Christianity

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Being Authentic… to Ourselves and Each Other

Published May 28, 2020 by Maryanne

Being Authentic: A Memoir by Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD

Review by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

While many people are complaining about being cooped up during the pandemic, I’m secretly rejoicing because I’ve been doing what I didn’t have much time for before—READING! Since the mid-March lockdown, I’ve read six books, all special in their own right.

Prior to writing this review, I questioned myself… Is it weird to say I can relate to a man who was born in Syria, two years after I graduated high school? A man who became both an MD and a PhD–whereas I struggled just to get my diploma?

First, I took the safe route and wrote the blog as a regular book review. However, after a re-read, my review appeared dull and stale. This author deserves so much more. After he exposed his deep feelings for all to read, I promised myself I should do the same. I do not see that as narcissistic, but rather compassionate. In this review I want people to see me as a person who can find something in common with almost anyone—male/female, young/older, rich/middle class/poor, black/white/mixed. Because this is what the world needs right now, to focus on what we have in common, rather than what sets us apart. (And, honestly, I’ve been quiet about politics for too long, so read on!)

Leo

Author, Morhaf Al Alchar, MD, PhD, and faithful companion, Leo! 

Morhaf Al Achkar has not reached his 40th birthday, yet he ponders death.

I question: Why is he thinking about this now? Perhaps because of his struggle with both Crohn’s disease and a stage four lung cancer; perhaps because he dealt with the devastating loss of his own mother at a young age; or perhaps because we are in the midst a pandemic, all of us facing a virus that has no cure yet. And so many people are at each other’s throats, making it political.

In his memoir, Dr. Achkar strives to be authentic—his true self. And that he is. His story is direct as he gets right to the point with no apologies. And he is vulnerable. There is absolutely no pretense. You do not feel like you are reading a book written by a doctor, with both an MD and a PhD. Instead, you are chatting with a brand new friend.

Growing up in Syria, in a family of nine children, Morhaf often locked himself in a room reading books. He was labeled the “philosopher of his family” by his father. Early on, one of his major struggles was living in a culture “with hypertrophied masculinity.” Men boasting of foolish things like beatings or shootings was the norm. There were also bullies and schoolteachers who were abusive. Wise beyond his years, Morhaf made sense of it all and did not let any of this hinder his growth as a human being. As a person who was also bullied, I relate to this.

Once I began sharing my story to others, I no longer felt shame, but rather a big relief—even empowered! When I read about other people being bullied, it’s a soft spot for me. I can’t help but get a lump in my throat. Then I immediately switch my brain to the good parts of one’s life; their triumphs!

The saving grace in this picture is Morhaf’s mother, a warm, trusting woman, but one of authority and one who greatly valued education. Reading about how his mom pushed Morhaf to take the first steps on the dance floor reminded me of my grandmother.

Grandma practically raised me since my parents were divorced and neither were around much. I think about a family reunion we had when I was about 12. My sister, cousins and I danced to the hired band. When the reunion came to an end, my grandmother encouraged me to “talk to them.” I was shy, but wanted to make Grandma happy, so with my older cousin, we went up to the stage and asked the musicians for their autographs. A parent or grandparent encouraging the kids to dance or talk to someone at a party is a great move to get a kid out of their shy shell.

Another way I relate to Morhaf is not being satisfied with religion and rituals. As a Muslim he reflects on his faith after his mother passes. I was raised without religion, so I had nothing to go by except the standards Catholic holidays that Italian families practiced. When I was 24, I met an older Filipino gentleman who became my mentor. Together we studied religions and philosophies from all over the world.

Remaining open-minded until I met some Christian friends, I decided to give Christianity a chance. But then after my grandmother died, I lost faith, the same way Morhaf felt his faith was faltering after his mother died.

I stopped going to church and celebrating any holidays that had to do with Jesus. When I returned to faith, I took it all with a grain of salt, saving the positive and discarding what seemed overbearing. I now believe in Jesus, but also Buddha, God, and The Universe.

Perhaps this is something people of all faiths go through, but not many admit. So once again, as I’m reading the book, I am grateful to Morhaf for his honesty.

Amongst his great successes, he has had his shares of disappointments too. His passion in activism inspired was an option to leave his family, but after failing a commission-based job, he returned home.

Some of the best times seem to be spent in America. At first, Morhaf lived in Columbus, Ohio with his sister and continued to study. He traveled extensively throughout the USA. In addition to his studies, he had fun adventures that young people experience like dancing, hookah nights, playing cards, consuming cheap drinks, and adopting a canine companion named Leo.

Sadly, dating was an issue, especially in Indiana, where he lived and where many women were prejudiced to his color and didn’t think twice about making racist remarks. It felt terrible to read this. I am sorry that many USA women put a bad taste in one’s mouth, but I want people from other countries to know we are not all that way.

I live in NJ, a democratic state where we are open-minded to making friends of all races and colors—without judgement. I know behind my back my conservative friends and family refer to me as a “Libtard.” It’s wrong and very hurtful.

As a spiritual person, I refuse to retaliate with words and placing derogatory memes on Facebook. Instead I pray for them. And I pray for our president, who I do not care for.

During the month Donald Trump was elected president, Dr. Morhaf was diagnosed with cancer. As a Syrian immigrant he felt affected by the ban on Muslims, fearing he would not be able to say goodbye to his family. He wrote a letter to speak of his struggles. It was published in a Huffington Post blog, entitled “Dear Mr. Trump, You Are Cancer and I Only Live If You Shrink!” The letter explained what it was like to live with what he had then perceived as a terminal illness and as a Syrian immigrant affected by the ban on Muslims. After writing the letter, he felt empowered and liberated him to engage with the Syrian struggle.

I suppose many have friends who have immigrated to the United States and have been affected by Trump’s stance. It is absolutely heartbreaking seeing families being broken up. I know one personally, and will leave it at that to protect their privacy.

Aside from the prejudice Morhaf experienced from American women, he has decided to stay single because he doesn’t want to be a burden to someone should his health fail. I seriously hope he changes his mind because true love is mending.

I’ve shared the story many times and am happy to share it again. When I first began dating my husband I was going to many doctors because I never felt right. A few doctors feared I had cancer. After many ultra-sounds, CAT scans, and countless opinions nothing was found. Seven months after dating my husband, I had one final test that showed I was cancer-free and perfectly healthy! A week later I felt better than I did my entire life! Having a supportive loving person by my side healed me. I believe that!

So, you can see why I’ve enjoyed “Being Authentic” so much. There’s enough to relate to, but also much to learn. And, that, is what a good book should be!

Morhaf’s reflections on life in his later years, while he is now, fortunately, in stable health, we see that he is a true humanitarian and invites others to be as authentic as he is. This is what I wanted from my book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You.” I want others to share their stories without feeling disgrace. The troubled times are what got you to where you are today. Always remember that.

When we look deep inside ourselves, and share our notions in writing, the reader gets a peek at our true soul. A reader may not “get it” entirely, but the more open an author is, the more we can learn about each other; and love each other. After all, deep down we are more alike than different. This is a book everyone can learn from. And Morhaf will be remembered for writing it.

To purchase “Being Authentic” (and have a sneak peek inside the book) please click on this link: Being Authentic

Follow Morhaf Al Alchar on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/morhafalachkar

95849294_2817039011678255_9072810759997620224_oBeing Authentic book cover

 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

In God We Have Got to Trust

Published July 16, 2016 by Maryanne

SAM_0654

Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

God is real. God is all things. God is one.

If this is the truth, you will find God everywhere when you seek Him; like in your home, or better yet your heart.

I officially became a Christian in the early 1990s. And it’s no secret that I also respect other faiths, especially Buddhism. (Other Christians seem to have an issue with that, but it’s their problem if they choose to be judgmental).

Other Christians may also have a problem with the fact that I go to more than one church and I do not go very often. Yeah, I’m “one of those” (that’s how a pastor, who I’ll refer to as “Pastor D,” phrased it).

You see, I had a “favorite” church for sometime. What I love about this church (where I’m a member, but still do not consider it a “home church”) is that they have services on Christmas Day unlike many other churches. Also, they have the best Good Friday service. These are the times when I truly love to praise Christ in an open-setting.

But my “favorite” church is missing a little something. I can’t quite pinpoint it, so I continue to seek. A few months ago I tried a new one. This is the one where Pastor D speaks. The first time I liked it. They had a great live band. It was low-key, as in people and the pastor wore jeans, and I really did enjoy the sermons.

Pastor D said that if I came to the church three times I’d get a t-shirt; which I never did receive after my third time. Then I missed a few weeks, because as I said, I’m not a frequent church goer; especially after the last service which happened to dwell on giving 10 percent of your salary to the church. Big turn-off.

Even without church I have a very close relationship with God. I pray a few times a day. In fact, it’s the first thing I do in the morning. My husband is equally as spiritual. We pray and meditate together, regularly. My husband goes to my churches with me on occasion; as I go to his on occasion. He still goes to the same church he did growing up.

In addition to going to my “favorite” church and the Pastor D church, I sometimes visit others, as well as the Dharma Buddhist Center. But all of this is no one’s business except God’s. 

So, for a few months after trying Pastor D’s church, every week I was hounded by him via FaceBook e-mails. “Are you and your husband coming this week?”

The answer was often a polite, “No, not this week.”

In addition to the emails, Pastor D also put me in two prayer groups on FaceBook and would message me on a regular basis. At least three of these messages were what Pastor D referred to as “butt calls” where he sat on his phone and my number dialed accidentally.

Pastor D was overwhelming. It seemed like I was being forced to go to church because every week I had to come up with an explanation as to why I wasn’t going. If I said, “I’m just not feeling it,” I’m sure that wouldn’t sit right with him and I’d have to explain further.

Truth be told, if I go to church, or any spiritual/religious organization, it’s because I want to go, not because I’m guilt-ed into it.

A few nights ago I was watching an episode of “Dating Naked” and the two main contestants had to let dates go because they were too possessive. This reminded me of when I was single. I never liked boyfriends who made me feel trapped or smothered; those who would pout and call me names if they didn’t get their way.

The way Pastor D was behaving in his emails brought back those ugly memories of relentless boyfriends and I felt so pressured, I couldn’t hold back my feelings anymore. I told him how I felt.

Like a spoiled child, he defended himself by writing, “Shut up! I’d rather be overbearing than have someone feel like they are unloved because no one is reaching out to them.”

If he actually took the time to READ my FaceBook page, he’d know how busy and how loved I feel. I have the greatest husband in the world. My friends are incredible. And I’m so blessed by God to have a career that I love so much I never want to retire!

Making someone feel suffocated isn’t “caring” — it’s obsessive. It’s manipulative. And it’s scary. It doesn’t bring someone closer to you (or God), it pushes people away. It’s like the telemarketer that never takes your name off the list. When someone or something is always in your face, you feel like puking your guts out. It does not feel good at all.

You have to let people be! God knows their heart and why they may not want to go to church. The best things in life take time to grow. You can’t expect someone to fall in love with a certain church overnight!

I felt so judged by this pastor and was very disappointed. I felt that him writing “Shut up” to me was so cruel and unprofessional.

I tried to rationalize and told him he wasn’t being very nice to me.

And again, like a cry baby, he overreacts and sends me a photograph of a dolphin’s tail waving “good-bye” to me. Very un-pastor-like!

Then faster than a greased rat’s ass, he unfriended me and took me off all his prayer groups on Facebook.

I was shocked. That was definitely was a first! I never in a million years would expect to be fighting with a pastor on a beautiful afternoon.

God gives us free will to choose and pastors should too. If pastors can’t trust in God and have to unfairly control people to go to church, they do not have good leadership qualities.

I’m hurt, but not broken. Behavior like this is exactly what turns people away from churches and Christianity in general. It’s so sad that Pastor D missed the point of what God is — free will.

Nevertheless, I stand strong in my faith and will continue to pray for God’s guidance. I trust He will let me know, whether He wants me in a church, or to pray from home as I’ve been. It’s His call, not mine. But it’s God that I trust. Not man. And I will continue my Christian practices, with my Bible  … in my home and in my heart. ❤

As for the pastor, I hope he’s asking for God’s forgiveness not only for the pain he caused me, but because had he done this to someone who wasn’t as strong in their faith as I am, he would have turned that person far away from God. This is the exact reason why people hate Christians. And sometimes you can’t blame them.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” — a POSITIVE rock ‘n’ roll memoir available on Amazon in paperback only: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

I Don’t Wear Yoga Pants

Published October 22, 2015 by Maryanne

bullshit

Ages ago, it was really cool to be spiritual … when no one else was.

I secretly studied the works of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky with a mentor. The catch metaphysics phrase of the 1980s was “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” And sure enough, at the age of 24, I met a man twice my age (though so wise he seemed even three times my age). We studied together intensely for eight months. During this time I stopped drinking, stopped clubbing, didn’t watch television and read over 100 books about various sources of spirituality including: Teachings of the Far East, Finding of the Third Eye, The Aquarian Christ, and Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.

Back then this knowledge was sacred. I covered my books in brown paper bags so no one would know what I was reading. I entered a journey beyond this world. It was a true blessing.

Then a few years later, I found Jesus Christ and became a Christian. Even knowing all this esoteric knowledge, I felt the strongest connection to Jesus. Nevertheless, unlike the stereotype Christian, I still drew from my knowledge of other cultures and religions and the really deep stuff like Gurdjieff. In 1989 I coined the phrase “spirit whore” meaning I was all over the place spiritually. I liked that a lot. Being non-committing and feeling safe in any place of worship.

Fast forward to the modern world. It’s no longer the 1980s and thanks to Oprah, the sacredness of spirituality has been brought to the masses. That would be fine, as it is the Age of Aquarius and people should know this stuff. HOWEVER … it’s a shame that Jesus Christ isn’t acknowledged in the mix. It’s cool to be anything but a Christian. So this is what these modern day new-agers use as a way to one-up: “I’m so worldly, I’m so spiritual, I’m better than you because you’re JUST A CHRISTIAN.”

It’s become a sad hip phrase for middle-aged women to make it KNOWN: “I’m spiritual, not religious.” It’s an ugly mantra I’ve been enduring for the past several years — said more and more frequently.

The “I’m spiritual, not religious” sing song haunts me as I try to sleep at night, so much so that I swear it must be a chant to bring satan out of hiding. It’s like chalk on a blackboard, just a pathetic way of saying, “I’m better than you.” URGH, how it makes me cringe! So much so that I’ve come up with the snarky phrase that I’m sharing all over social media:

“Spiritual not religious” gives middle-aged hipster women something else to do
… besides Whole Foods and Botox.
When something that was once beautiful has become so blown out of proportion that people are using it as a way to seem hip and condescending — I’m sorry, it’s not spiritual.
Perhaps these “spiritual” criers should seek out religion, if not for anything else, for balance.
They are too ignorant to realize that they are behaving the same as the holier than thou super-saved Christians who believe in a monstrous god who damns everyone to hell.
maryanne backI don’t wear yoga pants
But they are worse. They are disguised in designer clothing, yoga pants, botox, and hair straighteners. A new vision of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Modern new-agers are just as judgmental as super-saved Christians. And that ain’t nothing special.

 

Nailing the Last Four Commandments with Common Sense

Published April 4, 2015 by Maryanne

10 CommandmentsCharlton Heston as Moses

While Easter weekend is a time to honor Jesus Christ, it’s also a time to reflect on God and the Bible in general. I got to seriously thinking about The 10 Commandments and how easy it is to follow the last four if you simply mix psychology, common sense, and love for your fellow man.

7. You shall not commit adultery. There’s an old saying that when you cheat you cheat yourself. This couldn’t be more true. Whenever someone confesses to me that they are unhappy in their marriage and thinking of cheating, I remind them of the consequences. For example, if you already have a partner who is jealous, imagine how much more tragic your situation would be if you got caught cheating? Especially in divorce court!

Before you even THINK about other people, it’s best to end an undesirable situation first. Cheating is always a lose/lose. When people start putting others (and themselves) “second” nothing good ever comes out of it. Sneaking around isn’t “real” just a mere fantasy. When you cheat, no matter how much you think you’re “connected” you’re not. And while there’s the possibility that one party could decide to make it “real” and leave one partner to go with the other — the other will most likely lose interest because he/she didn’t really want you, he/she just wanted to play.

Cowards lie, sneak and cheat. Adults discuss things and find solutions to problems. If leaving is a solution, go for it; don’t drag an unsuspecting party into your mess because karma is a bitch and the truth always comes out.

When I met my husband, we were both available. No sneaking around, not hurting others, and no baggage! Just being together as much as we wanted was heaven. Almost 10 years later and we’re still so in love! And that’s about as real as you can get!

Mind you, we’re no better than anyone else; people fall in love every day. But you have to be in it to win it, so be a winner by starting with a clean slate.

8. You shall not steal. Of course if you steal goods and get caught, the law will take care of that. But what about stealing other things? Like time.

I’m a stickler for being on time. It says a lot about a person’s character. It says that you care about other people’s feelings. It says that we’re all equals and no one should wait for another person — not even a doctor. I’ve walked out of doctor’s offices if they made me wait too long.

Life is short and while you can do some amazing things while waiting (perhaps for some, finding comfort in their own thoughts or reading a book; perhaps for others, texting) it’s the most awesome feeling in the world when things run smoothly and on time.

I don’t like when people have to wait for me, it’s embarrassing. And when I wait for others, it makes me question how they feel about me: Does this person really want to spend time with me or am I a chore to them? But no matter how much others make me wait, I will never steal time if I can help it. It just feels like good karma! So I love this commandment. Thank you God!

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Gossip and storytelling never sat right with me. So much so that I created my own business just to get away from that.

When I was still on Face Book, I had a musician friend who was having a hard time with an ex wife who was bearing false witness against him. My heart truly went out to this man and his wife for having to deal with such garbage, in and out of court. I was once acquainted with another man who went through something similar and it was hell on earth for him. My heart bleeds for those who have had false witnesses against them. I couldn’t imagine ever doing such horrible things to an ex. Trying to destroy someone’s life, especially if they are no longer in yours is the most psycho thing ever. Man, I had some disturbing exes, but my best revenge was that I married someone a billion times better! And the exes that were good ones, I always wish well and have nothing but kind words for them.

But as I said earlier, the truth comes out and the good guy always wins. So if you can’t love one another, at least mind your own business and don’t start trouble.

10. You shall not covet. I’m nothing special, nor do I have much, so it hurts me deeply when others covet the little I have. I always said jealousy is an ugly disease. So is begrudging. When someone has something you want, don’t be jealous or begrudge — be HAPPY for them. This is the greatest lesson in life my Mom taught me early on. So many people struggle with jealousy, so I feel blessed that I’m not a jealous person. But honestly, not being jealous is the easiest thing to do. Just live in a state of love, where you like to see good things for others because that is when others will be best for you — when they are happy! It’s just a win/win. Not everyone has the same path in life and we can’t always be on top. While many people insist misery loves company, I’m the opposite. When I’m down, I want my friends to share their good news with me — because that always makes me happy. And, hey, isn’t happiness better than war?

Happy Easter!

Whether you celebrate or not, embrace the contact high,

for He has Risen!

Jesus LambJesus Christ, the Lamb of God

 

Jesus Comments Accepted and Welcome Here!

Published June 24, 2013 by Maryanne

Jesus

I just stopped following a blog I regularly follow because the person was putting down Christianity and I defended my religion. Sad to say, my moderated comment was never accepted.

Second time this week, mind you.

I think it’s beyond pathetic how people like to keep Jesus in the closet because they feel that it’s not “cool” to be a Christian. It’s A-OK  to be a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a pagan, or an atheist or a satanist … but God forbid you talk about God or Jesus!

Well, let me enlighten you. Nothing is cool. Cool is OUT. So you can all re-think your mission of keeping Jesus in the closet. Because even though you never accepted my moderated comment, it’s not going to stop me from posting about my Savior here.

SO WHAT DID MY UNACCEPTED MODERATED COMMENT SAY?

That NOT ALL CHRISTIANS  judge people!

That the pastor at my church does a lot of interfaith work.

That on Martin Luther King Day, our church joined with another church to give a service. My pastor spoke. So did a rabbi. So did a priest. The good word, is the good word, no matter who delivers it!

That there are cars parked in front of my church that have pagan “co-exist” bumper stickers on them and that is FINE because my church welcomes EVERYONE!

That I — A CHRISTIAN — have done more for gay/bisexual/transgender rights than any other straight person or Buddhist or athetist or fill-in-the-blank new-age hipster of the momenteer that I know!

What have YOU done for anyone lately?!

But I can talk until I’m blue in the face because people have to have their silly, ultra-ridiculous Christian stereotypes embedded in their pea brains because they need something to poke fun of to make themselves feel better about themselves. Ain’t that always the way. And of course we live in a “me, me, me” world, so people can’t have anyone say anything about anything unless it isn’t directly about THEM.

“Oh, not my religion, let me make sure everyone knows that!”

“Oh, I’m not religious at all … gotta get that out there … don’t want anyone to mistake I might be Christian.”

“Oh, it’s not hip to be Christian. No, can’t have that. No, I’m cool! I’m cool!”

“I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.”

WHATEVER! I’ve heard it ALL!

How many posts I wrote about my positive experiences in church and people just have to share that Christianity ISN’T their religion. It’s like they can’t press “like” and be happy for me without also expressing that is NOT their religion. Maybe if they fail to do so the world will combust and they will die tomorrow or something. Who knows?!

But this anti-Christian trend has to stop. It’s annoying. We, as Americans, put down people for being racists, so let’s do the same for religion-ists who hate Christians!

People fear Christianity because they see it as some sort of judging religion, when here they all are, the pots calling the kettles black by being ever so haughty themselves with their condescending put downs towards Christianity.

Well, with this post, I’m taking Jesus out of the closet! I don’t moderate comments about Jesus. Fellow Christians, feel free to share your positive stories here.

With 500+ people clicking on my blog each day, I think the word will be spread pretty quickly.

YEAH!

Someone had to say it, guess it was me!

I-love-God

 

cool-chris2t

 

Happiness Now!

Published June 1, 2013 by Maryanne

Happiness

While I always have so many exciting things going on in my life, it’s also important not to overlook the little things that make me happy from day to day. So here’s a little list of the “little” things that have been going on the past few days … in no particular order.

1. I think it’s so great that several people who aren’t on WordPress have created accounts to comment on my blogs (and some from several months back, which is so super cool to know someone likes your blog enough to go back and read previous months!) YEAH, go me!

2. Yesterday I was in a boutique and found a great outfit, including shoes and earrings, for a wedding on Sunday. I love boutiques — not malls. I love the personal touch. I love how in a boutique the owners will run around for you, scouting out the perfect shoe for your outfit. It makes you feel like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” every time!

3. Twice this week I was told — in person (not on the internet) that I  look younger than I am. Once I heard 29 (from a woman around my age) Another time I heard 35 (from a teenage girl). I am 49! So good health habits definitely pay off!

4. I FINALLY got around to learning how to give communion to the home bound. So — YAY — I am now officially part of the Caring Ministry! I also offered to make phone calls to the home bound who may be lonely.

5. MY CAT BILLY IS GETTING HEALTHY AGAIN! I am so happy!! Billy who is 19 was not doing too well. But thanks to some medication recommended by the vet, he is walking better, eating more and no longer hiding! This cat will definitely live to see 20. I am beyond psyched!!

6. I was so inspired by a 15-year-old girl who came to our door selling cookies and candles last night. She had a top notch personality to begin with and she seemed to really like my husband and I because she kept talking to us. One thing she said really touched my heart and soul. She said that she gave a free box of cookies to a mother of an autistic child and paid for it out of her own pocket. She said, “I know how hard life can be.” She also had asthma but was working so hard in the heat. She was such a little doll and so good hearted, I just wanted to adopt her right then and there. At the end of our conversation, I said, “I HAVE to give you a hug!” and I hugged her. Kids like that are the best!

7. I’ve said it before, and I have to say it again — my husband is just the best! It’s such a blessing to have someone constantly on your side, doing so much to make your life happy. He’s just too good! We never take each other for granted. We always call and email each other during the day and send each other pictures of cute animals, make up silly songs for each other. My heart still races when he comes home from work! I LOVE YOU DENNIS!

8. May 2013 was the best money-making “May” since I started my business in 2009! And 80 percent doing what I love best, WRITING! (The other 20 percent of my money was made managing my entertainers and one author). And the beauty of it all is, I’m not busting my ass either. I’ve had many days off, sometimes even four days in a row (not including the holiday weekends) which gave me some extra time to visit church and go to bible studies during the week. NICE!

I love all the editors I am currently working with and all my musical clients and the author. Life is just so perfect when you can work with people you love and respect, even when during times it’s not perfect.

9. Last night I dreamed my grandmother was alive again! She went to a scary movie that I recommended and thanked me for the recommendation. (The movie dream was so scary it woke me up — but then I was able to get up and do some work at 5 a.m. and I love the early mornings!)

10. It’s June and I have at least FOUR concerts to look forward to this month, starting with Jay & the Americans at the IZOD tonite!

There are a lot more, but I’ll stop here because the sun is shining so brightly in my office window and I want to get this wonderful day started!

 

Happy Birthday Tommy James!

Published April 29, 2013 by Maryanne

tommy-james-and-mary-anneTommy James, Maryanne, 2011

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite artists, Tommy James!

In honor of his birthday, I am directing you to a blog I wrote last year on my other blog page, “Maryanne’s Jukebox” which describes my first experience going to see Tommy James perform back in 2010, and at the end includes an article I wrote about him that was published in several Patches online.

I truly feel that seeing Tommy James perform “Crystal Blue Persuasion” live planted a seed in me becoming a Christian. One day I was sitting in my car and heard “Crystal Blue Persuasion” started breaking down in tears and at that moment rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. Then just a few years later, I found my home church.

(Interesting side note, today I found a Christian magazine that needs writers — such a coincidence on Tommy James birthday! I’ll let you know what happens!)

Please enjoy my Jukebox page about Tommy:

http://maryannesjukebox.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/tommy-james/

When Christians Judge – Part Two

Published April 7, 2013 by Maryanne

Sissy Spacek - CarrieSissy Spacek “Carrie”

The past two days I was thinking a lot about how Christians turn people away by being judgmental, haughty and condescending.

If someone goes to another with a problem, it should be handled with love. It should not be taken as an opportunity to come across as Holier than Thou, making someone feel weak and small.

When I think of judgmental Christians, it reminds me so much of Piper Laurie’s character in “Carrie.”

Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aUzos0VZzk

It’s funny, but more so it’s sad.

When I think of judging Christians, I think it’s a missed opportunity to bring someone to Christ. It turns people off and makes them not want to be lumped in with others who are that way.

I know first hand because I was there myself. It took me a very long time to learn to focus on Christ, the church, the lessons — not the people, and especially not those who judge. We can say, “We’re human and we make mistakes” but honestly, I know so many people that aren’t as religious and spiritual but they are more inspiring because they really walk the walk.

This is why I always felt that God is an umbrella term for all things good and can come in the forms of many religions. This is why I am so proud that my church worked with other faiths on Martin Luther King Day and my pastor spoke in another church that also had a priest and a rabbi speak.

God is so vast that His black and white goes so far that it’s gray. God isn’t limited to one political belief. God isn’t a “cult” just for a bunch of followers who think you have to be a certain way to believe in Him. God is for everyone no matter where they are at in life.

Several months ago I was following “Couples Therapy.” There was a beautiful young woman on the show named Courtney Stodden. Courtney was just 17 and dressed very sexy. She also married a man who was old enough to be her dad.

Courtney is a Christian.

Maybe not someone you’d typically see in church because she is very outrageous in her style, but yes, she was a Christian. I adored watching Courtney on “Couples Therapy” because she was wise beyond her years, she was extremely kind to animals and she nurtured her husband in a way that was truly comforting. She was also very warm and loving to other couples on the show, but they were mean, judging her because of jealousy. I always felt bad for the kid and just wanted to give her a big hug. The others on the show were at least 10 years older than her, yet they judged her terribly without giving her a chance. And of course Courtney would get defensive and antagonize people who judged her. What do you expect? She was only 17!  How would you have reacted if people judged you at age 17? Right?

Courtney was an inspiration to me and she planted a seed.

Courtney StoddenBeautiful Courtney Stodden and husband Doug

My point is, and always was, even before I became a Christian — that you judge people by their soul, not by their clothes, their political beliefs, who they are dating, what kind of music they listen to, and even what their religion is — because in the end, it’s all God.

If God is always with you, then you can live each day seeing the beauty of things around you. Whether it’s your funny mom who is always cursing or that one oddball at a party who doesn’t quite fit in or a person in your work place that rubs you the wrong way … it’s up to YOU to up your game and make people feel wonderful and beautiful and welcome.

Your life can be anything you want it to be and judging others never gets someone very far because he/she is alienating and creating a clique, making Christianity seem exclusive and only for the select — when the message of God and Jesus Christ should be for EVERYONE!

Respect other religions and they will respect yours.

Respect people no matter what they look like and they will see the beauty in you! (Note: I’m just an average looking middle-aged woman, but so many people say that I’m good looking … well, it’s not me that’s pretty — it’s MY SOUL! I have a beautiful soul, that’s what you’re seeing.)

So there you have it …you never know who or what will inspire someone so don’t judge them because God is using them in ways you may not be open-minded enough to understand, but hopefully will be someday. While I had a few friends who inspired me to turn to Jesus, and I was so inspired by Tommy James, his beautiful song, “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” about Jesus Christ and yes, I was also inspired by Courtney Stodden! YAY! Thanks to all these seeds that were planted, now the tree is SOLID! I wake up every morning read the Bible and feel a true connection with Jesus Christ — thanks to all these little things over a few years, all adding up to one big thing!

People come to God in all ways — so we need all different types of Christians to inspire them!

Enjoy this beautiful song by Tommy James, it’s about Jesus:

Crystal Blue Persuasion

If this post inspired just ONE PERSON to not judge and to open their heart,  then it was worth typing all of this at 8 a.m. with only five hours sleep because I had so much fun last night being a Christian in the real world!

God bless and Happy Sunday!

Service of Darkness

Published March 30, 2013 by Maryanne

Service of Darkness

Last night, accompanied by my husband, I attended my first “Service of Darkness” as a Christian.

It was powerful.

It was done so well that it was easy to let your imagination take over and feel that you were right there, watching Jesus as he died and bled blood and water.

The service began with one of my favorite classical tunes: Gymnopedie No. 1 by Eric Satie (my favorite classical composer).

Prayers were spoken,hymns were sung, the choir performed, bible verses were read and the seven last words of Jesus were read as seven candles were extinguished throughout the service.

The first word: “Father, forgive them.”; Luke 23:32-38: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The second word: “Truly, I say to you …”; Luke 23:39-45: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The third word: “Women, behold, thy Son”; John 19:23-27: “Here is your son. Here is your mother.”

The fourth word: “My God, my God”; Mark 15:23-39: “Why have you forsaken me.”

The fifth word: “I thirst”; John 19:28-29 “I thirst.”

The sixth word: “It is finished.”; John 19:30-37 “It is finished.”

The seventh word: “Father, into your hands …”; Luke 23:44-56 “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

After the seventh candle was extinguished, you heard the closing of the tomb. And the church was dark.

We adore you, O Christ, we bless you, by your holy cross you have redeemed the whole world.

All left the church in silence.

Anticipating Easter

Published March 28, 2013 by Maryanne

Easter 2011Easter 2011

(Note the bunnies on my dress! And the scarf is Peter Max!)

In just a few minutes I’ll be off to church for Maundy Thursday; tomorrow night I’ll be in church again for Good Friday and again on Easter Sunday. One of my favorite places to be and I get a triple dose this week — yay!

Pastor Carol’s services are so creative, I can’t wait. She’s the best!

This is my first Easter as a Christian and I am looking forward to the intensity of the services as we approach Easter Sunday.

After church on Sunday, my husband and I will be dining at Park & Orchard restaurant (http://www.parkandorchard.com/Home.html) where we spent our Easters since 2011. I’ve been going there since the 1980s and it’s one of my favorite New Jersey restaurants. I’ll probably go for the dairy and wheat-free lasagna.

For those who celebrate, I want to wish all of you a very Happy Easter. I love chicks and bunnies and chocolate too, but please take a moment to reflect the true meaning of the Easter season.