was finished, and that it was good.”  Gen. 2:2  Gen. 1:31
Category Archives: Environment
Another Christmas is upon me.
I feel no pressure.
I learned decades ago not to get caught up in the hub-bub of Christmas.
I truly have good memories, and a lot of them.
I don’t quite know what to do with those memories.
Do I add them up and feel as though time has escaped me? Or, that I’m getting old?
Do I nonchalantly let the memories sit on the sidelines as if they are powerless today?
Or, do I know what the memories symbolize and watch for more?
Yes, good memories embody wellbeing, joy, sharing, caring, and life. This embodiment can be found today.
This was posted on Beliefnet.com at Everyday Spirituality blog.
When I first started reporting for the newspaper, the learning curve was steep. An enormous effort was needed on my part to interview productively then write an article that made sense.
Did I mention the enormous effort?
I would literally sweat when writing.
Writing is more effortless today. What makes something effortless?
How can we use this knowledge for healing?
When we are sick or afraid, we can feel as though we are being accused or faulted for not doing something right. The body may come across as a judge that passes a sentence of suffering on us. We might feel as though we are trapped in a prison of problems.
But Christ Jesus counseled us on how to stay free:
“As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison.” (Luke 12:58, ESV)
The Greek for “effort” is ĕrgasia. Meaning to work, diligence, toil, occupation, gain.
It may not feel as though an effort is taken to get sick or get caught in a bad situation but it does, or did at some point, even if we didn’t realize it.
I remember fostering a child. A high maintenance child. He’d been passed from foster home to foster home, for multiple reasons, all of which I discovered were valid. No one blamed the child, we just needed a large community to raise him because we only had so much patience.
At one point his third grade teacher had reached her limit. Not exactly because of this one child but because when he hung around two other boys, all their behaviors automatically went downhill fast. The three of them together seemed to produce a fog that made it so they couldn’t see past their own arrogance and rudeness. It was as if their brains seized up and their brawn started competing for the “most mean” award.
The teacher and I came up with a plan. She moved the boys to one table, instead of dividing them as per typical strategy, and I came in each day for a week and sat there, in the little chair, at the little table. I smiled and nodded at everything the teacher said. She was still in full control of the class. I was just an observer, with a quick eye.
As soon as one of the boys started making fog, I’d look at them with my “be careful and think” eye. But, I also did something more important. I made the effort to reflect God’s thoughts, not the thoughts that came with these boys.
That week in third grade made a positive impact. The school year finished up and everyone was glad it ended without much ado.
I think of this effort I made in third grade. The effort was directed toward the foster child because he was under my care. But I made the diligent effort to affirm spiritual thoughts: God made you good. God, Love is your Father and Mother. God guides us with intelligence and wisdom.
It was an effort because I had fallen into a different thinking pattern.
When this child came to live with us, he came with paperwork and the behavioral information. I made the effort to accept the information about his attachment disorder and chaos creative ability, however I stopped there.
I didn’t make an effort to settle my thoughts with God in Mind.
I instead made the effort to think about the foster child losing his wits because I could see it almost every day. I made the effort to try to negotiate with him because he argued about everything.
This behavior seemed natural, expected, even effortless. But Christ Jesus showed it wasn’t natural.
Only goodness is in divine Science, or divine knowledge.
That week in third grade taught me a wonderful lesson. Everything takes effort, even changing our thinking. It also taught me not to be fooled by old thinking that claims to be valid, or effortless.
It takes effort to think bad, just as it takes effort to think good. Starting with God, Love, we are given a leg-up over the bad.
First appeared in The Daily Star newspaper, Oneonta, New York
The human proclivity to classify coffee as rich, dark, light, bitter, smooth, also classifies religion: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the list goes on. Moreover, within each of those denominations we find factions: orthodox, modern, non-denominational, even inter-denominational.
Aside from the dirty laundry of religion that gets aired frequently—as it should—we can look into the face of faith and discover many layers, giving it a depth that shows no end.
With faith, not agenda, at the helm, the future of religion shows adaptability. At the time of this writing, First Baptist Church in Oneonta is continuing its mission locally and throughout the world in a new church building.
Established in 1834, First Baptist Church served faith from the corner of Chestnut and Academy streets for eighty years. “We moved 30 yards away, to a smaller place at 73 Chestnut Street,” said Philip Hulbert, church deacon at First Baptist Church. “Our tradition of focusing on a spiritual mission, along with making the building available to the community will continue with the time and resources we have today.”
The larger original edifice is currently in the process of being sold to Chabad of Oneonta, a Jewish organization. Once the legal process is complete, the building will again be a vibrant part of faith. As for symbols of sacredness, Hulbert said, “First Baptist members selected items and brought them to the new edifice.”
More interested in sharing spirituality than symbols, Hulbert added, “First Baptist Church welcomes people of all faith. Church services are at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, with a concurrent Sunday School.”
The art of embracing people of many faiths is also seen in the Chabad organization currently meeting at 28 Walnut Street. Co-directors, Rabbi Meir and Fraidy Rubashkin welcome interested minds no matter what their background.
Husband and wife, Rabbi Meir and Fraidy depict an orthodox appearance, however visitors find a respect for a diverse range of how Jewish laws are observed. “We don’t cater to any group. We are all God created, to be loved and cared for,” said Rabbi Meir. “The Chabad Center has a unique founding principle that all persons offer something good and that all can be leaders.”
Accommodating the Jewish Student population, Chabad Oneonta adjusts to the college schedule. It began nearly three years ago when the Rubashkin family moved to Oneonta from Brooklyn, New York. Students have found family away from family at the Chabad Center.
“We have three young children and have fully invested ourselves in the center,” said Rabbi Meir. “The number of visitors to the center has grown so dramatically, it was natural to find and work with First Baptist Church members to purchase the historic building.”
Rabbi Meir, 28-years old, came with a background in Yeshiva education, “It was discussion style learning,” he said. “As I got older, studies became intense and focused on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study.”
Meir grew up in the Midwest, attending rabbinical schooling in Canada and New Jersey. He brought to Oneonta a compelling, upfront, alive, attitude. “The students know I’ll open the door if they knock at 2 in the morning,” said Meir.
The students also know they can contact the Rabbi and Fraidy through Facebook. “We use technology for good. We are not separate from the world but make the distinction between heaven and earth with the goal to infuse spirituality into earthliness,” said Meir.
A Chazak newsletter is printed twice a year and information is found online at www.chabadoneonta.com highlighting a quote from Maimonides (Jewish philosopher, 1135 – 1204): One good thought, one kind word, one good deed, can change the world.
The term Chabad covers a wide definition today, from a philosophy to an organization. In the mid-20th century, Menachem M. Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe turned Chabad into a dynamic and geographically diverse religious movement in Jewish life. “We don’t need to lessen our religious convictions in the modern world,” said Meir. “We encourage participation in good deeds and observance of God’s commandments.”
When non-Jews think of Jewish traditions, Hanukkah comes to mind. But, “Hanukkah is a minor festivity,” said Fraidy, raised in a home grounded in the Chabad philosophy. “Hanukkah is misunderstood because it falls near Christmas, which is an important holiday for Christians.”
The major holy days on the Jewish Calendar are: the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Passover, Shavuot (The Festival of Weeks) and Sukkot (The Festival of Booths).
According to the Jewish calendar, on the 25th day of the month Kislev, year 5775 (December 17, 2014) Chanukah, or Hanukah begins. It commemorates the successful revolt by Jews during the Greco Roman period, more than 21 centuries ago. The Jews took back the Jerusalem temple. During the rededication, they found only a single cruse of oil to light the Menorah. Miraculously, the one-day supply of oil burned for eight days.
During Hanukkah, also termed Festival of Lights, celebrants light a single flame on the first night, two on the second, and so on until the eighth night when all eight lights are kindled.
“We give gifts to the children, however, Hanukkah is time for family,” said Fraidy. “This year will be quiet because the college students will be home for winter break.”
But in general, quiet, the Chabad Center is not. Every Friday evening when school is in session, Shabbos (Sabbath) dinner is served to an average of 87 students per night.
The women and men are divided. Fraidy and the women begin with candle lighting. She covers her eyes and welcomes light into the home. “We also teach the children at a young age the importance of giving,” said Fraidy. Coins are dropped into a box, the pushke, to collect and give to the poor.
Rabbi Meir goes into the other room with the men for prayer that pumps the soul.
“Then we eat,” said Fraidy. Students volunteer to help serve warm Challah, all types of salads and dips, piping hot chicken Matzoh ball soup, tantalizing chicken, Kugal and endless deserts.
Added to the feasting is singing, prayer reading (in Hebrew), and a mini-talk from Rabbi Meir on a subject grounded in the Torah. There is no reluctance to voice aloud at high decibels the prayers.
During a Shabbat celebration last month, State University Oneonta, alumna, Jillian Vell, 23-years old visited. “My sister, Samantha, also came because tonight has an Israel theme,” said Vell.
“We grew up with a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father,” said Jillian, seemingly undaunted by different spiritual paths. “When growing up, I chose to attend Jewish school, my sister chose public school. When we went to college, I came to Oneonta and became involved in the Hillel Jewish organization on campus, and was happy when the Chabad Center opened.”
Vell remembered a year when college was still in session during Hanukkah. The Chabad Center worked with Hillel at Oneonta State and other groups, to light a large Menorah on campus. She said “It was fantastic. About 200 people came. We had prayers, donuts and cider. Dr. Steve Perry and Dean Dr. Susan Turell were there.”
Chabad Oneonta also hosts Girls Night In, Boys Night Out, Ski Trips, Cosmic Dodge Ball, Passover Seders, and more. Funding comes from tax-deductible donations and planned giving. It is Chabad policy that each center is self-supporting. In the summer months, Rabbi Meir also leads a tour group to Israel.
Sometimes I wear my shirt backwards. And, no I’m not ten years old.
I wake in the morning, get dressed, and work through the day. When I’m undressing at night, I notice the shirt tag going up over my head. Alas. I can crack myself up.
Keeping my thoughts on straight is more important to me.
Divine knowledge has taught me not to get thoughts backward. Start with God, not with humans, for my answers. Start with Love, not anger.
From 21st Century Science and Health:
“It is backwards to believe that anything can overpower omnipotent and eternal Life. This Life must be brought to light by the understanding that there is no death, as well as by other graces of Spirit. We must begin however, with the more simple demonstrations of control, and the sooner we begin the better. The final demonstration takes time for its accomplishment. When walking, we are guided by the eye. We look before our feet, and if we are wise, we look beyond a single step in the line of spiritual advancement.
“When judging Christian Science, sanction only such methods as are demonstrable in Truth and known by their fruits. Classify other methods that suggest futile or backward behavior as did Paul in his great epistle to the Galatians, when he wrote as follows:
“’The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’”
 Gal. 5:19–23