This and That For the Soul…To What End?

        
        So much material written now a days about what’s good for the soul.  Some of it good advice no doubt.  Advice some of us try to apply to our daily lives, but which to few of us really commit, sort of like the diets we go on.  I’ve done my share of reading about what’s good for the soul and even given a shot at applying some of these suggestions.  And somewhere along the road I ask myself, to what end is what I’m doing good for my soul?  I’ve found that when it comes right down to it, only one thing I do is good in every aspect for my soul – – prayer.  I often tell my students that prayer is to the soul as water is to the body.  I believe there are times when no matter what we do, all the discussion, all the thought, all the logic, do nothing to help us get into that right inner place.  Only prayer can help us get there and keep us there.  How, when, and where we do it it’s all up to each individual, but how often we do it is the essential thing.  

        What a difference prayer can make in a moment, in 24 hours, in a lifetime.  You’d be surprised at its power.  And to what end?  Well, this life is good, but keep the fork because the best is yet to come.  Yes, as Christians, we should live our lives striving to reach this ultimate goal, eternal life, no?.  Prayer can get us there because through it the soul falls into place, into the right place, and like a domino effect, it affects everything else around us.  As believers, as faithful people, prayer is not an option.  Not if you want the best that’s yet to come.  So let prayer kick off the domino effect in your life.  No, really.


In case you’re not familiar with the expression “Keep the fork, the best is yet to come”:

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things “in order”, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say ‘keep your fork’. It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie or something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork?’. Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork….the best is yet to come”.

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

        So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come…

-by Connie Perez

Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks – Wyoming / South Dakota

Ahhhhh…Wyoming…my favorite state. Here’s the first of the “Exploring the National Parks” entries, although it was not the first national park we visited.  We made this trip back in 1999.  We started planning it with the sole intention of traveling to Wyoming just to visit Yellowstone National Park.  In the process, we learned there were other nearby sites which were too interesting to pass up.  Like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and Devil’s Tower and Grand Teton National Park, also in Wyoming.  From its broad high plains to its soaring mountains, Wyoming is a state like no other.

Yellowstone National Park:

Old Faithful                               Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Pool                    Bison
     

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, as the first national park in the United States.  It is located mostly in Wyoming, with parts of it extending into Montana and Idaho.  Yellowstone is known for the variety of wildlife living in the park, but mostly for the 300 geysers and 10,000 geothermal features found there.  Like Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the world, errupting every and Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the U.S.  There are also many hiking and horseback trails.  This national park is an amazing place!

General Info.:  http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/index.htm
                    http://www.wyomingtourism.org/cms/d/discover_wyoming.php

Accommodations: 
Inside the Park –
Old Faithful Inn
http://www.travelyellowstone.com/old-faithful-inn-96.html
Other:
http://www.nationalparkreservations.com/yellowstone.htm

Grand Teton National Park:

        Teton Range as viewed from Jackson Hole

      

Grand Teton National Park is home to one of the most recognizable mountain landscapes in the world, and it is located only a few miles south of Yellowstone National Park.  It is named after the Grand Teton, at 13,770 feet, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range, a fault-block jagged mountain front about 40 miles long.  This mountain range rises from the valley floor of Jackson Hole.  Jackson Hole is one of the biggest skiing destinations in the U.S. and one of the most visited summer playgrounds.  It is the cutest western town you’re ever going to see, complete with board sidewalks and chic stores. 

General Info.: http://www.wyomingtourism.org/
                   http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/index.htm
Jackson Hole – http://www.jacksonhole.com/?issue=iss05&pg=25&seq=k

Accommodations: 
Teton Village – 
Hotel Terra: http://www.hotelterrajacksonhole.com/
Jackson Hole – http://www.jacksonholeaccommodations.net/
Other – http://www.nationalparkreservations.com/grandteton.htm

[This entry is still under construction.  Check back again soon for complete post].

Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks

        There is something to be said about the effects of nature on the soul.  How it fuels the soul by allowing one to tune in to one’s “self” in a stage like no other.  And there is no better stage to experience nature than in a national park.

      To visit and explore a national park is to be in constant awe.  You can’t  help but marvel at these natural wonders.  They provide a playground for hiking, horseback riding, boating, and so many other activities.   The National Park System of the United States now comprises 390 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 49 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.  Places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Zion are all popular destinations and must-see parks, but so are some of the lesser known but equally amazing parks such as Black Canyon and Death Valley.

        Our national park quest began back in 1997 and, to date, we have visited most of the major national parks in the U.S., and two of Canada’s as well.  Our trips have created memories like no other, and have instilled in our children a love for America’s greatest places.  These have been unforgettable family trips for us.  I realize we have been blessed to have experienced these God-made wonders, and I highly recommend that you venture into at least one national park in your lifetime.  Here’s a link to the National Park Service:  National Parks – Find a Park.  It will provide you with a list of national parks to choose from, and information to plan your visit.  

        In the near future, I will begin posting additional “Exploring the National Parks” entries containing travel information and links on some of the great national parks we have visited.  Look for them soon.


                                           
                 
The National Park Conservation Association plays a crucial role in ensuring that these magnificent lands and landmarks are protected in perpetuity by, among other things, educating us about the importance of preserving the parks, and by helping to convince Congress to uphold the laws that protect the parks. I encourage you to become part of the NPCA to help protect our national parks for this generation and those to come.  Every little bit we do as individuals to help protect and maintain these natural wonders makes a difference, as our government has its hands full as it is with other important programs needing its funding.
     
                
                           To see a world in a grain of sand, 
                             And a heaven in a wild flower,
                         Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, 
                                  An eternity in an hour.
                                                        – William Blake

Travel for the Soul

              Travel for the Soul is a series of entries dedicated to my travel experiences.  In them I write about and describe a few of the places my family and I have visited, and include photographs and informational links as well.

        Every time we take a trip, one which takes us away from our daily routine, we have the opportunity to heighten our awareness, and thus, grow spiritually.  Every single time.  Whether or not we take advantage of that, is entirely up to each of us.  So I decided to create this series not only to share some of my trips with you, but mostly in the hopes that these entries may be helpful in planning some of your own getaways – hopefully some unforgettable experiences – the kind that will fuel your soul.

                                                                      HAPPY TRAVELS!
                              

  
Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.
~Rick Steves

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.
~Lillian Smith

Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes – with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience.  That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.
~Michael Critchton

Spiritual Awakening – Courtesy of a Defining Moment

        
        Some people are born faith-ready.  Mom reciting prayers before bedtime is their first memory of childhood.  Being taught the three Rs in Catholic school; arriving in this country on a Tuesday and having their first outing to Mass on that Sunday; involved in youth groups throughout the teens and young adult years; teaching Sunday school forever; no day can begin or end without a conversation with God.  Some people are born faith-ready.  I am one of those people.  And although my faith has ridden the rollercoaster on many occasions, there has been a constant familiarity with Christ that’s been ever so comforting.  [I owe this to my mother, the true pillar of strength and faith in my family].
  That’s great you may think, to have had that throughout life.  It may even impress you.  I’ll tell you what impresses me.  Those people who go through life for years not being sure where their faith, if any, belongs, and whose behavior denote exactly that.  But who, at a defining moment, courtesy of some other person or some act, see the light, and begin the journey, in the process transforming their life.

        Defining moments, most of us experience them at one point or another.  Could be about a job, a relationship, or could be spiritual.  The latter, the most life changing of all.  This can be eye opening and soul lifting, and most importantly, it can bring eternal life.  We need to understand and not doubt for a moment that we are instruments of God used at times to trigger these defining moments, so it is crucial that we walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  I’ve seen it happen.  Like the guy whose spiritual journey was set in motion because he loved the faith-filled girl he wanted to marry, and then stayed the course because he realized how he needs his God;
and like the friend who embarked on her journey for her children’s benefit, for her own, changing her trajectory and that of her family’s 180 degrees.  We all know people who could use Christ in their lives, praying for them is essential if we want them to recognize Christ and reach their defining moment.  But to lead someone to Christ we must act out our Christian life, and then ultimately trust God for the results.

        At this time when a new year draws near and so many of us look to make a fresh start, whether you were born faith-ready or you’ve been lucky to have already experienced your spiritual defining moment, let’s make our resolution to walk the talk as we never know when God will look to us to come up to the plate and touch someone’s life, setting off that awakening that leads to eternal life.

-by Connie Perez

                                 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13