Present Moment

"Any encounter with God is a mind-stopping experience. Just as an encounter with something exceptionally beautiful - a sunset, a painting, a piece of music- quiets the mind momentarily so that we experience the object of our attention at a deeper level, so an encounter with God is accompanied by a quieting of the mind. It is here we begin to experience the silence of God's speech.
The sanctification of time occurs when we offer the present moment to God. We are not able to offer the past or the future, only the present moment"

- Archimandrite Meletios Webber


Living Hope - Haiti

Once again my feet have tread upon the beauty of this Caribbean soil - Haiti. It has been five years since I came to Living Hope for a summer internship. Now I returned with my sister, Sveta, to be a witness of the work at Living Hope. My senses are bursting with memories - to see the school children in uniform; to hear the cocking of the rooster and the equally blaring of church music by day and disco much at night; and to taste the fine cooking of Madame Eddy - roasted fish and fresh squeezed juice.

My heart is filled with wonder and appreciation for a people, of another language, another culture, a people who struggle for survival. As the years have passed I also have gained a greater respect and wonder for Mary Jane and Andris. Living Hope has been on the ground for 18 years. Today the fruits of the Jolibois' labor and God's blessing are seen in the growing church, elementary school (400 students), and the trade school (200 students). The elementary school is so respected that registration day people line-up at the gate from as early as 4 AM. There are seven classes of preschool - Kindergarten. The young ones can be heard enthusiastically from across the mission.

This 3 acre compound is literally bursting at the seams. The buildings are filled and many have multiple uses daily. (Mornings for elementary school and afternoons for the trade school). There are also several free-style, pole-barn structures, just covered enough to keep the rain out for several of the classes. And Andris' trees have grown very much providing fruit, shade and make parts of the mission feel like a forest.

What does it mean to do God's work at Living Hope? What does the ordinary life look like? It means sleeping in is 5 AM. It means spending 'free time' on ministry paperwork, corresponding with supporters and leading Bible studies. It means teaching classes, talking to all the people who come in and out of offices, doing new things (e.g. fixing the broken printer or figuring out how to fire a kiln). It also means experiencing the joys of disciplining new believers. It means watching young people grow in the faith and become Haiti's future leaders. It is a life of service to glorify God! I can confirm that Mary Jane and Andris have dedicated their all, not for themselves (had they then they would have retired and moved back to the States) no rather they dedicate their all so that God may be glorified in Haiti. So that these young people may be discipled in the faith and given the skills they need to live well.

There is an abundance of joy in that life - a joy and peace I've rarely seen outside the life of service. I have seen this peace in the lives of people who serve in missions, but not only missions, also in the mother who pours her love, creativity and energy into her children; in the father who uses his hands to build and farm, so that the community has both food and shelter, while he also gets to teach his children; in the family who live with 'open arms' embracing the community; I have seen it in the life of a grandmother who spends her days mentoring prisoners through letter-writing; in the aunt who embraces the young folks in her life, listens to them and believes in them; in the barren couple as they love and teach neighborhood children to fear the Lord; in the priest, the farmer, the teacher, the repentant sinner... It is not being a "missionary" per say, but being a servant of God, wherever that may be - which yields a life well lived filled with peace, joy and strength. To God be the Glory!



"Meditate on These Things"

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
Stephen Covey



"The intimacy that exists between soul and body is a marvel of creation and a mystery of human existence. Yet we do wrong to think, because the soul will be judged after death while the body crumbles in the grave, that this mortal handful of dust is any less a gift of God, any less noble or beautiful than the immortal soul. It is in the body that we exist and work out our salvation. It is in the body that we see and take delight in the beauties of God's created universe, and in the body that we ourselves bear the marks of Christ's passion. The mysterious interplay of body and soul is an essential characteristic of our human nature...

 (Furthermore) Theologians have written about the Incarnation as the central act of our redemption, the high point in the drama of salvation history... what we tend to forget , though, is the very folky truth that God by his Incarnation took on a human body (Ciszek, He Leadth Me).  It is true. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God... the Word was God... And that Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only True Son, full of grace and truth (John 1)"... The Word became Flesh - what a glorious mystery! I have been reflecting on the passage from John for sometime. One day I realized that in a similar manner in which when God spoke things happened (Let there be light - there was light, Let there be man - there was man.. with it heighted to His very Word becoming Incarnate God) as a Christian, I ought to let my words produce real, tangible fruit... I must become 'Christ' for others. It is so easy to saying nice things; sitting around talking about what needs to be done; talking about how my brother isn't doing 'this or that'; read a good inspiring book... while being 'Christ' for others means putting siding on an elderly lady's trailer; making dinner for a random group of college students; taking the mail out for Grandma; looking someone in the eye and helping them feel like a person. It is action. Some have said, "Love does" God in His love, allowed His Word to create a glorious mystery - that is the Word become Flesh! From whose fullness, we have received grace by grace! This is the quintessential act, covering all people, for all time...

I am challenged! I realize the going gets sticky like the rich brown molasses that ends up sticking up the whole rim rather than making it into the delicious ginger snaps; the doing happens less often than more; action takes time and energy that doesn't serve the self... How am I to bring my words, my body, myself (physical) ... so they are transformed into 'Christ' for my brother, sister or neighbor? "The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh weak". "Truly, man is a creature composed of body and soul, and we work out our salvation in this vale of tears through  the medium of the flesh (Ciszek)". It is in the mystery of our humanness- body and soul, that we live, move and serve.

At midnight mass, my priest brought forth a challenge in his homily. That call was for us to gift people with our presence. He reminded us that in the same way God, came among humanity, fully man and fully God, to embrace us, His children and spill into us His grace so we ought to in our humanity with body and spirit embrace the person in others with our full presence. In a time of instant messaging, texting, email, Skype it is all too easy to overlook the people in our very midst. I am as guilty  as that hawk who swooped up our chicken in being physically in one place but mentally/heart-ally in another. This challenge pierced straight through my heart - be all present. Sounds easy... perhaps this is where I need to start with living out the gospel. Perhaps this is a tangible, ordinary way to acknowledge the person God created in another... perhaps it is a starting point... I want to let my presence be a present for those God would allow me to cross paths with... and that will only happen with being fully presence in the moment...day to day... ordinary life.


The Maasai and I

Your brown ear is pierced with the gap of a knife

Your black eyes twinkle with the life of a man

My wonder marks that of a white

Mine eyes wide with the awe of a women

Together we climbed

Brother and sister

The Maasai and I

We have seen a different picture

Your life in the sun kissed, deserty Savannah

Mine in the green hills of Appalachia

Yet together we climbed

Brother and sister

The Maasai and I

You stand, tall and high, with the Maasai

You love the blood of a bull, red and ripe

You, your father, mothers, brothers, sisters

In a land rich of tradition

Here I stand in the modernity of the West

Coupled by the simplicity of father

I love the bread of wheat and melted butter

Me, my father, Mama his only love, and their children

Yet together we climbed

Brother and sister

The Maasai and I

How we were brought together

Above the clouds, above the world

I do not know, a paradox – I know

Yet beautifully so

Together, climbing, encouraging

Hand in hand

Up the mountain climbed

The Maasai and I


A Dream, deep within

To surrender a precious dream is a fearful thing
A dream so beautiful, so wonderful
So mysterious
Causing human hearts to dance
To the rhythms of its music
Since the dawn of time

I held a dream, deep within
Hand in mine, mine in his
Climbing the peaks,
Picking wildflowers,
Tilling the land
Plucking the weeds
Drawing the sails
Riding into the sunset

A dream of hearts enmeshed
Hands locked, each finger entwined
Interrupted by young laughter
Wiggly little catalysts of life
Full of questions, “How hot is the sun?”
“What’s in the dark?”

I awoke harshly.
Cold sheets. Empty heart.
No hand near. No heartbeat other
Than that within
Let me dream, bring me back

Then suddenly I remembered
A peace deeper, a joy wider and
A grace fuller
My spirit overwhelmed, swept in awe
It caused my heart to dance wilder

The dream, from deep within
While yet mysterious, lovely and very good
Became a stinky pit, a slippery slope
In my dream I lost sight
Forgetting I AM

A comforting whisper, soft breeze
Piercing light awakened the spirit,
Shot through the bones,
“Today you are living. Today you find Life. Not in the distance of a dream
But in my Hands of Mercy.”

This reality, also a mystery, is so real
That one day all hearts will
Remember that dance
Stronger than earthy love.


"To surrender a precious dream is a fearful thing, but to pursue anything but the full measure of the glory of God’s love is a wasted life.” –Joshua Eddy

"Let not your longings slay your appetite for living" - Elizabeth Elliot

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" - Jesus


A Call

"We are called to go out from the confines of our closed, entrenched communities, to transcend our prejudices, misgivings, and fears and to bear witness together--to the best of our abilities--to the risen Lord. We are called to meet our contemporaries where they are grappling with the most pressing problems. We must do this 'not to be conformed to this world' (Rom 12:2) but to help in its orientation towards the sacramental grace of the Church and the power of her truth. We must do this with earnest respect for the distinctiveness of every people and culture, for the freedom and dignity of each human being and with unfeigned love for the whole person. It is a matter of personal spiritual concern and not a political matter."

--Archbishop ANASTASIOS of Albania, Rediscovering Our Apostolic Identity in the 21st Century