A Nativity Scene

A Rosary Meditation: The Third Joyful Mystery, The Nativity.

“And she laid him in manger … ” Luke 2:7.

Think about these few simple words, about the nature of Christ, and we’ll try to grasp just a little of what this means. Or can mean.

How did the Babe react to being placed in a manger? We aren’t told, but if we know something of Jesus’ nature, from study or personal experience or from whatever inner or outer source, we can imagine. I think, and this is just my thought, that he was peaceful, calm. The Creator of Heaven and earth, Author of Life, THE Perfect Being deserving of … He’s beyond deserving isn’t he? As though he lacks something and needs someone to supply him with fill-in-the-blank because he’s worthy. He is by nature eternally worthy whether we ever know it or not, and we can’t really give him anything he doesn’t already have. With the exception of a childlike heart, our heart, given by us to him. And here he is placed in a rough hewn box of sorts. But I see him reacting peacefully. Why shouldn’t he? What, really, could ever threaten him? Would he lose his self confidence because he was being treated as less than what he was? Of course not. That sort of reaction would more likely pertain to us, but not to him.

We are told that we must become like little children in order to enter into Heaven. We need to be innocent, joyful, trusting. Which means that we set the wrong kinds of ego and fear aside along with hardheartedness. And we can. With his help. When we’re laid in a manger of rough wood, when life becomes uncomfortable, we remain calm. Because we know he’s there in that “manger” with us. After all, is there any place, any set of circumstances when and where he isn’t with us?

“And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Accepting crosses is a part of our existence as followers of Christ. It takes a real Christan to carry a cross. And it takes a child-like heart to be content with rough hewn mangers.

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The Cup of Sugar

A Rosary Meditation: The Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation.

“And she cried out, ‘Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’ ” Luke 1:42.

Elizabeth sees Mary coming up the walk, runs out to greet her, and bubbles over joyfully with the above statement. Inspired by the Holy Spirit of course.

I remember being told about a monk, a Benedictine, and this is a factual story, who had been given the task of offering hospitality to any guests that might arrive at the monastery. But he had other things to do as well. As he was knee deep in alligators given all these other duties he wasn’t all that geared up for guests. Of course someone showed up. He heard the door and knew he had to stop what he was doing and go take care of this person. In exasperation he said: “!#@%! Now I’ve got to go do hospitality!” 🙂 Monks are human too.

With hospitality, Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary, and being human in mind …

Have you ever seen someone, maybe a next door neighbor, walking towards your door and muttered, “Oh great. What do they want now?” Hey, you’re knee deep in alligators and don’t have the time, or inclination, to dole out a cup of sugar. You’ve got enough to do all ready and now you have to stop and take care of someones needs. Just peachy, ain’t it?

When Elizabeth saw Mary coming down the path she had no way of knowing Mary was there to help her in her time of need. It could’ve been a logical assumption on Elizabeth’s part that Mary was there because she needed something from Elizabeth. But rather than say something like “Ratz! Now what?” Elizabeth went to meet Mary and was, lets just say, hospitable.

OK, whats the difference between Elizabeth and our monk? (We’ll leave ourselves alone and out of this for now. If we see ourselves in one example or the other, well, it’ll be food for thought on the individual level.) And the answer is really simple. When Elizabeth spoke she did so under the influence of the Holy Spirit. God had control because Elizabeth faithfully gave herself over to God. Now when the monk spoke what influence was he under?

Back to that neighbor walking up our walk. We see them and have an immediate reaction within ourselves. And …

“And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Abraham saw three strangers coming towards his tent and ran out to implore them to eat and rest at his camp. When the meal was ready he even served them himself. The above verse references his actions. You know, honestly, I’ve never seen anybody walk by my place and gone running up to them saying, “Here, let me give you a cup of sugar!” But, metaphorically speaking, that’s just what Elizabet did, isn’t it? Most of us can probably identify, if we’re honest about it, with the monk. The question is now: “What need’s to change so that I give hospitality to neighbors and strangers alike? What cuts me off from that right attitude?” Because whatever gets in our way in serving others also gets in the way of our relationship with God.

 

Carry the Message

A Rosary Meditation: The First Joyful Mystery, The Annunciation.

“When she heard him … ” Luke 1:29a.

The Angel Gabriel carried a message, didn’t he? The angel announced Christ to Mary. ( “You will have a child … ” ) Latter Elizabeth did the same. ( ” …  mother of my Lord … ” ) John the Baptizer announced Christ as well. ( “Behold the Lamb of God!” ) And then there was the Samaritan woman at the well. ( ” Come see the man who told me everything I ever did. Couldn’t he be the Christ?” ) The people that Jesus healed, even when he told them to be quite about what had happened to them, announced him to others. The Twelve Apostles announced him, the people they converted announced him, the Church he founded with Peter as its head continues announcing him to this very day. And all of these, from Mary to the woman at the well and everybody else, have something in common.

Its not everyone that gets the privilege of announcing Jesus to others. There is one, and only one, class of people who get to do the announcing. Oh, God uses anybody he pleases, this is true. As an example, even Lucifer announces Christ. He does his announcing via the hatred he has for God and His children. When Satan vents his anger it gets to be pretty obvious who Jesus is. Otherwise why go to all that trouble if Jesus only, well, something other than the Messiah? So in a way all things announce Christ. But only one class of people announces him with an invitation attached. John said “Behold!” The Samaritan woman said “Come see!” was

The people doing the announcing with the invitation included are the people who have encountered Christ and accepted the invitation themselves. And when others hear the Good News and respond to it, accepting the invitation, there’s one sure way to recognize them. They start announcing.

“Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … If we want what Jesus offers in the above verse, if we want him to announce us to his Father, we need to do some announcing ourselves. There are a lot of ways to do this. Support missioners, bankroll good seminaries, pray, volunteer, and the list goes on. But there is one BEST way. Its something else those folks I mentioned above have in common. After they accepted the announcement, accepted the invitation, accepted Jesus, they all did one thing by the grace of God, each person in the way God gave them. They changed. And people saw the change. There are lots of ways to announce Jesus to others, but a good example? Works wonders.

 

Believing is Seeing

Today’s Gospel Reading (short version) is John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is, “ but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.”They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

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     You know, we’re all born blind. Our blindness stems from original sin. But as hopeless as the situation may seem, being born into darkness, its not hopeless at all. And we needn’t worry about the means God uses to restore our sight, to bring us to conversion. The man we read of here was born blind. There were doctors who were knowledgeable then just as there are now. There was nothing they could do for him. None of their elixirs or potions would help. There are things modern medicine can’t deal with either. The common cold is a good example. But what did Jesus do?
     “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.”
     Jesus didn’t use any of the things a doctor would have. He didn’t use anything the world would have turned to. He used mud made with spit. And he does things like this all the time. The simple element of water becomes a vehicle of grace in baptism, simple oil brings comfort, and perhaps healing if its Gods will, during the anointing of the sick. Everyday bread and wine are changed by a miracle into God Himself. And mud gives sight to one born blind.
     We usually complicate things. If it had been me trying to help the blind man see I’d have looked for all sorts of herbs and minerals and would’ve put him on a regimen of diet and some sort of exercise. I’d have complicated things. And the blind man? He’d still be blind.
     Jesus never complicates things. He always keeps things simple. And then the world, like the Pharisees here, debate and argue about how such a thing could happen. How was it that this man, blind from birth, now sees? Jesus is still using simple things to open eyes, to bring about conversion. Something as seemingly insignificant as a string of beads. And the world wonders, people around us argue and debate. How could it be that someone like this one, who lived such a life of depravity, now be so different, so … Changed? When a persons eyes are open their viewpoint changes.
     When people begin to see after having been blind they change. Because they change the world, the folks around them, casts them out. People with real sight don’t fit in with the crowd that’s stumbling around in the dark, blindly. So they get cast out. And that’s a good thing. When they threw the man who could now see out who was it that immediately came looking for him?
     When we receive our sight and the world wonders, as we experience conversion, the ongoing process of turning to and drawing nearer to God, and the world sees the difference and shoves us aside because we don’t fit in anymore don’t worry about being cast out. Because when we’re cast out He takes us in. And that’s a sight to behold.

 

Leading away …

A Rosary Meditation: The Third Sorrowful Mystery, The Crowning with Thorns.

“Now the soldiers led him away … ” Mark 15:16a.

I’ve wondered, in the past, what it must’ve felt like to be Jewish in Nazi Germany. “Branded” with a yellow star, packed into railroad cars, watching loved ones going you didn’t know where while you yourself were going in the opposite direction. Did the people being led away feel fear, disgust, hatred? All of these being led away by soldiers. Or how it felt to walk the Trail of Tears, going to a territory that was altogether foreign, watching as some of the people you were closest to died on the journey, no proper burials, no ceremony to mourn their passing, buried in forgotten graves. Did the brave warriors feel fear? Did they feel hatred? How did the old women and the young children feel? What did they feel while being led away by soldiers?

Jesus was led away by soldiers. They weren’t kind or understanding. They mocked him, placing the crown of thorns on his head. A fine jest. Did any one of them feel the slightest twinge of pity or guilt? Did the Nazi soldier feel anything? Was there any remorse at all? Did any of the U.S. Cavalry soldiers consider what it was they were doing to fellow human beings? Or was it just a job, the people only “things” less than human to be disposed of? Or was it a fine jest?

We’ve all heard people say things like, “No one gets out of this world alive”. That’s true. I think its just as true that no one gets out of this world without being crowned with thorns one way or another. At some point we are all led away by soldiers. The “soldiers” may take on a different guise, but the leading remains the same. And it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a Christian or not.

(And before someone takes it wrong and starts thinking I’m down on the military, I’m not. This is an allegory.)

So what does matter? If we’re Christian it matters whether or not we accept the crown of thorns we receive for love of Christ. Receiving a crown such as this outside the love of God no doubt counts, and it counts in a multitude of ways. But does it count for eternity? There’s the difference. And that difference does matter.

Pity and pray for the “soldiers” who do the leading. (Husbands leading wives astray, corporations that lead consumers “away” with less than healthy commodities, fellow high school student who … and etc.) “Just following orders, that’s all.” Not putting authority in its proper place, as in God and His commandments coming first with the will of men coming second at best, the “soldiers” that do the leading are being led by one crueler than they could ever be. When a Christian is led we’re led like lambs to the slaughter and regardless the crown we receive from men we receive a greater from Him. But the ones following orders, and it doesn’t matter who it is giving them, are the ones that receive a reward that’s dreadful.

“The four and twenty ancients fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, … ” Revelation 4:10, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … “No one gets out of this world alive.” That’s true. As far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough because if you leave this life with the Life of Christ in you then you DO get out of this world alive. And you’ve a crown waiting.

A Mother’s Touch

A Rosary Meditation: The Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation.

“When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary … ” Luke 1:41a.

Mary going to Elizabeth, knowing she needs help during and after her pregnancy. Elizabeth, probably having seen Mary coming down the path, goes out to meet her. Its a very touching scene. Two mothers, both in need. Elizabeth in need of help because of her advanced age and the bearing of her first born. Mary in need of acceptance and understanding, of faith and trust, because she’ll soon be showing and everyone will know she’s pregnant during her engagement and prior to her marriage.

Both of these women were putting someone else first. At first glance you might think that Mary was putting Elizabeth first, helping her when she herself was going to need so much help. And that Elizabeth, having been enlightened by the Holy Spirit as to Mary’s position as mother of the Messiah, was putting Mary first because of Mary’s importance. And I think that all of this is true to an extent. Of course there’s a lot more to it all but these things are a part of the whole. But when it comes to putting someone else first there was much more to it.

They were putting one another first but more importantly they were both putting God first. And not just in certain areas of their lives, holding back others. There were no “compartments” in their living. No “This parts mine and this parts God’s”. They each gave God their all, which is one of the reasons they were both given such important positions. The mother of the forerunner of the Messiah and the mother of Messiah. I can’t think of two more important women in the history of the world. And they both put themselves after God and after others. Humility, service, love, self-sacrificing living. All for God.

These two righteous mothers set us a joyous example. Its touching. And it should be. It should be touching our hearts, yours and mine, that these two women, arguably the two most important women of all time, put God first, others (us) second, and themselves third. A mother’s touch can be a marvelous thing.

4 Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, 5 Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil: 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Douay-Rheims. 

Just a thought … The above scripture passage sounds like a good description of Mary and Elizabeth, doesn’t it? It reminds me of them. How much does it remind me of me, or you of you?

Lost and Found

A Rosary Meditation: The Fifth Joyful Mystery, The Finding in the Temple.

“And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Luke 2:48, Douay-Rheims.

You know, I don’t think God has ever gotten himself lost. Jesus wasn’t lost, he knew right where he was and exactly what he was doing. But …

While Mary and Joseph were traveling back home, after having finished their business in Jerusalem and having taken care of their religious duties, they made an assumption about Jesus. They assumed that he was in the group they were traveling with. Because of this they lost sight of him and he was, as a result, “lost”. Lost to them anyway.

The crowd we travel with? It can blot out Jesus if we let it. We can get so caught up in the crush of the crowd, we can get so involved in the journey, that we lose sight of Christ and then, well, we think HE got lost. And the world around us is more than willing to obscure Jesus. Its not necessarily the intent of the people around us, they don’t realize they’re being used for this purpose. But Satan knows who he’s using, and why.

Its so easy to get involved with work, social obligations, family, the crowd we travel with, that most of the time we don’t even realize it. And then? At some point the Catholic will turn around, look around, and ask, “Where did he go?” Then we go hunting. Or at least we hunt if we’re sincere Catholics. And when we find him we do what? We ask him what? “Where did you go, Lord?” When we do find him, bottom line, its really him who’s found us. The sheep almost never realize that they’re lost. Its always the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the sheep. And when he finds the lost sheep it looks at him and says, “Where you been?” Such is the nature of sheep and getting lost.

“Why hast thou done so to us?” Rather than ask Jesus a question like this we need to be asking the world around us while doing a little soul searching. “How did I lose sight of him?” And when we come up with the right answer, like, “I allowed this or that to get in my way, get between me and him, and that’s what blocked my view”, its time to try and either eliminate or get under stricter control what ever was the cause.

I think most people, and this I say based on my own personal experience, could, if they would, delete certain things from their lives and in doing so take certain things out of the way that can easily get in the way, coming between us and Jesus, blocking our view and making us think he’s lost when its us instead. There are parts of the world that, even while we live in the world, we needn’t concern ourselves with. Weeding these things out gives us a clearer view. The clearer the view the less likely we are to lose sight of him and think he’s gotten himself lost.

In dealing with life, the world, and the crush of the crowd, lets just make certain there’s one thing we don’t do. Lets not blame him for getting himself lost. Lets remember that’s our fault, not his.

“Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith … ” Hebrews 12:2a.

Just a thought … If our vision is blurred or limited its not because poor eyesight originates with the Creator of the eye, Who does all things, including creating eyes, well.

P.S . … This is the beginning of about the third week now that I’ve resumed blogging. I just wanted to say thank you for the kind, and most generous, response I’ve received. Honestly, I figured folks would’ve forgotten all about me after a few months. So I say thank you to everyone, and thank you to God for having seen fit to place me on the hearts of so many, both the people who’ve been a blessing to me for some time and all of the new and recent subscribers. Thank you. You are, each of you, a special blessing for me. I just want you to know that.

Twinkies, transmission fluid, and lard

A Rosary Meditation: The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation.

“According to the Law of Moses, they took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” Luke 2:32.

The directions on a box of Macaroni and Cheese calls for milk and butter. What do you think it would taste like if you used vinegar and lard instead? When you change the oil in a car it calls for new oil. How would it turn out if you used transmission fluid in place of the motor oil? I mean, think about it. Vinegar and lard are food stuffs so they ought to work, shouldn’t they? And transmission fluid is made to go in the car just like oil is so it shouldn’t make any big difference, should it?

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do anything. As Catholics we should be well aware of this. We’d be shocked if the parish priest tried to consecrate Twinkies and Pepsi. We’d know that wasn’t right, that it wouldn’t work any more than substituting vinegar for milk or transmission fluid for oil would. Even less so.

When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to God in the Temple how did they do it? According to personal whim? No, they did it the right way according to the Law of Moses. They understood that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do a thing. They made a wise choice and with good results.

Today and every day you’ll go out into the world and, like it or not because you can’t get away from this if you’re Christian, you’ll present Jesus to those around you. And trust me, they may not say anything about your manner of presenting him, at least not to your face, but they will be watching your method of presentation. They’ll see, and they’ll take notes. Which is a good thing. At least its a good thing if your presentation is a good one. But if it, your presentation, your life style, comes off as being no different than any non-Christian’s, well, they’ll be getting transmission fluid in their crankcase and a dish of macaroni and cheese that’s way less than appetizing. Even worse, they’ll be getting spiritual Twinkies and Pepsi instead of the real Jesus from you.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Twinkies and Pepsi. According to the bathroom scales I like ’em way to much. But there’s a time and place for everything. In our daily Christian walk there’s only a time and place for one thing primarily. That’s the correct presentation of Jesus, like Mary and Joseph correctly presented him in the Temple. Nothing else would have satisfied God then, nothing less satisfies Him now.

“So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … There isn’t a lot of nutritional value in Twinkies. The people around you won’t get that much out of a mediocre Christian presentation either. And that’s one of the reasons that the mediocre doesn’t satisfy God. He expects more from us for the sake of all those He loves.

Just another thought … OK, so I’m long winded today. 😉 This is Lent. Most of us either do something extra or give something up. That’s good. Lets try something else this Lent. At least for today. Along with whatever we’re doing that’s extra, or whatever it is that we’ve given up, lets do one other thing. Whatever it is we do? Lets try to do it according to God’s will. Just like Mary and Joseph did when they presented Jesus in the Temple.

Feeling low? Then you’re blessed beyond measure! … Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Rosary Meditation: The First Glorious Mystery, The Resurrection. “Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:20. When we read these lines we think about how sad the followers of Jesus would be when He was crucified, and how joyous they’d be at His resurrection. And that’s the primary thought in reference to this passage certainly. But is it the only one? It was a promise to the ones hearing it then, wasn’t it? Is it any less a promise for you and me? Do we ever feel sorrow? Is it ever replaced with joy? Isn’t that the natural course of events in life? Doesn’t the one always precede the other, while the other always comes after the first? While we know that Jesus is talking about His crucifixion and resurrection here is that all He’s doing? Or is He sharing a Divine Principle with us to strengthen our faith and supply us with hope? In the Garden of Eden, at the fall of man, there was sorrow.  And right after the fall God promised to make it right later, didn’t He? Wasn’t that joyful news? Abraham and Sarah  were childless in there old age with the time for childbearing a thing of the past for Sarah. It was a sad situation. Wasn’t there great joy at the birth of Issac? A child born to King David lay at deaths door. The child died. Do you think there was joy later when David held a small Solomon in his arms? Do we give up hope when we’re sad, or does the presence of sorrow give us faith and something to hope for? Do we cling to the apple or accept the Promise? Do we mourn our fruitless existence or take joy and comfort in the hope that a wonder will be born in our life regardless circumstances? Do we cling to the dead child or the newborn babe filled with promise?

” … I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live: … ” John 11:25.

Just a thought … One of the best times in your life is the worst time of your life because it precedes the miracle.

Gardening … Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Rosary Meditation: the First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden. “Jesus came with them to Gethsemane, and he began to be saddened and exceedingly troubled.” Matthew 26:36-37. I have a brown thumb. Yup, you want it to shrivel up and turn brown? Let me do your gardening. Years ago I owned a small piece of property that I was very much attached to. I worked on it, putting up a fence, building raised flower beds, constructing one spot given over to wildflowers. Watching stuff turn brown long before autumn. *sigh* And I planted a fig tree. Well, more than one. I planted it because I thought I’d live the rest of my life on that bit of land. It takes a fig tree a while to grow large enough to give shade. Planting the fig tree was my way of saying that I intended to be there long enough to enjoy its shade. The Jewish people, in Old Testament times, did the same thing for pretty much the same reason. And given the way they were forced from one place to another planting a fig tree was a powerful statement. An expression of faith in God. All of my fig trees died. I’d get up every morning and check. A couple started to make fruit. I was so happy. And then I’d get up one morning and notice the leaves were starting to wither. Jesus came to the garden and found the fig tree of Israel fruitless and dead. The people He loved, the ones He wanted so badly to bear fruit for love of Him, rejected Him. And that was an agony. Now my attachment to that little spot of land doesn’t even begin to compare with His love for Israel. I know that. But I can understand, in a small way. Maybe a small way is all any of us can ever hope to muster. Its better than nothing. But trying to understand can bring us closer to Him, can’t it? So never turn lose of any opportunity to understand, even in a small way. Every small step in understanding Him brings us closer to Him. And as we grow closer to Him our own fig tree, our own selves, grows healthy and bears fruit. That’s what He wants. When I saw those little fruits on my fig tree? I was overjoyed. Imagine how He feels when He sees fruit on us.

“And the Lord said: If you had faith like to a grain of mustard seed … ” Luke 17:6.

Just a thought … Mustard seeds, like my little figs, are small. Very small. But the mustard seed can grow into something big enough for the birds to nest in. I’d say that’s fruitful. Small figs or tiny seeds its living in Him as a branch, with His life flowing through us and keeping us alive while making us grow, that matters. Don’t worry about size. Don’t worry if you have a brown thumb. Don’t worry. Remember that He’s the Vine and we’re the branches. And things like fig trees, seeds, fruit, brown thumbs and whatever else comes to mind all fall into place so long as we keep this proper perspective.