Saturday, August 27, 2011

Song "Blessings," by Laura Story

I heard this song while praying for many of you who read my simple posts. The pain of so many of you, especially those who have recently lost loved ones, has become my own. Right this moment, I'd like to be in multiple places at once, hugging you, listening or simply sitting together. For now, this is the best I can add to my loving concern and heartfelt prayers.

In this song, Laura asks, "What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?" For all my friends and loved ones who are grieving right now, I hope not. I pray that your peace will come sooner rather than later, and that you will experience God's comforting presence now, even as you hear this song.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

With love & prayers,
Mari

(See Perseverance: Adversity's Gift for more inspiration and hope.)


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adversity's Gift: Perseverance

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

I love how James ties trials, faith, perseverance, maturity, and joy. Our trials, he explains, test our faith and develop our ability to persevere. The dictionary defines perseverance as steadfastness, determination and, my favorite, staying power. Staying power – the diligence, commitment and muscle to stay, to endure, not to flee, to hang in there. Perseverance gives us the power to stay in our circumstance, standing firm in that uncomfortable, painful or devastating place until we can rise above it. I don't know about you, but I want more staying power. I want to be fully equipped in hardship so that I may continue to stand and not fall.

James reminds us that this process of increasing our staying power matures us, that we may be “complete, not lacking anything.” He's not referring to material provision here; he's talking about our emotions, our relationships, our spiritual life – our inner life. Perseverance strengthens our inner being, where our emotions, thoughts, and will reside. We become wiser and more mature as we persevere. Like a tree that sways in the storm but remains standing, our roots dig deeper and grow stronger when we resolve to stand firm through trials. As we grasp the transformation taking place within us through difficulties, we learn to rejoice in the midst of them. We discern a noble and good purpose in our suffering, and this awareness transforms it – and us.

"Finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means." (2 Corinthians 8:11) Perseverance helps us "finish the work," and it is our trials that help us develop this virtue. May we all remember this when we face adversity and learn to rejoice in the midst of it, thanking God for making us whole and helping us stand.

Rejoice!
Dr Mari

For more encouragement, listen to the song Blessings and read Contentment: Good for the Soul and Evidence of Trust.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Local Ministry Opportunity: Sanford, FL

Harvest Time International’s Medical Care Center will open in Sanford, FL this September, 2011. This Christian clinic will provide medical care to uninsured families with an income below 200% of the federal poverty level. The Medical Care Center seeks to bring glory to God by sharing His love with families in need regardless of their faith, race, gender or age. The free medical clinic needs volunteer doctors, nurses, clerical volunteers to qualify patients, medical supplies, and financial sponsors. For more information, visit www.medicalcarecenter.org or call Lena Smolinsky at (407) 328-9900 ext 135.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Morning Resolve: A Prayer

I found this short prayer at a retreat years ago. I did not write it, but I do love praying it. 
It's a wonderful way to start the day.

"I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, 
repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, 
discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; 
cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, 
and the habit of holy silence; 
exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, 
carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, 
fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

"In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, 
work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep 
which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.

"And as I cannot in my own strength do this, 
nor even with a hope of success attempt it, 
I look to Thee, O Lord God my Father, 
in Jesus my Savior, 
and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit."

(Previously published by Forward Movement Publications.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Healing Through Music

If you've considered taking up an instrument or getting your child into band, you may not realize that such exposures to music may even bring health benefits. This short review from HealthDay News reminds us of music's positive impact on anxiety, pain, and quality of life.



As we've incorporated music into our daily routines, we've become more patient and creative, and experience greater peace in the midst of mundane activities like sorting laundry and doing the dishes. A favorite in our home is when we play the Star Wars theme song to get our kids up in the morning. They spring out of bed with smiles on their faces, ready to start the day! But beyond fun and energizing, studies attest to music's powerful contribution to healing.

An article entitled Behavior Disorders of Dementia: Recognition and Treatment published in the American Family Physician Journal includes music therapy as a modality shown to help patients with psychotic behaviors, as can be seen in Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. "Music therapy and pet therapy, which create a homelike environment in nursing homes, seem to lessen behaviors associated with psychosis and enhance patients’ quality of life."* I experienced this healing power of music when I delivered my daughter with no pain meds at all, only the glorious Magnificat playing in the background.

I recently had the privilege of observing a wonderful friend minister to her dying mother over many months. Her mother loved the opera and, in her last days, my thoughtful friend decided to pay an opera singer to sing for her mother - at her bedside! No longer strong enough to go to the opera, imagine this mother's joy when the opera came to her. Now that's what I call living life to its fullest!

So, today, turn on the radio. Play an old song that brings back great memories, and sing to your heart's delight. And, then, when you wake up tomorrow, do it again, mindful of life and all its joys, including the wonderful gift of music.

Rejoice!
Dr Mari

*O’Donnell M, Molloy DW, Rabheru K. Dysfunctional behaviour in dementia: a clinician’s guide. Dundas, Ontario: New Grange Press; 2001.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Lesson in Patience from Hens and Chickens

I love this picture of "hens-and-chickens" growing in my mother-in-law's New England garden. That is what she affectionately calls this succulent that to her "looks like a mother hen" that "creates little versions of herself." I discovered that this is indeed the name of this spreading plant indigenous to Europe, where it is known for its fire-resistant properties. Hens and chicks "produce clusters of rosettes. The parent rosettes are the 'hens,' and the smaller rosettes that spring from them are the 'chicks' or 'chickens.'" (Hens and Chicks, by David Beaulieu, About.com Guide)

Hens-and-chickens from Mom's garden
As I look closely at the different sprouts, they remind me that, as imperfect people, we are all at different stages of our growth journey. Like gardens, some of us are blooming in certain areas and still infants in others, but we all coexist, hopefully helping one another grow rather than standing in each others' way.

It is encouraging to remember that we are not merely dependent upon each other as we mature. The apostle Paul reminds us that it is God who makes us grow. "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Hard as we try, we cannot make someone else mature any quicker than they're ready for; that is God's work. Although at times we are called to confront one another in love, many times we simply need to wait patiently. I'm not sure which is tougher! I do know that a key to healthy relationships that grow and endure is the ability to discern wisely when to confront, when to push gently, and when to wait.

In Ephesians 4:2, Paul urges us to "be patient, bearing with one another in love." And when love's many attributes are listed by the same apostle, the very first one is this: "Love is patient." (1 Corinthians 13:4) Our patience with one another in our different stages of growth reveals our love, and it is also a mark of our own maturity.

Our journey through life is full of challenges and struggles, but it is also full of wonder, joy and miracles. As we all grow together, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds... encouraging one another..." (Hebrews 10:24,25) As we do that, it helps to recognize that God is more interested in our growth than we are! So let us trust Him with our journey and that of others, doing our part each day, thankful that God will help us all mature into the blessed people He created us to be - in His time.

Let us be patient with one another and, as we wait, may we choose to love!
Dr Mari

Friday, August 12, 2011

Back to School Humor for Calvin & Hobbes fans

May God bless this upcoming school year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Living in the Moment

In this fast-paced modern world, it is so important to make time for silence. While on vacation to the Northeast this week I've been blessed with many opportunities for quiet contemplation. As so often happens when we visit my in-laws, I discovered a gem in one of the bookshelves, The Music of Silence: Entering the Sacred Space of Monastic Experience, by David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B. Here is an excerpt from this small but insightful book, the companion to the CD entitled Chant:


"We are so geared to what is useful that we forget the meaningful, what gives our life joy and depth and value." (p.14)

"Saturated with information but often bereft of meaning, we feel caught in a never-ending swirl of duties and demands, things to finish, things to put right. Yet as we dart anxiously from one activity to the next, we sense that there is more to life than our worldly agendas." (p.5)

Can you, like me, relate to these simple but profound statements? If so, make time today for a bit of silence and take advantage of the gift of the present moment. As I do that now, I am filled with thankfulness for life, for health, for children, for hand-made ice cream and grape tomatoes, for a bird's nest discovered on a walk, for family, and for the ability to know and experience God and His goodness.

A few days ago, as I sat on the lawn enjoying my mother-in-law's breathtaking garden and reading this little book, my nine year-old hopped onto my blanket. Sensing a conversation coming, I marked the page and set the book down. He grinned big as he dropped his LEGO mini-figures and, out of nowhere, asked what my favorite "creature" is. Though he initially agreed with my choice of a butterfly, he explained why he prefers the puffin. With great excitement, he shared its various attributes, the best being the puffin's ability to "torpedo backwards." As he mimicked its swift movements, I smiled, for I was perfectly in the moment, enjoying my son's joy and making it my own.


Life is made up of moments like this one, but so often we miss them. We're busy, we have stuff to do, items to check off our lists, deadlines to meet. And speaking of deadlines, did you ever notice the word dead in deadlines? (p.5) Perhaps if we spent more time reaching out for our lifelines and becoming lifelines for each other rather than frantically living to meet deadlines... perhaps we'd experience more joy. It's just a thought.

Yes! Life is made up of moments, and each brings the opportunity for us to live it fully! Let us live every one. For each is a wonderful gift.

Thankful for life!
Dr Mari

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dr Mari's Health & Hope Corner: A Cup of Joy - August 2011

Follow this link to A Cup of Joy, this month's Health & Hope Corner by Dr Mari. It is featured at Hope Matters and was written in honor of Titi Myriam, my beautiful aunt whose contagious joy continues to bless my life. Te amo, Titi!

* This column is a "small thing" I do "with great love," as Mother Teresa taught. It is published monthly by Hope Matters, a company that seeks to spread hope to those walking through the stormy seas of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, or through the uncertainty and stress of military deployment. I have the privilege of serving as their translator and copy editor. Through books, workshops, special events, and advocacy efforts, Hope Matters provides tools, resources, and hope for tough journeys. *