April in August

April the Sunflower – was planted from seed in “the month of” and duly designated as such, by a certain young gardener.

O Christian! Remember this once and for all: even on cloudy days the sunflower continues to follow the sun in its focused love, even though it cannot see the sun. The Sun that illumines our life’s path is the will of God. It does not always shine on us without clouds, often, clear days are followed by overcast days when rains, winds, and storms arise, No Christian is safe from these phenomena, these changes in spiritual weather. May our love for the Sun, the will of God, be as strong as the sunflower’s, so that even in days of hardship and sorrow, we will continue to sail unerringly along the sea of life, following the directions of the barometer and compass of God’s will that leads us to the safe haven of eternity. ~ St. John of Tobolsk, from The Sunflower

As requested… the exciting, and surprising conclusion to the April in July posting, regarding the saga of a Sunflower’s struggle to survive.

Yes, indeed!

April the Sunflower BLOOMS!

Despite April’s previous dramatic turmoils… such as literally losing her head, and having her tiny stem chomped on by marauding beetles – that rascally little Helianthus just soldiered on, undeterred by the grim reaper loitering menacingly (complete with scythe) for weeks, beside the compost bin!

Turning her daily tribulations into a tour de force, April overcame all odds, and has faithfully blossomed forth.

Never wallowing in self-pity, she just kept growing, and doing what any sensible sunflower is supposed to do… No matter what!

Meanwhile, April continues to thrive and provide life-lessons, much to our family’s delight.

It’s no mere coincidence that her sunflower leaves are heart-shaped!

You Grow Girl!


Path of God

Ancient pathway Mystras, Greece – 2017

The path of God is a daily cross. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

Make your one aim in life the doing of the will of Jesus in every circumstance, however important or trifling it may seem. ~ St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Continue your path with courage, with much courage. Let your heart rejoice in the Lord, and He will grant it all nourishment and all energy that is needed so that it does not seem to collapse. Nothing should seem difficult to you. ~St. Luke of Simferopol

We travel many paths in life. With God’s help we make our way along the right one. Sometimes distracting side trails appear, but if we aim to do God’s Will, we discern that most navigational “shortcuts” may trip us up. Meanwhile, God protects us, and our guardian angel is always present.

Speaking of paths, don’t forget to have a trip blessing before starting a new adventure… It’s the best travel insurance! I particularly remember a certain vacation of hiking with my family in the wilds (of B.C.). As I plodded along, my husband and children cavorted far ahead, chatting and laughing. Pretty soon they rounded a bend in the trail, and vanished from sight and sound.

I thirstily drank in the beauty and wonder of God’s nature amid tall fragrant forest firs and birdsong. Beside the path, leaf mould and damp mosses covered ancient nursing stumps sprouting new life… And I realized it was high time to catch up with my family, so I broke into a jog.

About 100 feet into my run, I “was stopped”.

I simply couldn’t move, and literally stood still. Frozen.

Within two seconds of wondering what was going on(?!?), a sudden great crack resounded, and a giant limb of a tree, fell directly across the path, about 10 feet in front of me! It was massive, and fell exactly where I would have been jogging, had my Guardian Angel not stopped me.

Able to move freely again, I was shaken with amazement and gratitude for a few minutes. Crossing myself, I thanked God and my Guardian Angel profusely. (I also remember waving an additional thumbs-up, air greeting of hello – to my Guardian Angel.)

Raucous ravens shook my reverie and I sighed, “Okay, okay, I get it, I’m going!” Adrenaline fuelled an easy straddle of the downed limb as I tore off to catch up to my family.

Grace and Protection abounded on that path… with God’s help ever before me, and my Guardian Angel always beside me. Amen!

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. ~ St. Matthew 10:30

Do not say, “this happened by chance, while this came to be of itself.” In all that exists there is nothing disorderly, nothing indefinite, nothing without purpose, nothing by chance … How many hairs are on your head? God will not forget one of them. Do you see how nothing, even the smallest thing, escapes the gaze of God? ~ St. Basil the Great

Prayers of the Heart

A long-distance parishioners’ home’s beautiful Little Church during special prayers

Internal Prayer and the Jesus Prayer – Excerpts from our 2019 Parish Family Camp

In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. ~ Romans 8:26

St. Paul said it is necessary to attain a state of permanent prayer, to always pray. – …The Jesus Prayer is a short prayer containing many ideas in it, and by practicing repetition of the Jesus Prayer it is possible to attain a state of permanent prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is very long and contains many ideas. When repeating the Lord’s Prayer the mind focuses on the ideas so that prayer isn’t experienced by the heart. For prayer to be real it must not only be in the mind but also the heart and will (mind, heart, and will, are the three aspects of the soul). Real, permanent prayer does not come easily. It is necessary to make many very long and persistent efforts in order to attain permanent prayer. We must pray to learn to pray. If we attain permanent prayer we will be able to walk, talk, eat, drive, even sleep and still be constantly repeating the prayer. ~ Metropolitan Vitaly

The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”– Or “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” – Or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on (Name).”

This simple, ancient prayer is rooted deeply in Church tradition and can be used anytime or anywhere. We recite it to permeate our hearts, to focus our minds, and help us follow God’s Will, instead of our own, usual, self-will. Prayer is the breath of the soul.

Begin by saying the Jesus Prayer sometimes, during the day or night. If the mind wanders, peacefully begin anew, attentively returning the heart again to the prayer. Ask God to calm the mind’s restlessness. Practicing this prayer with humility and patience, draws God’s grace to actively work within us.

Many Orthodox Christians use a prayer rope to help them concentrate as they repeat the Jesus Prayer. Prayer Ropes come in a great variety of forms and sizes. Some are knotted of wool or silk, others are made of wood. When you pray the prayer, hold the prayer rope with your left hand between the thumb and the index finger and move from knot to knot each time you say the prayer. In this way, your right hand is free to Cross yourself as needed while praying. St. Seraphim of Sarov once said the tassels at the end of some prayer ropes are for wiping away our tears. Of course, if we don’t have a prayer rope, we can still pray this prayer.

It’s not the quantity of times the prayer is said, but the quality of our prayer.

The Jesus Prayer is not a mantra to simply quiet the mind. One Jesus Prayer prayed slowly with all our heart and soul, is worth more than a million parroted prayers, repeated without any thought or without focus on what we are actually saying. When praying, we also remember God’s endless Love and Mercy, and thank Him for all our Blessings.

St. Hesychios, an Abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai who lived in the 7th century said, “Just as it is impossible to fight battles without weapons, or to swim a great sea with clothes on, or to live without breathing, so without humility and the constant prayer to Christ, it is impossible to master the art of inward spiritual warfare or to set about it and pursue it skillfully.”

Abbot Tryphon of the Christ the Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island in Washington says: “There is a common misconception concerning the word “mercy”, used throughout the liturgical services of the Church, as well as our private prayers, and the Jesus Prayer. It is a given that we are all sinners, but the asking for God’s mercy is not limited to asking His forgiveness, or begging God to overlook our sinfulness. When we pray forty Lord have mercies, we are recognizing that EVERYTHING proceeds out of God’s mercy. The air we breathe, the health we enjoy, the food on our table, the water in our tap, the friendships we treasure, our family, and everything good, flows out upon us through God’s mercy. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy.”

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner – contains our entire Orthodox confession of faith; all dogma is built on it. If you say it attentively, then the Lord will gradually purify your inner world.” ~ Fr. Nikolai Vedernikov

Every prayer must come from the heart, and any other prayer is no prayer at all. Prayer-book prayers, your own prayers, and very short prayers, all must issue forth from the heart to God, seen before you. And still more must this be so with the Jesus Prayer ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Jesus Prayer sung in Slavonic (Women’s Voice)
Jesus Prayer sung in English (Women’s Voice)
Jesus Prayer sung in English (4 Part Choir)

Of Eagles & Olive Bread

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. ~Isaiah 40:31 

With the gift of free time, I’ve dusted the cobwebs off simple activities tossed aside – and begun doing.

There was time to garden yesterday and bake olive bread!

One hears amazing stories from friends and family reconnecting by playing games, sharing or renewing skills, and just being with each other. What a blessing!

While treading the delicate path of social distancing, we can still remain close, and reach out to each other using many forms of social media.

Meanwhile, for me, one of the hardest things with social distancing is the inability to safely hug or touch each other, if we’re not already living together. Touch is a powerful bond.

However, even from a distance, it’s humbling to see what we are accomplishing together as we focus on goals and not just the task.

Cyber-bumping your elbow, I take my leave.

I’m feeling energized. Today’s a brand new day, and there’s much to be done in the garden.

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