Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Blessings Book

The Blessings Book is designed to invite you & your family to begin the holidays with a blessing. We have so much to be thankful for in our lives, and the blessings we cherish in our lives remind us of the many diverse ways we express our thankfulness. We are thankful to God for family and for the love of friends and the inclusion of his light in our lives. Blessings to you and yours throughout this holiday season; and may the Blessings Book find a place in the coming year for the comfort that it may bring as well as the strength to help us in times of need. Click here to share the PDF for The Blessings Book today...

From The Blessings Book...

A Blessings Sampler

Here is a sampling for those who may not have a “blessing” as a part of their

family heritage (and maybe for some who want to add a new one):

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad. Amen.

Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts which we are about to receive from your goodness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all God’s love. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

For health and strength and daily food, we praise your name, O Lord. Amen.

Give us grateful hearts, O God, for all your mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God is great and good.

From Pastor John DeBevoise, PCPC
Prayers reprinted from Book of Common Worship

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Non Profit News: Top 10 items for today...

Non Profit News

Here is our bi-monthly listing of news items that comprise more than one article or topic in Non Profit News-the online magazine about some of the most pressing issues that face us all. The Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations are a sub-category consisting of 17 separate goals. 
And here in the United States, we have our own set of pressing problems separate and apart from the global issues we all face as residents of Planet Earth. Here's a list of ten items found in Non Profit News online, to be updated every other month, as we discuss each and ask for feedback and comments to keep the conversation going...! Till next time-NPN

1.How to help inmates heal after the trauma of prison- US & Mass Incarceration- This is one of the most pressing problems we face and one that has not been addressed after receiving so much attention in the last's the type of problem that tells us  we need to work to solve problems together, in a bi-partisan way in the U.S.

2.Do our Political Parties only represent Corporations? Ending Dark Money in Politics-this issue also received a lot of attention during the 2016 Presidential election, but seems to go unaddressed as we see so much dark money and influence of lobbyists and big donors influencing political parties.

3.Nuns Denounce abuse by priests- Systemic abuse within big organizations/Catholic Church & Organized religion - Again, this issue is one that continues to pop up as we see large churches and mainstream religious organizations dealing with rampant abuse and cover-ups within their power structures.

4.GDP grows...but workers wages are stagnant- Income Inequality - This is perhaps the greatest problem we are dealing with globally. It is one that is being addressed, but here in the U.S, we still have more income inequality than less affluent nations as our workers pay more for health care and receive less care.

5.Africa; the Epicenter of Modern Day Slavery- Child Trafficking and modern slave trade-This is a problem that is connected with women's equality and income inequality also. Those of us who live in more affluent nations need to continue to speak out for the people who cannot speak for themselves; children and those who are enslaved in this modern age, not only in Africa, but globally and yes....right here in the United States!

6.Mister Rogers and the Power of Kindness- working to help others and having empathy - This is a problem that we need to combat; the rise of cynicism and disbelief in our institutions, for all the reasons we listed above. But we also need to remember that there are plenty of good people still willing to help others, as evidenced by  role models such as Anne Frank and Fred Rogers.

7.SDG: Sustainability Development Goals from UN; the 17 Goals listed include Clean water; Clean air, Education and sustainable farming techniques as well as the empowerment of women...The good news is that we are making progress in eradicating extreme poverty, which is one of the goals listed...but you will see that we have a way to go...and the date is set for 2030 to achieve many of these worthy objectives.

8.Reducing Food Waste and working to help small farmers succeed globally to end hunger...check out the goals to see more about this...

9.Ending Child Marriage and helping girls to succeed; working to empower women globally; again, see above link for more on this.

10.Environmental issues/and Poverty/Clean Water and a sustainable environmental policy for the planet that combats global warming; these are all top issues that are found in Non Profit News magazine and are part of the 17 Sustainable goals for the United Nations global efforts.

Learn more about these issues at Non Profit News magazine, and we will keep posting information on some of the top issues found in Non Profit News each month....Till next time...Stay well and never give up!-ML

Saturday, August 11, 2018

PCPC Blessing of the Backpacks

Today in our services, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church will bestow a blessing on the many school children that begin their year of learning and growth. Here is the PCPC Blessing of the Backpacks

God of all knowledge and wisdom, these students and backpacks remind us that a new school year is upon us.  We pray your blessing on each of them and upon all students, young and old, as they carry the tools they need this year.  Help them discover and develop the gifts you have given them.  On some days, so much stuff will fill these backpacks the student may find it difficult to walk.  Other days, they will be light and nearly empty.  On each and every day, may these blessings and the prayers that dangle from them, be a reminder that your love and the love of this congregation surround them wherever they go. 

As the students grow in knowledge, help them also grow in kindness and compassion, learning respect for themselves and for others.  We pray too for parents, teachers, school staff, and all those who care for them, to be sustained by you.  Strengthen them with encouragement, support, and love.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The things which cannot be seen

Martin Sattler photo

2 Corinthians; 4; 16-5:1; We do not lose heart. Our OUTER nature may be wasting away..but our inner nature is being renewed day by day

Again with 2 Corinthians Jesus speaks of the things which cannot be seen. As mentioned in scripture in Romans 8, we spoke not long ago of the hope that cannot be seen. It is this hope that is our saving grace.

And so it goes that with all things in Christ none of our material possessions matter as much as the things which cannot be seen. Faith, hope, love and devotion are those things we cannot touch and are gifts we may give but cannot be bought at any price. The things that are priceless, as they say in commercials, are part of this unseen but vital world that Jesus knew and taught us to aspire to live in and strive towards. Which is why it is important not to lose heart, as the scripture tells us.

The outer world is the temporary vision of the world that Christ taught us about. And the things which cannot be seen are the things that cause us to take heart. Inspiration and perseverance, faith and devotion are the better parts of our nature. We often hear of a parents’ love for their child, of a military soldier fighting to the last breath of their life out of devotion. We hear about love of country and perseverance in the face of great sadness or chaos.

None of these things are qualities that can be boxed and sold. It is all a part of the greater world that is found only in one’s inner nature. That is why we strive, as Christians, in the face at times of long odds or overwhelming obstacles, to become better parents and teachers, workers and siblings, spouses and children, as we are taught by Christ. We fail as humans, and we are forgiven. So we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and we try again. That is the nature of our lives as Christians. We will always strive to find those things deep inside of us, those most valuable parts of our lives which are eternal. These are the things which cannot be seen.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mr Rogers was a man on a mission

There has been a renaissance surrounding Mr Rogers of late. Tom Hanks is going to play Mr Rogers in the feature film, “You Are My Friend.” The documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” also opens this week. 

Mr Rogers was not only an enduring, and well recognized children’s advocate, but also a man of faith who believed in his message, a rarity in this age of instant celebrity. One remarkable fact is that Rogers made a point of answering the almost 1 million pieces of mail personally that was sent to him. There was much more to Fred Rogers than a simple television personality. Not only was he an ordained Presbyterian Minister, Rogers was also a student of world religions and spoke Greek and Hebrew.

The man who used to ask, “Won’t you be my neighbor?" in each episode really did believe in his mission. He was a believer in being a good neighbor and he pulled from the biblical teachings where Jesus spoke of the type of neighbor that Christians should become. It also speaks to the larger questions in society, and the humanistic beliefs that extol us to look out for one another and care deeply about our neighbors, regardless of skin color or religion or political beliefs. |The widow of Rogers told the documentary makers not to make him ‘into a saint.’ She went on to add that ‘his mission was to tell us that we all struggle, and he doesn’t exist on another plane. He labored incredibly hard to fight for grace.”

Rogers story is even more powerful as we delve into his prescient vision about the power of media and the influence television had on children. According to his documentarian, Rogers envisioned television as a great tool for helping to build community, but he was also appalled by the exploitation he found in children’s programming. In this new in-depth look at Rogers’, his friend, Reverend George Wirth, also explained how Rogers was able to convey the message of Christian values without using the accepted language used in sermons.

We see and hear Rogers dealing with the difficult subjects through his show, and talking to children in voices they could understand. He talked about the Vietnam War on TV, and after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he used the voice of a puppet to help children understand the tough subject, even going so far as defining the word “assassination.’

Rogers is a needed voice from the past that was able to understand the power of images and media, and how they powerfully affect children and invade the lives of children and adults. And yet he spoke optimistically, before Congress, about television giving us ‘the chance to make a real community out of the entire country’ This is something that has become even more of a remarkable wish rather than a prediction in the age of the internet that consumes us in the 21stCentury.

There are critics of Rogers who talked of the oft-repeated phrase he used, “I like you just the way you are.” Rogers addressed that once in a commencement speech, telling the audience that “What that means ultimately is you don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.” This is something that Christians, and all people of faith may interpret as the idea of God’s grace at work in our lives.

One of the most prescient and forward -thinking points of Rogers’ contribution to not only children’s programming, but to the idea of using media to bring people together, comes from his own words as he tells viewers to ‘think of someone who has helped you.’ If you look for the helpers, you will see they outnumber those who are intent on doing bad things. That is sadly, a much- needed lesson that begs to be relayed time and again in an age of violence in schools and throughout the normally placid areas of our life that have become ‘soft targets’ for those intent on doing harm.

Fred Rogers was a man out of time, whose lessons are still reaching out to help us heal some of the broken places that we see in our own lives. Look for the documentary on PBS, as well as the feature film starring Tom Hanks as they portray this extraordinary, humble and quiet man of faith we knew as Mr Rogers.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Marketing Team Jesus in the 21st Century

Team Jesus

We’ve all heard that sometimes the simplest of messages are the easiest to read and the hardest to follow. Such as the reminder from 2 Corinthians 4:5, that we do not work to proclaim the glory of ourselves, but the glory of Christ and therefore, as his followers, we work for his sake. It’s probably a telling tale that we need to put this in perspective in ways that most of us who live in the 21st Century will understand. We work for Team Jesus, and on that team, we are all working together to promote his message and branding. The message? A simple one: Love others as you would your own family and tribe and protect each of us as we would protect ourselves. The Brand? Team Jesus: I am the way and the truth and the light. We are working for his sake, and working on the brand that is larger than the largest of corporations, and a brand that transcends time. 

It is Team Jesus that we need to remind ourselves again and again that we are working for. We need to learn to love our fellow man, and to trust in the Lord. The simplest of messages are easy to read, and the hardest ones to follow. We need to beware of any one brand or message or ‘tribe’ that we ascribe to. All of those who seem to talk about returning to their own tribe, be it political or religious or corporate, need to realize that the whole of our being is reflected not just in who we follow, but in the message that we are following. Team Jesus transcends the tribal elements of the 21st Century. Love your neighbor with all your heart, and follow the word of the Lord. A simple enough message with a timeless brand.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Jesus was "Woke"

Dino Reichmuth Photo: Jesus was 'woke'

This passage from John 3: 1-17, where Jesus speaks to Nicodemus may be the crux of the entire message of Jesus Christ. He speaks of the need to understand simple truths, and the takeaway is his proclamation that his presence on Earth will bring eternal life to all who believe. That’s it...

But wait, there’s more, as they say in those late-night infomercials.

The message that Jesus is giving to Nicodemus is one where we find Jesus in a moment of Zen. Christ talks of things that some may interpret as being ‘born again.’ Christ says, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’

The most amazing part of this passage is what follows. Jesus goes on to wax lyrical: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”

My favorite comic relief comes from Nicodemus, who asks him “How can these things be?” Jesus gives us a true Seinfeld-ian moment when he says: Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” The first thing that comes to mind for the ultimate Seinfeld buff is the classic: “And YOU want to be my Latex Salesman?” He goes on, almost exasperated, to say, “If I tell you about the things that are happening here and now on Earth, and you don’t believe, how can you believe what I’m trying to tell you about heavenly things?!”

The most famous of passages follows in John 3:16 in this text for Trinity Sunday. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” This is as good as the saying: “Jesus explains it all for you.” There it is in a nutshell, folks. The whole gospel laid out in one short paragraph.

How simple is the understanding of the enlightened among us, who may understand the feeling of being born of the Spirit. It may take a lifetime of understanding to truly know the feeling of enlightenment, where we are truly born of the Spirit.

I cannot help sympathizing with Nicodemus, who is limited in his understanding of Jesus’ enlightened spirit. There are times in our lives when we have not understood a difficult passage or text, in the Bible or in any aspect of life, only to read or hear it with fresh eyes and to suddenly become enlightened as we gain a new understanding of what the content means.

The kids now say, “You have to be ‘woke.’  It’s hard to describe it, but one of the best examples I know comes from a movie. In one of my favorite scenes in “The Miracle Worker”, we see Helen Keller as a child who is pathetic and angry and struggling against the world. Mute, blind and unable to communicate, there were no connections for her. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, (played by Anne Bancroft in the film version), patiently worked with her to try and teach the child how to communicate. Her teacher signed the alphabet, and words for water and hundreds of everyday items, yet Helen was still unable to make the connections. The moving and cathartic scene where Helen Keller DOES make the connections to the sign of ‘water’, and then realized she would able to communicate with other people is one of the most spiritually connected scenes ever filmed. The kids would say, she was ‘woke’

We are not always woke to difficult content in our daily lives. I am one of those who freely admits that I often have limited understanding of cultural waves, and the dawning of new attitudes and cultural shifts. But we need to keep at least open minds as we try and muddle through the technological haze of life in these times. Baby boomers often find it particularly difficult to accept the fact that we will never return to the days of the Golden Age of Television or the life of the fifties and sixties, before computers and the internet went mainstream.

Helen Keller is an example of one among us who was enlightened. It wouldn’t matter to her what age or era she lived in, for her world existed outside the realm of material objects and time. She didn’t need to see things or hear them to understand what it takes to become born in spirit. Perhaps if we took the time to appreciate the natural world, and tried to comprehend things using fresh eyes, we may glean some understanding of the message out of time that Jesus wanted to convey. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Hope that is not seen

 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

Photo by Warren Wong

The imaginative language and the poetic beauty of this Biblical passage of Romans 8:22-24 makes this one of my favorites. We are all ‘groaning in labor pains’ as we wait for salvation. And as we wait, we operate in hope with the notion that we are saved through the love of Jesus Christ. “For in hope we are saved…

What beauty is found in this passage from Romans, talking of the hope that is not seen! I think at times that our lives are lived partly in reality and partly in spirit and hope. Certainly we, as Americans, have always lived in hope with the elusive American Dream that is still calling to us.

There is an old Frank Sinatra song that talks about “High hopes.” We at times have high ‘apple pie in the sky’ kind of hopes. We all have high hopes in our lives, and the spirit of what we hope for is, at times, the thing that keeps us going.

We hope for a better tomorrow. We pray for peace and we hope for a better life for our children and the ones who come after us. We hope for forgiveness and enlightenment, for peace to bind our wounds and heal our troubled souls.

  All of these things speak of spiritual hopes and aspirations, far beyond the material world we live in. The hope that is not seen, but felt and lived as we are touched by those who seem to have far less, or live in dire circumstance and are lifted in their lives by their own faith, these are the humbling events we need to carry with us, as God is able to discern the strength of our convictions as well as the weakness of our corporal bodies.

  As Christians, we also live in hope for the lives we live on this earth. The idea of eternal salvation is a promise that is not seen, but is often felt. We are told we must wait with patience. Patience is something that is hard to come by, when your life seems hopeless at times. But the promise that God gave us in Christ, and the hope he instills in us, and implores us as we still feel the presence of the living Christ in our lives, tells us that we are still at our core, a people filled with hope. We must send up prayers for patience for each of the things we hope for in this life, but in hope we are saved, and in hope we will live out our lives. For the one who had the highest of hopes for all of us was Jesus of Nazareth.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jesus thinking "Outside the Box"

Outside the Box...Photo: Diego PH

John 5: 9-13:  The lectionary text this week tells the story of Jesus thinking ‘outside the box”.  The Sabbath is a Holy Day where no work is performed, including healing! But Jesus did it anyway because he knew it was the right thing to do and he didn’t want to be bound by a law that was going to make this man suffer….so he decided to make an “Executive Decision” and help someone in need.  We have all done this at one time or another and had to suffer the consequences. And we probably knew we were doing the right thing, even if we were going to have to pay the price for our convictions.

In this story, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath Day. The ‘powers that be’ are outraged that he made this decision without following the rules established by their scripture. Jesus saw someone suffering, and instead of waiting, he did the right thing and offered immediate aid and comfort. He did what he had to do in the moment.

Those who did not understand what Jesus was about, and what he was trying to do, were upset that he broke the rules. Were he in a business environment today, people would say Jesus “thought outside the box”, and came up with a solution to solve this man’s problem. Jesus was often known for his radical problem solving and his revolutionary ways of thinking outside the box. Too often, we hear that if we play by the rules and follow conventional wisdom, we will succeed. But once in a while, someone comes along that does not play by the rules. And we are sometimes outraged and offended by this behavior. And deep down, many of us know that the maverick way is one that we envy just a little bit.

We have all wanted to just cut loose and go off and do our own thing. But we don’t most of the time. And at times, we are told that we cannot do this or that because it’s not done, not acceptable, etc...And we agree. But we know that there are some things that are worth going ‘all in’ on. With Jesus, each day he preached his message, he was going all in on the word. He was challenging people, irritating people, and at times confronting the conventional wisdom. That was his challenge to us. As Christians, we must often think outside the box. 

One of the phrases that we heard some years back was: What would Jesus Do? What would Jesus Drive? What would Jesus say?....Well, we know what he would do and think and say from the Gospels (all except driving cars!). Jesus would challenge conventional wisdom, he would upset the apple cart, he was the Steve Jobs of his day, the one who thought outside the box. And we hear his message of radical love and caring for others, of listening and acting on this love, of challenging others to take up the cudgel and follow him, and of spreading the radical message of “Love one another’ to all corners of the Earth.

Do you remember the lines from Jesus Christ Superstar: “If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no Mass Communication.?” I have always loved these lines because it speaks to the heart of what we are about in our own modern world dilemma. We live in a world of Mass Communication, and yet many times we still end up feeling isolated and alone in a world where we are more connected than ever before.

What irony that we can still turn to the Gospels and find our solace and strength in a message delivered to a relatively small group of people in a rustic setting two thousand years ago! We can learn to ‘think outside the box’ in a creatively modern way when we read the story of Jesus’ life and teaching. He was the one who taught us that thinking outside the box, and doing the right thing is not a modern concept. It comes from within, and it is a central part of the Christian theme of loving and caring for others. We cannot discriminate, bind up our wounds and  then hide our heads in the sand. We must engage and help those in need, whether they are friends, immigrants, rich, poor, straight, gay, or even when they are hostile to our message. That is the hardest part of the simplest of messages-Love one another. It’s still a radical message.

*Can you think of a time when you 'broke the rules' and went outside the boundaries to help others? Or had to think "outside the box" when you were in a jam?....

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Passers By

Picture by Nina Strehl

The passage in John from John 5: 1-6 tells a story of how Jesus starts a conversation with a sick man who had been passed by and overlooked for years as he tries to make his way to the  healing waters. He has lived in pain, and is one of the marginalized who is seen by passers by each day as they go to the well. Jesus heals the man and takes pity on him. It made me think of times in my life where I almost missed the boat because I was too busy just passing by.
    Not too long ago I was rushing into a grocery store on a Sunday morning, before heading to church, and there were suddenly two strangers accosting me before I went in to give money to help feed the hungry. I rushed by and said, “I’ll catch you on the way out!  As I was in a hurry, I still took the time to stop and give them a donation as I left and added, “Here we are on a Sunday morning and I’m headed to church. It would defeat the purpose to simply rush by and not stop to help those who are helping others." (I knew the organization was a dedicated local non-profit).  So, my lesson to myself for the day was this: If you are going to church and decide you are in too big a hurry to stop and help those in need or who are helping those who are hungry and in need of loving assistance, you should stop, (as I did), to remember the purpose of WHY we go to church in the first place!

       Some years back, I was leaving a dollar store in an area that was notorious for panhandlers and those looking for handouts. A man who probably was not very old was lying on the sidewalk close to the entrance, and I stopped and gave him a five-dollar bill. I’ll never forget the look on that man’s face, as I turned to leave. The look I saw gave me a sense of shame, and I remember after all these years, the feeling I had of a need to assess my own humanity. People passed by this young person who was lying by the door as if he was a piece of discarded tissue.

     I know that I have tried to be conscious of all those who are on the streets as we meander through our days and see these people as fixtures in our lives. At times, when we are busy, we don’t see them. They are simply there. We are too busy just passing by.

    Jesus stopped and healed a man who had been waiting for years to find comfort and solace and humanity. As Christians, we are Christ’s messengers who carry an important tiding of solace and hope. Yet we are tardy and neglectful at times, and we think too often of our own wants and desires. And that is why we are imperfect and human and mindful of the fact that we need to be forgiven by God. Fortunately for us, God does not treat us as passers-by. He listens to our prayers, eagerly nurtures our hopes and comforts us through our sorrows and tribulations. We cannot become mere passers-by when practicing Christianity. The need for today and every day is for us to go ‘all-in’ on the message of Christ.  “As I have done for others, it is for you to treat others as you would have them do the same for you. “-

Thursday, April 19, 2018

From The Blurb Blog: The Lesson of Persistence

Persistence Pays

Gandhi was the peacemaker.  He was the true Father of modern-day India and revered as the inspiration for the methods employed by Martin Luther King in the sixties Civil Rights Movement. He embodied the era of the modern peace movement and was an inspirational and beloved figure worldwide. His thoughtful meditations on the nature and actual process of bringing about change in a peaceful manner are still the gold standard for all peace activists.

Gandhi’s statement proves true today. First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win. I think the greatest lesson here is the lesson of Persistence. And the dogged determination encapsulated within the warning of a political fight. You must have a thick enough skin to weather the storm in any profession if you want to succeed.

You may fail, you will not always win every fight, and you should be prepared for tough and at times, unjust criticism. But if you have a belief in yourself and what you are doing, if you feel that it’s the right message that could change lives, as Gandhi did, none of that matters. You will succeed in the end, because in the end, you know you have the right message. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Earth Day and the Local Foods movement in Florida

There’s been a push for heatlhy eating trends in recent years, including more vegetarian and vegan fare. We’ve learned about “The Slow Food Movement” which is defined as eating food that is prepared at home, cooked in the oven, and prepared mindfully. This as opposed to “Fast Foods” which are eaten on the run and we are all guilty of indulging in fast foods from time to time.

The Local foods we eat are usually found when we go to Farmers Markets, or if we happen to pass by a small food stand where someone is selling their wares by the road. We should all be aware of the types of food that are grown locally and regionally. Some local foods found in this area (the Tampa Bay area)  include strawberries, tomatoes, oranges and other citrus fruits.

We also need to be more aware of organic farming, and what types of pesticides are used in fields where are foods are grown. When we know more about the process of what goes into the making of the food we eat, we can become more mindful when eating and making choices about the types of foods we consume on a daily basis.

We all have favorite foods. Some of my favorite foods growing up included lots of beef and hamburgers. Now that I know how much land it takes to raise beef, the differences between grass-fed and other beef, and the health consequences of eating too much red meat, I have made different choices about the foods I eat on a weekly basis… The foods that we can eat which are grown locally are much better choices as a rule for our weekly meal planning. However, I do confess that occasionally, I still like to indulge in hamburgers for a special treat!

Here’s a handy list compiled of foods that are locally grown in Florida. The list is from a complete list of all states and growing seasons for produce found at this link: Seasonal Food Guide in Florida.

In Florida, these are some of the native vegetables and fruits we may look for at Farmers Markets and in stores:

·            Asparagus: February March & early April
·         Bananas:  Grown all year in Florida
·         Blueberries: April & May
·         Bok Choy: January, February, March, April, May, November & December
·         Cabbage: January, February, March, April, May & December
·         Cantaloupe: Available April, May & June
·         Carrots: April & May
·         Celery: January, February, March, April & December
·         Chili Peppers: Available all months in Florida except July
·         Chives: Available all year in Florida
·         Citrus Fruits: Available all year in Florida except July & August
·         Clementines: January thru April then November & December
·         Collard Greens: January thru May then November & December
·         Corn: January thru June then October thru December
·         Grapefruit: January thru May then September thru December
·         Green Beans: January thru May then November & December
·         Green Onions: Grown All Year in Florida!
·         Kale: Grown January thru May then November & December
·         Lemongrass is grown all year in Florida
·         Lemons are available all year except the months of July & August
·         Lettuce: Available January thru April and in December
·         Melons: Available January thru May then November & December
·         Mint: Can be grown year round in Florida
·         Mushrooms: Can be grown year round in Florida
·         Onions: Can be grown year round in Florida
·         Oranges: Grown all months except July & August in Florida
·         Oregano: Can be grown year round in Florida
·         Parsley: Can be grown year round in Florida
·         Peaches: Grown April, May & June
·         Peas: Grown January thru May and in October
·         Peppers: Grown January thru May then October thru December
·         Potatoes: Grown January thru May then October thru December
·         Parsley: Grown January thru May then November & December
·         Radishes: Grown January thru May then November & December
·         Rosemary: Can be grown year round in Florida
·         Snow Peas: May be grown January thru May
·         Spinach: Grown March & April in Florida
·         Strawberries: Grown January thru April then November & December
·         Summer Squash: Grown every month excerpt July & August in Florida
·         Tomatoes: Grown all year except months July thru September
·         Zuccchini: Grown all year except summer months of July & August

The Shape of Water and the Value of Humanity

What does it mean to be Human?

The Oscar winning film, The Shape of Water is.a quirky kind of fairy tale that.talks about what it means to be human. The theme of the film deals with the nature of love and compassion for others. This film is really a fantasy, directed by Guillermo del Toro, someone who has directed other fantastic tales, such as  Pan’s Labyrinth. In one of the key scenes, the mute janitor, played by Sally Hawkins, passionately signs to her good friend that the creature being tormented is worthy of love and compassion. And then she goes on to question herself.  If there is no compassion left for the creature that is alive in the laboratory tank, then what does that make her? Is she less worthy of help?

There are many instances in fantasy and science-fiction where the characters must come to a breaking point where they question their own humanity. The original film, adaptation of Bladerunner dealt primarily with the nature of what it means to be human. It was the same theme found in Philip K Dick’s short story, from which Bladerunner was adapted, which was titled: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The central question, the one that gets to the heart of the dilemma, is right there in the title. In Dick’s story, all animals have been wiped off the face of the planet, and only a select few humans could afford “Electric Sheep.” So the question becomes one of the intrinsic value that makes us human, and therefore worthy of acquiring electric sheep.

Although the 1984 film didn’t use the particular plot device of sheep, the idea was an open question throughout the film: What does it mean to be human? Harrison Ford’s character, Deckard, begins with the rather callous question when talking about the race of robotic humanoids: How does it not know what it is? And we see the irony in this when he eventually falls in love with a humanoid.

This question of the nature of humanity is asked in many different ways throughout literature, and again in famous films. In Casablanca, Bogart plays the world-weary and cynical Rick, who still believes enough in the power of love to sacrifice his happiness for the sake of others. One of his famous quote is “….It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” So again, with this, Rick questions the value of our lives in the grand scheme of things.

 This same premise is seen in a classic episode of TV’s The Twilight Zone, many years ago. A man from Earth is banished to another planet, with no human contact. His only companion is, a robotic woman. When he is eventually released, he faces the dilemma of leaving and abandoning the only thing that gave him comfort and solace through the many years of his exile.  And the question becomes: What is the value that we, as humans, place upon our souls that sets us apart? We are constantly faced with the questions in literature, and in science fiction as well as in our own lives: What does it mean to be human?

What does it matter if we inherit the entire world, yet lose our soul?…In the Bible, we hear in Matthew 16:26 the famous question: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” And so the theme continues throughout literature. As Christians, we know the answer lies in our acknowledgement that we are all flawed human beings, and sinners, and Christ was the one who sacrificed all and forgave our sins. HIS Humanity gives us the guiding light to clear the path in this crazy world. 

In the end, it's the question that is answered for us in our care for others, and is echoed so often in Christ's teachings. To love others as we do our own family, as much as we do for ourselves, we should do for others. This is the simple and clear message found in Christ's teachings, and the answer to the often-asked question: "What does it mean to be human?"