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

Lessons from St. Mary - Faith

Volume 4 No. 247 November 21, 2014

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Winter Wonderland, Hudson, Ohio
Winter Wonderland

North America had an early winter this year. Buffalo, New York had over 70 inches of snow in a day, the amount of snow North East Ohio normally receives in a year. This scene is from Hudson, Ohio.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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This Sunday in Church

1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 23)

Bible Readings For the Annunciation to St. Mary Sunday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_annunciation_mary.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (November 23)

Sermons For the Annunciation to St. Mary Sunday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_annunciation_Mary.htm

This Week's Features

3. Introduction

Mary's faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord's promises with a certain "unknowing".

In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God's will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross. It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the angel's message. Her example reminds us that faith while fully obedient to the Lord's will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will. In this holy season, may Our Lady's prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God's grace in our hearts and in our world. ...

4. Inspiration for Today

The Church lives by faith, seeing in St. Mary "who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45), the first and perfect expression of her faith. On this journey of trusting abandonment to the Lord, the Virgin goes before the disciples, adhering to the divine Word with an increasing intensity that embraces all the stages of her life and spreads to the very mission of the Church. ...

5. Good News Comes in Strange Packages

Sometimes it's a little scary. Sometimes it may even seem like bad news. But God is doing his thing in the midst of it, and it is for our good. Good news, strange packages. It was true for Mary, and it is true also for you and me. God has this strange way of operating, and it is beautiful to behold. ...

6. Childlike Faith

Lord, I want Your will. I will do what You want me to do. I will go where You want me to go. I will say what You want me to say.

Have you ever said that to God? Mary did. ...

7. More Resources On The Annunciation To St. Mary

Malankara World Journal Issue No: 179: This was a Malankara World Journal Special on the Annunciation to St. Mary.

Volume 3 No 179: Nov 21 2013 - Theme: Humility of St. Mary
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_179.htm

Malankara World Journal Issue No: 110: This was a Malankara World Journal Special on the Annunciation to St. Mary. Definitely worth reading or re-reading.
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_110.htm

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary:
For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

8. A Question of Faith

The difference is that Mary asks her question in faith, not in doubt. Mary does not set up her rationality as a standard for judging God -- How can I be sure? -- even though her curiosity expresses itself as a question -- How will this be? Mary's question does not doubt the veracity of the announcement; she is prepared to accept it, with all its personal consequences. Her attitude of faith is expressed in her final word, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." Faith for Mary takes the form of obedience.

Is that not always true? Faith is not simply expressed in obedience -- faith is obedience. To be faithful is not to be full of an emotion or a belief; it is to act steadfastly on the basis of a commitment or a relationship. Zechariah’s problem was not that he asked a question; it was that he was not really ready to obey. For it is not in rational explanations about God -- explanations that fit our systems of knowledge and our human categories of experience -- that we learn who God is and how to love God; it is in the response, "I am the Lord’s servant." ...

9. Faith - Things I Don't Understand

I don't understand how God can sit on His throne in Heaven and control everything here on earth. I don't understand it, but I know that God is in control!

Thank you, God, that I don't have to understand your ways. I only have to know that you are in control. Amen.

10. Mary: Gutsy Faith, Greater than the Angels - A Reflection on the Annunciation

Mary, in the annunciation, becomes the patroness of all youth and young people. She tells all of us that God can ask great things of the young, and the young can accomplish those things. Mary wasn't a "future" faithful young woman, she was at twelve or thirteen already a faithful woman.

Mary, in the annunciation, becomes the patroness, of all who are called by God to do impossible things. Of those who become embarrassments to their family and communities on behalf of God. She reminds us that the godly thing isn't always the prim-and-proper thing. Sometimes when we answer God's call, we become a laughingstock. Or, even worse, persecuted. ...

11. What Does Faith Actually Do?

Hebrews 11 gives us a long list of the heroes of faith, men and women who are models or examples to us of what authentic faith looks like. Study this chapter and you will see that faith is always more than bare belief. Faith is active. It does things…

Faith is like a living tree bursting with fruit! Where does all this life and energy come from? Why does faith understand, offer, build, obey, long, bless and worship? Faith unites us to Jesus Christ. Faith is the bond by which we become His, and faith is the way in which Christ, and all that is His, becomes ours.

12. Faith Radically Transforms Us, Pope Francis Tells Young People

The Pope acknowledged the temptation to "put ourselves at the centre, to think that we alone build our lives or that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money, or power."

"But it is not so," he reflected. Rather, possessions, money and power "end up possessing us," leaving us unsatisfied and always wanting more, with only an "illusion of being happy."

Pope Francis contrasted the pursuit of fleeting pleasures with the willingness to be pursued by Jesus. "'Put on Christ' in your life, place your trust in him and you will never be disappointed." ...

13. Health: Why Your Kid Shouldn't Be Guzzling 'Energy' Drinks

Anxiety, hypertension, elevated heart rates, interrupted sleep patterns and headaches are just some of the side effects commonly associated with energy drinks, and those problems are more pronounced in children, according to a recent University of Miami study. ...

14. Recipe: Veg-Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving feast is centered on the bird, but chances are you will either host a vegetarian this holiday or be seated at a table with a vegetarian. Plant-based diets are growing in popularity due to their health and environmental benefits.

No reason to panic. In addition to the many naturally vegetarian side dishes found on a traditional Thanksgiving table – sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce come to mind – why not include this hearty soup bursting with vegetables and plant-based protein? ...

15. Family Special: Five Tips for Moms Struggling with Work-Life Balance

"The perfect worker, wife and mother – these are 'the big three' roles that matter most to women, but you really want to make sure your children don't get lost in this juggling. Your husband and your coworkers are adults; children, on the other hand, are vulnerable." ...

16. Christian Persecution: Six Years Later, Christians in India Await Justice For Kandhamal Massacre

Last August marked the six year anniversary of the brutal 2008 Kandhamal, Odisha massacre in India, but for Fr. Thomas Chellan, the memories have not faded.

Even after all that time Christians in the region are still waiting for justice. Although most of the instigators have been caught, they have still not gone to trial, the priest said.

"The local community utterly failed to protect the lives and property of their Christian neighbors," he told international charity Aid to the Church in Need. ...

17. Malankara World Journal Thanksgiving Day Special

Thursday, November 27 is celebrated as the Thanksgiving Day in North America. It is the day we reflect on the blessings we received. ...

Malankara World Journal will publish a Special Edition of the Journal (Issue No: 248) for Thanksgiving. We would like to include your "testimonial" in that edition. Think of all the times God has supernaturally provided for your own life. Take a few minutes to reflect on all the times God has miraculously supplied what you needed and for your family.

Please send your contributions via email to mail@malankaraworld.com no later than Sunday, November 23. Please mention Thanksgiving on the subject line of the email. ...

18. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 23)
Sermons for This Sunday (November 23)

This Week's Features

Introduction
This Sunday, the Holy Church recollects the annunciation to St. Mary.

In last issue of the Journal, we have discussed the difference in the way Mary and Zachariah reacted to the annunciation messages by Angel Gabriel. The learned Zachariah did not believe what the angel told him. He was punished as a result. On the other hand, the simple Mary, had perfect confidence (faith) that 'with God everything is possible'. She had no doubt that God can do whatever he wants to do. She was just curious how she can bear a son while still being a virgin. Mary exemplifies the perfect model of faith. Mary knew that her life will be turned upside down and that all the careful plans she had dreamed for her life with Joseph in a quiet, peaceful setting will be shattered if she said "yes" to the angel. But she accepted the God's commission obediently. She said, "yes". This is the perfect example of submissiveness and faith.

Pope Benedict XVI, who has a great talent in explaining complex theological subjects in an easy understand simple way, explained the faith of Mary beginning from the great mystery of the Annunciation and its importance to Christians in a message delivered on December 19, 2012. Let us take a brief look:

"Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). These are the words - recounted by the Evangelist Luke - with which the Archangel Gabriel greets Mary. At first glance, the term "rejoice" looks like a normal greeting, common in the Greek world, but this word, when read against the background of the biblical tradition, takes on a much deeper meaning. This same term is present four times in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and always as a proclamation of joy at the coming of the Messiah (cf. Zeph 3:14; Joel 2:21; Zech 9:9; Lam 4:21). The angel's greeting to Mary is thus an invitation to joy, a deep joy, it announces the end of the sadness that there is in the world in front of the limits of life, suffering, death, wickedness, the darkness of evil that seems to obscure the light of the divine goodness. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News.

In the angel's greeting, Mary is called "full of grace"; in Greek the word "grace," charis, has the same linguistic root as the word "joy." In this expression, it also clarifies further the source of Mary's delight: the joy comes from grace, it comes, that is, from communion with God, from having a so vital a connection with Him, from being the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, totally shaped by the action of God. Mary is the creature who in a unique way has opened the door to her Creator, she has placed herself in His hands, without reserve. She lives entirely from and in the relationship with the Lord; she is in an attitude of listening, attentive to recognize the signs of God in the journey of her people; she is inserted into a history of faith and of hope in the promises of God, which constitutes the fabric of her existence. And she submits freely to the Word received, to the divine will in the obedience of faith.

The Evangelist Luke narrates the story of Mary through a fine parallel with the story of Abraham. As the great patriarch is the father of believers, who responded to God's call to leave the land in which he lived, his safety, to begin the journey to a land unknown and possessed only in the divine promise, so Mary relies with full trust in the word that the messenger of God announces and becomes a model and mother of all believers. ...

Abraham's journey of faith includes the moment of joy for the gift of his son Isaac, but also the time of darkness, when he has to go up to Mount Moriah to carry out a paradoxical act: God asks him to sacrifice the son He had just given him. On the mountain, the angel tells him: "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me" (Gen 22:12); Abraham's full trust in the God who is faithful to His promises exists even when His word is mysterious and difficult, almost impossible to accept. So it is with Mary, her faith lives the joy of the Annunciation, but also passes through the darkness of the crucifixion of the Son, to reach the light of the Resurrection. ...

It is no different for the journey of faith of each one of us: it encounters moments of light, but also meets with moments where God seems absent, His silence weighs on our hearts and His will does not correspond to our own, to what we would like. But the more we open ourselves to God, welcome the gift of faith, put our trust in Him completely - like Abraham and like Mary - the more He makes us able, us with His presence, to live every situation of life in peace and in the assurance of His faithfulness and of His love. But this means going out of oneself and one's projects, because the Word of God is a lamp to guide our thoughts and our actions.

Pope Benedict summed up and concluded his message thus:

Mary's faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord's promises with a certain "unknowing".

In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God's will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross. It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the angel's message. Her example reminds us that faith while fully obedient to the Lord's will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will. In this holy season, may Our Lady's prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God's grace in our hearts and in our world.

Let us reflect on the Mercy and Grace of God who incarnated as a human being on Christmas day and died on the cross to redeem us. As Pope Benedict pointed out, "The glory of God is not manifested in the triumph and power of a king, it does not shine in a famous city, in a sumptuous palace, but dwells in the womb of a virgin, it reveals itself in the poverty of a child. The omnipotence of God, also in our lives, acts with the force, often silent, of the truth and of love. Faith tells us, then, that the defenseless power of that Child in the end overcomes the noise of the powers of the world."

This issue of Malankara World Journal examines the importance of Faith in Christian Life. More articles on this important topic are available in the Malankara World Library online.

Many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving next week. This is the time to remember and thank God for the blessings we received from God. We will publish a special issue of Malankara World Journal examining the importance of "Gratefulness" in Christian Life. The issue will be released on November 26, God willing.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Inspiration for Today
The Church lives by faith, seeing in St. Mary "who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45), the first and perfect expression of her faith. On this journey of trusting abandonment to the Lord, the Virgin goes before the disciples, adhering to the divine Word with an increasing intensity that embraces all the stages of her life and spreads to the very mission of the Church.

Her example encourages the People of God to practice their faith and to study and develop its content, by keeping in their heart and meditating on the events of salvation.

Mary also becomes a model of hope for the Church. In listening to the angel's message, the Virgin first directs her hope to the kingdom without end, which Jesus had been sent to establish.

She stands firm near the cross of her Son, waiting for the divine promise to be fulfilled. After Pentecost, the Mother of Jesus sustains the Church's hope despite the threat of persecution. She is thus the Mother of hope for the community of believers and for individual Christians, and she encourages, and guides her children as they await the kingdom, supporting them in their daily trials and throughout the events of history, however tragic.

Excerpted from:  "Mary: Model of Faith, Hope and Charity" by Pope John Paul II

Featured: Good News Comes in Strange Packages

by The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

How'd you like to have a really scary guy come up to you unexpectedly and tell you: "Hey, I've got good news for you! You're about to have a life-changing experience that will cause the person closest to you to think you have betrayed him, an experience that will make you into something of a social outcast and that will rearrange your whole life and plans from anything you expected. Yeah, this is some really good news I have for you!"

How would you feel, and what would you say to such a person? Maybe you'd feel scared, threatened, and you'd tell the person, "You're nuts! Now get out of here!" Although maybe you wouldn't say that, because the person who told you this supposedly good news is really scary and powerful, remember, and you're scared out of your socks!

Well, the scenario I've just described is basically what happened to a young woman named Mary. A really scary, powerful person came up to her out of the blue--literally, out of the blue--and told her that her whole life was about to be turned upside-down, her fiancé would think she's been cheating on him, people would look on her as though she's done something shameful, and her life would be taken over, really, by circumstances beyond her control. Some good news, huh? But what we learn today in the account of Gabriel's announcement to Mary, what we learn about God's ways of dealing with his people, is that "Good News Comes in Strange Packages."

Good news comes in strange packages.

Strange and scary packages. The angel Gabriel is the one who delivers the news to Mary. And angels are scary creatures. Everywhere in the Bible that we find angel messengers encountering human beings, the reaction is always the same: The people are scared out of their minds. They're terrified. And understandably so. This is a direct, shocking, completely unexpected, completely out of the normal, experience, to come face to face with an angel. It almost never happens. Only on a few select and highly significant occasions in salvation history have the mighty heavenly beings called angels made themselves known to human beings. Usually angels are invisible, unseen by human eyes. But when they do make themselves known to humans, it is always a scary thing.

Contrary to their image in our pop culture, angels are not cute, cuddly little cherubs or soft, effeminate-looking men. No, angels as they are described in the Bible are warriors, bright, fiery, mighty beings who do battle for the Lord against the demonic realm and who occasionally, very occasionally, deliver major announcements to select individuals about some big event in God's dealings with humanity. Don't let pop culture distort your image of angels. The TV show may have been called "Touched by an Angel," but more accurate to the biblical account would be "Torched by an Angel."

The angel we meet in our text is one of the few we know by name. His name is Gabriel, which means, "Mighty Man of God" or "Warrior of God." Gabriel had earlier received the assignment of announcing John the Baptist's upcoming birth to his father Zechariah, and now here Gabriel gets a similar assignment in announcing Jesus' birth to his mother Mary.

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary."

So this is the scene. It's been six months since the announcement to Zechariah in Jerusalem, and now Gabriel comes to Mary in Nazareth. Mary is a young woman, unmarried--she is engaged, though.

"And he came to her and said, 'Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!' But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be."

Well, this is a bit strange, isn't it? To have an angel come to you and speak to you? Sure, he greets Mary and says she's favored, and that the Lord is with her. But still--an angel? No wonder it says that she was "greatly troubled." Who wouldn't be? Did she think she was losing her mind? Did she wonder if this mighty angel might strike her down at any moment?

"And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'"

The first wordp/to Mary after the initial greeting are words you see just about every time in the Bible that an angel appears to a human being: "Do not be afraid." "Fear not." Angels are always having to reassure people that they're not about to zap them.

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

Oh, good. Now here comes the good news. Tell us, Gabriel, what is this great favor that God is going to do for Mary? So Gabriel tells her:

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son."

That's it? That's the great favor? That's the good news? Mary is going to become pregnant and have a baby? And it sounds, Gabriel, like you're saying, "not by Joseph." So how is that going to work? This unmarried girl, suddenly showing up pregnant? How? By whom? What will Joseph think? What will people think?

Well, we know what Joseph did think, when he found out. It says in Matthew that Joseph was fixing to break the whole thing off. In his mind, if his fiancée suddenly gets pregnant, and he knows he didn't do it, what is he is going to think? He will naturally think that she's been fooling around on him behind his back.

And what would people think? In that society, where people rightly thought that getting pregnant outside of marriage was a shameful thing--in other words, in a culture unlike our current one, which has lost its mind and its moral compass--people would think that Mary was an immoral woman who has done something shameful. Mary would thus become a social outcast, looked down upon. She would lose her reputation.

And what would all this do to young Mary's life, her plans, her dreams and her hopes? Everything would be turned upside-down. And you're telling me this is the good news, Gabriel? This is the great favor from God? You've got to be kidding. Tell you what: Don't do me any "favors." You've got a strange way of looking at things.

But it's true. It is good news. Mary is a highly favored lady. Good news comes in strange packages, at least when God is doing his work. What makes it good is who this child she will bear will be:

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

A son with a name picked out in advance by God: Jesus. That would be "Joshua" in the Hebrew, the same name as the great hero from Israel's past who led the people into the Promised Land. Only this Joshua, this Jesus, would be even greater. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." What are you saying, Gabriel? This will be God's Son? You're blowing my mind! "And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David." This Jesus, coming from the royal line of the great King David--this Jesus is going to be the Messiah, the be-all and end-all king of all time! The Lord had promised David that one of his descendants would be that fulfiller of prophecy, and now, finally, after all these years, this is it! It's Mary's son! "And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Pretty amazing stuff for this young lady to take in!

Good news comes in strange packages.

And stranger still will be how this son Jesus will exercise his reign, once he is grown. To be the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and yet to be rejected by your own religious authorities, to be handed over to a Gentile ruler, and to be flogged and mocked and killed, dying a criminal's death on a cross? Very strange indeed! How can any good come out of that? But again, this is how God operates, bringing good news out of strange and even bad circumstances. For in that shame and rejection, in that suffering and dying, Christ Jesus would be accomplishing the greatest good news of all: the salvation of the world.

The holy Son of God, born of Mary precisely so that in the flesh he could suffer and die--God's own Son spilling his blood for the forgiveness of our sins--this is the good news you've been waiting for! This is just what you need. For apart from this forgiveness, purchased by the blood of Christ, you would be damned, and justly so. Your many sins would condemn you. But with Christ, there is forgiveness. And with that forgiveness, new life and eternal salvation. This is what you get with Jesus, and nowhere else. Good news, in strange packages.

Yes, strange packages. Some guy preaching in a dinky little church, where hardly anybody cares to show up--and yet, this is where God is handing out treasure greater than all the gold in the world: victory over death and the grave, and life everlasting. Or take another strange package--yes, take it! Bread and wine, simple means, not much, even at that--and yet here is a feast grander than any five-star restaurant could serve: the bread of life and the cup of salvation, Christ's own body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Good news comes in strange packages.

Sometimes it's a little scary. Sometimes it may even seem like bad news. But God is doing his thing in the midst of it, and it is for our good. Good news, strange packages. It was true for Mary, and it is true also for you and me. God has this strange way of operating, and it is beautiful to behold.

Childlike Faith

by Greg Laurie

Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
- Luke 1:38

Lord, I want Your will. I will do what You want me to do. I will go where You want me to go. I will say what You want me to say.

Have you ever said that to God? Mary did.

When Gabriel suddenly appeared to her one day and announced that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she was completely obedient, saying, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

I love that. Mary had childlike faith. How open and trusting children are. If my grandchildren are on a step and I tell them to jump to me, they will jump. Why? It's because so far I've caught them (and I plan on continuing to catch them). So when I say jump, they simply jump, with a smile. I catch them, and they want to do it again.

But sometimes when God tells us to jump, we say, "What?" We think, I don't want to jump. What if God drops me? But He won't drop us. What kind of parent would do that? Our heavenly Father will catch us.

We often wonder about the will of God for our lives, but here is something to consider: Obedience to revealed truth guarantees guidance in matters unrevealed. Is there something you know to be God's will for you right now? Have you done it? Don't ask God to reveal His will beyond that until you take care of what you know is His will. We say that we want God's will, but often we want Him to reveal it first so we can decide whether or not we are going to do it.

Mary said, "Let it be to me according to your word." Have you made that commitment as well?

Source: Daily Devotion with Greg Laurie
Copyright ©2013 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

More Resources On The Annunciation To St. Mary

Malankara World Journal Issue No: 179

This was a Malankara World Journal Special on the Annunciation to St. Mary.

Volume 3 No 179: Nov 21 2013 - Theme: Humility of St. Mary
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_179.htm

Malankara World Journal Issue No: 110

This was another Malankara World Journal Special on the Annunciation to St. Mary. Definitely worth reading or re-reading.

Volume 2 No 110: Nov 22 2012 - Theme: Advent - Annunciation to St. Mary
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_110.htm

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary

For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

A Question of Faith

by Jennette F. Scholer

Scripture: Lk. 1:13, 18; 30-31, 34

The angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; yourprayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.". 
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this?
I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

The angel said "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.". . . "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
-Luke 1:13,18; 30-31,34 (NIV).

The angel brings news of two impending births. Zechariah is told he is to be a father -- a message that is unexpected but certainly not undesirable, for Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are old and childless in a society that puts a high value on having children. Mary is told she is to be a mother -- news that is both unexpected and undesirable. No pious, engaged young woman would want to learn that she is to become pregnant outside of marriage. Both Mary and Zechariah respond with questions.

Perhaps Zechariah had waited so anxiously, so hopefully, and with so many disappointments month after month in the long years of childlessness that he dared not accept the good news. He wanted intellectual assurance; he wanted to understand how the improbable conception would take place. Gabriel's answer to his question is a rebuke: "Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words."

Gabriel's response makes it clear that Zechariah's question is one of doubt -- doubt that places restrictions on what even God can do; doubt of God’s very messenger.

Mary also raises a question: "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" Yet she is not rebuked. Gabriel simply answers that God will do it. It is the ultimate answer: "Nothing is impossible with God." But is Mary's question so different from Zechariah’s after all?

The difference is that Mary asks her question in faith, not in doubt. Mary does not set up her rationality as a standard for judging God -- How can I be sure? -- even though her curiosity expresses itself as a question -- How will this be? Mary's question does not doubt the veracity of the announcement; she is prepared to accept it, with all its personal consequences. Her attitude of faith is expressed in her final word, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." Faith for Mary takes the form of obedience.

Is that not always true? Faith is not simply expressed in obedience -- faith is obedience. To be faithful is not to be full of an emotion or a belief; it is to act steadfastly on the basis of a commitment or a relationship. Zechariah’s problem was not that he asked a question; it was that he was not really ready to obey. For it is not in rational explanations about God -- explanations that fit our systems of knowledge and our human categories of experience -- that we learn who God is and how to love God; it is in the response, "I am the Lord’s servant."

Contrary to what some people think, God does not forbid questions. God let Job pour out all his agonized questions because it was clear that Job's heart was prepared to accept God’s will: "Though God slay me, I will trust." Our Lord himself could not endure the cross without a question, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But Jesus also realized the need for obedience: "Not my will, but yours, be done."

It is when our questions turn us from obedience that they must be rebuked. When the risen Christ confronted Peter three times with the question, "Do you love me?" and spoke what appeared to be a prophecy of Peter's death, Peter immediately raised a question about John (for no one likes to be a martyr alone) : "Lord, what about him?" It was a question of doubt, a question that deflected Peter from the task of obedience; it was the unacceptable question. "What is that to you?" Jesus asked. "You must follow me."

Shortly after arriving at the Keller household, Sullivan wrote, "I am convinced that obedience is the gateway by which knowledge, yes and even love, enter the mind of the child." With this remarkable insight, Sullivan had the courage to teach Helen to obey -- to sit at the table, to eat properly, to fold her napkin. It was by first learning obedience that Helen learned the concept of language -- and also grew to love her teacher.

Annie Sullivan's words speak to us as we reflect on Zechariah's and Mary's questions. "Obedience is the gateway by which knowledge, yes and love, enter" our minds. It is in acts of obedience that we grow in the knowledge and love of God.

So our text is indeed appropriate for Lent. For what is Lent but a time to join in a journey with the One

Who being in very nature God
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human being,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death --
even death on a cross
[Phil. 2:6-8].

We will not be called to be obedient in the way Mary and Jesus were called. But our obedience will be called for, not only in major decisions -- what job to take, where to live and serve, whom to marry or not to marry -- but in dozens of daily opportunities to do what is clearly God's will: to seek justice, to be merciful, to put others before ourselves. This is true of even such simple tasks as making tea or running an errand for another person when our own schedules or preferences would run counter. Each day provides the occasion to say, "I am the Lord's servant." We may ask, How can I love this student who expresses such hostility? How can I refrain from responding sharply to a contentious parishioner? How will I maintain patience with my irritable supervisor? How will I care for the needs of this aging congregation? How will I raise the funds for this project of mercy? How can I balance the demands of ministry and family? How can I find courage in the face of a terminal diagnosis? But God will accept the questions when our intention is to obey: then we hear the enabling response, "With God nothing is impossible."

Like Mary, may our questions -- even in our asking -- express our faith, and our determination to be obedient servants of the Lord.

About The Author:

Jeannette Scholer is adjunct instructor in communication at two Chicago-area theological seminaries: Northern Baptist and Bethany. This article appeared in the Christian Century, March 11, 1987, p. 237. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission.

Faith - Things I Don't Understand

by Charles Kirkpatrick

Objects: A CD, telephone, medicine bottle, calculator, flashlight, and a remote control

Theme: FAITH

Scripture: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I have a bag full of things I don't understand.

CD's: I don't understand CD's. When I look at them, I can't see any songs in there, but when I put one in my CD player, I hear beautiful music. I don't understand it, but I know it works!

I don't understand how He did it, but God put a song in my heart. When I am sad, there is a song to cheer me up, and when I am happy, there is a song to praise Him. I don't understand how He did it, but I know it's there.

TELEPHONES: I don't understand how I can pick up a telephone and talk to someone hundreds of miles away from me and they can talk to me. Oh, I know about telephone lines and fiber optics, but I still don't understand how it works, but I know it does!

I don't understand prayer. I don't know how I can talk to God in Heaven and He can talk to me. I don't understand it, but I know it works.

MEDICINE: I don't understand how medicine works. When I take a pill, how does it know where to go and what to do when it gets there? I don't know how it works, but I know it does!

I don't understand how God can heal the deepest hurt and pain in my life. I don't know how He does it, but He does!

CALCULATORS: I don't understand how I can push some buttons on a calculator and it will give me the answer to a problem. I don't understand it, but it works!

I don't understand how God has all the answers to the problems of my life. I don't understand it, but I know He does!

FLASHLIGHTS: I know this seems pretty simple, but I don't understand flashlights. I know there is a bulb and batteries, but I still don't understand why it works, but I know it does!

I don't understand how, but I know that in the darkest days of my life, God is my light. I don't know how He does it, but He lights every path I take!

REMOTE CONTROLS: I don't understand how I can sit in my easy chair and control my TV or VCR all the way across the room. I can change channels, adjust the volume, fast-forward, or reverse. I don't understand it, but I am in complete control!

I don't understand how God can sit on His throne in Heaven and control everything here on earth. I don't understand it, but I know that God is in control!

Thank you, God, that I don't have to understand your ways. I only have to know that you are in control. Amen.

Copyright © 2001-114 Sermons4Kids, All rights Reserved.

Mary: Gutsy Faith, Greater than the Angels - A Reflection on the Annunciation

by Rick Morley

A Reflection on Luke 1:26-28

She was twelve. Maybe thirteen.

That was the typical age of betrothal in her day. And, this little twelve-year-old was betrothed to a man.

I remember being twelve. It's a great age. It's also a difficult age. Everything changes almost every day. The ground moves under your feet with the constancy of waves on a beach.

Each change just comes, one after another. Before you've adjusted to one change, one more sweeps over you. And no force can stop them.

It's one of those liminal times in life. A between time.

No longer a child. Not yet an adult.

Somewhere in the middle.

That's part of what makes it so hard.

Full of life. Awkward. Fun. Goofy. Girly. Womanly. Perfect as she could be in every way.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to her. And, in one instant there went childhood.

Over. Done.

That one brush with heaven changed it all.

Mary, or Miriam as she would have been known, was one person in a long line of people who encountered God, and in the blink of an eye saw the trajectory of their lives change.

Abraham had to pick up and move away from the land of his fathers, and raise a child in his twilight years. Moses found a bush on fire, and ended up speaking before the principalities of this world on behalf of the Principality of the Cosmos. Joshua. Deborah. Gideon. Samson. Saul. David, the youngest boy in a long line of brothers – he was just watching sheep one day when someone called him in from the field. Isaiah. Jeremiah.

And then Mary.

But, God didn't ask her to go anywhere. Or speak to anyone. Or liberate a nation of slaves.

God asked her to have a child.

His child.

Which is big, for sure. But, were God to ask me to do this for Him, the first thought which would pass through my mind would be: Oh, but my parents are going to kill me.

She was unmarried. Promised to a man.

How could she do this without disappointing everyone? Ev-er-y-one.

Her father. Her mother. Her aunts and uncles. Her rabbi. The people of her town.

She lived in a small town - one of those places where everyone knows everything about every single person.

Oh, the things people would think about her. And if those thoughts turned to anger, and anger turned them to God's righteous laws, she could have been stoned to death.

And, yes, of course, this was to be no ordinary child born out of wedlock. This was an act of God.

But who on earth would believe THAT line?

And there stood that angel of the Lord sent to a little girl, almost a woman, asking her to radically bend the arc of her life away from where she thought it might go to somewhere she never dreamed.

If angels "feel," I wonder if Gabriel felt a little bad? There he was, bathed in divine light, rippling robes, bright colored wings, shiny halo - asking a twelve-year-old girl to do something he couldn't dream to do. Something he, with all his power and prominence, was powerless to accomplish.

Let it be done with me according to your word.

I don't think she actually said that. My guess is that somehow she managed to squeak out a "ok…"

That's all I'd be able to summon, three times her age.

But, whatever she said, she agreed to go through with it. And, unlike her biblical ancestors she didn't try and wiggle out of it. Unlike Moses, she didn't try and say that she had a speech impediment. Unlike Jonah, she didn't hop on a boat in the opposite direction. Unlike Abraham and Sarah, she didn't laugh.

She said "yes."

Mary, in the annunciation, becomes the patroness of all youth and young people. She tells all of us that God can ask great things of the young, and the young can accomplish those things. Mary wasn't a "future" faithful young woman, she was at twelve or thirteen already a faithful woman.

Mary, in the annunciation, becomes the patroness, of all who are called by God to do impossible things. Of those who become embarrassments to their family and communities on behalf of God. She reminds us that the godly thing isn't always the prim-and-proper thing. Sometimes when we answer God's call, we become a laughingstock. Or, even worse, persecuted.

Mary, in the annunciation, becomes the patroness of all who dare say "yes" to God. Or, manage to mumble a tentative "…ok…"

In this scene where the divine comes crashing into the earth, Mary becomes our example, that in the ways of God we might become like her.

If we have the guts.


About The Author

Rick - follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella

What Does Faith Actually Do?

by Colin Smith

Hebrews 11 gives us a long list of the heroes of faith, men and women who are models or examples to us of what authentic faith looks like. Study this chapter and you will see that faith is always more than bare belief. Faith is active. It does things…

Faith Understands

"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command."
- Hebrews 11:3

The Psalmist says, "I have more insight than all my teachers for I meditate on your statutes" (Psalm 119:99). The Holy Spirit gives wisdom that cannot be gained by the intellect alone. It is possible to have the most brilliant mind, and yet to live like a fool.

Faith Offers

"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did." (Hebrews 11:4)

Faith will lead you to great sacrifices - denying yourself and costly commitment.

Faith Builds

"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family."
- Hebrews 11:7

Faith initiates great projects that will be the means of advancing God’s redeeming purpose in the world.

Faith Obeys

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."
- Hebrews 11:8

Faith will lead you to embark on great ventures into the unknown.

Faith Longs

"They were longing for a better country--a heavenly one."
- Hebrews 11:16

Faith is a forward-looking grace. It will keep you fixed on heaven.

Faith Blesses

"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future."
- Hebrews 11:20

What a blessing to have a father who is a man of faith, a mother who is a woman of faith. Faith leaves a legacy, bringing blessing to your children and all God places around you.

Faith Worships

"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff."
- Hebrews 11:21

Faith will lead you to worship. Here is this old man at the end of life. He is dying, but he looks up to God and he worships.

Why does faith do all these things?

Faith is like a living tree bursting with fruit! Where does all this life and energy come from? Why does faith understand, offer, build, obey, long, bless and worship? Faith unites us to Jesus Christ. Faith is the bond by which we become His, and faith is the way in which Christ, and all that is His, becomes ours.

This week's Scripture:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
-
Romans 3:28

About The Author:

Colin Smith is Senior Pastor of The Orchard in northwest suburban Chicago.

Source: Christianity.com

Faith Radically Transforms Us, Pope Francis Tells Young People

by Pope Francis

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 25, 2013: The virtue of faith "accomplishes a revolution" in the lives of believers, which brings our way of thinking and acting into line with God's, Pope Francis told World Youth Day pilgrims in Rio de Janeiro.

"Faith immerses us in his love and gives us security, strength, and hope," the Pope taught during his homily for a Liturgy of the Word held as a welcoming ceremony for the event.

"To all appearances, nothing has changed; yet, in the depths of our being, everything is different."

The Gospel proclaimed at the Liturgy told of the Transfiguration of Jesus, and Pope Francis began by affirming that "here today, it is good for all of us to be gathered together around Jesus! It is he who welcomes us and who is present in our midst here in Rio."

Christians are called to welcome Jesus in return, by "putting on" the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

"To put on," he said, is "to pour over," comparing "putting on faith" with placing salt, or oil, atop a plate of food.

"'Put on faith', and your life will take on a new flavor, it will have a compass to show you the way," he proclaimed.

By putting on hope, one's days and horizon will be "enlightened," he added, and "putting on love" builds a solid foundation for one's life and the journey of life "will be joyful, because you will find many friends to journey with you."

Faith, hope and love are Christ's gift, Pope Francis said, and Christ is "the one who brings God to us and us to God."

"With him, our life is transformed and renewed, and we can see reality with new eyes, from Jesus' standpoint," and so we must also "put on Christ."

In putting on Christ, he said you receive a friend in whom you can always have faith; "wings of hope" for the journey into the future; and a "fruitful" life, "full of his love."

"I would like each of us to ask sincerely: in whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus?"

The Pope acknowledged the temptation to "put ourselves at the centre, to think that we alone build our lives or that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money, or power."

"But it is not so," he reflected.

Rather, possessions, money and power "end up possessing us," leaving us unsatisfied and always wanting more, with only an "illusion of being happy."

Pope Francis contrasted the pursuit of fleeting pleasures with the willingness to be pursued by Jesus.

"'Put on Christ' in your life, place your trust in him and you will never be disappointed."

Faith, he said, "accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican, because it removes us from the centre and restores it to God."

The fruits of the Holy Spirit "find a home in our heart" through faith, "and our very being is transformed."

With the gift of faith "our way of thinking and acting" is renewed, transformed into "Jesus' own, God's own" way of acting and thinking.

That this World Youth Day is being held during the Year of Faith, the Pope said, "is truly a gift to draw us closer to the Lord, to be his disciples and his missionaries, to let him renew our lives."

Pope Francis told the more than one million gathered pilgrims that Christ awaits them in his sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist. "Do not be afraid to ask God’s forgiveness," he emphasized.

"He never tires of forgiving us, like a father who loves us. God is pure mercy!"

"He is waiting for you in his flesh in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his presence and his sacrifice of love."

The Pope also encouraged the youth to seek Jesus in their fellow pilgrims, who will "teach you the language of charity, goodness and service."

"You too, dear young people, can be joyful witnesses of his love, courageous witnesses of
his Gospel, carrying to this world a ray of his light," he assured them.

"'It is good for us to be here'", he concluded, "putting on Christ in our lives, putting on the faith, hope and love which he gives us."

Pope Francis re-visited his emerging World Youth Day theme of being "disciples and missionaries" with the Mother of God. "Like her, may we say 'Yes' to God."

"Let us ask that her maternal heart intercede for us, so that our hearts may be open to loving Jesus and making others love him. He is waiting for us, and he is counting on us. Amen."

Source: CNA

Health Tip: Why Your Kid Shouldn't Be Guzzling 'Energy' Drinks

Vitamins & Minerals are Safer and More Effective than Artificial Stimulants,
Says Food Science Expert

Anxiety, hypertension, elevated heart rates, interrupted sleep patterns and headaches are just some of the side effects commonly associated with energy drinks, and those problems are more pronounced in children, according to a recent University of Miami study.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. These drinks have also been linked to heart palpitations, strokes and sudden death.

The term "energy" drink is an unfortunate misnomer, says food science expert Budge Collinson. They don't give your body energy; they stimulate you with brief jolts of caffeine and unregulated herbal stimulants, he says.

"Soccer moms and dads buy these 'stimulant' drinks for their kids before matches because both kids and parents want that competitive advantage," says Collinson, founder of Infusion Sciences and creator Youth Infusion, (www.drinkyouthinfusion.com), an effervescent, natural multivitamin beverage that helps people maintain consistent and healthy higher energy levels.

"For a few moments, you'll get that spike, but it's a short-term experience with a heavy long-term toll."

So, what are some ways kids can get a healthy energy boost? Collinson offers the following tips.

Go for a speedy bike ride together, take a brisk walk or hold foot-races in the yard.

Numerous studies demonstrate the power of vigorous exercise in boosting energy. Exercise pumps more oxygen – pure, healthy fuel -- into the bloodstream and to the brain and muscles for a short-term energy boost. Exercising regularly will increase lung capacity, so the body will gets more oxygen on a sustained level for the long term. Exercise also releases endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemical, which makes us feel happy. And happy people are energized people.

Seek nutrition from a variety of sources.

As humans, we need more than 40 different vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies functioning optimally. Since there is no single food that contains them all, it is important for children and adults to eat a variety, including as many different vegetables and fruits as possible. Adding a daily multivitamin supplement with essentials such as CoQ10, arginine, theanine, resveratrol and magnesium can help ensure bodies young and old are running at top speed.

Drink plenty of water – the natural energy drink.

Even mild dehydration can leave children (and adults) feeling listless, so encourage children to make a habit of drinking plenty of water. Kids need more water than adults because they expend more energy, and they may not recognize when they're slightly thirsty. Parents, too, often don't recognize the signs of dehydration; a national survey of more than 800 parents of kids ages of one month to 10 years found that more than half feel they don't know enough about dehydration. A quick, light pinch of the skin on the child's hand or arm is an easy check. If the skin is slow to resume a smooth appearance, the child is likely at least mildly dehydrated.

About Budge Collinson

Budge Collinson was the beneficiary of his mother's natural health formula as a sick baby, which led to a deep interest in health and wellness at a young age. After years of research and seeing the growing demand for natural products with clinical support, he founded Infusion Sciences, www.infusionsciences.com. Collinson earned a bachelor's degree in food and resource economics from the University of Florida and certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Recently, he became a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

Recipe: Veg-Friendly Thanksgiving

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

Veg-Friendly Thanksgiving

by Alicia Sokol

Thanksgiving feast is centered on the bird, but chances are you will either host a vegetarian this holiday or be seated at a table with a vegetarian. Plant-based diets are growing in popularity due to their health and environmental benefits.

No reason to panic. In addition to the many naturally vegetarian side dishes found on a traditional Thanksgiving table – sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce come to mind – why not include this hearty soup bursting with vegetables and plant-based protein?

Minestrone is a vegetable-based soup laced with beans and pasta. Get creative here. Make this recipe vegetarian by using water or vegetable

stock in place of the chicken stock. Experiment with seasonal vegetables. You will need roughly 4 cups of chopped vegetables, so let your imagination run wild. Consider varieties of winter squash, mushrooms, broccoli or leafy greens. Hosting a vegan? No problem. In addition to using water or vegetable stock, use 8 oz. dried pasta in place of the tortellini and omit the cheese. Easy as pie, right? (I bet everyone will eat that!)

Chunky Vegetable Minestrone

Ingredients

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon Iodized Salt, plus additional to taste
¾ cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups chopped zucchini
2 cups chopped sweet potato
1 teaspoon Basil Leaves
1 teaspoon Oregano Leaves
28 ounces Crushed Tomatoes
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 cup Spinach & Ricotta Tortellini*
2 cups Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
5 ounces Organic Baby Spinach
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Parmesan Wedge

Directions

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and salt. Cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add celery, carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, sweet potato, basil and oregano. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth, bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

Stir in the tortellini and beans, simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Vegetables should be tender, not mushy.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach to wilt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve soup topped with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper.

TIP: Though the recipe calls for chicken broth, it can easily be made vegetarian by using water or vegetable broth instead.

Recipe Courtesy of Alicia Sokol, Weekly Greens

Family Special: Five Tips for Moms Struggling with Work-Life Balance

Florida's 1st Elected Female Lieutenant Governor Offers Lessons Learned from Experience

Despite the many monumental glass ceilings that have been broken for the equal rights of all citizens in the United States, unique challenges persist for many, including, potentially, half the population, says Jennifer Carroll, the first female – and first black – elected lieutenant governor of Florida and a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander.

"Challenges from my childhood and military career have taught me many valuable lessons -- when times get tough, get tougher; stay true to who you are and don't compromise your principles; be willing to walk away from something that's causing you clear harm," says Carroll, who recently released her autobiography, "When You Get There."

"The perfect worker, wife and mother – these are 'the big three' roles that matter most to women, but you really want to make sure your children don't get lost in this juggling. Your husband and your coworkers are adults; children, on the other hand, are vulnerable."

Carroll has the following suggestions for women concerned about their role as Mom.

Pay close attention to your children; listen.

Seems obvious, right? As a little girl in Trinidad, Carroll was accosted by a man who persuaded her to accompany him to an outhouse. After he exposed himself to her, she managed to get away, but the experience haunted her while growing up.

"Listen to children when they have something to talk about," she says. "They may feel too embarrassed to talk about something that happened to them; they may feel like it's their fault. Be sensitive to their words and behavior, and be open to what they have to say."

Devote one day exclusively to family.

While advancing her career in the Navy, Carroll often spent several months away from her family. Later in her career, including as Chairwoman of Space Florida and lieutenant governor, time was also a precious commodity, but she always made sure she had it for her three children, Nolan II, Nyckie and Necho. Since Nolan II has been a player in the NFL, Carroll attends games and make Sundays "Football Sunday" for everyone, including her husband of three decades, Nolan.

Model the behavior you'd like to see emulated.

Children have sensitive consistency detectors; they are quick to realize the disconnection between what parents say and what they do. There's something to be said for people who are able to follow their own advice. Many don't.

"Proactive efforts outside the home, like civic and humanitarian projects, are a great way of modeling behavior," Carroll says. "My models as a child were my adoptive parents; I think adoption is one of the greatest loves you can provide and is a great model behavior."

Emphasize the importance of loyalty; family is a lifelong relationship.

As important as a career may be, you will never forge bonds in a job that are as strong as those within a family. Children are hungry to know they are secure with love and loyalty, so don't hesitate in reinforcing this message.

"When you have a secure family foundation, you can approach work with greater strength and confidence," she says.

Engage them!

This is a two-fold effort: Make sure children are engaged in their studies and extracurricular activities, such as sports, study groups, a job or other productive behavior. And talk to them about what they're doing and also what you're doing.

"Conversation is an opportunity to connect with your children, to take advantage of teaching moments, and most of all, to enjoy your children!"

About Jennifer S. Carroll

Jennifer Carroll, author of "When You Get There" (www.jennifercarroll.com), is the former lieutenant governor of Florida and a retired decorated lieutenant commander/aviation maintenance for the U.S. Navy. She was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, she is a Political Analyst for WJXT CHANNEL News4Jax Jacksonville, Florida, and Senior Adviser for Global Digital Solutions, Inc. (GDSI) in West Palm Beach, FL. Carroll holds an MBA, among other academic degrees. She and her husband, Nolan, have three children.

Christian Persecution: Six Years Later, Christians in India Await Justice For Kandhamal Massacre
Bhubaneswar, India, Nov 18, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News).- Last August marked the six year anniversary of the brutal 2008 Kandhamal, Odisha massacre in India, but for Fr. Thomas Chellan, the memories have not faded.

Even after all that time Christians in the region are still waiting for justice. Although most of the instigators have been caught, they have still not gone to trial, the priest said.

"The local community utterly failed to protect the lives and property of their Christian neighbors," he told international charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Now living in New York, Fr. Chellan is safe from the persecution and violence he endured in India. However, he hopes the government will seriously investigate the massacre and others like it.

Following the Aug. 23, 2008 murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization Vishna Hindu Parishad, Hindu fundamentalists took the opportunity to attack local Christians, whom they blamed for the murder.

In the months that followed, some 100 Christians were killed for refusing to convert to Hinduism and 50,000 people were displaced, while 5,600 houses and 300 churches were destroyed.

"Yet, the Christian faith stood out shining amidst the rubble of burned out churches and Christian houses," he said.

Fr. Chellan survived the violent attacks, but said he expected to die more than once during that time. His story is just one of many of those who were persecuted for their faith.

The afternoon after the murder, a mob of hundreds of people descended on his parish's pastoral center. Fearing for his life, Fr. Chellan, along with his assistant priest and a religious sister, escaped by climbing over the wall of the compound and hiding out in the nearby forest until late into the night.

"We could see our home going up in flames. The mob broke open all the doors and windows, thinking we were hiding inside," he said.

Fr. Chellan and the sister sought shelter at the home of a Hindu man who took them in despite the huge threat he faced from the radicals seeking out Christians. His assistant priest sought refuge at his brother's house.

The following day, a smaller crowd of about 50 returned to the pastoral shelter shouting anti-Christian slogans and carrying knives, sticks and axes. The Hindu man grew nervous hearing about this and asked Fr. Chellan to hide in a shed in his backyard while allowing the sister to remain in his home.

The mob came and searched the man's house and found the sister and Fr. Chellan.

"I was pulled out and beaten with sticks and iron rods. I sustained injuries on top of my head, my forehead and shoulder," the priest recalled.

The sister and Fr. Chellan were dragged back to the pastoral center where they tore off the sister's clothes and brutally raped her.

The priest tried to intervene, but was overpowered by the mob.

"When I tried to prevent the men from attacking her I was taken outside and doused in gasoline. Someone took out a box of matches. Seeing that I said my last prayers, thinking my end had come."

They tied him and the sister together and, even as a police car drove by and other police officers stood on as spectators, no one intervened.

"A big pile of tires was set on fire. We expected to be burned alive. But the worst thing did not happen. The good Lord has his way. That is all I can say."

Eventually, their attackers and they were taken into the local police station where they safely spent the night. The next day, police took them to a safer station in the capital of Bhubaneswar where they were able to visit the archbishop, but were then taken out of state in order to receive medical treatment.

"Looking back on all that happened, I thank God for giving both of us a fresh lease on life. We harbor no anger or bitterness toward those people who attacked and maltreated us," Fr. Chellan said.

"I only hope and pray that peace and justice may come to Kandhamal and that people can live there without religious discrimination."

Despite this persecution, he said that the Christian community has made strides in improving life for all locals of any religion, particularly by providing education.

"Christians are claiming their rightful place in society, unwilling to put up any longer with religious and social discrimination."

He explained that the majority of the Christians in the area are considered to be Dalits, or part of the lowest caste in the traditional Hindu hierarchy.

However, unlike Dalits who are Hindu or Buddhist, Christian and Muslim Dalits do not receive any government benefits, which Fr. Chellan says violates the Indian constitution.

Source: CNA-Nov 18 2014

Malankara World Journal Thanksgiving Day Special
Thursday, November 27 is celebrated as the Thanksgiving Day in North America. It is the day we reflect on the blessings we received.

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, The Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America stated:

"Although not observed in the Orthodox Church calendar, Thanksgiving Day must be celebrated by every citizen of the United States of America. It is the day of reconciliation with God, the Creator, and with our parents, friends and loved ones. It is a day of spiritual transformation of each and every one of us.

Reconciliation and transformation only occurs when we deepen in our hearts the essence of the Prayer of Thanksgiving through which we thank the All Merciful God for all the gifts graced and bestowed upon us. Above all, we reconfirm our commitment to share the gifts of God with humanity."

Psalmist expressed it well:

"Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks." (Psalm 75.1)

Thanksgiving Day is an appropriate time to remember to thank God for His Blessings. Let us make a difference this Thanksgiving.

"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." (Psalm 116:12-13)

Let us thank God this Thanksgiving.

Malankara World Journal Issue 248 - special on Thanksgiving - cover photo

Malankara World Journal will publish a special Thanksgiving Day edition on Nov 26. We would like to include your "testimonial" in that edition. Think of all the times God has supernaturally provided for your own life. Take a few minutes to reflect on all the blessings God has miraculously provided for you and for your family.

One thing we learn time and time again from Bible is that God is reliable, trustworthy, and true. He keeps his covenants. You have seen demonstrations of God's goodness throughout your entire life. So raise your arms toward Heaven, open your mouth, and begin to acknowledge that it's true! Then write it down and send to Malankara World for possible publication in Issue 248 to be released on Nov 26, 2014. You can write few sentences or few pages. It does not matter. If you prefer not to disclose your full identity, that is OK too; we can use your initials.

Please send your contributions via email to mail@malankaraworld.com no later than Sunday, November 23. Please mention Thanksgiving on the subject line of the email. (We will consider publishing the entries received after the deadline on a future edition of Malankara World Journal.)

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