Becoming

In our courtyard orange and grapefruit trees bear flowers and fruit at the same time. It is amazing and wonderful. The scent of the orange blossoms draws me outside to delight in the warm sunshine and the fragrance perfumed air. Flower & Fruit

The purpose of the oranges and grapefruit is all there at the same time; shiny green leaves, white flowers and bright orange and yellow grapefruit. In most other plants and trees, we see the progress, from seed to seedling, leaves on a growing tree, flowers and eventually the ripening fruit. LifeCycle of a FruitTree

But Citrus are evergreen trees grow all year-round. Though they produce flowers in the spring in AZ, blooming now, the long season required to produce the sweet, juicy fruit  we love so much means that the fruit I see on the trees began last year and is still ripening at the same time the new flowers are blooming.

These oranges and grapefruit are always becoming on the same tree. The flower knows what it is becoming.

Oranges & Flowers

This sense of knowing who we are is the essence of becoming, it is the journey of self- discovery and the fulfillment of our special purpose. Agnes Sanford, (1897-1982) was an unconventional Christian mystic and a healer. In her biography, Sealed Orders, she chronicles her gradual realization that she was commissioned by God to be a healer. She preached and lived her commission. She became a world renowned healer.

Agnes Sanford' Autobiogropy - Sealed Orders

The Lenten season compels us to find new meaning for our lives. Like the spring season it can be a time of spiritual flowering and bearing fruit. A time for being lead from an inward knowing and becoming. If we choose to be in the process of growing spiritually, this is the season for continually seeking and finding God’s presence in our daily affairs.

It is good to reflect on the origins and traditions of Lent. The Gospels do not mention Lent so we can presume that the origins of Lent did not begin with them. The early Church Fathers initiated a time of preparation for baptism, . (See Baptism as Illumination in the Early Church — St. Justin Martyr, Justin Martyr’s apology)

By the early third century rituals and practices of preparing for baptism on Easter Sunday morning became the accepted practice for becoming a Christian. The three stages of preparation for becoming a Christian were established by the third century. The first stage of coming to faith involved an examination of the circumstances under which the convert came to faith, the testimony of sponsors, and the convert’s promise to live as a believer. I was surprised by length of the second stage:  a full three years of cathetical training. And the third stage also surprised me by its rigorous demands. More examinations (under auspices of the bishop), to determine whether the candidate had lived piously and done good works, took the form of a full week of daily exorcisms, services, prayers, fasting on the final Friday and Saturday, and an all-night vigil of prayer and Scripture reading leading to baptism at Easter dawn. However, by the latter part of the fourth century the church re-defined the preparation or training-time for converts to forty days before Easter. That was a relief. Over time, the Lent season, became a preparation and re-dedication to Christian life and associated with “giving-up” worldly things, denying self. Baptism

Today, Lent is practiced in a variety of ways in different ways Christian denominations. Growing up in a Hungarian neighborhood, I often heard my Catholic friends ask, “what did you give up for Lent?” For me, a Baptist and later a Swedenborgian Lenten “giving up” held little meaning.  To be honest, I felt a little superior and even critical of my friends. “Giving up” something delightful for Lent, like going to parties seemed hypocritical since they could hardly wait for Easter to resume their pre-Lenten activities. In those days Lent made no sense to me. I was not into reflection but now, I question the negative emphasis of Lent. If my focus in Lent is on self-denial, then I should choose something worth giving up; like being critical and just as surely I should not make Easter the day to return to my old habit of being overly critical.  I seek an affirmative Lent, resolving to do some useful and kind acts and doing them with gladness. In this way I am becoming more Christian, bearing both flower and fruit. Then, when Easter comes, I will discover a new love for being kind and patient growing in me. According to the Apostle John, Jesus encourages his followers to become branches on the vine “bearing fruit”, one that always bears fruit.

The beautiful orange I pluck from the tree is juicy, fragrant and sweet through and through. We are meant to become good fruits through and through, inside and outside.  Swedenborg in his Heavenly Secrets, reveals a deeper meaning of “fruitful”, one that I cherish. I feel blessed to be nourished by these sweet fruits. Like the fruit I enjoy this spring, this Lenten season, I dedicate myself  to becoming a blessing like the fruits I enjoy so much.

Fruits and flowers

Fruits and flowers

 

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Gabriella was born in Budapest Hungary. Some of her family still resides in Hungary. After escaping the Communist regime in the aftermath of the 1956 Revolution, Gabriella's family settled in Cleveland OH. She graduated from Cleveland Heights High School and attended college but did not earn a degree. She met her husband in Devon PA, and soon they were married and began family life in PA. Only a few years married, John and Gabriella moved to FL to be with Gabriella's aging parents. Two o their three children were born Florida. After the children began school, Gabriella volunteered in schools and libraries. Her love for swimming drew her into the world of aquatics. Part time coaching jobs evolved into career aquatic management. Her children out of the home, Gabriella worked full time as an aquatic manger, coach and swim instructor. In 2001, John and Gabriella's plans to ease into retirement in Tucson changed drastically when John suffered a heart attack in 2002. John’s amazing recovery after bypass surgery allowed Gabriella to seek a new career. It was a life changing experience for both of them. Gabriella returned to school at the University of AZ and John took over household responsibilities. A shift occurred in their lives. Gabriella felt called to become a spiritual care provider. Preparing for seminary, she chose interdisciplinary program, combining Psychology, Family and Religious Studies. She graduated with honors in 2006. Gabriella and John moved to Berkeley for her to begin seminary at the Pacific School of Religion. Gabriella was accepted on the ordination track in the Swedenborgian Church of North America. Her goal was to becoming a chaplain. John's health crisis necessitated a move from Berkeley back to Tucson in 2008. Gabriella transferred to Earlham School of Religion to complete the Master’s program. In her senior year, working in required Supervised Ministry, Gabriella created a dual ministry; Circle Community, a sharing, praying and studying support group and worked as a crisis advocate in Tucson area hospitals. Most of her family was present in Cincinnati OH when Gabriella was ordained in July 2012. In July of 2011 she was ordained in the Swedeborgian Church and accepted a call to be the pastor of the New Church of Southwest FL. Soon after her ordination Gabriella accepted a call to become the pastor to the New Church of Southwest FL in 2011. John, a VA patient needed comprehensive medical care unavailable in Fort Myers. For Gabriella ministry begins at home. Once again new a health crisis changed their life. They moved back to Tucson AZ. Back in Tucson, Gabriella found ministry opportunities with Circle Community, did workshops and conducted weekly Prayer Meditations at Rincon U.C.C. She completed a course in Spiritual Direction at the Hesychia School for Spiritual Direction. In mid October 2012, Gabriella began to work as a Chaplain for Harmony Hospice. The job all she had expected. She found great satisfaction working with patients and their families. Gabriella left the per diem position with Harmony for a full time job with Valor HospiceCare. Here too, she worked with grieving families, conducted grief support groups and lead Community Memorial services during the same time that her husband's health was spiraling downwards. Gabriella resigned her job to care for John in the last months of his life. John died in April 2014. Life became chaotic. An intense search a chaplain position in Tucson and other parts of the country was unsuccessful. Peers suggested Gabriella look into open churches with the Swedenborgian Church. She candidated in Kansas with two churches. She was called to pastor the Pretty Prairie and Pawnee Rock churches in July 2014. A new life began with the move to rural Kansas. In August 2014, Gabriella began to serve as the Pastor of the two churches.

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