Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: St. Joseph - Guardian Of The Redeemer

Volume 4 No. 252 December 12, 2014

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Johan under the refuge of Theotokos
Johan - Naturally Attracted to Theotokos

No one needs to tell Johan where he can find refuge and rest after a day's hard work. Johan is the son of Robin (secretary of Baselios Church, Ohio) and Vishin Roy and grandson of Rev. Fr. Roy Paul, a member of the Malankara World Board. He hails from Vettikkattil family which prides in having a long list of priests. Last Saturday, after our church service, while we were all busy loading church equipment and leftovers from the sumptuous meals prepared by the ladies of the Baselios Church for the annual Christmas Luncheon, I found Johan sitting quietly at the St. Mary's Grotto at the church campus. It is in a secluded corner of the church where one can sit and meditate. Isn't it amazing that little children instinctively know who the real hero of the advent season is? Yes, according to the church calendar, John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah, was born and Mother Mary is perhaps safely back in Nazareth, the word becoming flesh and growing in her womb for little more than three months. While we were all busy working like Martha in Bible, Johan spent time meditating at the feet of St. Mary like Mary, sister of Lazarus, did at the feet of Jesus when the Lord visited their house. Amazing!!!

Photo by Liju Jacob, Treasurer,
St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio

Oh.. Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho
St. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

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Sermons for Revelation to Joseph

II. Thematic Articles

3. St. Joseph - A Patron Saint Worth Emulating

St. Joseph is one of the most ignored Saint/Patriarch in our church. Joseph is mentioned very little in the bible. Not a single word he said is reported in the Gospels. In fact, the infant narratives of Jesus Christ is completely ignored in St. Mark and St. John. Bible portrays St. Joseph as a "just man", a man of few words, often seen contemplating silently. But God considered the role of Joseph so important in his plan that He sent an angel to Joseph with a personal message from God. This article takes a comprehensive look at the life and role played by St. Joseph in the redemption plan of God.

4. Inspiration for Today: Silence of St. Joseph

Let us allow ourselves to be "filled" with Saint Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice...

5. Just What a Dad Does...

We have a story before us now about what dads do. Only in Joseph's case, it really is quite extraordinary. In Joseph's case, rather, it was a matter of life and death. In the matter before him now, though he could not have fully known it then, the future of the world hung on the decision it was his to make. ...

What is most surprising to you about the story of Joseph? Why do you think God chose to 'risk' in this way to come to us?

6. Reflections on Advent Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

On the strength of the angel's claim, the church asserts one of its own: from the beginning, it was always God's intention that it should happen this way. It is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, Matthew declares (v. 22): the hope of all the ages, the beginning of the end of all the old tyrannies, the restoration of everything that is and will be, was always meant to take place in a virgin's belly, in a manger, at the cross. ...

7. The Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys Of St. Joseph

8. Joseph and the Virgin Birth

In the passage in the Bible, it says, "Joseph was a just man." That means that Joseph was a good man, a kind man, an honorable man. The Bible uses the word, "righteous." Joseph was a righteous man.

Then we come to the next beautiful line, "Joseph was unwilling to put her to shame." That line says mountains to us about Joseph. He didn't want to hurt Mary. He didn't want to destroy her. He was not punitive. He was not revengeful. He wasn't out for a pound of her flesh. Instead, Joseph had these feelings of grace towards her, and so he resolved to divorce her quietly. ...

9. Malankara World Journal Specials on St. Joseph

To learn more about St. Joseph, please see Malankara World Journal Special on St. Joseph:

Malankara World Journal Issue 113 - St. Joseph

You can also read more articles on St. Joseph in Malankara World Journal Issue 182

III. General Articles

10. Family Special: Why Your Kids Are at Greater Risk Than Ever

After my first session with Jenny and her parents, I sat in my office pondering... why?

Why would a sweet, shy 14-year-old try to hang herself in her bedroom closet? And why would she cut her forearms, creating scars she would cover up with long-sleeved shirts? ....

11. How to Keep the Negative Attitudes of Others From Impacting You

It is a proven fact – the attitude of those around you is contagious.

This fact is great, when the attitude we are infected with is a positive one. But that isn't the purpose of this article. Since negative attitudes are just as contagious as positive ones, if you are like me, you'd like to guard yourself from these attitudes!

Whether you deal with this with co-workers, the team you lead, or people in your personal life, the six ideas below will help you – if you put them to work. ...

12. Health: Five Easy Exercises that Can Give You Great Results

Most people don't think that exercise can be easy, but it actually can - you just need to utilize the right exercises for the best results. With some help from our fitness expert, here is a list of 5 easy exercises that can give you great results.

You won't even have to go to the gym! ...

13. Recipe: Cajun Seafood Pasta

14. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (December 14)
Sermons for This Sunday (December 14)
Thematic Articles

St. Joseph - A Patron Saint Worth Emulating

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Chief Editor, Malankara World

St. Joseph is one of the most ignored Saint/Patriarch in our church. Other than the second Sunday before Christmas dedicated to remembering the "Revelation to Joseph", we do not remember him in any of our prayers - not even in our Thubden (Diptychs). A mention of him in the fourth Thubden after remembering John the Baptist seems appropriate due to the important role played by Saint Joseph in the redemption plan. St. Joseph is also not a popular Saint when it comes to naming churches after him in our church. Fortunately, this was corrected when LL Perumpilly Thirumeni (LL HG Mor Gregorious Geevarghese) named the Cathedral he built in the heart of Kottayam as St. Joseph's Cathedral. This Cathedral has become the nerve center of Kottayam Diocese at present hosting the Bishop's House and the Diocese Head Quarters. Catholic Church, on the other hand, remembers St. Joseph in their prayers and litany and honor him as the Patron of the Church. He is given due importance as the Head of the Holy Family.

St. Joseph is remembered as the Patron Saint of the Church, Patron Saint of Married Men, a Model Father and Husband, Patron Saint of Poor and Woodworkers. He is often sought for intersession during tough financial times.

A Mystery in Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

My interest in St. Joseph piqued in 2003 when our family made a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a pseudo vacation. Studying the tourist guides we came across Loretto Chapel, a major tourist attraction in Santa Fe. So, we decided to visit the chapel. The main attraction in this chapel is its ornate staircase shrouded in mystery and the beautiful stained glass artistry. To really appreciate the chapel, I need to briefly explain the history of how the staircase came to be.

When the Loretto Chapel was nearing completion in 1878, the recently arrived sisters of Loretto realized that there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above the main floor of the chapel. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded that access to the loft would have to be via a ladder as a typical staircase would invade too much space below and seriously detract from its intimacy, integrity and beauty.

The sisters were in a bind. Climbing to the loft in a ladder? They decided to pray a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters and craftsmen. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man showed up on a donkey and offered to do the job. He had with him only a saw, a T-square, and a hammer. He worked alone. He was a man of very few words (like St. Joseph) and mainly worked alone. Accounts differ as to how long he took to complete the task, but it must have taken at least several months.

The result was an elegant circular staircase. As soon as the work was completed, the carpenter disappeared from the scene without any trace. He didn't take any wages, nor waited for someone to even say thanks. Many believe that the work was done by St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

Mystery staircase at Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM Photo by Dr. Jacob MathewStained Glass Art at Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Circular Staircase (left) and Stained Glasswork (right) in Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM
Photos by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

The circular staircase at Loretto Chapel is an architectural masterpiece. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. To create a staircase like this using modern tools would be a feat. It's mind-boggling to think about constructing such a marvel with crude hand tools, no electricity and minimal resources. The wood was individually soaked, shaped and fitted. No detail was missed.

According to the Loretto Chapel Web site, "The stairway confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20 feet tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height. Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails."

You need to see the stairs personally to appreciate its beauty and engineering ingenuity used in its design and construction. It certainly has all the earmarks of a divine intervention - an 'intelligent design'.

The chapel also is adorned by life-size ornate stained glass works of art. The stained glass in the Loretto Chapel was purchased from the DuBois Studio in Paris in 1876. The glass was first sent from Paris to New Orleans by sailing ship and then by paddle boat to St. Louis, MO. From there it was taken by covered wagon over the Old Santa Fe Trail to the Chapel.

The chapel stands as a tribute to its Patron Saint, Saint Joseph.

St. Joseph in The Bible

Joseph is mentioned very little in the bible. Not a single word he said is reported in the Gospels. In fact, the infant narratives of Jesus Christ is completely ignored in the Gospels of St. Mark and St. John. Only St. Luke has detailed description of the birth and associated childhood stories of Jesus. St. Matthew has an abbreviated version. St. Matthew portrays St. Joseph as a "just man", a man with few words, often seen contemplating silently.

Very few people recognize the fact that there were actually two annunciations of the arrival of the Messiah in the bible by the angel. Yes, we all know the annunciation to St. Mary. This event is so important that our church celebrates it on two days every year. [First on March 25 - 9 months before Christmas - corresponding roughly to the date the Angel visited St. Mary. We also recall that event on the second Sunday after Hoodosh e'to. (During our annunciation season when we recall all important events that led to the incarnation.)] In the Matthew's Gospel, the annunciation to St. Mary was not mentioned, but the annunciation is given to Joseph (after the word became flesh in Mary or Mary has become pregnant). Certainly God felt that Joseph is an important figure in His plan of redemption of mankind. Jesus needed an earthly father to protect him (like all earthly fathers do), teach him, and guide him. Fathers play a very important role in the upbringing of a child. Joseph did all these duties exceptionally well.

When we meet Joseph for the first time in Matthew's Gospel, Joseph is in the midst of a family crisis. Mary, who is betrothed to him, is pregnant. The first thought most people will have under this situation is that she had been unfaithful and was fooling around with someone. The Torah and the laws observed by Jews are very clear about the consequences of sexual misconduct. The ancient world was immensely serious about betrothal--legally, the couple is already considered bound to one another, and there was no easy way to unbind the union. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Book of Deuteronomy declared that death was the appropriate punishment for infidelity.

By the time of Jesus, it appears that some of the religious requirements surrounding infidelity may have been softened. The punishment of death had been replaced by a formal, public renunciation of the woman--a ritual that would have shamed her and her family for life.

Joseph was in a predicament. He loved Mary; but she broke the law and hence need to face the consequences. He wanted to help her in whatever way he can, without breaking the "spirit" of the law. The Gospel says, "Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly."

We're not used to this stress and tension between Joseph and Mary during the advent season. We're accustomed to thinking about the beauty and wonder of the birth of Jesus. Dr. David Lose, President of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, explains Joseph's predicament:

"Let's not forget the distress, sense of betrayal, disappointment, and a host of other emotions that Joseph must have experienced, or the fear and hurt that Mary would likely have also felt as they sorted out their divinely complex relationship."

Bible says Joseph was just. In another words, he is righteous. Joseph was committed (and required) to following Torah and its laws. But curiously, even before the angel of the Lord visits him in a dream, Joseph resolves to find some "loopholes in the law" to save Mary and her family if he can. Later in His Public Ministry, Jesus Christ would explain that "righteousness" must be tempered with mercy. That was exactly what Joseph had in mind. He resolved to stand aside quietly and to leave Mary and her family with their dignity intact. So, technically, he doesn't do what would have been expected if you interpret the laws literally; but he will conform to the spirit of the law 'tempered with mercy'.

Interestingly, Joseph wanted to look at the spirit of the law instead of literal interpretation of the law. Later Jesus, in His public ministry, quarreled with the Church hierarchy on interpreting the Moses' laws especially regarding interpreting the observation of Sabbath. Jesus was emphatic that the laws must be tempered with mercy, love, compassion and forgiveness. I wonder whether Jesus was influenced by his earthly father in adopting a more "humanitarian" approach to interpreting the rules like Joseph did. Jesus also preached that love trumps all as Joseph did when it involved his love of Mary.

Transformed by the Word Taking Shape as Flesh

The question is whether Jesus was influenced by Joseph or vice versa.

We know that the word taking flesh in Mary has started transforming everyone who came in contact with it before it was born as a frail human child. Mary was already transformed at the moment of the annunciation. She made the difficult journey to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth immediately after the word entered her womb. She was already transformed by the baby within urging her to "serve" rather than being "served."

Looking at what we know of Joseph, it appears that he was also transformed. He has adopted the principle of law being tempered with mercy and forgiveness as Jesus later preached. He was also ready to provide unconditional service without any demands or complaint in taking care of Mary and baby Jesus, first helping Mary with the difficult trip to Bethlehem, then helping her with the delivery of the child, leaving hastily to Egypt to protect the child on instructions from the angel and later returning to Nazareth where he taught Jesus all about carpentry. Jesus was known as the "son of the carpenter" (Mark 6:3). Jesus became an expert carpenter by his earthly father. During his public ministry, Jesus would say,

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:30

The only way a yoke can be comforting to the ox is to make it very smooth and well-fitting. Only a master carpenter can custom-make a yoke that good. Yes, Jesus was a Master Carpenter - a trade taught him by his earthly father.

It is believed that Joseph died before Jesus started his public ministry. This may explain why there is no mention of Joseph after Jesus' trip to the temple at age 12.

This principle of being transformed when we come in contact with the Lord is very important to understand. Our church gives great importance to this principle. As you know, we believe that during Eucharist (Qurbana), the bread and wine are transformed to the body and blood of Christ by the Holy Spirit. The hands of the clergy who have carried and touched the body and blood of the Lord also get transformed in the process. When we kiss the hand of a bishop, we are not worshipping his hand as some people mistakenly think. We are giving respect to the hands that carried the body and blood of Jesus Christ that has transformed the hands.

A Man of Obedience

Joseph was a man of obedience. He has silently obeyed all the commandments from God delivered through angels. The following are recorded in bible:

"Joseph, Son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 1:20)

"Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee." (Matthew 2:13)

"Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child." (Matthew 2:20)

When Jesus, at the age of twelve, coming face to face with His Virgin Mother and with Saint Joseph in the temple, uttered the mysterious words, "Did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?" (Luke 2:49) Joseph bowed to the mystery of the Father from whom all fatherhood takes its name, and adoring His Will, accepted to be the earthly shadow of the invisible God, whom no man has seen. Fr. Mark in his devotional 'Vultus Christi' explained the obedience of St. Joseph (Obedience and humility are something that is very pleasing to God):

"The obedience of Saint Joseph lay in his readiness to embrace not only the mysteries revealed by Angels visiting him by night, but also the events willed and permitted by God: disconcerting events, events revealing the power of God in weakness, and the wisdom of God in folly. "

St. Joseph - Protector of the Mystical Body of Jesus - The Church

Catholic Church teaches that St. Joseph plays an important role in protecting the church, the mystical body of Jesus Christ. (I am not sure what our church's position is in this issue.)Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI highlighted this role of St. Joseph:

"Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ's upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ's Mystical Body, that is, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model."
- Pope John Paul II

"Joseph, having held in his arms the Body of the Infant Christ, having nourished and protected Him, cannot forsake His Mystical Body, the Church. Even the Protestant theologian Karl Barth was compelled to write: "If I were a Roman Catholic theologian, I would lift Saint Joseph up. He took care of the Child; he takes care of the Church." Saint Joseph watches over each member of the Mystical Body with the same devotion, the same tenderness, and the same strength with which he watched over the precious members of Our Lord's Sacred Humanity."
- Pope Benedict XVI

Holy Family - Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Service for God

When we look at the "no frills" reporting of St. Matthew as to what transpired during the first advent season, we cannot help but wonder how we, as ordinary people, can identify in this incarnation story of God. Matthew paints a picture of a normal family. He tells us about the complexity, the confusion, and the frailty that attended this family, just like every other family when facing similar situation. Indeed, there is nothing exceptional about this couple or birth … except that God works through them to save and to draw near to us in love, grace, and salvation.

In Malankara World, we have often described how God takes ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Here are two ordinary people, from a village, very few have heard of, entrusted to do the most important mission of God. In the advent story, God uses ordinary, mixed-up people in order to save ordinary, mixed-up people. God comes through a birth like all the millions of other births in the world to promise us freedom from sin, fear, and death and rebirth as the children of God. Both Mary and Joseph play a pivotal role in this drama.

Intercession of St. Joseph

In her autobiography, St. Teresa of Avila testifies to St. Joseph's intercession. She obtained through him not only healing of temporary paralysis but also countless other and greater benefits for her soul.

Having received blessings that far exceeded what she had asked of him, St. Teresa wanted to convince everyone to be devoted to St. Joseph, imploring: "I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test."

Go to Joseph in thy joys, thou wilt rejoice the more.
Go to Joseph in thy grief, when death knocks at thy door.
Go to Joseph no matter when, thy refuge he will be.
He holds the key to Jesus' Heart, Its treasures are for thee!

Inspiration for Today: Silence of St. Joseph
The silence of Saint Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to divine desires. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence.

It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his "father" Joseph that Jesus learned -- at the human level -- that steadfast interiority which is a presupposition of authentic justice....

Let us allow ourselves to be "filled" with Saint Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice.

Pope Benedict XVI

Just What a Dad Does...

by Janet H. Hunt

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

I carry still a memory of my dad which goes back close to fifty years now. It was early December. I was five years old and I was suddenly ill and my mother called him home from work to take me to the hospital.

Now I was the oldest of four children. I had been 'too big' to be carried for some time by then. But I was so very sick I was literally unable to walk and so they bundled me up and laid me down in the back seat of the family station wagon. When we reached the hospital, he lifted me up in his strong arms and cut across the frozen grass to the emergency room entrance of Rochelle Community Hospital. Even as sick as I was, I can remember the protest in my heart, "But I'm too big for to be carried!" And then I just gave in and knew I was safe in that place in his arms.

I offered that image in a sermon many years ago now. My dad was sitting in the pew that morning, and was a little embarrassed I think. That's not a feeling he was much accustomed to, it seems to me, as he was such an extrovert that he always rather enjoyed being at the center of things. Not that time though --- for, in fact, later he took me aside and quietly said to me, "But Janet, that's just what a dad does."

We have a story before us now about what dads do. Only in Joseph's case, it really is quite extraordinary. In Joseph's case, rather, it was a matter of life and death. In the matter before him now, though he could not have fully known it then, the future of the world hung on the decision it was his to make.

Now you wonder, don't you, why God didn't take an easier way to come to us, for surely this path was just about as risky as it could be. For not only does God risk the danger of childbirth where anything could go wrong, but God entrusts this child to a very young woman and her fiancιe, expecting that they would believe that the conception of this child was of God. God took the risk that very human Joseph would be able to get past the stone of betrayal that settled in his stomach when he first heard the news of Mary's pregnancy and came to the very rational conclusion that she must have been unfaithful to him. God had to trust that Joseph could set aside his own pride and step into a role, into a life, which would begin in a way he had not yet dreamed. Oh, one would have expected that dream included children, but it could not have included a child in this way. It seems to me that God risked a lot, trusting that Joseph would be open to the urging of a night-time messenger, this angel who told him not to be afraid. Who assured him that he and Mary were to be part of some thing much, much larger than even the very good life they must have dreamed together. Who urged him to name the child, sealing his adoption as his own son. You would think God would have taken an easier way. But God did not. And somehow that deepens our understanding of how very much God will risk for all of us. As Joseph risked then, too.

Because as you know, Joseph did precisely what the angel told him to do. We don't know what doubts and misgivings he later entertained along his way, for we don't hear all that much from him after this, but we do know that Joseph did what he was called to do then. He did not leave. He did not cast Mary aside. Rather, he stood with Mary. He claimed that baby boy as his own and gave him a name. That name of Jesus which means "God saves." And we know that he must have been an awfully good dad to this boy, that he 'just did what a dad does' for this one who was destined to be the source of our hope and salvation. Indeed, it seems to me we know this through the stories Jesus later told.

For where do you think, except from Joseph, that Jesus got the idea that a father always gives good gifts to his children? Where, do you imagine, did he get the image of the father running to welcome home his prodigal son? Where do you think the tenderness in his voice came from when he said we were to address God as 'abba' or 'daddy' if not from his own experience of an earthly dad? I have to believe that Jesus drew from his own experience growing up with Joseph as his father here. Joseph who abandoned his own pride, his own long-learned sense of right and wrong. Who set aside his fear and worked through the stone in the pit of his stomach. Who stretched his own sense of what and who he was responsible for, to 'just be a dad' to Jesus. To give earthly legitimacy to this child of Mary's from the Holy Spirit and to help shape Jesus' life and his vision in such a way that some of his best teaching was informed by his own experience of an earthly, loving dad.

It was the decision of a lifetime for Joseph. It was one he could never have expected to make and yet, it is also a dilemma which will parallel one we will probably all face at one time or another as we are called to sort out how we are called to do the right thing in a situation that at first seems all wrong. And when you do that. When you step up and do what is right and good in the face of earthly 'wisdom' or advice which would urge you otherwise. When you act with forgiveness and hope and trust, well then, the world changes. It surely did with Joseph and Mary and Jesus. And it does every other time, too.

For I've seen it happen. So have you. This story of Joseph gets lived out again and again and again.

Indeed, I saw it play out once in a waiting room outside an intensive care unit long ago on a late summer's night. Sixteen year old Nathan and his friend had gone to the mall --- driving from their own small town into the city. They had taken a shortcut they had taken with their parents take dozens of times before. It wasn't that late. They hadn't been drinking. They even had their seatbelts on, but the paved road turned to gravel before they remembered and the car rolled. Nathan's friend walked away from the accident with no more than a broken leg, but Nathan was in intensive care with a brain injury.

I stood with his step-mom late that night. His dad had stepped out for a minute when she told me this story, relaying to me that in his first marriage, her husband's wife had been unfaithful. When Nathan was born, his dad, the only dad he had ever known, claimed him as his own. Raised him as his own. Loved him as his own. And when his first wife left them, he continued to do just that. And now he kept vigil with him, and from what I've heard, supported him right through the years of therapy that followed. He did the right thing, like Joseph. In the middle of a situation which was 'all wrong' where he wouldn't have had to, he stepped above and beyond what anyone would have reasonably expected him to do. And Nathan's world was never the same. And neither was anyone else's who knew them.

Such as this will come to us, too. It may not be that big and difficult, although chances are it will be. And it may well be that the real challenge will lie then in the long term simply getting up every day and 'just doing what dads do.' And we know this for sure. It may not seem like it at the time, but it is often on those seemingly small things that the future hangs.

So this is what we have today. The gift of one dad and one child who lived in one particular place in one specific time. Just like all of us in so many ways. It makes you step back and wonder, doesn't it? What might God just be doing here and now with all of us? Where might we see God at work in something that seems all wrong where we still try to do what's right? And what might that mean for tomorrow?

What is most surprising to you about the story of Joseph? Why do you think God chose to 'risk' in this way to come to us?

Can you think of examples where someone 'just did what a dad does' and it made all the difference? In your life? In the life of the world?

Source: Dancing with the Word, 2013

Reflections on Advent Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

by James Arne Nestingen

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas is upon us, at least in its Matthean version (1:18-25). The improbable combination of Luke's account, mixing the purity of angels with the godlessness of shepherds, is missing here. Instead, there is something even more improbably likely: the hope of all the earth takes shape under the sign of arrangements being made for a betrothal apparently violated. It is just like the God who creates out of nothing and raises the dead to carry on in this way: to hide the gifts of grace and sovereignty in the midst of what appears tawdry and happenstance.

The story is particular enough to be offensive. Going by the customs of the time, Mary was probably just out of puberty - 14 or 15 at the most. Like countless other young women, before or since, she has turned up pregnant before the wedding. The best explanation, then as now, is the oldest one: whether out of curiosity or adolescent rebellion, she had given herself prematurely. Knowing that he is not the father, Joseph is going to do the right thing and take a quiet out.

This is a long way from the exuberant hopes set forth in Advent 3. Sublime expectation of a cosmic reversal of fortunes is here linked to the most common kind of predicament: an apparently illegitimate child, the product of a private, unratified passion. The One who is to come is branded from the beginning as the one who came too early: a bastard child, "born of fornication," as his critics in John's gospel so infelicitously implied with their decorous insult (John 8:41).

"Found to be with child of the Holy Spirit," the text says (v. 9). By whom, one wonders.

Certainly not by the Jews of John 8; surely not by the neighbor women and not by Joseph either, who was preparing to depart. For all of them there was a more reasonable explanation, so compelling any other alternative seemed preposterous.

Yet the angel of Joseph's dream, running the risk of being considered yet another fiction, makes a startling claim for this child: "You shall call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (v. 21). Hope arises here under the sign of its opposite. For the promise of forgiveness is once more, in the biblical apocalyptic, far more than bourgeois therapeutic self-acceptance - the resignation to futility. It is the declaration of a new future, a future granted now not merely as the consequence of the past but under the control of One who can literally grace it. To be forgiven is to receive a future that is under the control not of the previous failure or offense, but which is in the hands of One who can actually effect a new condition. Forgiveness breaks the simple link between cause and effect, action and reaction, failure and disaster, rebellion and resentment or recrimination. Forgiveness inserts a new condition upon which the future stands. It is Jesus' trademark, his very identity, that he bestows such a gift.

On the strength of the angel's claim, the church asserts one of its own: from the beginning, it was always God's intention that it should happen this way. It is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, Matthew declares (v. 22): the hope of all the ages, the beginning of the end of all the old tyrannies, the restoration of everything that is and will be, was always meant to take place in a virgin's belly, in a manger, at the cross.

That is Advent. It is a time of expectation and repentance, fired by the declaration that in the Lord's good time Christ appeared, taking hold of all time to unfold it according to his purpose. So we await his coming, ears cocked amidst the rowdy cries of the delight and disappointments of conspicuous consumption. This One will not disappoint you or your people, but tearing you free, will open up a new world.

Source: The Matthean Advent Gospels, Word & World: Theology for Christian Ministry, Luther Northwestern Theological School, 1992.

The Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys Of St. Joseph
The Seven Sorrows of Saint Joseph

1. The doubts of St. Joseph
2. The poverty of Jesus' birth
3. The Circumcision
4. The prophecy of Simeon
5. The flight into Egypt
6. The return to Nazareth
7. The loss of the Child Jesus

The Seven Joys of Saint Joseph

1. Told of the Incarnation
2. Angels adore the Infant Jesus
3. Holy Name of Jesus
4. Effects of the Redemption
5. Overthrow of the idols in Egypt
6. Life with Jesus & Mary
7. Jesus found in the temple


Joseph and the Virgin Birth

by Rev. Edward F. Markquart

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

Today, I would like to talk with you about Joseph, Jesus and the virgin birth. The story of the virgin birth is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations, and so the sermon today will focus on the story of the virgin birth. Today, our gospel lesson is from Matthew and focuses on the person and role of Joseph, and so our focus in the sermon will also be on Joseph and the virgin birth.

Virginity is not a hot topic in today's world of conversation. We rarely if ever discuss if someone is a virgin or not, whether they have had sex before marriage or not. For most of us today, the word, "virgin," means a person who has not had sexual intercourse. In our vocabulary today, the word, "virgin," refers to someone who has not been sexually active.

In the Old and New Testament, there are two meanings to the word, "virgin." There is an Old Testament meaning, and a New Testament meaning. A Hebrew meaning and a Greek meaning. The first meaning is this: the word, "virgin," simply means "young woman." Such as in the passage from Isaiah 7:14 that was read for today. Would you closely look at that passage? In Isaiah 7:14, it says that, "a young woman shall conceive and give birth to a child." The word simply says "young woman." Circle those words, young woman, in your mind. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew word for young woman is "alma." We have a person in our parish by the name of Alma, Alma Edvartsen. In Hebrew, her name simply means "young woman Edvartsen."

But there is a second meaning of the word as well. Look carefully at the Gospel reading for today in Matthew 1:23. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel." Highlight in your mind the word, "virgin." The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek word means someone who has not been sexually active with another person, who has never had sexual relationships with another, who has not had sexual intercourse. Eventually, the Hebrew Bible was translated into the Greek language, and the meaning of the word changed from young woman to sexual virginity. … So in the Bible, there are two meanings to the word: In the Old Testament, virgin means young woman and in the New Testament, virgin means someone who has not had sexual intercourse.

Today, we celebrate not simply the birth of Christmas, not simply the birth of the festival of lights, not simply midwinter festival. Today, we celebrate the birth of the Son of God. And the story of the virgin birth accentuates that Jesus was and is the Son of God.

Different cultures throughout history have valued virginity differently. That is, in the ancient Greek culture, virginity was not prized. In the ancient Roman culture, virginity was not regarded as precious. But in the Old and New Testament, we find virginity being appreciated and valued.

In the Old Testament, virginity (meaning someone who has not had sexual intercourse) was a highly prized value. A virgin was someone who was precious. Rebecca was not merely a young woman; she was a virgin. The Bible is very emphatic about that. There were several laws to protect the virginity of women. That is, parents made arrangements for their daughters to be married and they expected their daughters to be virgins. If their daughters were not virgins, their value went down by fifty shekels and that was a lot of money in those days. So fathers made sure that their daughters were virgins. … If a man raped a virgin, he would be punished by death. … If a woman was engaged and she had sexual relationships with another man, she and her lover were to be killed, both man and woman. Virginity was a very serious part of Old Testament culture and law, and there was great pressure to retain one's virginity.

When we move to the New Testament, we find a similar emphasis and high value placed on virginity. The word is no longer the Hebrew word, "alma," but "apathone" in Greek. It is translated purity. The King James Version of the Bible translates it "chastity." Men and women were to be chaste; that is, they were to be sexually pure. A mark of a true Christian was that he or she was pure in their sexual relationships. Sexual purity became a defining characteristic in contrast to a culture of sexual promiscuity. The New Testament word for purity refers to sexual purity, not a more generalized moral purity.

So, in both the Old and New Testament, virginity is a highly prized value. It is the expected behavior of Jewish men and women, of Christian men and women.

But then, it the 1960s, and during the past decades, there has been a sexual revolution, especially in the Western hemisphere and the United States and Europe. The sexual values have changed. In our culture, virginity is no longer held in such high value as the Old and New Testaments. That is, with the advent of "the pill" and a more permissive society, virginity became not so valuable anymore. Then came abortion in the mid 1960s, and abortion became a way to eliminate unwanted pregnancies. The media and mass culture began to promote the idea that premarital sexual activity was normal and acceptable. Virginity became old fashioned. If a person is a virgin, one may suggest that such a person is frigid. Men and women began living together before marriage to see if they were sexually and personally compatible. On TV and in mass culture, living together seemed totally acceptable. If you add all these up, there became enormous pressure against virginity in our culture, with the church often fighting a losing battle. Virgins may not admit that they are virgins because it may then be suggested that they are prudes or inexperienced, and no one wants to be a prude or inexperienced.

But…the sexual revolution ran into trouble, with the advent of Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases. Churches began to advertise how condoms were not as safe as pretended. Even so, premarital and extra marital sexual relationships seem the norm and almost nobody says anything too strongly any more about virginity.

But in the Old and New Testament, virginity was highly valued. It was the expected behavior of men and women, so at the time of Mary and Joseph, it was expected that Mary and Joseph would be virgins.

According to my research, at that time in Jewish history, their families had arranged the engagement and marriage of Mary and Joseph. Mary and Joseph were probably second or third cousins. Mary was very young, perhaps a thirteen or fourteen year old girl. The engagement was very serious and called a "betrothal." They were engaged before two witnesses. The man would give the woman a present; her father would pay a dowry. If the man died, she would be called a widow. If the woman died, he would be called a widower. If the engagement broke up, it would be called a divorce. During the time they were engaged, they were called husband and wife. While they were engaged, they were to be virgins and they were to have no sexual intercourse prior to marriage. The engagement was to last one year and then they were to be married. If a woman became pregnant by another man, she could be stoned to death.

During that year they were engaged, an angel or divine messenger visited Mary. Mary was told that she was to become pregnant. She asked the divine messenger, "How can I become pregnant? I have no husband. I am not married yet. I am engaged to Joseph, and we cannot do that kind of stuff. How can I become pregnant?" The angelic messenger said, "The Holy Spirit will come over you, and the Holy Spirit shall cause you to conceive and give birth to a child." Mary waited. And waited. And waited. She missed her first period. Her second period. She started to have morning sickness, and it was now time to have that important and delicate conversation with Joseph.

We have no Biblical record of that conversation, but we do have our imaginations, and we can imagine a delicate scene. This conversation was not at all pleasant. Mary said, "Joseph, I have something to tell you. I don't understand it, and it is hard for me to tell you because there is no way I can comprehend what is going on." … "Go ahead, Mary. Tell me. I can handle it." … "Joseph, I don't know how to tell you." … "Tell me; we can handle anything." … "I am pregnant." …There was a long silence. Truly, a pregnant pause. This was an awkward moment between them. Joseph automatically assumed she was pregnant by another man. He had been humiliated. Their relationship had been humiliated. This woman had betrayed him. She had been fundamentally dishonest with him and he was upset. He knew the legal consequences. He knew the Old Testament law. She could die for this. So could the other man. … So he asked the question, "Who? Who got you pregnant? Whom have you been with?" … A divine messenger visited me and told me that this was going to happen. The Holy Spirit got me pregnant." … "Sure Mary. Sure." … The Bible said that he resolved to divorce her quietly. Look carefully at the text; it clearly implies that Joseph did not believe her. … "What do you do? What do you do when the woman you trusted is pregnant by another man? She can die for this. So can he. What should I do in this nasty situation?"

In the passage in the Bible, it says, "Joseph was a just man." That means that Joseph was a good man, a kind man, an honorable man. The Bible uses the word, "righteous." Joseph was a righteous man.

Then we come to the next beautiful line, "Joseph was unwilling to put her to shame." That line says mountains to us about Joseph. He didn't want to hurt Mary. He didn't want to destroy her. He was not punitive. He was not revengeful. He wasn't out for a pound of her flesh. Instead, Joseph had these feelings of grace towards her, and so he resolved to divorce her quietly. Not tell her parents. Not tell his parents. Not tell the Jewish rabbi. Not to tell the Jewish court so he could get his money back. … So the first story about the birth of Jesus is a story of compassion, a story of grace, a story of a man who had been enormously violated by a pregnant woman and he vowed not to punish her. He had been deeply violated, yet he still cared for her and took care of her. This is the gospel.

But the story continues. An angel or divine messenger appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Mary is pregnant by the Spirit of God. The Spirit hovered over her and she is now pregnant. You are to marry her and name the child Jesus for he will save the people from their sins. Call him Immanuel because God is always with us." And so Joseph remained with Mary because he believed the dream and the message of the angel.

The purpose of the story for today is not to tell us that Joseph was religious or righteous. The primary purpose of the story today is to tell us that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. That is the point of the story. Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Joseph was the legal father. Joseph was the adopted father. But he was not the biological father of Jesus and that is what the story is all about.

Many Christians stumble over different aspects of the Christian faith, and some Christians stumble over the virgin birth story. These Christians emphasize that the virgin birth was unimportant to the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of John and the Apostle Paul. Mark, John and Paul do not use the concept of the virgin birth in their understanding of Jesus but they still believed that Jesus was the Son of God. So also with some of these Christians. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God but they trip up on the story of the virgin birth.

But there are other Biblical arguments that reveal that the same thought that God was the Father of Jesus. Let me explain.

For example, when Jesus was found in the temple at the age of twelve. The parents looked for Jesus for three days in Jerusalem, trying to locate their lost son. Finally, they found Jesus teaching in the temple and they said, "What are you doing here teaching in the temple?" Jesus replied, "Didn't you know that I was in my Father's house, doing my Father's business?" Who is the father of Jesus? That story in the temple is clear. God is Jesus' Father.

In his prayer life, Jesus always called God, "abba," which is translated papa or father.

Do you realize that in the history of civilization, nobody had ever called God, "Father," in prayer until Jesus of Nazareth did? In the history of the world, nobody had ever called God, "Father," in prayer. Jesus did this all the time. "Abba" is the common address that Jesus used when calling on God in prayer. The story of the virgin birth reaches the same conclusion, as do the stories of his prayer life; that God is the Father of Jesus.

In his teachings, Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. He who believes in me believes in the Father who sent me. Whoever loves me, loves the Father. He who walks in my ways walks in the Father's ways. He who has seen the Father has seen me. I am in the Father and the Father is in me. I and the Father or one." When you add up all these teachings, you come to the same conclusion that God and Jesus are interconnected like Father and Son. This is also what the virgin birth story concludes: God is the Father of Jesus. The story of the virgin birth is consistent with the other similar teachings of Jesus in the Bible.

So the primary purpose of the story for today is not to tell us that Joseph was a righteous and religious man, but that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Jesus was and is the Son of God. It is basic to the Christian faith. Today, we celebrate not the birth of Christmas, not the birth of a festival of lights, not the birth of a tradition of exchanging presents, but we celebrate the birth of the Son of God.

The life of Jesus of Nazareth is strange in many ways. The way that Jesus exited this world through the resurrection and ascension is strange; the way that Jesus entered this world is equally strange. I want to take a circuitous route and then bring you back to the primary theme of the sermon again.

People have always been trying to prove the resurrection of Jesus, and nobody has ever done this successfully. Similarly, people have always been trying to prove that there is life after death, and no one can prove that either. These fundamental beliefs rest on faith and not proof. But every generation tries to prove it. … Do you remember seeing the movie, THE SHROUD OF TURIN, at the adult educational class a few weeks ago? The movie is the story of the linen shroud that Jesus was wrapped in after he was crucified. Scholars have discovered that this shroud can be traced back to the time of Christ, although other scholars contest these conclusions. Scientists snipped a fragment of this linen shroud and did carbon dating on it. They concluded that the shroud came from the time of Christ. In 1900, a French photographer discovered that there was a photographic negative on the shroud. "How could you forge a photographic negative so many centuries ago?" is what many scholars asked. The scientists put that photographic negative on the wall, and there was an image of a person who had been crucified. There was an image of blood coming down his head where the head had been pierced by the thorns. There were holes in the wrists from the nails, and this was important because the holes weren't in the palms of the hands as were all medieval paintings. The holes were in the wrists. How did they figure that out so many centuries ago? His back had been whipped by lashes. There all was in photographic form. How could you forge something like a photographic image so many centuries ago? Then some scientists got together, studied the shroud and concluded that a sudden burst of energy left a photographic imprint on the cloth. That is strange. It was strange, the way that Jesus Christ exited the world.

But it is equally strange the way that Jesus Christ entered the world. The Bible says that Mary became impregnated by the powers of God, the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. It was indeed a strange entry into the world, but no stranger than the way Jesus exited this world.

That's what Christmas is all about. Christmas is not about the birth of Christmas. Not about the birth of a festival of lights. Not a birth of a tradition to exchange gifts. No. Christmas is about the birth of the Son of God. Amen.

Malankara World Journal Specials on St. Joseph

To learn more about St. Joseph, please see Malankara World Journal Special on St. Joseph:

Malankara World Journal Issue 113 - St. Joseph

You can also read more articles on St. Joseph in Malankara World Journal Issue 182

General Articles

Family Special: Why Your Kids Are at Greater Risk Than Ever

By Dr. Joanne Stern

"Children must be taught how to think, not what to think." - Margaret Mead

After my first session with Jenny and her parents, I sat in my office pondering... why?

Why would a sweet, shy 14-year-old try to hang herself in her bedroom closet? And why would she cut her forearms, creating scars she would cover up with long-sleeved shirts?

Sitting in a circle of chairs, Jenny's dad had barely said anything. Jenny sat quietly looking down at her hands folded in her lap. She half-heartedly protested whenever her mom said something she disagreed with. Mom did all the talking. She described her family's affluent lifestyle. She shared how involved they were in Jenny's life. She made it clear that they cared deeply about her.

But I didn't find the answers to my questions until I spoke with Jenny alone...

You see, Jenny felt like a failure – like she could do nothing right. Her mom told her how to dress, what to say to the girls in school, and who to hang out with. She criticized her for saying things that might bring ridicule from the popular kids. Mom totally controlled Jenny.

Jenny didn't want to kill herself that night in her bedroom closet. She only yearned for tenderness and sympathy from her parents. But even her suicide attempt backfired. Her mom only scolded her for trying such a stupid thing.

It's no wonder Jenny turned to self-destructive behavior. Inside she felt completely empty. She didn't really know who she was because she wasn't allowed to develop herself. She thought she was supposed to become the person her mom wanted her to be.

Here's a shocking fact:

Adolescent suicide has quadrupled since 1950... and the biggest increase is among children who grow up in wealthy families. Studies have shown that children from affluent families are the new class of "at risk" kids.

Inordinate numbers of affluent children are suffering from increased addiction to alcohol and drugs, severe anxiety and deep depression that can lead to suicide, eating disorders, and a variety of self-destructive behaviors such as cutting... and even violent crimes.

Poverty is no longer the biggest predictor of teenage problems. Such behavior is now more prevalent in affluent teens than in kids who grow up in poor inner-city neighborhoods.

What's the cause of these problems in affluent children?

There are two main culprits: achievement pressure from parents, and isolation (or alienation) from parents.

Most children desperately want to feel acceptance and approval from their parents... and they are willing to do almost anything to get it. Andrew is a perfect example. He was doing substandard work in his English class. He knew his father would be displeased with his grade. His grandfather had donated a huge sum of money to a prestigious university. And his father expected Andrew to attend that university.

During an important exam, Andrew decided to cheat so that he would get a passing grade. When he was caught, he first denied it. Then he burst into tears and said he did it to please his dad. He wanted to get into the school his dad had chosen for him.

This kind of achievement pressure is painful and stressful for kids. To be average is tantamount to failure. They believe that if they don't excel at everything they try, they won't get the approval of their parents.

Often parents don't allow their kids to stumble and fall. They might not get into the best colleges if they have a black mark on their record. These are the parents who call the teacher to insist on a better grade. They threaten the coach with withdrawing their donation if their kid doesn't make the team. They try to smooth things over with money or favors if their child gets into trouble.

As a result, affluent children often don't get the chance to experience the consequences of their behaviors or learn from their mistakes. They grow up sheltered and protected from the real world. They don't learn the self-confidence or resilience needed to be able to bounce back from failures.

"Empty" describes the way far too many affluent? children feel.

Many of these kids are coddled, pressured and micromanaged so heavily that they don't get a chance to develop independence and self-worth. They end up feeling like an empty shell, trying to be what their parents want them to be. They aren't given the opportunity to discover what they want to do and who they want to be.

Affluent children also report emptiness because they feel isolated from their parents. Their houses are empty. Their dinner tables are empty. Their lives are empty.

Affluent parents are often busy. They work late. They travel out of town for business. They have social obligations. This means families often don't do things together. They don't share meals. They don't do homework together. They rarely have time for deep communication.

Children are pawned off on nannies, babysitters and au pairs. Of course, it's perfectly fine to have help with your children. But the responsibility of parenting a child cannot be delegated to someone else. That is the job of the mother and father.

Kids who experience isolation feel no sense of emotional closeness or warmth with their parents. They fail to develop secure attachments to them, which causes developmental problems that carry into adulthood.

Studies show that families who eat dinner together at least five times a week have kids who use significantly less tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.

Those kids also have higher grade point averages, less depressive symptoms and attempt suicide less often. Something as simple as eating together as a family can go a long way to making your children feel valued, loved and connected to you.

What Are You Doing?

My client Coleen is divorced from a very wealthy family. She became accustomed to a pampered lifestyle. Coleen's 12-year-old daughter was mature for her age and beginning to rebel. She didn't like her mom and didn't obey her. Coleen had no idea why.

I asked Coleen to explain her daily routine to me. She didn't see her daughter most mornings because she was still asleep from being out late the night before. The nanny got the child up and took her to school. The nanny picked her up from school and took her to after-school activities. Then the nanny fixed her dinner, which the young girl ate alone in the kitchen.

Sometimes, Coleen would pop in to say hello while her daughter was eating, but usually she was making phone calls and arrangements for her evening. Coleen dressed up and went out every night. She considered it her career to find another rich husband, so going out and partying every night was her job. Unbelievably, Coleen felt she was a great mother!

Coleen didn't understand the link between the isolation her daughter felt and her daughter's bad behavior. Children who don't have consistent loving attention from parents feel emotionally deprived. When they don't get the nurture they need when they're young, they grow up with emotional problems that affect their friendships, their adult relationships and their ability to succeed in the business world.

Five Ways to Avoid "At Risk" Children

Money is not intrinsically bad. It does not ruin children. But it can create distractions. It can cause parents to prioritize the wrong things. It can cause them to lose sight of how their behavior can either enhance their children's self-esteem and emotional well being... or cause the unnecessary pressures and alienation that lead to destructive behavior.

The good news is that raising well-balanced, self-assured children is within your power. With that in mind, I have developed five principles you can follow to help your children avoid the pitfalls of being a member of the new "at risk" youth.

1. Be there

Make sure you are a consistent presence in your children's lives. Don't intrude. Let your kids stumble and learn the consequences of their behaviors. Don't strip them of the dignity of being able to make ?their own mistakes. Just always be there to support them. Remember, support is involvement on behalf of the child. Support feels encouraging and makes the child feel worthy and important. Intrusion is for the benefit of the parent. It feels invasive, unsupportive and suggests the child's only value is to please his parents.

2. Accept your children for who they are

Don't try to change your children to fit into a mold you prefer. Acknowledge their gifts and talents. Help develop them. But don't try to push your kids into areas you wish you could explore yourself. Above all, allow your children to find their own passions and follow their own dreams – even when you don't understand them.

3. Devote time to your kids

It's a fact: Kids want to spend more time with their parents... even if they don't always show it. And parents always overestimate the amount of time they spend with their kids. Make sure you do things with your children. Eat dinner together. Play games and do activities together. Do household chores together. Or just talk to each other. Spending uninterrupted time with your children lets them know that you value them.

4. Listen more than you talk

Even when you don't know how to respond, listening is a beautiful gift to give to your kids. Parents usually want to find solutions to their kids' problems. But sometimes listening is the solution. Your kids can fix most of their own problems. They just need to know that someone is listening... and cares.

5. Remove emptiness from your child's life

Nurture your children. Fill them up – with your attention, your caring and your time. Even adult children need to be nurtured. They need to be listened to. They need to be cared for. Parenting never ends; your job is never over. There is every reason to make the relationships with your children fulfilling for both of you.

[Ed Note: Dr. Joanne Stern is the author of the acclaimed book, "Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life" (available from and is a highly sought after international speaker who has appeared on many popular TV and radio shows. Dr. Stern is also a Family Relationships Strategic Partner with Bonner & Partners Family Office.]

How to Keep the Negative Attitudes of Others From Impacting You

by Kevin Eikenberry

It is a proven fact – the attitude of those around you is contagious.

This fact is great, when the attitude we are infected with is a positive one. But that isn't the purpose of this article. Since negative attitudes are just as contagious as positive ones, if you are like me, you'd like to guard yourself from these attitudes!

Whether you deal with this with co-workers, the team you lead, or people in your personal life, the six ideas below will help you – if you put them to work.

Disassociate Yourself

In some cases I mean this literally. If a person's attitude is negatively affecting you, don't spend time around them. This literal meaning might not be possible if they are your co-worker, if you lead them or if they are your Customer or Supplier, at least not immediately. But it is very possible to do so in your personal life. Limit the time spent with this person – especially if the other ideas below don't help you.

If the person works for you, buys from you or sells to you – you might not be able to remove them from your work immediately, but if the other ideas below don't help, it is possible to fire or re-assign employees, change suppliers, and get new Customers, right?

Separate the Behavior From the Person

Just because someone's behavior is challenging to you and bringing down your attitude, doesn't mean they are a bad person. Thankfully, we are not our behavior, and behavior can change. When you remember this idea and can make this separation, it will help you put their attitude into a different perspective, and perhaps keep their mindset from influencing yours quite as much.

Acknowledge, But Don't Agree

Often people want us to commiserate with their bad luck stories, but it is often those stories that negatively impact our attitude. If or when we can't distance or disassociate from people, I do recommend listening to their perspectives and stories – but we don't have to agree with them. Listen to them to be empathetic if needed, but don't take on their issues in the progress.

In fact, you can almost make it a game in your own head – looking for the flip side of their story. Look for the positive angle or benefit in their “ain't it awful” story. Whether you choose to share your different perspective with them is up to you (and perhaps dependent on the situation and relationship). Either way, the mental exercise of looking for the good angle will help keep you from picking up their negative attitude.

Inoculate Yourself From the Contagion

Medical professionals give us all kinds of good advice of things we can do to reduce the chance we get the flu or catch whatever virus is floating around us. Their advice includes rest, better diet, washing our hands and in some cases inoculating ourselves to keep from getting the malady.

We can inoculate ourselves against negative attitudes as well. Here is a (very) short list of ideas to get you started – the common thread involves consciously and intentionally putting more positive thoughts into your mind to help overcome the negative.

Read things that inspire you. It could be spiritual material, biographies of successful people (who likely have overcome great negativity in their lives), poetry or whatever inspires you.

Watch uplifting movies.

Spend time with positive people.

Practice looking for the good in situations. It is almost always there; maybe not in the moment, but in the big picture it can usually be found.

Create a gratitude journal – write down things each day that you are thankful for.

Influence Their Attitude

Their attitude is contagious, but so is yours. What are you doing to help moderate or change their attitude? This could include coaching (while you can't coach attitude directly, there are things you can do – I recorded this video that you might find helpful), but it goes beyond that too.

How about being supportive, offering to help, or being encouraging? How about a smile? How about having a positive outlook that might help them change theirs?

Let It Go

There is something else we can do too. When we remember that their attitude is their choice, we can choose to let go of their attitude's influence on us. (Tweet that) They are making choices, and we are making different ones. It may take some practice, but this can be a very powerful approach, especially when combined with the separation of person and behavior described above.

Say it with me: let it go.

These ideas can help you reduce the impact of other people's negativity on you. They will take some practice, but most anything worth doing is worth working at. See how that statement is a positive thought?

Health Tip: Five Easy Exercises that Can Give You Great Results

by BistroMD

Most people don't think that exercise can be easy, but it actually can - you just need to utilize the right exercises for the best results. With some help from our fitness expert, here is a list of 5 easy exercises that can give you great results.

You won't even have to go to the gym!

5. Squats

"If you are just a beginner, or if you aren't quite ready for weights, you can still do a simple beginner squat," says Sean Wells, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and the fitness expert at bistroMD. "Squats are a great exercise because it is a simple activity that can really sculpt your leg muscles."

If you are a beginner, or prefer to stay at home, you can use two sturdy chairs as support. With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down by bending at the knee and keeping your back straight, and your chest up. Follow through with a count of 10 seconds, holding for 2 seconds at the maximum tension point and then returning to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 3 times in a row for better results.

4. Side Planks

"Side planks are great for strengthening your abdominals, your back and your shoulders," says Sean. "It's a beneficial exercise that you can do almost anywhere."

The proper technique is to start out by lying on your side, with your legs extended and with your left arm resting in front of you. Lift up your body by firmly placing your right forearm against the floor. Make sure to breathe, and exhale as you lift your hips off the floor, balancing your body weight on your forearm.

Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides.

3. Abdominal Crunches

"If you just want to focus on getting your abdominals into shape, abdominal crunches are one of the easiest, most effective ways to do this," says Sean.

Start out by lying on your back with your knees up and your arms against your sides, with your feet planted flat on the ground. Slowly lift your head and then your shoulder blades, contracting your abdominal muscles. Pull forward until you are halfway to your knees.

Hold this position for about 5 seconds, and then release. Repeat four times.

2. Leg Lifts

"Leg lifts are a very easy exercise, and is a great way to tone your abdominals and to work your front and inner thighs," says Sean.

Start out by lying on your back with your palms down and with your hands under your behind. Lift up your legs from the ground - about 2 inches. Continue to lift, and keep your abs tight so that your shoulder blades are off the ground. Be sure to keep your abs tight with your chin up, and make sure to breathe slow and in a good rhythm as you lift through for a count of about 10 seconds.

Repeat this exercise three times.

1. Toe Reach

"If you want to firm and tone your abdominal muscles, toe reaches are also another great exercise," says Sean. "Toe reaches can also help increase core muscle strength, but if you've had previous back problems, you need to check with your physician first before doing this activity."

To do a leg fit, begin by lying on your back with your legs crossed and your feet flexed. Raise your legs to a 90 degree angle (as best as you can), and then extend your arms while keeping your chin up.

Make sure to breathe slowly as you crunch up, and reach toward your toes through a count of 10 seconds. Hold yourself at the maximum tension point for a minimum of two seconds, and then lower your legs back down.

Repeat three times.

Recipe: Cajun Seafood Pasta

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

Cajun Seafood Pasta is a great blend of seafood with an Italian dish. The ingredients like pepper and cheese add nice flavors to the recipe. If you love pasta, you will love it even more with this recipe that has a twist of seafood seasoning in it. Here is how to make Cajun Seafood Pasta:


1 pound dry Fettuccine Pasta
1/2 pound Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 cups heavy whipping Cream
2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper
1 tablespoon chopped Basil
1/2 pound Scallops
1 tablespoon chopped Thyme
1 cup chopped Parsley
2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 cup shredded Swiss Cheese
1 cup chopped green Onions
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed Red Pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon ground White Pepper


Step 1: Take a large pot and cook pasta in it along with boiling salted water until the pasta gets a firm texture
Step 2: Take a pan and pour cream in it, cook on medium heat while stirring continuously
Step 3: When it is just about boiling, reduce the heat and add salt, onions, herbs, parsley and peppers
Step 4: Mix well until it gets thick
Step 5: Add shrimp and scallops and cook until shrimp is not transparent
Step 6: Add Swiss and Parmesan Cheese and stir well
Step 7: Drain the pasta and and garnish with parsley and thyme

Yield: Serves 4 People

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