Friday, April 13, 2018

ahhh...the storms in life...



The calendar says mid-April, yet much of the upper Midwest is still feeling the chill of February. Snow dominates our forecasts, the robins are looking confused and farmers are questioning if they will ever make it in the fields to plant.
The Bible tells us there is a time for everything...to plant, to sow, to reap....and we blindly trust those words--why? Because deep in our hearts, we know it to be true.

As I sit and wait for my husband to arrive back from near 90 degree temperatures of California, I ponder in thought at the irony that he is leaving summer to return to "winter." And he is driving through a powerful winter-like storm to do so. I have placed all my trust in God that he will arrive safe, even as high winds have toppled power poles ahead of him and ice covers the roads. I trust in the One whose Mighty Hand stilled the waters during Jesus' day, when His followers awoke in a boat that was being tossed in a raging sea. I call out to Him to keep all those who are traveling to be safe. And, just as we await the arrival of Spring, I too trust that soon, this too shall pass.






Those storms of our lives, be they inclement weather, or a change of jobs, the death of one we love, they can really suck the life out of us. They can make us tremble in fear...or we can stand firm in knowledge that when we cry out, God listens! Place all your cares in Him, for He cares for you! (1 Peter 5:7). Or, as the above picture says so well, "hang on, friend, you are in for the ride of your life!"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

in memory of Billy Graham...


"he heard the word, got the call, took the message to us all, said his message so we'd all understand..."


The world mourns the passing of Billy Graham this week. A man, called by God to deliver His message in the most simple yet profound way possible. A man who lay no claim to a "religion" but a spiritual awakening. This same situation is no different than when St Francis of Assisi received the call from God to "go, rebuild My Church, which as you can see, has fallen into disrepair." At the time, Francis thought that God was referring to the church at Portiuncula and began, in his feeble way of replacing stones. But then the larger message sunk in and Francis then went into the world to call lost souls back to God. This was hard for him as he was basically a shy introvert. Note his introspective time spent with the birds around him!






We are also called to lead souls to God. One person remarked of how the world may never see another Billy Graham and that is true. The world may never see another "Billy." But how about Sally? James? Matthew? Tom? Diane? Yes, I received "that call" many years ago and since then, since I have stepped away from the "rules and regulations" that have kept me bound and realized that it is people we are to serve, not a certain pastor, not a certain way of a particular religion that I must adhere to, but to go back to what Jesus' initial calling was all about. I have felt more free, more inclined to want to spread that Love all around me.






A few nights ago, I watched the movie, "Terms of Endearment." Lots of tears at movie's end; as those of you who have watched it know, the main focus of the film passes away due to cancer. This was made back in 1983 when cancer was still that big, bad boogeyman in the room, unlike today when the chances of surviving it are much better. At movie's end, I pondered my own life and asked myself (and maybe God, too) if I have done "enough" for others. After 20 minutes of no real "response," I let it go and fell asleep. Last night, I again asked God, "have I done enough while I am here?' I then heard His reply: "you're still here, aren't you? No, you have not done enough! There are still more out there who need you!"

Powerful words!

I have not done enough and never will I "do enough." This revelation is not meant to be a slap in the face of my self esteem, but rather, a push of motivation to keep going, keep pushing forward. Billy did not "do enough," though in his way he did a lot more than I ever will! But when it was his time to leave us, I am sure the words that the Apostle Paul heard also were heard by him: "well done, my good and faithful servant!"

My friends, look around you. See how the world is still in pain, still in need of love, kindness, compassion and empathy? That is where you and I need to go, to be the "somebody" for another. God knows when we will be finished, though the work may never be done.

To hear those words at the end of our journey: "well done, my good and faithful servant!"...wow! Such a rewarding pat on the back that will be, to see the smile on Jesus' face....it brings me to my knees in gratitude!

May God be with you today and always!

Friday, February 9, 2018

would YOU answer His call?






I was having a conversation a few days ago with a friend and the subject of "religion" came up. While I admitted that yes, I am Catholic, I also added that just because I say that does not mean that I feel that being Catholic puts me on a higher pedestal than anyone else. I know the Catholic Church has suffered a huge black eye over the past decades...ok, probably hundreds of years, am I right? I know that if Jesus were here right now, he would take to task what the popes over time have done with His original mission; that is, to bring souls closer to God. Instead of simplistic teaching, the Church, as well as all of the other churches that followed, have created a series of "rules and regulations" that have nothing to do with the original message of Jesus: namely, bringing others closer to His Father. Instead it has driven a wedge between people across the globe, it has drawn a line in the sand that has nothing to do with why Jesus came here in the first place! It has brought nothing but pain and sorrow, which began at the time of His Passion and death.









Consider: when Jesus first began His ministry, His call was to "Come, follow Me!" "Follow Me!" It's meaning was as He said it, "give up all that you have and...follow Me!" Give up material goods, yes, give up that extra coat, that extra portion of food to someone who needs it, give up greed, give up the idea that you are somehow "better than" someone else and follow what He does! See how HE lived! When asked, "how do I get to heaven?" His response was to follow the Ten Commandments. Then, He simplified even that by saying, "Love God as you love yourself, and love your neighbor as much as you love God!" So easy...and so hard! Loving yourself...we see that all the time in the news, am I right? Such vanity! Greed...power and control that national leaders have for themselves and over their people. But loving yourself actually means that we see ourselves as being children of God, we don't wish ill of ourselves...and so, we should not wish ill on others, either. Whatever creed, color, nationality, gender...we must love all equally, no strings attached! Then by doing so, you will have that peace you crave for...love will spread over the land!





Jesus followed up his parables by performing His miracles, by showing us through example of how we are to love one another: in His day, it was "Jew vs Samaritan"... He showed how to love them all equally, even "giving up your very life if you have to for them! Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend!" He taught how the humble shall be exalted while the exalted will be humbled. He showed again by example that we must all be like little children, saying the meek shall inherit the earth and more.






Looking about today's sad, sorry world, I see nothing but greed, vanity and hate, yes, but I also see acts of love. What we need to do is to focus more on creating more acts of love. It is a fact that love wins out over hate. It is NOT about how I am Catholic...I am NO better than any of you! It is not about how much we can splinter religion until it is nothing like what Jesus foresaw while He was on Earth. Rather, it IS all about spirituality-getting closer to God by treating others with kindness and compassion. I can quote all the Scripture I want to, but if I am not DOING what I say, how is that being like Jesus? It is all about simplicity-seeing to it that others have what they need, even if it's at my own expense. It is about how we can BE Jesus for each other. I am sure that with each malicious act performed here on Earth, God is slapping Himself upside His head, thinking, "is this what it as all come to, then? Was my dying on the Cross all in vain?" Lent is just a few days away. Let us prove by word and deed that it was not!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

those seven little words






It is said that the seven words that Jesus uttered while on the Cross should also be the seven words we need to utter each and every day: "Into Your Hands I commend My Spirit." 

Into YOUR Hands, Lord...Your Hands that have touched so many, healed so many, Your Hands that held so many lives within its folds. Your Hands that reached out to offer food, solace and strength. And...Your Hands that raised the dead back to life. Yet how many people stop to realize this?

There are many today who face addictions of all sorts: food, drugs, drink, sex, porn....the list is endless. They see no way out of their quagmire and thus, feeling despair, continue their sordid lives. Perhaps what they need to do...what they must do...is to offer themselves up to the One who can pull them from the muck and mire. Sadly today, so many other things have been held out as an answer to the bitter emptiness of life; be it video games, cell phones social media...we all seem to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the One who can set it aright.

"Into Your Hands I commend  My Spirit."

When we feel up against it, when that wall looks so high and the only way up is UP...we must reach out for that Hand that can raise us up. Depression can consume us at any time but we must realize that we are not alone! We are never alone! Even from the pits of our despair, God sees us, He hears us. He alone can save us...if we let Him!

Today, listen to God's small Voice, the one that says, "come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble and you shall find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

"Into Your Hands, Lord, I commend my Spirit!"

Sunday, December 31, 2017

sticks, stones and arrows of life...





Back in the fifth grade, I had the teacher from hell. He would stop at nothing to berate the children in his care and I was no exception. There was one particular student named Art who always was the class clown. He would do anything to rankle the teacher and the teacher always obliged by sending Art to see the principal. I never knew what Art's background at home was like that caused the consternation, but I do know (now) that many children come to school with some sad baggage. Perhaps Art was one of those kids.

There was a particular day when Art really ticked off the teacher. Instead of sending him to the principal's office, the teacher instead had each of the kids in this class write something about Art and why they did not like him. At the time, I remember myself gleefully writing some two paragraph "thing" and then, reading it out loud to him, as did we all. I was only eleven years old, but I can still remember him squirming uncomfortably in his seat, a pained expression on his face. As I watched him, I no longer felt gleeful. In fact, I thought, "what if that were ME?"

He never was the class clown after that. In fact, he became sullen...withdrawn for the rest of that school year.

I moved away shortly after that, so I have no idea how Art turned out as he grew up.

I look back on this now...and I shudder. What that teacher did was just plain wrong. To point out a person's perceived "flaws" by having other kids-his peers-mock him, was a very low blow. It was no different, I am sure, than the judgment cast upon a woman who was being prepared for stoning. Jesus admonished them all by asking, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone." And...everyone left. "Has no one condemned you?" He asked the woman. "No one," she replied (probably greatly relieved). "Then neither do I. Go...and sin no more!"

I was only eleven years old...too young and ignorant to understand then that what we all did may have had serious implications. I feel so ashamed now. For a trusted adult to castigate a child in that way --by public humiliation--is wrong. A better way would have been to look deeper...to try and understand the "what behind the why" of the child's misbehavior. Many times, a child misbehaves to cover up something more insidious and sad. It could be the only way they know how to cope with the arrows that life hurls at them. And we go and complicate that even further by our own words, actions and deeds. This doesn't just apply to children, either. We adults can be pretty mean towards other adults as well.

 In today's' world, we all are guilty of casting blame and then, inducing harm in some way. Don't believe me? Just be a little more attentive of what and how you comment on social media. Or how about your response, be it private or public...on what you see on the TV news...or hear on the radio. We judge...oh yes...we judge and pretty harshly at that!

 As the New Year rings in tonight, how about if our resolution for 2018 be that we guard what comes out of our mouths...guard what we say in print...and be a true neighbor...one who loves everyone regardless of whatever sins they have. Condemn no one, but show true compassion as well as humility towards all.

I have no clue how Art is today. I have no clue if he was able to get over the hurdles of his younger years or if those barriers made it harder to be an adult. But to all the OTHER Arts in this world...may we be more accepting of their circumstances, whatever they may be.

May God bless you all.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

what IS Christmas about?






Recently I read comments from others that having Christ in Christmas is too much to ask for. They look around and see nothing but greed, commercialism, hate, sorrow and more. Some have said that Santa is actually an anagram for Satan because the holiday we celebrate was actually once a pagan feast.

I read these comments and felt physically ill. Ill because on one hand, Satan IS in control...but it isn't as these people think. Satan today IS in control of the greed, the pain, the sorrow. Christmas, in reality, was a take-off of the pagan feast of Saturnalia. The early Church, feeling a need to convert people, took many of the facets of Saturnalia and tidied them up to bring people to God. Christmas is actually a derivative of the Mass held on the night of the winter solstice, known as Christ's Mass...Christmas! It was the Druids who later brought trees into the tradition, with it's candles and lights and decorations. Gift giving came from a true saint, Saint Nicholas, who brought gifts to poor families. Saint Francis of Assisi had the idea to re-create the Nativity scene and thus, the creche was born.









There are those who argue that Jesus was not born in winter, as the sheep were in the fields with their shepherds. There are people who argue that certain coffee shops have reindeer on their cups instead of actual scenes of the Nativity. There are people who argue...it seems...about anything that can be argued about.
Friend, if this is you, you are sadly missing the whole point.

Jesus came to us, a King, yes, but as a helpless babe first...so as to not shock the masses, I'm sure. Yet the masses were shocked anyway. King Herod, on hearing of the birth of a "King," sought to have him killed by killing off many other innocent babies as well. Such tyranny in what should have been the promise of Hope! A grown man, afraid of an Infant? Say it wasn't so!

But it was.

During the time of Jesus' ministry, all the while He healed many and performed other miracles, once again, He was a threat to the Establishment, who sought...again! to kill him off...and succeeded...by convincing all who would hear, that He was nothing more than a charlatan. And thus, an Innocent who was born to save us, instead, died for OUR sins of let's face it--ignorance. Basically, the same fear that caused King Herod to kill off all of the male babies also caused the Jewish people to also kill off Jesus--ignorance. Is it that same fear today that cause many to X out the reason for Christmas--Jesus-- by having celebrations that have nothing to do with Him at all? I do believe we are back at Square One! Pagan feasting that took what was a reverent idea and made it irreverent.

Ah yes, Christmas is almost here. And you, I'm sure, are busy making plans...but how have you made plans for Him?

Do you see Him in the homeless, the helpless, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, the persecuted?  (Matthew 25:44) Or do you rather see Him in diamond rings, new cars, new techie gadgets, new...new...new...? The point I am making is that you cannot have Christmas without Christ. I know how much Madison Avenue wants you to believe that, but the seduction of distracting us from the real reason of Christmas by having anything you can buy is just not what this season is all about! Jesus came to show us pure, unconditional Love. His Love was so strong, He admonished us all to love one another, even as HE loved US! How much did He love us? Enough to die for us. ("Greater Love no man hath this, that one lay down his life for his friends..." John 15:13)

Honestly, how did you lay down your life for someone today? You don't have to step in front of a moving train to do it! You also do it by loving another so much you would do anything to seek out their better comfort level, and not just for a friend, but for a stranger as well.

We spend the holidays buying gifts for others, but truly, are you happy for the one you have bought a gift for? Or is it more compulsory...you HAVE to provide a gift for the office Christmas party for someone you just do not like, yet you do it...half-heartedly, hoping all the while they choke on it, am I right? You invite relatives to your house for Christmas dinner, all the while seething that they even are breathing in your presence. My, my, my...what a humble holiday we have going on here!

Christmas is about Love...it's about Hope that was born in a mangy, dirty stable. It's about the promise of Peace. To have any of these, we must Love one another even as Jesus loved us. We wish one another nothing but the best. The. Best. To do that, we put aside all manners of greed, of sorrow, of pain, of revenge, of hate. Love is the reason for the season. The Love of God who saw that humanity had lost it's mind and so, came down as a helpless babe, grew up in a society so full of hate (note the Roman empire, in control during his life) and sought to make it better by being an example for us all.

How can we do any less than to offer Him praise and being His example today--in a world that has never gotten it right, is still mad and out of control? We do it one day at a time, one person at a time...until there is so much love, so much joy...

When was Jesus born? He is born into the hearts of those who need Him- every. single. day.

Monday, December 4, 2017

a time for giving and forgiving...




Christmas. A time for giving and maybe...forgiving...?

A story I witnessed last week: I was at a local thrift store and, while I was waiting in line to check out my purchases, I overheard a woman ask the cashier why they don't have Depression era glassware any longer. While the cashier attempted to explain the whole concept of it being a donation thing, the other woman interrupted her by spitting out, "I know there is someone who works here who also collects that and thus, there will never be any more set out while she is here because she just buys it for herself!"

My eyes widened at that response. That whole entitlement feeling this woman displayed surprised me. There are many other sources in which to procure collector's items, the internet being one of them.

The reason that I was there was to purchase some doilies for a special event that our local museum was having; a Christmas Open House. They needed the doilies for a brunch table display and I was happy to provide that. Such a small token, I thought, as I paid for my purchase and then, dropped off the doilies at the museum, where I was greeted with hugs and gratitude. I smiled shyly and continued on my errands that day.

The day of the open house, I was stunned by the turnout of so many people. The atmosphere was festive and friendly as I perused the many baked goods that had been made, as well as the many "white elephant" items that were on display for purchase. What stunned me most was what was also for sale on several glass shelves along the wall: Depression era glassware, many sitting on the doilies that I had donated.

Someone else had donated that glassware. Immediately I felt a feeling of remorse. Yes, remorse. As I recalled that conversation from the thrift store, I felt humbled. Had that woman attended this event, would she have been able to appreciate what I witnessed...or would there have been more grousing?

Jesus told stories also of how, throughout time, things given in generosity were not accepted with humility but rather, with remarks of derision, taunts and retorts. Think back to the Israelites...leaving a place that had caused untold generations of Hebrews pain-Egypt- and there they were, in the desert, complaining, because they had little Faith in the One who'd rescued them from the very pits of hell. Now, compare that to the scene of Mary and Joseph...no room at the inn and she had just given birth in a dirty stable. Did she complain at all about the lack of accommodations? It certainly wasn't the Hilton Hotel, yet her heart was filled with love at the miracle that had just taken place.

We are only human, after all, yet we need to stop and think about the reason we feel entitled to having it all, having it now and having the best of everything. We need to step back and understand that in life, there are winners and there are losers, but we can bridge that gap by our being filled with an attitude of gratitude and sharing what we have with those who have less, or nothing at all. Jesus admonished us to look for the need and to share, even as His greatest example proved: feeding 5000 people the loaves and fishes. Even if you are poor, it costs nothing to do a good deed to ease the burden of another.





Soon it will be Christmas. How will you show your gratitude about the reason for the season? It is more about giving from the heart (think "Little Drummer Boy") and less about just accepting a gift with no thought of "what can I do for YOU?"
Have a wonderful day!