The blueberry farm opened its U-Pick fields today, so we made it a Blueberry Day! It was our first time to ever go picking and it was so much fun I know that it will become an annual event!
We started off the day with homemade blueberry pancakes and headed out to Blueberry Lane to pick at about 10:30.
The bushes were loaded with berries and we spent about 45 minutes picking. Our morning ended with tears when Sugar Plum was frightened by a dinosaur in the grass (known more commonly as a snake!). Fortunately, we had a half full bucket which was more than enough for us right now (though we may go back).
Little Man was filthy! I didn't think that he could get dirtier than he was when we picked strawberries, but he did!
We couldn't let Blueberry Day pass without reading Blueberries for Sal!
Our last activity for the day was to make the simplest blueberry topping for ice cream from Martha Stewart. It is so delicious and tastes a lot like blueberry cobbler since it is made from butter, sugar, and blueberries (As Ina says, "How bad could that be?").
Do you pick blueberries in your neck of the woods?
What do we do now? It’s a question many may ask when assessing their parish and its direction as they seek to witness for Christ in their parish and in their local community.
Desiring to respond to the call of Christ, to Baptize all nations, and with a love for all of our sisters and brothers in Christ to bring them to the fullness of God’s call, we have begun to implement parts of a program that helps us visibly witness for Christ, sharing His message with others. We share these ideas, not as new, earth-shattering revelations, but as an outline that might be of use in helping to further enliven our parishes.
Outreach, with the goal of bringing more people into the true faith as expressed in the historic church of Orthodox Christianity, is accomplished in many ways. We do this, or seek to do this, so that others may be transformed and may come to know God in the fullest way possible-the only true and fruitful motivation for such efforts. Of course, each one of us must grow ourselves as Christians so that we can reflect Christ in our lives to others. This is a true missionary effort. Still, it is good to make efforts to give our Church greater visibility and to let people know what the Orthodox faith can offer.
Studies show that of those who join a Church, from 70 to 90 percent come because of family or a friend. We need to keep this in mind in any efforts we make to share our faith with others. Even with this statistic, we are left with some 20 percent who come for other reasons-moving into an area, attracted by programs, seeking a new faith, looking for truth, church school, etc., and we need to find ways to appeal to them.
Outreach For The Right Reasons
Ideas and the voluntary efforts to carry out Outreach programs are welcome as long as they are consistent with our Faith. Traditionally, through parish bazaars, special programs and activities that are publicized, people in the community learn of our presence. We need to do more, however, and a parish needs to decide, prayerfully with the Father’s guidance, the Son’s love and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, in what direction we want to go. Let us be careful as we embark that our goal is to share Christ’s truths and not just to share our budgetary expenses with others, seeking persons to fill seats and to pay their fair share or dues. Why would God guide us in growth if our motivations are not out of love, but are selfish?
The following are proposals for Outreach, some of which our parish has attempted, others to which we are aspiring:
Outreach-Car-Pooling: There are people who cannot come to church because they do not drive, or no longer drive. Forms can be distributed to find those who need and would like a ride, and to identify others who would be willing to drive someone from their area to church.
Outreach-Advertising: A society that a couple of years ago got excited over a stuffed red animal that produces an electronic laugh when you press on its stomach-otherwise known as “Tickle Me Elmo”-is a society that attests to the effectiveness of advertising. Our parish has allocated funds and earmarked contributions to increase advertising in the local newspapers-not just that we are here, but with messages of who we are and what we believe. We have seen some fruits from this effort, at least as far as having persons visit us for services, even if they have not yet joined the parish.
Outreach-Community Relations: How can we relate to the neighborhoods in which we find ourselves? Will we become just commuter churches? Some say the latter is impossible to sustain over a long period, and that a church needs to reach out to its neighborhoods. Don’t we have an obligation as Christians to do just that-taking Christ’s message to all people?
Outreach-Liturgical Life: Our liturgical life is the reason for our being, and if we enthusiastically come to as many services as possible, we are in a position to invite others and encourage others to come. Lukewarm adherents will not attract others. Only those with a passion to worship will. Imagine creating a traffic jam, not for a tag sale or bazaar but for Liturgy! For major feast days and special church observances, we should make a statement by taking the day off from work and by keeping our children home from school to attend the Liturgy… Overall, liturgical life must be renewed, and this does not involve a committee or a meeting, but each person making a commitment to Christ. This is of utmost importance for our lives as well as our witnessing for the Lord. Will some lead the way and encourage others to follow their example?
Outreach-Flyers: Distributing flyers about the church is another possibility. Parishioners can go door-to-door, post them on store bulletin boards, give them out on corners and at stores.
Outreach-Libraries: Are there books on Orthodoxy at all libraries in the region? Let’s check and see what libraries will accept in donations of books on Orthodoxy as well as Orthodox newspapers and periodicals. Can we sponsor the appearance of an author who has written about Orthodoxy at a library or bookstore?
Outreach-Telephone: Many people enjoy talking on the telephone. How about calling someone who has not been seen in church lately, or someone who comes sporadically whom we may feel is in danger of falling away? How about calling a non-Orthodox friend or acquaintance, inviting them to come and see?
Outreach-Welcoming: Our parish does have greeters who do a good job of welcoming guests. They provide mini-forms for the guests to fill out so they can then receive follow-up contact. Greeters wear nametags and move out to welcome guests. They do not wait for guests to approach them. One consideration is to have a “Nametag Sunday” periodically, on which each person wears a nametag. There are people at church, new and not so new, who may not know everyone’s name, or who perhaps have forgotten it.
Outreach-Special Activities: Our parish’s “Russian Tea Room” and Bazaar, while a fund-raiser, is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people. We hold church tours throughout the event.
Outreach-Education: We are beginning a library, and have offered opportunities for adult education. Most importantly, we learn through our worship as we listen to the hymns and prayers, especially from the verses for the appointed feast days. Our icons also tell us about the meaning of what we commemorate. In our worship, God speaks to us in many ways and feeds us – body and soul.
Outreach-Computer Age: We need good access to the internet. We need to study how we can best utilize our own website to reach out in this advanced age of technology.
Outreach-Other Publicity: Our parish sends a schedule of our services each year to the colleges, universities and hotels in the area, welcoming all. If one sees a calendar without Orthodox holy days, one can write to the company. School systems can be notified about holy days, but at least a year in advance. Significant church information can be sent to television and radio stations as well as newspapers. Making a "pest" of oneself can be fruitful. We also can correct erroneous statements. We can write letters to the editor.
Outreach-Ministries: Perhaps there is a special ministry in which a parish would like to be involved, such as a ministry to recovering alcoholics, to widows and widowers, to the abused. This is an excellent form of Christian compassion that can result in outreach. Our parish has begun to develop a relationship with an organization that assists pregnant women and newborns.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, these are a few ideas that come to mind when we think of Outreach. You may want to add more, or eliminate some. What is important is that we do not just talk about ideas but that we act to bring them to fruition. How bold and determined will we be? What small mustard seeds of ideas are awaiting our nurturing so they will sprout and grow into huge trees?
We need with openness and most importantly with faith in the power of God to look at our parish-where it is and where it is going. Whether any or all of these projects results in even one new member will be according to God’s will. Just as importantly, with the Grace of God, trying some of these ideas can reinvigorate us, and be a response to any lurking stagnation or backsliding that threatens. We know, too, that an individual or family that focuses only on itself is one in danger. So, too, is a parish. Projects such as these will turn us outward. And, finally, we do need to try to respond to our Lord’s command to “Go and Teach All Nations, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
On Thursday Night we headed over to the local outdoor stage for a choral and dance showcase. Two dance companies performed (we loved the one that focused on traditional ballet!) and a local choral group sang. We really enjoyed the evening and stayed out until nine... unheard of at our house!
The fountain was so close we got a few droplets of water on us when the wind was right!
I have to admit, I am dragging in the kitchen department lately. I have been making menus, but we aren't really into preparing and eating the same old, same old. I tried to jazz things up a bit today by making something we haven't had in awhile, Auntie Claudia's Tuna Pasta Salad. Everyone gobbled it all up... even Little Man!
The first and most important thing to remember is that we do not bring anyone into the Church - its not our job. We do not attract people to the faith, we do not convince people of the Truth, we don't do any of that. God is the One Who attracts people, Who brings them in the door, Who convicts their hearts, Who brings them to repentance, Who convinces them of the Truth; we do none of this. Too often in the North American model of evangelism, the individual person is made responsible for doing God's task, but in attempting to do God's work, we neglect our own. What is our task? Our task is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit (St Seraphim), our task is the working out of our salvation, our task is to repent and weep for our sins, our task is to enter the Kingdom of God. This more than anything else is what we must do. This is an evangelistic task - indeed the primary evangelistic task.
There are other "tasks", however, which derive from this one which are a bit more specific to "evangelism". It is God who brings people to the door of the Church and who convinces them that they should enter - however, we must keep the door to the Church open and visible. Hence, Orthodox evangelism must center on the Church - the beauty of the building, the beauty of the services, the frequency and availability of the services. Orthodox evangelism is served by beautiful icons, gold onion domes and crosses rising against the sky, the smell of incense, the pious and holy singing of the services. Orthodox evangelism is served by our visibility as Orthodox Christians in the world - the clothing of the clergy (and in these days the modest and humble clothing of the laymen as well) - the sign of the cross as we pray at each juncture of our lives - beginning and ending a task, eating and finishing a meal, starting and ending a trip, etc. Orthodox evangelism is the keeping of icons in our homes, in our offices, in our cars. Orthodox evangelism is keeping the fast without excuses or compromises. Orthodox evangelism is setting our priorities to forgo the allures of the world in order to be at divine services whenever they are held. Orthodox evangelism is denying ourselves and bearing our cross. Orthodox evangelism is keeping the door of the Church open and visible. While the Holy Spirit is the one who draws the world to Himself, it is you and I who keep the doors of the Church open and who welcome all who come.
The second specific task that we as Orthodox Christians have in evangelism is the practical expression of God's love to mankind. Orthodox evangelism is greeting visitors as they come to the Church and then modeling (neither instructing nor condemning the visitor) for them proper behavior and demeanor in the Church. Orthodox evangelism is hospitality offered to share meals, to provide shelter and clothing as needed. Orthodox evangelism is to pray for our neighbor and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Orthodox evangelism is going to the soup kitchen and serving there - Orthodox evangelism is giving to the poor without regard for "how the money will be used". Orthodox evangelism is visiting the sick in hospitals and praying for them. Orthodox evangelism is going the prisons (contact your local prison chaplain regarding how this might be done) and offering comfort and kindness to the imprisoned. Orthodox evangelism is loving your enemies (Elder Silouan of Mt Athos says that this is the true mark of a Christian - the love of one's enemies). Orthodox Evangelism is loving your neighbor as yourself. If we all did these things (and I am a wretched sinner and fall short of all that I have just said) then our Churches would be open and filled with light and glory drawing all who see her by the grace and action of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. We don't have to preach on street corners, we don't have to have events or revivals or seminars as evangelistic tools (though these are not necessarily bad in and of themselves) - we simply have to be Orthodox Christians "to the max" without reservation or compromise. This is Orthodox evangelism.
Penny tagged me in this meme. We all need to focus on the things that bring us happiness more, instead of wallowing in the things that annoy and upset us. Quite frankly I really need to do this meme today since there were quite a lot of annoying things that happened today!
My hard working hubby. He has been working two jobs for most of our marriage and yet still finds time to spend time with me, enjoy our children, and help me out at the drop of a hat. Today was a prime example: I came home from a playdate with a migraine and he took care of the little ones for a few hours so that I could sleep it off. He's the best!
Our three year old. I was amazed at how much she changed when she turned one and it seems the same thing is happening now that she's turned three. In the past month, she's been developing her imagination, loving dress-up, learning how to use the potty, speaking clearly and in real sentences, and a million other little things that add up to a delightful little girl. I am so thankful that I am her mama.
My sweet Little Man. He is still our baby, but is getting so big! I love the fact that he is still sleeping in the big bed with Mama and Papa and likes to snuggle in the mornings. He is starting to really get a personality, too! His favorite things right now are cars, trucks, and birds. He is such a sweet boy: he loves to hug, blow kisses, and wave to people! That being said, he is all boy. If I find him climbing up the wrong side of the banister again...
The anniversary flowers sitting on our kitchen table. They are so pretty and still look just as fresh as they did on Friday. They really make the kitchen look beautiful!
Enjoying new things with our children. One of the nicest things about having children (in my opinion!) is getting to enjoy things with them. In the past few weeks, we've been doing many simple things with our little ones, but because they've never done them before or don't remember doing them, everything has been so much fun! I've never really cared for swimming in the ocean, but taking the kids into the water last week was such a great experience! Going for rides on the carousel, ballet lessons, sliding down slides, swinging on swings, eating a popsicle on a walk, playing with the hose, watching the birds on the bird feeder, and playing endless games of Candyland are so much fun now that we have little people to share those experience with!
Simple skirts. I received my skirts in the mail awhile ago, and I have to say that I love them! Not only are the comfortable and easy to care for, but I love the fact that I know exactly what I am going to wear as soon as I get up. Boring for some women, but extremely comforting to me!
I have found Weelicious to be so informative and entertaining! I haven't tried any of her recipes yet, but I plan to. The videos that they have for some of their recipes are awesome and I think that I will definitly try agave now that I have seen how she uses it. It is always a little daunting to try something new, but Weelicious makes it look so simple!
I'd love some tips on drying hydrangea. This bouquet was from Pentecost and I hung it upside down to dry. Unfortunately, the hydrangea doesn't look too good... it shriveled up! I'd like to have dried flowers for the autumn and winter. Any ideas?
I have been looking for new ways to wear my hair now that my bangs have grown out. Lately I've been making a headband out of a scarf and wearing it that way. It keeps the hair out of my eyes and I am getting more use out of some of my neat scarves!
The dove is not really a symbol of the Holy Spirit during the feast of Pentecost in the Orthodox Church. Rather, we use the color green for our liturgical covers to represent new life and focus more on the tongues of fire that descended onto the Apostles. However, I wanted to do a craft for Pentecost and thought that these floating doves would be really nice to hang over our kitchen table. I drew and cut the bird shapes out and Sugar Plum colored in green eyes and the beak on each one. Next, I cut a slit in the belly of the bird with scissors and we stuck an accordion folded piece of tissue paper through it for the wings. We punched a hole in each bird and threaded a string through each and I taped each bird to the ceiling at varying lengths. Tonight we will light a candle underneath (at a safe distance!!!) and see if the doves move.
It's time for another Commitment to Loveliness! This is a fun way to increase femininity and beauty in our lives each week without even trying! All you have to do is choose five things that you would like to work on or do during the week that will increase the loveliness in your life!
Here is my list for this week:
1. Do something special and f-u-n with the little ones each day this week. 2. Use gift certificate for a pedicure. 3. Take a long bath complete with candles, soft music, Victoria magazine, and bubbles! 4. Order a small cake for our anniversary that is just like the one we had on our wedding. 5. Work towards being more gentle in word and deed.
Once you have chosen five simple things, post them on your blog and let us know in the comments section. If you do not have a blog, but have a commitment to share, please post them in the comments section.
On our way to church yesterday morning, my sister and I spotted this bookshelf at a small yard sale. I don't often find myself out on Saturday mornings and I don't even know if $25 was a good deal, but it reminds me so much of the shelves my parents inherited from my great-grandparents. I am excited fill it with books (or linens, or dishes, or...)!
O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things; Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life - come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
I have to give props to the developers of our current community for all of the beautiful nature they have preserved amid the home construction in our development. Though the houses were built on a former corn field and the only trees are saplings dotting the lawns of the homes, there is so much nature for the children to see around the community we live in.
For example, we have a bike path that leads us to the grocery store and meanders past a pond, gardens, frogs (and tadpoles), ducks, rabbits, fish, a multitude of birds that we are working on identifying, and lots of natural plant life. Who wouldn't want to take this little walk with the kids daily?
Faith Pentecost All Saints All Saint of North America Nativity of Saint John the Baptist Icon of the Three Hands Saints Peter and Paul
Homemaking Keep to Homemaking Budget Meal Planning & Weekly Shopping Take Stock of bathing suits, towels, and sunblock Visit a Farmer’s Market weekly Spruce up the porch… hang twinkle lights? Purchase Sonlight books for ¾ preschool Make s’mores Make a flag cake
Goals Improve Prayer Life Cultivate a Quiet Spirit Lots of Outside Time on Fine Days
Book List Blueberries for Sal Flower Fairies of the Summer Summer by Gerda Muller Brambly Hedge Summer Story Babar Books Corduroy Katy No Pocket Any Books on Ballet Planting a Rainbow Waiting for Wings Eating the Alphabet
Rituals Art before Breakfast Pre-School after Breakfast Reading before Naps and Bed Games with Sugar Plum in the Evenings
Special Days Courtney and Vincent – 4th Full Strawberry Moon – 7th Four Years!! – 12th Uncle Jay – 14th Flag Day 14th Auntie Kate -20th Father’s Day – 21st Ballet Class Ends – 22nd Gabby – 24th Michael – 29th Learning Practice Being Still and Quiet during Prayers and Services Singing – “Our Father” The Sign of the Cross for Little Man Setting and Clearing the Table Sorting Recycling Nature table scene and book basket Visit the Beach several times a week (before the crowds!) Listen to stories on the iPod Finish Kumon Books for Two-Year-Olds Care for Bird Feeder/Plants Set up another feeder and bird bath Strawberry Shortcake Night Keep a Bird Journal Seasonal Matching Games Candyland Nursery Rhyme recitation Catch fireflies