A Tale of Two Faiths Part 1 – Spiritual Roots

Now that we are retired, Joy and I have time to reflect on our beliefs and faith practices.  Since we have different spiritual roots, we thought it might be interesting to share our journeys of faith, which are just that – journeys.

Barclay here –

I grew up going to church on Sunday mornings, singing hymns whose lyrics began, What a friend we have in Jesus and  Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our lives’ wild restless seas.

As young children, Charlie and I were read bedtime stories, but not about Mickey Mouse or the Berenstein Bears.  Rather, our mother read aloud her paraphrased versions of Old Testament stories, written on a yellow legal pad.  We heard about David facing Goliath with but a sling and 6 shiny stones,  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo being thrown into the fiery furnace, blind Samson regaining his strength and crushing the columns of the Philistine’s temple killing himself and all those around him. Our mother eventually published these legal pad stories in a book called, In the Beginning.

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At Christmas time, our mother was counter cultural.  She deplored  the bearded jolly man (She even wrote an article called, “No Virginia, There is no Santa Claus.”)  Her children’s book, The Real Reason for Christmas, reminded Charlie and me that God had gone to extraordinary lengths to stoop down into human existence as a baby in a manger.   Christmas was all about Jesus.

So from a young age, I believed.  My faith was anchored in the stories of a God of love intervening into human life – forgiving sins, (David, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph were hardly perfect) providing strength in weakness, and showing love, mercy, and justice.

But as the hymn says, life has its “wild restless seas” and my mother’s faith, though an undeniable force, did not override her focus on outward appearances and her quick tongue.  And as I broke away from my mother in my teens and 20s, I also broke away from my faith.  Rather than reading the Bible, I read nice devotionals that did not challenge or inspire.  I adopted a lukewarm faith, that allowed me to look inward and not outward.

But then came parenthood.  And the realization that I needed God.  Desperately.  The God of David, Shadrach, Mechak, and Abednigo.  The God who sent his son, Jesus, a fulfillment of prophesy, to die for me so that each day of imperfect parenting could be a “do-over” – grace filled and led by one more powerful than I.  As David says, My sin was ever before me.  And I could no longer do this life on my own power.  That much I knew!

What do I believe today?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 

Micah 6:8.

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

 1 John 4:9-10.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

 

And when my seas become restless with waves of anxiety, fear, or grief, I believe that I have a friend in Jesus who calls me o’er the tumult.

 

Joy here-

I grew up the daughter of a mother who downplayed her Judaism and a father who came from an Orthodox family of 5 children, with a mother and father speaking Yiddish in their home.  My mother, Muriel, was very Reformed, as was her brother, Morton. Uncle Morty, I was told recently almost missed his Bar-Mitzvah because he was playing stick ball!  (millennials can look that up if you are reading our blog!)  My father was  a first generation American and my mother a 3rd generation American.

I was raised Reform and attended Sunday School for seven long years, attempting to learn Hebrew for most of those years, but definitely knowing my holidays. I was confirmed at 13, not Bat-Mitzvahed (they really didn’t do that in those days for girls) I was very proud to be asked to go up to the bimah ( a raised platform in a synagogue with a reading desk from which to read the Torah, Haftarah)  My parents had been married at this Upper West Side synagogue and my grandparents had attended services there as well, so it was considered an honor to be asked.  I recited a special poem, which I had memorized. I was proud to be turning 13 as a young Jewish woman.

Fast forward and who do I end up falling in love with?  A De Santo, not a Goldstein or a Goldfarb, but an Italian, blue eyed blonde who was raised Catholic!   You fall in love with a person, not the person’s religion, so I married out of my faith.  My parents took it well, although my father certainly would have preferred me to marry a Jewish boy, preferably a doctor or a lawyer, of which my De Santo was neither.  Handsome, promising, and very smart, I hadn’t thought about anything else at 23 years of age.

When we had children, we decided you couldn’t leave it up to them to decide (many people of my generation who  married inter-faith thought they could). At the time. I was a High Holy Days worshipper, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I said my prayers every night,  (the same ones my mother taught me when I was little- “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take) David attended church every Sunday so I balanced the decision in my head and went with bringing up the children Catholic. We celebrated all the Jewish holidays, but did have a Christmas tree and attended  mass on Christmas and Easter. I wanted to expose the children to both religions and have always felt as long as you believe in some higher being and can pray when you need to (or want to), that’s all that counts.

Today, one grown daughter is more aligned with Judaism, at least culturally, and the other considers herself a Catholic.

For me, I would describe myself as a Jewish girl from the Upper West side and proud of it!  I light Yarzheit candles, just as my mother did and her mother before her. I worship on the High Holy days, I fast on Yom Kippur, I observe Passover by abstaining from all leavened foods during the holiday, and I pray every night.  My religion is important to me. I feel a swell of emotion when I sit in a synagogue and hear the cantor chant.  It is a religion of tradition, beauty, ancient customs and belief in one G-D who is omnipresent and omnipotent.

I will pass down a very special white bible “The Holy Scriptures” given to me the day I was confirmed in 1968,  one year after the Six-Day War, also known as the Arab- Israeli War. I hope my daughters will carry it on their wedding day and will feel the depth of emotion that I do when I see it and hold it.

Today’s Takeaway…

Barclay and I share a deep commitment to our religions.  Though they are different, we both believe strongly and know that we are always in G-d’s hands.

It gives us both comfort to know that.

Thank you all for reading our musings, writings, perspectives, and very personal stories.

As always, enjoy the ride.

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bind your Mind: Discovering Peace in the Midst of Stress

Life is stressful.

There is always an interview, a presentation, a trip, a to-do list, an illness, a difficult boss, a fractured friendship, unkind words, forgiveness that seems to stretch our ability to grant and now simmers below the surface of our smile.

Does it seem that your stress outweighs your peace?

Our bookshelves, Kindles, and podcast apps are littered with advice.

Brene Brown says we should divulge our vulnerability.

Marie Kondo says we should declutter our spaces and our lives.

Oprah and Dr. Phil say,  “Name it to claim it”.  Claim happiness. Then go out and serve, read, exercise, and eat delicious food.   (And we have to admit Oprah looks mighty happy on her monthly magazine covers!)

Abraham Lincoln said,   “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

The Bible too offers advice, though not the self-help kind, more the God-help kind.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

I agree with all of the above.  But how to bind my wayward mind in order to attain peace?  Here are my top six practices.

-Make time to meditate.  Here’s a 3-minute  breathing technique

-Focus on one-step living.  All you have is this very moment.

-Forget the “C” word.  Relinquish CONTROL  Ride the waves of life in the hand of God which could be the safest place to be.

-Follow Oprah’s advice and serve others.  Perhaps write a note (who does that these days??).  Go to Compassion International and select a child to sponsor.

-Pray in a palms-up; palms-down manner.  Are you worried about a wayward child, an upcoming social event, an unfriendly bathroom scale, or a scary test result on the horizon?  Turn up your palms and mentally place your concerns there, pray over them, then turn your palms downward.  I believe a power greater than any you could ever muster wants to carry your burdens.  (How do I know?  He is holding my own tears and redeeming my own sadness, even as I write this.)

-Give your mind a stern lecture.  Sing a song that makes you happy.  Name your gratitudes.  Check out a new recipe.  Declutter just one teeny weeny drawer.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

 

OK, Mind, you have your marching orders for today.  Dream big; find beauty, and don’t let stress get the upper hand.

You’ve got this, Oh Mind of Mine.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway:

-Claiming happiness sounds great.  But really, it’s all about Doing Happiness.  Hey Mind, are you listening?  Get over yourself and make that call; try that recipe; sing.  Splurge on a new face cream or a nice bottle of red.

-Channel Eleanor Roosevelt.  A life well lived amid stress we cannot imagine.  Here’s her book on 11 keys to a more fulfilling life.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my grandmother’s trunk, I packed a…

Remember that memory game where each person adds to the accumulation in Grandma’s trunk?

My friend, Mary Rose, offered this advice as I prepared for a trip, “Don’t forget to pack your love, joy, and peace.”

My suitcase brims with such each morning.  But come evening, reflecting on the day gone by, I note a lack of love, a shortage of peace, and questionable joy.  My suitcase has snuck in self-promotion and a loose tongue, partly the result of one too many glasses of wine.

So with time at a premium for us Baby Boomers, join me in packing a trunk focused on love, joy, and peace.

Many faith practices entail prayer rituals exercised three times a day.  How about setting our phones to remind us to pause periodically for a moment of gratitude, or simply an acknowledgement of surrender, a look outside of ourselves?

Amy Morin in Psychology Today writes about 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

We will sleep better, have higher levels of self-esteem, enjoy deeper relationships, and experience satisfaction with life. In short, there will be more love, joy, peace.

“We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.”

In my grandmother’s trunk I packed –

Gratitude, Love, Peace, Joy

And a timely cell phone reminder to get over myself.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Psychology Today also tells us that gratitude helps us stop comparing ourselves to others.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

-Hey Loose Tongue, why not spurt out a compliment or two.  The sincere kind.  It wouldn’t kill you!

 

Enjoy the Ride!  We are grateful for YOU!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

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Meditation and the Monkey Mind

I (Barclay) downloaded an app called “Insight Timer” which offers 400,000 meditations.  Where to begin?

Then I noticed they had a course called “Learn How to Meditate in Seven Days” which sounded doable.

Day 1: The timer is set for 10 minutes.  A woman’s voice, slow and monotoned, tells me to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth.  Feel your tummy rise with each inhale. After a bit, I peek at the timer.  7 minutes left. My phone says enough-of-this and beeps a reminder to put the laundry in the dryer – which I do.

Day 2:  The woman suggests we “explore the mind”.  Let your thoughts drift past, she says. Watch them but don’t attend to them.  Wait! What’s that? An ant scurrying for cover. If I don’t nab it, word will spread to other ants.  Good-bye Ant.  And good-bye morning meditation.

On Day 7  I mute the voice.

So there’s this thing called the Monkey Mind that Psychology Today suggests is our inner critic.

“It’s the part of your brain most connected to the ego, which contends that you can’t do anything right. It’s also the part of you that stifles creativity and prevents you from moving forward with your passions. The monkey mind insists on being heard, and sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to shut it down. It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted, so if you want to get anything done in life, your challenge will be to shut down the monkey mind.”

For some of us, this is near impossible.  I think my mind is more elephantine than monkey.  My thoughts are constantly racing-what medicare  plan should I take when I turn 65, what should I make for dinner, what if my children never get married, will I have enough money if I live to 90!!-just to be clear-Joy chiming in here.

They say that to tame our monkey mind we need to practice ……..wait for it……mindfulness.  A buzz word that’s lived its full 15 minutes of fame.  (Wouldn’t you just love to coin the next buzz word or phrase that means exactly the same thing??)

But that said, we should give mindfulness its due especially in tackling a monkey mind that’s bent on hijacking our meditation.

Author, Marelisa Fabrega, offers practical suggestions at her website, Daring to Live Fully.)

Let your monkey mind “run amok” for 10 minutes a day, she says.  Journal your thoughts.  Then if the MM starts up again, you tell it,

“Your session for today is over. Wait until tomorrow’s session. I’ll listen to you then.” Soon, your monkey mind will realize that it’s completely futile to make a fuss at any time other than during your journaling sessions.

We should also question our MM.  When it raises a grievance, ask why it’s upset.  Counter your MM’s points using the ABC method.

Day 8:  I am breathing to the count of 4, holding for 4, exhaling for 4.  I have the sound of a babbling brook on my phone.  My Monkey Mind tells me that I am late in paying a bill, but I ignore it.  5 minutes passes.  Victory.

Clearly, I won’t be hosting a seminar on meditation any time soon.

But hey, it’s a start!

Today’s Takeaway:

-Set apart time for daily reflection and meditation – whatever duration and practice is right for you.

-Let’s put some serious thought into inventing the next buzz word to replace “mindfulness”.  Just think of the best sellers we will write and the talk shows we will grace!!

Enjoy the ride!

Ommmmmm…..

xox Barclay and Joy