In the U.S., block or street parties are normally held either during spring or fall seasons of the year. Block parties are undertaken primarily to give the community of a particular neighborhood a chance to be together and get acquainted of their respective culture and tradition. In NYC, it is observed that in a specific neighborhood for instance, people from all walks of life get together in a non-political event setting and socialize among themselves, an opportunity to gain new friends and raise public's awareness of how diverse the community is.
Our parish community held a block party for its parishioners and friends last week with rides, games, beer garden, food, entertainment and music for all. It was like a mini-international heritage day, as people from all walks of life came, to show case their native food, culture and traditions from their countries of origin. We all know that NYC has amazing community, just like our parish, composed of migrants from all corners of the globe. Everyone was cooperative and excited to prepare for the party and some of them donated food to share and sell them at a discount, proceeds of which accrued to the parish for worthy causes. While the weather during the day was erratic, warm and sunny day in the morning, with scattered rain showers in the late afternoon, overall it was a success. There were some entertainment, a music band, a choir and some folk dances for the crowd to see.
Take a peek of what our parish offered in the party.
It was fortunate that Harold Camping's rapture prophecy which fell on the same day didn't come true. Otherwise, there could have been no party at all! Only God knows when is Judgment Day, right folks? The only judgment which came after the event was that your poor blogger friend didn't win the raffle prize, a brand new IPAD 2, which would have been useful in her blogging activities. (sigh!)
By the way the light dance, according to the audience was superb, classy and exquisite!!! Hooray guys!!!
Each of us is endowed with unique capabilities, gifts and talents. The difference would be on how we unleash and use the said talents. Normally, these talents are innate in us, it comes naturally and since it is a gift that is bestowed on us by God, regardless of our beliefs, we're supposed to hone and give it back to glorify Him and eventually share the same with others through various ways.
Having a good singing voice is one of the many natural attributes given us. By singing, you get to learn to speak to people, be it in small or large crowds, entertain them, gain new friends, admirers or even your own fans if you're in the entertainment business. However, there are other singers, despite of lack of formal education in music, are called to serve God by becoming a composer or arranger of spiritual songs, a preacher thru Gospel songs, a parish musical director, a choir head or simply a member. Talent in singing and other related field in music (e.g. playing musical instruments) are gifts to us which can be applied in church related activities and if we have these, we should be grateful and generous enough to share the same as not everyone is gifted with such a natural treasure. Just like any talent, each one has to develop, sharpen and partake it with everyone to make it more purposeful. As mentioned in myusefultips previous blog on choir organization, singing God's praises in any forum be it in the liturgy or in other spiritual group gatherings, is likened to praying twice especially if you sing the said songs from the heart.
There are only a few of versatile song writers and singers of spiritual songs throughout the world who have been blessed to be able to inspire people, particular the young ones, either to do the same thing as they do or just bring them closer to the Lord .
One example is Mr. Steve Angrisano, an American who has been very dynamic and mobile from the time he was laden with such a responsibility to proclaim God's words through his songs and by singing the same and other liturgical songs. The same is true with Mr. Arnel de Pano (not the other “Arnel” of Journey!), a Filipino who writes and sings for the LORD as well. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Arnel Pineda, also a Filipino. I admire him as well for being such a total performer. For those who doesn't know Arnel Pineda as of yet, the guy is the lead vocalist of the famous American rock band “Journey”.
I was fortunate to attend two separate concerts and witness the performances of Msrrs. Angrisano and de Pano here in NYC and yep, they do possess good vocals . Both of these guys are veteran song writers and articulate as well. They both exude happy and pleasing personalities, reflective of their love for the Lord. Two of the more popular songs of Steve Angrisano which I've heard in church are “Go Make a Difference” and “Sweet Redeemer” (one of my favorites). For Arnel de Pano, he was able to compose and arrange a beautiful song, “Lead Me Lord”, which is popular for some choir groups, and some other equally magnificent pieces.
The photos below may not do justice to their songs but the message they would like to convey to us makes it more substantial. These guys indeed utilized their talents the right way! The real Maestros!
According to Church teachings, there are 6 seasons in the Church Liturgical Year, namely: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Three Days or ( Triduum), and Easter.
For purposes of this blog, the discussion shall focus on Lent, including the Three Days, based on personal knowledge since childhood up to this time. I may not be in a position to discuss its merits in full-length as I am neither a part of any religious congregation nor a theologian/ scholar who is an expert in Canon Law. However, my humble understanding on the subject, acquired through experience and study (with 12 Theology units in college and Religion subjects in high school which were by the way a “must” and part of the curriculum) is pretty much sufficient to blog concisely on this matter.
Let me digress a bit by giving you an “itsy-bitsy” of what I know about the Lenten season before I go on with my story. Briefly, the Lenten season starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on the evening of Holy Thursday. The succeeding days before Easter Sunday is called “Three Days” or Triduum (a period of 3 days of prayer) and it is considered as the Church' greatest celebration and the most holy season of the year as it focuses on the “Paschal Mystery”, that is the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Note that I put emphasis on the 3-days as I've browsed some articles, one of which was published in one of NYC's major online daily blog newspapers very recently and it failed to mention about this important part of the church year. The said article merely referred the entire period as Lenten season which should not be the case. I would prefer not to go through the technicalities and the rationale for the so-called 3-days, which serves as the “bridge”, so to speak, between Lent and Easter but for those who have inquisitive minds, I would advise you to consult your spiritual directors or start to read appropriate related books on the subject, preferably with an “imprimatur” from authorized church people.
In my childhood days, I had this strange feeling that during Lent, particularly on Holy Week (in which the last days of the week is referred as the Triduum) everything seemed gloomy: from the atmosphere to its inhabitants. The surroundings appear to be sober, people go to church and pray, and some commercial establishments, especially bars and entertainment stuffs, are in fact closed especially during Good Friday. I recall my parents, specifically my Mom would always tell us to be “prim and proper”-as in no boisterous laughing, no playing, singing, dancing or any form of enjoyment. Believe it or not, we're even told not to take a bath during “Good Friday”, particularly after the clock struck at 3 pm (the time at which Jesus Christ is traditionally believed to have died). Oh Yes, it was the normal situation in our home during Holy Week, and if we're caught having a good time, she would call our attention uttering this phrase “ Oh, so you would want to follow the footsteps of “Pontius Pilate” or “Judas Iscariot” . As we always take seriously our parents advises, we would then keep quiet, ponder on what they said, and visualize what happened to Jesus particularly, when going over the 14 Stations of the Cross. Of course, we didn't want to be”Pilates” and Judases”, as it was instilled in our innocent minds that these people were pictured as or were actually the bad guys, the key players in the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. My own naivety made me think that every time Holy Week comes, Jesus is actually being persecuted and it made the story more dreadful.
However, despite the sadness in the surroundings, deep in my heart there was peace and happiness, probably because it was one of the precious times that all of us are off for a vacation to be together, go to church and be cleansed and forgiven for our sins through the sacrament of Penance, and lastly it could also be due to the fact that after Lent, the following Sunday would be a great feast, a special treat for all of us, sumptuous food on the table or a good swim in the beach. As mentioned in my blog last year, there are Easter religious rituals and celebrations in our church and in our family which made the ambiance more unique, upbeat and joyful.
As time goes by and as I've learned to face the outside “world”, I came to know that the Lenten season for some people is both a welcoming opportunity and bothersome, depending on one's perspective, particularly in this modern culture. It is a welcoming opportunity for people who looks forward to celebrating the feast with the whole community, offering sacrifices and asking mercy and forgiveness for the sins committed, both past and present. On the other hand, for “non-conformists” who may be in a miserable state as far as their spiritual lives are concerned, but may be happy though in their personal lives depending on one's standards, this time of year could serve as an annoying reminder to re-think and renew their lives, that is, to give up the bad habits or bad relationships they're currently in which cuts their friendship with God. Even with this, the guilty conscience seems not to be working as some would decide to avoid the same. In fact, some would even take a vacation just to forget about the said event and that makes the situation sad as they failed once again to welcome the Savior in their hearts.
Just like you guys, I am definitely not perfect, It's hard, but I'm striving everyday. I could be skeptical at times in certain ideologies, specifically in present contexts of the so-called “giving-up” only in times of Lent. I know it's hard to give up something especially if that particular “thing” (material possessions), “habit” (any form of excessive addictions, corruption practices, etc.), “person” (morality aspect: envy, lust, pride, etc.) are already embedded in one's personal system. It takes a lot of sacrifice to get rid of all these particularly if it's in there. We have this notion that the word “sacrifice” is only for “martyrs” and that “practicality” in any aspect is the name of the game these days. However, through the years, I've come to the point in my life that sacrificing a darn thing for love of God is the worthiest of all the worthy causes. In short, it is relatively easy to give up a treasured thing, habit or a particular person if we have greater love for God.
As some experts said, Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten”, which means spring. We all know that in spring time, everything is on the brink of blooming after a long winter's hibernation. Precisely, it must also be one of the reasons why the church called this season, “Lent”, primarily to ensure that our spiritual growth is on the right track. If we have bodily needs, our spiritual life needs food too. As such, our respective churches' authorities who guide and mold us to be better persons are encouraging us to pray more, for ourselves and for other people in need. We are being asked to offer sacrifices, to share what we have with others. We are given so many heavenly opportunities, we are encouraged to go back to God and turn away from sin, and lead a good renewed life. And that makes the Lenten season BEAUTIFUL, just like springtime!
How about you? How's your”Lent” I mean your”Spring”going?
Believe it or not, this is the fist time in my life that I have been extra conscious of my hair.
Before, I just couldn’t care less how my hair looked as long as it was clean, smelled good, and tolerable (not horrible!), then that was it! . Businesses involve in beauty salons and hair care products may have gone into insolvency if all of the women have followed my footsteps. I am just the type of person wherein beauty salons and parlors were not part of weekly agenda.
When I was in my teens, I wore a real long straight soft manageable hair – the length went down to even below my waist, then started to gradually cut it short after my college graduation. My hair’s evolution for the past decade rangesfrom a slightly below shoulder length to a shorty-shorty “twiggy” style of hair, which is what I have now.In the past, I used to wash my hair with all the kinds of shampoos being advertised in the tri-media. However, there were also times that I would use some natural products which I have seen from other people and used by my mother like the coconut milk and aloe vera leaves (“sabila”) which I simply picked from one of our plants.
But I have to face the reality that the ticking of my biological clock is not going backwards and as previously mentioned in my first statement , it is about time to take a look at my hair, to give it a special TLC (tender loving care) treatment, so to speak! Even when I was young, I was quite aware already that the hair is a very vital aspect of looking good. We have come across this old saying that the “Woman’s Hair is Her Crowning Glory”. This is one of the maxims in life that I quite believe in.For most women, having and craving for good hair is universal. This desire is beyond boundaries and as much as possible, women want to have a soft, shiny and manageable hair, that begs to be touched —-like one that we see in theads!And,why not?
Okay, call it vain or superficial, but when our hair is beautiful , you feel a wee bit better above the rest, you feel well and your confidence and prestige become high —there’s a sort of a WOW factor that oozes in your personality! This may also be the reason why some men are attracted to women with beautiful hair! Hmmmn….
I’m all thumbs up with what technology and “beauty magicians” can do for women’s hair especially those who are in showbiz and entertainment world. They frequent their hair stylists who are apt to using state-of-the-art hair tools (e.g. hair dyers, flat irons ,waxes, hairsprays, mouses, extenders, steam something and other products) which may have adverse effects on their hair health.
As I am not an advocate of the said artificial hair paraphernalias, my helpful tips will focus on the natural ways and means on how to maintain a healthy hair regardless of age and stature in life.
USEFUL NATURAL HEALTHY HAIR TIPS:
1.Brush/Comb your hair before washing/shampooing – Most of us are quite familiar with this – this is a very basic step. This is to wash away the accumulated dirt especially if you don’t shampoo your hair everyday. In my case, I prefer to use comb since I have thin fine strands of hair. In my younger days, I used to comb my hair with my head upside down with the belief that the nutrients I get from the food I ate during the day will go to my head and eventually to my hair. Funny yes, but it’s tested and proven by many!
2.If you have dry hair, you may opt to give an oil massage to your hair once a month or often depending on the need and nature of your hair. However, instead of putting oil, you may simply massage the scalp of your hair for healthy growth and better circulation.
3.Shampoo/Condition/Moisturize your hair – Wash your hair with cool or warm(never hot) water! Dry your hair naturally by blotting your hair with a towel. In my case, I use a small towel (like a face towel) to take away the water from my hair) and then I wrap it with a bath towel. Thereafter I comb my hair and I let it dry, either with a fan or electric fan when in a hurry. Avoid using hair dryers as it emits heat which can dry out and/or damage your hair and skin. As much as possible, stay away from hair styling products but you may wish to to have your hair snipped by your hairstylist at least every three months to get rid of split ends and “dead” hairs.
4.Eat right – A well-balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits, dark green vegetables and other vegetables (beans, legumes, carrots), low fat dairy products, nuts, and lean growth promoting proteins such as fish (e.g. salmon, oysters, etc) can make your hair in the pink! These are the nutrients that you need to put into your body which help keep your hair healthy. Remember, if you take your health for granted by following an unhealthy diet, for sure it would affect the quality of your hair.
5.Regular Exercise and Adequate Sleep- I am amazed how exercise and sleep can do so much to make hair healthy. Some experts say that indulging in exercise for at least 30 to 45 minutes a day will help get enough blood for hair follicles , thus giving a healthy hair. Avoid stress and get enough sleep so your hair will grow faster and fuller. So, chill out, relax and shut that eye of yours!
In summary, it appears it only takes a little discipline and the right attitude of your lifestyle in order to acquire and maintain a healthy hair.Therefore, have a healthy life and you’ll have a healthy hairtoo!