"Salvation is our cooperative effort with God's grace through keeping of the commandments and the acquisition of the beauty of the virtues, which bring man, who is in the image of God, to the likeness of God."
~Taken from Acquiring The Mind of Christ by Archimandrite Sergius (Bowyer)
This, to me, has got to be one of the most profound and wonderfully simply stated explanations of the Orthodox view of salvation I have ever come across. It is short and simple and to the point.
Salvation is not a one time experience and guarantee. It is a process. And while I can say I was saved when Jesus died on the cross, I also know that it is, indeed, a process. I can mess up that salvation for myself if I part from God- my relationship with Him and His commandments. For in parting from those, I am furthering myself from becoming like Him.
Yet as I go through the day- seeking Him in prayer, attending Liturgy and taking part in the sacraments, reading the bible and books that encourage my faith, surrounding myself with others of the faith, teaching my children about the faith, singing hymns, practicing gratitude, and attempting to avoid sin, all of those things bring me closer to Him and, therefore, is me demonstrating that cooperative effort with His grace.
I've always enjoyed reading explanations of salvation. This one really struck me this morning and I was compelled to share. Hopefully it gives you as much to ponder as it did for me.
What are you doing today to keep that cooperative effort going?
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever
- Psalm 136:1
As many know,the book of Psalms were written by David. But did you realize how many of those psalms were written while David was in agony and moments of extreme distress? Yet David continued writing of giving thanks, praising and singing to the Lord! This is the perfect example of having deep gratitude. Surely if David can find reasons for gratitude,
David certainly had good reason to give thanks to God. God did, afterall, choose him to be the king over Israel while he was just a young boy. David was king over all of Israel and its people! Furthermore, his first victory, killing Goliath, occurred long before that- when he was just a boy! David owed all of his triumphs over all of his enemies, including Goliath, to God. We may not have quite the same blessings as David (kingship, heroship and more) but we all have our blessings. Many Many blessings!
And yet... just like you and I....
And while God forgave David's sin, he was not spared from paying the price of sin. He was not spared from the challenges of the human life and the sadness and grief that is part of our lives. He had to witness the unwanted pregnancy in Bathsheba. His first child died. His own son pursued to kill him. He army was defeated.
Even so, David knew that God had not left him. In fact, God declared, according to the Apostle Paul, 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do' (Acts 13:22) .
Because David sought God in times of his needs. He was GRATEFUL for all of the mercies he received from God, giving thanks and recognition to the God that gave those mercies to him. And David continued to sing unto the Lord! When we show gratitude on a daily basis(such as writing in our journals!), this is one way that we too can sing unto the Lord.
The thanksgiving that David offered to God was not just because he knew it was the right thing to do or because he thought he'd get away with more...David was relieved from troubles and his sorrows through his gratitude and it was in offering thanks for His mercy that he called upon the LORD and God answered his prayers!
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
Praise Him, all you peoples,
For His mercy rules over us;
And the truth of the Lord endures forever.
~Psalm 116 (117)
Have and show gratitude. It will set you on the right path. It will bring forth blessings. May God bless you forevermore.
The way my sons enjoy wildlife and see God's glory in it all.
Creativity and fun that was held at the Crayola Factory this week!
Invitation to get together from a friend.
The sense of accomplishment & freedom at seeing clean open spaces.
Finding messages in scripture that speak to my heart.
It’s not happiness that brings us GRATITUDE. It’s gratitude that brings us HAPPINESS. ~Author Unknown
It's been over two weeks since I even sat down to my computer to write a post! So today I am grateful to the time I have allotted to do just that and the young lady that is entertaining my youngest while I do so!
So how are you doing with your gratitude journal? When I last posted, I shared with you that I was not doing so well with keeping up with my personal goal of 5 a day. I did lay the journal back out and started to improve again...and then, well..... it's been several days now since I wrote in it.
So I thought I'd review a few pointers on how to make this a habit!!! I checked out a few web posts about forming new habits. One such place was this: http://jamesclear.com/habit-guide
The above posts suggests starting small. Okay....
So my goal is 5 a day. But maybe to get myself back on track, I should accept just 2 a day? It would certainly get me writing more than my current last week of zero.
The post also said to increase in small increments. Okay. Well, maybe I can start with 1 or 2; then after a few days, or when the mood strikes me, I can then try for 3, then 4, then 5!
The suggestion I find most helpful is the suggestion of breaking it down. I often try to get my 5 out in the morning along with my morning devotion/prayer time. I think that's my downfall. It's all I can do to focus on reading my bible or current book I'm reading about my faith, let alone think of 5 things (all at once )I'm grateful for while still sleepy and irritable because, well, it's MORNING. I'm probably picking the wrong time of day to do this and probably should not attempt to thinking of 5 things all at once unless it's an unusual instance in which they come to me easily at that moment.
The next suggestion given is when you get off track, get back on track QUICKLY! The author states, "top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible." Okay....I'm stopping now to write one thing in my gratitude journal....be back in a second.....
There.... okay...so I've written one in for today. And I can pat myself on the back and know I'm doing okay. I'm up to #245. That's 245 things to read when I'm down in the dumps about things that are good in my life.
And the last pointer this blogger shared was to...
Stick to a Pace You Can Sustain
Ugh. Yes. Be patient. That's a hard one for me. I can easily be not very patient with others...but especially MYSELF!
So if you find you haven't started your gratitude journal, these are some good tips to form your new habit. And if you have faltered, like me, in keeping it up- these are some good tips to lift ourselves up and get back on track, sticking to a pace we can sustain and, in doing so, transform our minds and spirits!
There are days I am completely at rest with my plans and style of homeschooling. AND there are days I am ....well.... a normal mom who panics and worries and stresses that I can't possibly do it all.
And those are the days I'm most grateful for Sarah Mackenzie's book, Teaching From Rest. Sarah really talks sense when she points out to us moms that we are not meant to do it all! All we can really do is give it our best and TRUST IN GOD to do the rest. If Jesus can feed the thousand with a little fish and bread, then I guess I can do right by my children by giving all that I can and trusting that God will do the rest.
So this summer, I am trying to move into a 'school year round' mode while also staying mindful of my new 'Teaching From Rest' mindset...and trying to catch up on those things that haven't gotten accomplished since moving to our newest home (almost two years ago)...you know, like the garage, basement, and yes, my 'office area' - of which I am proud to say I am typing in right now..... yes, there are still piles off to my right which need sorted, but the desk is clear and functioning! WOOT!!!
But while I spent time modifying our morning time routine and school schedule to be shorter for summer days, I haven't exactly kept up with it but for a few days here and there - meshed in with cleaning, organizing, errands and all those other things that interrupt our school day. BUT. I am at rest. (Well, mostly....there's a little agitation that surfaces from time to time, I admit.) Here's my updated schedules, if you are interested. I'm using Looping a lot now... it's definitely putting more rest in our school plan!
I'm really enjoying our Memory Work time, as does my son. And for Literature right now, our selection is the first of The Boxcar Children. I know there's a whole series of that one now, but doubt I'll read any more than the first. There's so much good literature out there. I've heard the rest are not as good - so if he's really interested, I'll just let him use them for his own reading pleasure, rather than using them as our read alouds.
We are starting to use the Orthodox Study Bible to do the assigned daily readings and using his bible reader more as a reader for him for reading practice when we aren't using his nature readers (which by the way, has a great chapter on...... worms!)
For nature study right now, we are doing worms! We have the farm which we observe on an almost daily basis and several books checked out of the library on earthworms. Who would have guessed learning about worms could actually be interesting? Just yesterday we learned that inchworms are not actually worms at all. Who would have thought those tiny little green 'worms' turn into moths?
History for this summer and upcoming school year will be a mixture of Ancient History and American History and geography will be based on that. Although I did purchase this to help us along:
I doubt we'll get far this summer, but who knows? My main goal is to introduce the concept that school or education does happen year round, on a daily basis- whether we sit for a whole hour or two of lessons or not. And to ENJOY learning- of course!!! And, to achieve what Sarah Mackenzie set out to help us all do with her book - RESTFUL TEACHING!
What are you doing this summer in your homeschool?
7 weeks since I challenged myself to become a woman of gratitude and asked you to join me.
How have your 7 weeks been?
I will admit, I've begun to falter.
I haven't kept up with my own challenge of at least 5 things a day in my new gratitude challenge. I've let to-do lists, days away, and chaotic schedules keep me from my moments of sitting and taking notice- keeping track of the beauty- and it's had an effect.
I write this with honesty as I want to encourage the rest of you to start afresh if you haven't started yet, and to keep going if you started but, like me, began to falter.
This process does not have to be perfect.
Don't get discouraged.
It's important to maintain the focus- even if you drift for a bit. Stay the course of finding joy in your life and noticing and living in the blessings that surround you daily.
AND TAKE NOTE OF IT.
Keep a gratitude journal.
It's possible, I know, to find gratitude without a journal. But if you are like so many others already on the path of being more of a complainer, more of a negative thinker, more of a person that struggles with finding joy all around you (and I've been through that stage of life more often than I care to admit)- a gratitude journal really can help change you. It can be the start of something grand and miraculous in your life. So I challenge you, whether you have started and are doing better than me, whether you started but are discouraged at a short list, whether you haven't started yet at all, grab that journal or sheet of paper and write a list RIGHT NOW (I just did too) of at least 5-10 things that you are grateful for RIGHT NOW. And keep adding.
Not many of you have commented much right here on the blog yet. It's okay- don't be shy. I've had private comments elsewhere, so I know that there are quite a few of you that are appreciating the challenge. But I urge you to share your lists with us. Help keep us all going. Help us to look around and see these types of similar things in our lives too- and don't worry if they are the mundane.... don't worry if it seems small to you; if it's something that brings you joy, a smile to your face, a sense of peace or hope in your soul, a moment of happiness- it's worth writing down and sharing!
So I've got my journal open on my counter again (yeah- I kept letting it get moved around- so I'm trying to make it more visual to keep me on track) and I'm going back to my goal of at least 5 a day... if that's too much for you, I'd suggest 3- . Please join me. Encourage me. Encourage OTHERS! Become a woman (or man!) of gratitude!
My daughter requesting time with me.
Coffee filled chocolate hearts!
My son sharing his dreams and goals with us.
Having a family that expresses love openly and OFTEN!
The beginnings of a new garden - dirt, small plants, HOPE for abundance.
Feelings of gratitude release positive endorphins throughout the body, creating health. ~Sharon Huffman
Barbara Fredrickson, social psychologist and positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, published a paper on the power of positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Indeed, having a positive attitude and one of gratitude does wonders for your health and overall well being. Fredrickson's research showed that when people experience positive emotions like joy, contentment and love, we see the positive and possibilities around us.
It's true. Just feeling thankful has the power to make us continue to feel positive and perhaps even younger. Don't you feel younger when you are smiling and enjoying life? Being grateful creates inner happiness that transfers itself throughout your body. Therefor, gratitude improves our moods because it helps us focus on the good things around us and equips us with a better ability to see the blessings and positive things rather than dwell on negative circumstances; thus we stay positive.
Gratitude truly optimizes our health. Positive emotions strengthen and enhance the immune system through the release of endorphins into the blood stream! Endorphins are sort of like our bodies natural painkillers. Conversely, negative emotions reduce the number of endorphins and slow down the white blood cells in our bloodstreams and may contribute to heart disease and stroke due to the high levels of adrenaline. Fredrickson hypothesizes that our positive emotions can actually undo the cardiovascular effects of these negative emotions.
In short, the more we feel a sense of gratitude, the more endorphins we have and less adrenaline; thus, healthier lives!
Occasionally, I’ll share a few tips with you to help you keep motivated in keeping your journal and making sure it stays a positive experience for you to help focus on thanksgiving rather than the complaining so many of us in today’s society takes part in.
Today’s Gratitude Journal Tip:Turn Negatives into positives! If you are having a bad day, it will be harder to write your 3-5 positive things in your gratitude journal but you can do it! It may seem difficult at first, but the more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Instead of seeing and writing "I'm still unemployed," you might write, "I was able to pay the rent this month."
Instead of "The living room is trashed because there were 3 neighbor kids over and no one put anything away," you could think and write "Joy was had here."
Instead of "The milk spilled all over," you could focus on "The floor is now clean and shiny."
Gratitude turns what we have into enough. ~Author Unknown
"I tend to get lost in the details of a large-family life when I'm right in the midst of it. It takes a certain fortitude, after all, to look at a pile of dishes and see it as the makings of a cathedral. The daily mundane is holy ground because the ordinary tasks of a monotonous Monday are where we meet our Maker," says Sarah Mackenzie, author of Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace. Isn't this true of us all?
Homeschoolers or not, don't we all get lost in the daily mundane and forget that this is truly where we meet our Maker? We get lost in the daily tasks that we'd just as soon forget (dishes, laundry, cleaning up messes, handling sibling arguments, etc.) and we forget that even in those tasks we are doing something bigger. Sarah tells us in her book that many of the medieval cathedral builders never saw their work completed as the cathedrals would take over a hundred years (more than a lifetime) to complete. Yet, the builders devoted their lives to this work- giving glory to God.
We look at the cathedral today and it is not at all mundane. But think of that builder who lugged stone after stone after stone, never seeing the beautiful work that we see in front of us today. They gave it their all. Mundane stone after stone. Mundane day after mundane day.
We too are giving our work to God. Everything we do is work that God sees - even if it's not a medieval cathedral to worship Him in. Isn't our home a mini-cathedral? Isn't that where we encounter Him each and every day? Should we not be grateful for each and every encounter, even in the mundane? For even in washing those dishes, we are serving Him. Even in making that bed, we are serving Him. Even in picking up those dirty socks, we are serving Him.
Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. ~ Matthew 25:40
For even in the mundane tasks we do that serve our family members, we serve Him. Shouldn't then, we be giving it our all? Doing our best? And giving thanks at the same time? Thanks for the ability to do the work. Thanks for God allowing us this time on earth to do it? Thanks for giving us others to serve so that in doing so, we are able to serve Him? Thanks for knowing that it really does make a difference, no matter how menial or small it seems to us at the time.
What are some tasks you find to be mundane, but upon further reflection, can find some reason to give thanks? Reason for gratitude?
" For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." G. K Chesteron (Orthodoxy)
My 3 living children - lovely gifts of God.
Mashed potatoes - comfort food.
A child observing, "It's a lovely day!", despite the grey clouds overhead. Children see beauty when some of us can not.
Four white tails leaping away through the yard and into the woods - thankful to the brief glimpse of their presence and reminder of the creatures surrounding our home.
Why Did I Choose It? I saw the advertisements for the book last year and,honestly, the concept of rest pulled me in! Rest? What IS that? I had a feeling it wasn't about sleeping until noon or handing out lessons from my bedside, but I found the title appealing and had to find out for myself what it was all about!
A Bit From The Back Cover: Those who have made the decision to homeschool their children have done so out of great love for their children and a desire to provide them an excellent education in the context of a warm, enriching home. Yet so many parents (mainly mothers) who have taken up this challenge find the enterprise often full of stress, worry, and anxiety. In this practical, faith-based, and inspirational book, Sarah Mackenzie addresses these questions directly, appealing to her own study of restful learning (schole) and her struggle to bring restful learning to her children.
Review: This book is amazing! Seriously- I think this book has helped me in my homeschooling process more than any other book I've read. In the Book, Teaching From Rest, Sarah gives real practical advice on how to simplify our days and our 'curriculum' toa point that allows us to accept our limitations, trust in God to make the miracles happen, and teach from a true state of rest(note: Rest is NOT a state of ease ). Sarah covers a variety of ways to achieve our end goal including prayer, morning time, lightening the load (and how to do that), understanding the limitations of published resources, simplifying the schedule and much much more! This is a book I firmly intend on reading each and every year through the rest of my homeschool years. It will have a permanent place by my bedside for those moments I'll need a few moments of review and 'pep talk' from Sarah!
I hope to write more posts soon on Teaching From Rest. In the meantime, I just finished planning for an upcoming book study I am conducting on Facebook. It starts THIS FRIDAY!!! (May 20, 2016)Don't panic- if you don't have the book, buy it now... Friday we are only going over the introduction, so if you're not in the group yet, join and catch up when you get the book! The rest begins Monday. The schedule for reading is on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1112029392194451/
One of the biggest things of the CM method I wanted to implement this year was nature walks and nature study. And if I grade myself according to the quantity of time we actually spent doing any of those things... I failed miserably. At least, the way I would grade it.
My son LOVES nature.
So I must be doing something right.
We have read a lot of nature books. In the winter, when I was a sissy- yes, despite the very mild winter we had- we stayed indoors a lot. We watched the birds and we read books. He does love the nature books. Though he did NOT seem to appreciate the Burgess book on birds....everyone on Ambleside raves about it. But my boy? He was bored out of his mind. I finally put it down for awhile. I got the Burgess chapter books instead. Much less valuable information is inside these little gems, but he loves them. And we still read his nature magazines and other books. And since the kid recognized , all on his own the other day, a red breasted grosbeak... the first I've ever seen and have never pointed one out to him in a book (in other words, he looks at the bird book himself quite often), I'd say we are doing okay. 🙂
I'm still using Ambleside as a guide for next year...but I am going to use a lot of my learning I absorbed from Teaching From Rest to tame things down and simplify quite a bit. There's no need for me to be stressing. This kid is a sponge. He's soaking up knowledge everywhere we go.
I'm continuing things through the summer but at a much much slower pace and with time to enjoy life and , well, especially nature! At least, that's the plan! 😉