Many Years To Eric Shanburn After 10 Years of Service at FOCUS!

Eric Shanburn Announces Departure As Director of FOCUS Detroit

“Christ tells us to love God and our neighbor. Eric shows us how to do that with all of our strength.”

These are the words of Elleni, a volunteer who worked first-hand with Eric Shanburn during his time as Director of FOCUS Detroit. Elleni alongside countless other community members who worked with Eric  can speak to the lasting impact his leadership and vision has had, and will continue to have, on the community.

Last week it was announced that Eric Shanburn will be leaving his position as Director of FOCUS Detroit and moving on to pursue his passion for Social Work at Concordia University. Eric was one of the first center directors of FOCUS North America, beginning his journey with FOCUS in St. Louis and then moving to Detroit in 2015 where he has mobilized hundreds of people towards serving the mission of “empowering children experiencing poverty to succeed in school.”

Eric has a special ability to motivate and mobilize groups toward a common cause. In Detroit, that cause has been childhood education. Eric saw early on that children from impoverished neighborhoods in Detroit did not have access to necessary educational resources or basic needs like food and clothing. In 2015 the city of Detroit was experiencing economic crisis and many schools did not have what they needed to provide an adequate education, some even shutting down completely.

Eric knew that something had to be done and wanted to engage his fellow Orthodox Community in finding a solution to the issues of poverty and education that affect virtually every school in Detroit.

During his time as director of FOCUS Detroit, Eric’s dedication and leadership helped Orthodox Christians throughout Detroit connect to their faith through practicing meaningful and compassionate service. Together, FOCUS Detroit and the local community provided thousands of meals, clothing items, textbooks, technology resources, and tutoring services to children.

When there were needs brought to Eric’s attention that fell outside of the regular programs that operated throughout the year, he still did not hesitate to rally the community to action. One Christmas, for example, Eric helped a young mother find an apartment and furniture for her family.

Those of you who have served with Eric in the past probably have your own story of how his vision has touched your own heart, and motivated you to take action.

“Eric serves with love and without judging” Shared Elleni, “He gives the Orthodox community a way to reach out to others with his vision and leadership. Eric embodies the mission of FOCUS.”

Any organization would be saddened to see such a talented leader move on to the next opportunity, and we at FOCUS are beyond thankful for the dedication, talent, and time Eric has invested in building a foundation for Orthodox outreach in Detroit.

The mission of FOCUS, and the vision that inspired Eric’s accomplishments during his time as a Director, is a mission and vision that all of us share as Orthodox Christians who strive to serve as Christ taught us. Now is the time to take advantage of the foundation Eric has created in Detroit, and engage in compassionately serving those in need with as much enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment that Eric has shown us over the years through his example.

Please join FOCUS in wishing Eric many more successful years as he begins the next step of his journey at Concordia University.

God Grant You Many Years!

 

Grand Opening of FOCUS House in Minnesota is the Foundation for a Future of Charity, Hope, and Hospitality

FOCUS House Front of Building and SignFOCUS Minnesota welcomed nearly 200 guests who all came together to give thanks and celebrate the official Blessing and Open House of their new building on June 1, 2019. FOCUS Minnesota is a local ministry of FOCUS North America that provides basic needs and compassionate service to people in the Twin Cities.

During the event, visitors from all of the Pan-Orthodox jurisdictions prayed, chanted, and sang together for the homeless, the lonely, the addicted, the imprisoned, the children who often silently suffer, and all clients of FOCUS Minnesota. Guests also enjoyed self-guided tours, refreshments, and words of perseverance, determination, and gratitude from Director Vera Proctor.

FOCUS Minnesota started as a simple community meal prepared and served by local Orthodox volunteers from a small basement kitchen for anyone who needed it. Today the ministry has transformed into a vibrant multi-program operation that offers dignity, hope, comfort, and Christ-inspired love to all who visit.

Thanks to the generosity and dedication of the community FOCUS has room to continue growing, now with the stability of a permanent home in the historic Capitol Rice District of St. Paul.

Volunteers who served prior to the move are excited to see that the new building is friendlier for visitors.

Kathy Schtowchan started volunteering before the move and shared what it was like before coming to the new building. Lake Street, she said, “was a small area, and it was in in a basement where we had steps to climb all the time.”

Now on Rice Street, FOCUS House is more accessible and visible to the community. “To get in here is just unbelievable,” said Kathy.

Director Vera and VolunteersThe Open House event on June 1st ushered in the start of programs at the new facility. The Clothes Closet offers free clothing, accessories, and household and hygiene products for men and women twice a week. The Food Shelf distributes needed food and pantry items twice a month to those in need. FOCUS Minnesota is also able to offer two new programs for the first time in their new space: Storytime for children and parents, as well as Resume and Cover Letter Writing workshops!

Moving from Minneapolis brings the opportunity to serve in new ways, and also a chance serve new neighbors living in St. Paul. At the open house event Denise Yellow-Solle, FOCUS House food shelf coordinator, shared her happiness and excitement “to meet our new families.”

Even though FOCUS Minnesota’s location has moved to St. Paul, the reach of FOCUS continues to extend throughout the Twin Cities. Senator Amy Klobuchar offered words in support of the work FOCUS does to serve people in need throughout the Twin Cities.

“FOCUS Minnesota’s mission,” Sen. Klobuchar said, “remains critical as we work to better the lives of all Minnesotans.”

Volunteers look forward to meeting new families at Rice Street, as well as serving old friends who have grown close to those at FOCUS throughout the life of the ministry.

As if a testament to the relationships FOCUS builds with those they serve, the first two customers who visited FOCUS after the official grand opening were friends who frequently visited the Lake Street location. Volunteers who served after the grand opening agreed it was wonderful to see them and help with some of their needs.

To FOCUS Minnesota Director, Vera Proctor, FOCUS House is the beginning of a story with a future “that firmly establishes an Orthodox Christian legacy of charity, hope, and hospitality here in the Twin Cities.”

“We have a future now,” Vera shares, “and it is secured.”

Glory be to God for the work that is being done in Minnesota, and for all those who pray, give, and serve in the Twin Cities!

Priest and Crowd Gather to Bless the New Building

Dedicate Your Birthday to FOCUS’ 10 Years!

We Want To Celebrate With YOU!

It’s never been easier to transform your birthday into an opportunity to do good! In 2019, FOCUS is celebrating 10 years of meaningful service – and we’re inviting you to join! Here are THREE simple ideas for you to celebrate your next birthday with FOCUS!

  1. Create a Facebook Fundraiser
  2. Ask friends to bring donations (instead of gifts) to your birthday party! You can support Back to School or needed items for one of our center locations like Cleveland!
  3. Organize a sock drive drive to donate to your local homeless shelter – try to collect enough pairs to match how old you are turning!!

 

Pray For Summer Caregivers

School’s Out For Summer!

For many school children, whether public-, private-, or even home-school educated, summer is a season to take a break from the rigorous schedule of school, homework, tutoring, and extra curricular activities.

During summer break many people welcome a breath of fresh air, but for a lot of families summer schedules can also bring extra seasonal pressure when it sinks in that kids are out of school for eight or nine weeks…but most parents still need to show up to work to get the bills paid!

In the US today, both parents work full time in 46% of families. Add to that another 23% of households who have one full time working parent and one part time working parent and more than two out of every three families will likely require some sort of childcare assistance over the summer. Simply finding affordable childcare during the summer can be a HUGE challenge for working parents. The Center for American Progress published that families can expect to pay 20% of income on summer child care. For low income families and housing insecure families who regularly pay close to 50% of their monthly income on housing alone, there is little wiggle room in monthly budgets and this summer increase is a huge obstacle to overcome.

Summer camps are a popular option for parents looking for something fun and safe for their children to do while they’re at work. According to the American Camp Association, there are 2,400 ACA-accredited camps, employing more than 320,000+ camp staff and serving over 7.2 million children! Depending on which camp you have your eye on, the cost can be overwhelming especially for families with multiple children. However, if you find that camp doesn’t seem affordable – don’t forget to ask about financial aid! There are also some wonderful and well-known organizations such as the YMCA that offer free/affordable summer day camps options for the entire community.

Just as we pray during the school year for our teachers, it’s important to pray during the summer for all our camp counselors and child caregivers who are helping serve families and children from all walks of life! Whether you are a parent, single person, counselor or volunteer – take time to brainstorm ways you can serve parents, caregivers, and children this summer!

 

Prayer for Child Caregivers:

 

O Lord, our God and Creator, Thou hast honored us men with Thine own image, and didst teach Thy chosen disciples that the fear of Thee is the beginning of true wisdom; Grant wisdom and guidance today to all the caregivers, youth leaders, daycare employees, volunteers, and parents who are working and caring for children this summer at home, summer camps, child care facilities and church ministries; That they may help offer a safe and compassionate community for our children to explore, learn, and play while growing their faith and trust in You. Grant each caregiver the wisdom, strength, authority and grace that they need to serve the children in their care. According to Your Will, allow them to courageously embrace opportunities to reach out and share Your heavenly love with each child through their actions, attitudes, and speech; And, through Your Grace, keep any evil influences away that would seek to disrupt their loving care. Grant, O Lord, wisdom to our caregivers, not to conform to the ways of the world, but rather be an example of Your Heavenly Kingdom.  For Thou art God, the Author of truth and the Fountain of wisdom, and unto Thee we ascribe glory:  to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

 

Amen.

Summer Is Coming – Get Involved!

Your parish can participate in FOCUS’ national Back to School Backpack Program!

Help us serve children who, without you, would attend the first day of school without a backpack or adequate school supplies.

The reality is, that even if you live in an affluent area, there are children experiencing poverty in all kinds of neighborhoods across the US. Even beyond your immediate community, there are often an unnoticed, and therefore unmet, needs in poorer neighborhoods that are often adjacent to affluent ones.

Last summer, FOCUS worked with 56 parishes in over 50 US cities to serve 2,425 children and youth in need prepare for school. This year, help us reach our goal to provide back to school resources for 3,000 children through partnering with at least 60 parishes.

You can lead this program with your teen group, social outreach team, or even Summer Camps and Vacation Church Camps.

Contact National Programs Manager John Moxen at JavaScript required to view address

Links To Additional Resources

Printable Bulletin Insert (PDF)

Back to School Backpack Program FAQs (PDF)

Sample Elementary School Packing List (PDF)

Program Web Page

Considering St. Mary of Egypt’s Life of Repentance

Very little is known about the early life of St. Mary of Egypt, except that she was stripped of her innocence at the tender age of twelve. Over the next seventeen years, after having run away from her childhood home, she lived in a type of spiritual slavery to her physical passions, which led her to victimize many “young men,” likely in a similar fashion to how she was victimized when she was young.

Often times, persons who have been emotionally defrauded or physically abused early in life, will respond with similar destructive behavior toward others as a way of taking back the aspect of control that they were not afforded in their own lives.

The life that St. Mary lived during those years was one of separation from God and His assembly, and despite having indulged in such unhealthy pursuits, she still pined for a different kind of life; one that was void of such destructive proclivities.

St. Mary’s journey toward reconciliation is one that should be relatable to most, since her transformation did not take place in an instant. Rather, the process whereby she would become whole, would take many years and countless prayerful acts of repentance.

Today, psychologists and counselors might estimate that St. Mary suffered from a sexual addiction as a result of the trauma she endured as a child. Like many addictions, a person’s response to that which is perceived to control his behavior can often manifest negative habits. The results of these habits can be far-reaching and leave a trail of ruination. Often, through no fault of his own, a person may find himself living as a victim of someone else’s violent behavior, which can hinder his ability to pull himself up out of a desperate pit that has been created for him. But, just as a person can be victimized by the negative intentions of others, so too can he be healed by the positive actions of those who are looking to serve Christ in his brother.

At FOCUS North America, we look to ameliorate the plight of the poor because we realize that people are often suffering as a result of the choices that were thrust upon them without their consent. In an attempt to reverse the negative effects that have been forayed upon a person’s life, servant-leaders at FOCUS look to see Christ in, and be Christ for each person we serve. It is precisely because we understand the responsibility we have for our brothers and sisters that we act and respond with love toward people who may have been stripped of a fair shot at living a healthy and positive life—one that is oriented toward God.

Whether it is providing backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, to be distributed to home-insecure children and youth, so that they do not fall behind in school and in life, or providing families with toiletries and food, in order to help them avoid going into, or transition out of a shelter, FOCUS wants to be sure that we are doing everything we can to be a positive impact on the people we serve in communities across North America. Like St. Mary’s own journey, we understand that, for many, the process of becoming whole is often a slow and arduous one, but offering help along the way will ease the road of repentance for those who require it most.

During this Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, let us remember to see Christ and be Christ on our journey to Pascha.

John T. Moxen, Ph.D, National Programs Manager

FOCUS North America

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This Lenten Season, join our journey through “40 days with FOCUS,” a special weekly blog series where you will hear Lenten reflections from different servant-leaders who work within our organization. We are excited to share wisdom from the men and women who lead our ministries across the country with love and live out the mission of FOCUS every day in their work and lives. Thank you for reading! Make FOCUS part of your Lenten Almsgiving Today 

How We Can Unlock The Best In Others

You are the key that unlocks so many of the accomplishments achieved through our work at FOCUS.
Give during Lent and we’ll send you a free keychain!

Bring out the best in others and you can change the world

“Bring out the best in others, and you can change the world.”

Humans are meant to exist in community, we need each other by God’s design. In contrast to this, the design of our day to day existence in this world prioritizes individualism, selfish egos, and an “I-don’t-need-you” attitude focused on “ME.” (**Even though the “me” attitude can be unhealthy, self-care is important – check out Katrina Bitar’s thoughts here on the YES blog)

When we give into individualism, focus only on “me”, and isolate ourselves from community, we not only negatively impact ourselves, but also the people around us!

It’s important for us to be aware of how our lives, attitudes, and actions are connected to the people around us. When we choose to be a positive light, we can unlock transformative light in others as well!

Here’s some ways YOU can unlock the best in others, and yourself!

Trust others

Though the world may make us feel otherwise, generally people aren’t out to get you! We are so untrustworthy that we hesitate to even smile or say hello to people who are unfamiliar and different than us. If you don’t practice trust, the best part of both people will remain hidden.

Be generous

Part of being a good steward is recognizing the gifts God has given you, and then being generous with those gifts! Give freely to others. Give your time. Give your energy. Give the benefit of the doubt. Share your talents generously, and recognize the talents in others!

Show appreciation

Has someone had a positive impact in your life? Let them know! Appreciate the good that is in others and don’t be shy to give thanks and show gratitude. We’re showing our gratitude to people like YOU who work daily to serve and open your hearts to those in need by sending out a keychain with every donation. Click here to get yours!

Be open minded

There are so many messages thrown at us every day to consume, good and bad. Some of the worst messages are those that build walls between us, messages that reinforce biases or stereotypes that cause us to cast judgement on individuals or even entire groups of people. Instead of judging, be open minded and filter these messages through a lens of compassionate thinking… you may connect with someone you never thought could be possible!

Live in the present

Pay attention to who and what God puts in front of you on a daily basis. We live in a fast-paced society and it is easy to go through the motions without seeing God in everything and everyone around us. Live in the present and acknowledge that every day, every human, every opportunity is a gift from God!

To sum it up, the first step in bringing out the best in others is recognizing that that your actions matter! Acknowledge your role in the communities you are a part of. Whether you are one of many siblings in your family, a member of a club or sports team, a layperson at church, or just a visitor in a public space…embrace community! Then, through ownership of your attitude, improving the way you interact with others and yourself, and taking the challenge daily to live in the present, be open minded, be generous, trust others and show appreciation, you will transform your surroundings for the better!!

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When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward

"Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others." Samuel Smiles

Climbing at our Neighbor’s Side: A Reflection on the Sunday of St. John Climacus

So much of my personal journey in Orthodoxy has been a growing understanding of the Body of Christ, including the interconnectedness I have with each person around me as a fellow human created in God’s image. Equally part of this journey has been my study of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

In The Ladder, St. John Climacus calls each of us to a life long journey, always moving toward Christ. This journey includes breaking our connection to the worldly cares, tackling our physical and spiritual passions that distract us, and refocusing our attention on attaining the fundamental virtues that propel us up “the ladder” toward the revelation of the eternal love and peace that can only be found in Christ.

As humans striving to live in the world, but not become part of the world, reflecting on the message of St. John Climacus can be challenging – or even daunting. Often, when we face our own shortcomings, we can become harsh and fail to treat ourselves with the compassion that Christ would extend to us. This, at least, has been my experience.

As my experiences have grown in the Church, I now see that my journey is not unique.  The Church has taught me that every human is created in the image and likeness of Christ – a living Icon worthy of veneration. The words of St. John Climacus, however, remind me that we all are still human. We are all still subject to temptation and sin, and we often need each other when we are climbing up (and trying not to fall off) the ladder.

As part of the Body of Christ, I am surrounded by individuals who struggle with similar weaknesses, fallacies, and passions as I do. None of us, as an individual, is strong enough to climb the ladder alone.  For this reason, we climb the ladder together… we climb together as the Church.

When I succumb to my weaknesses and passions, I separate myself from the strength of the Church and those brothers and sisters with whom I share this journey. However, I cannot become so focused on my own journey to ignore when my brother or sister has fallen. Even though my neighbor may be struggling with a different physical or spiritual passions than me at any given time -some of us with slander, others with lust, others with vainglory –  we must each see that these passions of my neighbor are not any less or worse than my own. It is that spirit that it becomes very important that we should not seek to fix or help each other, for this suggests an imbalance. Instead, as fellow climbers in the Body of Christ, we must serve each other in Christ’s example.

Are we willing to see in each person we encounter, even those we do not know, or even like?  This is our challenge… to serve the sick, the naked, the imprisoned, the stranger, and to welcome them in the Body of Christ, for the sake of each of our salvation. As we climb together, we strive to obtain the virtues of meekness, humility, and discernment, so that together, as the Body of Christ, we might all attain the unity found only in His Love at the top of the ladder.

Kenneth Kidd, Development Director

FOCUS North America

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This Lenten Season, join our journey through “40 days with FOCUS,” a special weekly blog series where you will hear Lenten reflections from different servant-leaders who work within our organization. We are excited to share wisdom from the men and women who lead our ministries across the country with love and live out the mission of FOCUS every day in their work and lives. Thank you for reading! Make FOCUS part of your Lenten Almsgiving Today 

To Die Before You Die

Great Lent is a crucial journey and a treasured gift.  It’s this extended, intensified period of time that reflects what can actually happen in a day, a minute…a moment. We are always living and making choices, always experiencing places of suffering and death in our lives, and always existing in the joy of the empty tomb.  When we step into this journey as a citizen of the Kingdom, then the journey is a movement towards the Lord and others.  If we allow the Lord’s Kingdom to be as present as it is, then we will seek it at every moment.

Kingdom moments show up every day. The Kingdom is touching us and everything around us.  When God’s design for us is realized, there His Kingdom is.  When we come together in love, when we allow ourselves to be drawn to someone’s joy or pain, when we eat and sit together in community…these are realities of the Kingdom breaking into this world.

Our lives are a compilation of movements we choose and the circumstances we find ourselves in.  If through all of it, we respond as one who is seeking to realize God’s call, then we will truly die before we die.  What I mean is that our lives are meant to be sacrificial offerings.  As the Lord voluntarily offered Himself on the Cross for the life of the world, so too are we invited to voluntarily die to ourselves so that others might live and thrive.

What does it look like to die before you die?

 

Take up YOUR cross.

In the middle of Lent, we are presented with the Cross.  It is given to us to boost our strength and remind us where we are headed.  We often say that everyone has a “cross” to carry…which is a way of saying that every person has a burden that they bear and struggle with as they walk through life.  This is very true but following the Lord to the Cross isn’t just about bearing our burdens.  It’s about bearing the burdens of others.

When we look at the Cross held high, we should also remember the victory and the power of our Lord’s sacrificial love.  The text of the baptismal service proclaims that we are baptized into His “death.” Taking up my cross means that I set myself aside and allow the Lord to send me into the world to die for it.  This dying before we die will look differently for each of us, as we are set apart for different offerings.  But it begins with our trust and hope in what the Lord can do with a willing heart.

Mary embraces Theotokos.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be according to Your will.” These powerful words wake me up every time I hear them.  It is with these words that Mary accepts that she is Theotokos, God-bearer.  By answering this call, she takes her place in God’s salvation story for the world.  She takes hold of her role in God’s plan and lets go of herself.  By doing this, she becomes her true self. Our lives are a constant preparation to hear and to answer as she did, pushing through fears and setting aside what we perceive our lives should look like.

Discover Your Offering.

God speaks to us in our hearts.  He has placed pure desires there that draw us to people and places where His will is realized.  If our lives are clouded with pursuing our own rewards and successes, we may not be able to hear our Lord when His loving call comes.  Pursuing an occupation for sustainability is different than pursuing your vocation.  The wrong pursuit with distorted motivations will likely leave you consistently miserable, empty, and in a state of longing.

To discover your calling, there are some questions to explore.  What is the thing that, when you do it, people receive good things from it?  Your unique calling is the best kind of difficult and leaves you exhausted in a fulfilling way.  It brings you and others deep joy. Be open to discovering it, and when you do, let it evolve and take different forms.  Through it all, trust that you will be taken care of when you are living out who you truly are.

Maintain Inner Peace.

If you have inner peace, do whatever you can to preserve it.  If you don’t have it, pursue it relentlessly.  Look to the spiritual guides and mentors in your life to help you find the best ways to pursue it.  Different things will work for different people.  Ultimately, you want to be able to lay your head on your pillow at night with a smile, having closure and resolution on the things that cause unrest in your heart.

Inner peace is a constant pursuit rooted in prayer and repentance.  There will always be external disturbances around us that we can’t control; things that are up in the air, crisis, transition, and the list goes on.  The state of peace in our hearts will determine how we process the external turbulence.  Pursuing your own inner peace benefits everyone.

Live one Life.

Our lives are not a bunch of boxes that are separate.  We have one life to live and one person to be.  There are different roles we have and different things we do.  But you will truly live in the Kingdom if you don’t draw lines in your life.

My spiritual Father once said that there aren’t times when our spiritual life is turned off.  We either live in the Spirit or we don’t.  Everything we do is spiritual if we do it as a servant of God.  The way we play sports, watch sports, watch TV, and even the way we exist in our church community.

Show up wherever you are as someone who is the Lord’s and you will feel oneness on the inside and, God willing, create oneness in your environment.

Heal divisions.

If you are able, work to heal the divisions that exist around you: conflict with others, unhealthy separation of groups, fear of unfamiliar people and places.  Choosing healthy relationships is different than being against someone.  It’s better to think about how you spend your time, rather than who and what you cut out of your life.  I choose to eat well.  I choose to exercise.  I try not to choose words or actions that foster conflict or division.  It’s the Lord’s design for humanity that we come together and exist as one body.  Look around and see if you can play a part in healing broken relationships or communities.

Check your motivations.

Take time to stop and ask yourself “why.” Then, with every step, focus your why on the Kingdom…and you will die before you die.

Katrina Bitar, Director

Youth Equipped to Serve

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This Lenten Season, join our journey through “40 days with FOCUS,” a special weekly blog series where you will hear Lenten reflections from different servant-leaders who work within our organization. We are excited to share wisdom from the men and women who lead our ministries across the country with love and live out the mission of FOCUS every day in their work and lives. Thank you for reading! Make FOCUS part of your Lenten Almsgiving Today 

Do Not Hesitate!

Kontakion – Tone 4

Now is the time for action! Judgment is at the doors!

So let us rise and fast, offering alms with tears of compunction and crying:

“Our sins are more in number than the sands of the sea;

but forgive us, O Master of all,

so that we may receive the incorruptible crowns.”

 

Marking the second week of Great Lent that commemorates Saint Gregory Palamas, we have entered into the church’s exhortation to act, and to react, to the pressing judgment that is at hand. As the penitential nature of our Lenten Journey prepares us to greet the joy of Christ’s Holy Resurrection, so repentance is the conduit that inspires us to open ourselves to the hope of redemption. Turning ourselves towards inward examination and an increase in spiritual preparation, we discover that the work of repentance inherently implies a change, some action that reflects our desire to progress beyond the foibles of human nature that confine us – but in fact, do not have to define us. During the season of Great Lent, the Church in her wisdom teaches us to pay even more attention to the Christian virtues of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But I would like to encourage another virtue in our Lenten efforts, and that is one of action.

Saint Gregory, through his application and deep immersion into the monastic practice of Hesychasm, was a living witness that men can become divine through an intense practice of “prayer of the heart,” and that even in this life, human beings can become participants of the uncreated light of God’s divine glory. Hesychasm is sometimes translated as a “calm silence” but imagine the intensity of this practice and the sheer energy that goes into a quietening of the heart and mind, focussing our senses, so that the Glory of the Lord can preside in His full ineffable glory. Here is “action” whose fulfillment can scarcely be described. Of course, as most of us cannot attain such synergy with prayer and oneness with God, the simple question is how can we participate in the divinity of God that we are called to seek? Brothers and sisters, it is through a thoughtful but un-inhibited movement towards service to one another!

Consider this: much of our salvation will be viewed through the prism of repentance that is transformed into action. To repent is not just to feel dissatisfied, but to take a decision and to act upon it. But action is not without cost. How many are times do we hold back when an opportunity for service to others is presented to us? What makes us hesitate – do we hesitate to run headlong towards the Resurrection? We do not! We eagerly reach out to partake of all that is made whole, all that is forgiven, and all that is redeemed. Who would hesitate to taste and experience unending Paschal joy? Yet for us to take action, perhaps we’re unsure how to proceed, unsure how much to “get involved,” possibly uncommitted to a cause, previously uninformed or unaware of a need, or un-used to volunteerism. This is where we must take the conscious steps to consider a need outside of our own experience and that we can, with Gods help, respond actively in faith and love.

As we travel again this year through the purifying experience of Great Lent, there is much to be done in the days ahead.  I ask you to stop and think about what you can do  – and then always, and without hesitation, do something. The world and all that is in it is ours to consider. Open your eyes to this knowledge and do not turn back from an opportunity to do an act of service or kindness for someone in need. Not every opportunity will be the right one, but there will be at least one opportunity that will be waiting for you. I will tell you, do not seek to “make a difference.”  Let your actions no matter how simple or humble, be the difference.  Collect cans of food, serve a meal to the hungry, and pray for the poor and needy. Whether you are an electrician, or a daycare teacher, an insurance salesman, banker, barista, or barber, worker bee or a dreamer – give, offer, donate, gather, feed, work, volunteer, and again, pray. Once, twice, countless times, whatever you can do. In this way, through action, and with intent we become more fully prepared, without hesitation, to run towards and embrace the Joy of the Resurrection.

 

Vera Proctor, Director

FOCUS Minnesota

 

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This Lenten Season, join our journey through “40 days with FOCUS,” a special weekly blog series where you will hear Lenten reflections from different servant-leaders who work within our organization. We are excited to share wisdom from the men and women who lead our ministries across the country with love and live out the mission of FOCUS every day in their work and lives. Thank you for reading! Make FOCUS part of your Lenten Almsgiving Today