Saturday, March 25, 2017

things we have lost in the fire....

Recently someone I know had a house fire. Although (and thank God!) her house wasn't reduced to ashes, there was still a lot of damage. Things were lost in the fire that couldn't be replaced; photos, maybe some treasures kept over time as mementos and more are still being sifted out.

I was in a house fire when I was all of three years of age. I remember the smoke and fear as I watched my house burn--a fire intentionally set by someone intent on payback to the neighbor who lived in the upstairs portion of our duplex. We lost EVERYTHING. I only remember though, my stuffed panda bear, left behind in the char. To my mom, it was "just a stupid toy, we'll get you another one!" To me, however, when you're only three, a stuffed bear has a lot of meaning.

I imagine it's the same as we get older. Those things that have meaning have shifted from pandas to photos. To wedding dresses. To baptismal gowns. To the baby spoon the firstborn had used. Memories have meaning. We look at a blanket and remember the good times spent curled up in it with a good book. An old CD with music we listened to, a DVD of a movie we would view over and over...and cry as if we had just viewed it for the first time. And on it goes.

Jesus told a story about how a man had secured all he could in a barn, yet continued to amass his fortunes. He said to himself of how life was indeed good, and thus came the need for an even bigger barn to hold all of his possessions. Jesus warned us of how more important it is to store up treasure in heaven rather than things here on earth. Those 'treasures' would include caring for others. Showing compassion. Giving away what is extra to those who have less. Being a good neighbor towards all. Those are the treasures that Jesus was referring to.

I have moved countless times in my life since that awful fire. I remember dad telling us kids to go through our things, "take only what you really need and the rest, we'd give away or have a garage sale." When one is young, one cannot tell the difference between what is necessary and what is frivolous. And so, I wanted to keep everything! As poor as we were, "everything" was not much! We had a Dodge van that we loaded up on the big move from California to Minnesota. All I could bring, other than my meager outfits of clothes, was a small box of toys. In that box were a Barbie doll, a few of HER clothes, and some other small odds and ends. The rest were all sold at a rummage sale. Because of that way of life that continued on until I moved away from home, I have always been satisfied with "just enough." I am not a clothes hound, my home is not a model of something seen in "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. I have just enough. And it suits me just fine. But if a fire were to consume what I do have...would I be content with starting over from scratch? So long as my family and pets were safe, yes, the rest is just "stuff." So many things....things that can be found at yet another rummage sale or thrift store.

How much store do YOU set in "things?" When all is said and done, should calamity strike, what we realize we still have is more important than any material possession. For the friend whom I began this story with, she realized how much her community loves her. A fundraiser at the local school rallied behind her to give her a base to begin a new life. One can't pin a price on compassion...and THAT is the lesson that Jesus taught us.

Friday, March 24, 2017

what is your calling in life?

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men...’” Mark 1:16

Not too long ago, I had heard that a librarian was seeking authors to come and speak to the classes she held for children. I boldly sent her an e-mail, indicating my interest and then, waited. After a few days when I didn't get a response, I saw her once more and so, gently let her know that if she needed an author, that I was available. Her reply? The author she sought had to be "well known." Although my book sales sure aren't in the same league as, say, Danielle Steel, I have been writing and publishing books for 13 years and I have made book sales all over the globe. I feel as though I have left my mark.

Make that, "I FELT...that I had left a mark..." haven't I? If I had sold millions of copies verses hundreds, is that a marker for success? Maybe recognition was more of what she had wanted...? Who knows. All I know is that it gave me pause for thought--and doubt!

What does it take to have a fulfilling calling in life? How do you know when you have "made it?"

In the beginning, I wrote because I wanted to leave a legacy of sorts for others. I wanted to help people. I wanted to use my gift of words. I made sure that what I have written in inspiring, not hurtful. I have e-mails, letters and more from so many who say that the difference in their life is amazing. For me, writing is not work, it's a passion, a calling. I have not been selfish in my desire to make it a choice over anything else.

There is a story of a famous violinist who decided, on a whim, to stand on a street corner and play his craft. His melodies were astounding, yet people paid him scant attention as a few coins were tossed in his direction. For hours, he played and then, when he left, it was as if he weren't even there. Flash forward a few hours later, when a concert hall was filled to capacity, people paying top dollar for tickets to sit and listen as a violinist plied his fare....
it was the same violinist who had played on a street corner...and no one had given him the time of day to stop and listen as he put his whole heart into his craft--for free.

What a pity. A street corner versus a concert hall. Same music. Same musician. It was merely the venue that had changed people's perceptions.

What is your calling? Who do you reach out to? Not because you have to, but because you feel a need to? A calling is that nudge that you hear--night or day. It is a sign from above that your talents are needed in a particular place and way. You could be a preacher/pastor/priest. An artist. A musician. A songwriter. Think back over your life...whose words, melodies, artistry has inspired you? If classical music can make you cry, if a stirring portrait can bring you to your knees, if, after reading a soliloquy, your heart races, you have been inspired by someone who was called to inspire you.

Such as it was in Jesus' day. He sought out those who He knew would be strong enough to carry out His mission. Peter. Paul. Stephen and others. He didn't need to look at their backgrounds or income level! He looked into their HEARTS and saw the desire to fulfill a need that was open and available.

So it is with each one of us. We all have talents. We all have that innate desire to want to be someone for someone else! I work with people at school whose desire to teach, lead and instruct is innate. I can SEE the way they work with others, the way they have that instinctive ability to communicate with those whose need to be heard (the students) and then, provide answers. How many of us can look back and remember those who made a difference to us while we were in school?

When I was in school, I cannot recall any of the lunch ladies who made a difference in my life except for one. Mostly they were crabby, surly and arrogant as they plopped that meal on our trays, giving us dour looks if we even whined about "what is THIS?" The only one I do remember is because she took me under her proverbial wing and cared. She would greet me by name and ask me how I was, just simple stuff like that. I found out that, like me, she was from Minnesota (I was living in California at this time). She had that Norwegian way of pronouncing words that I had thought was cute (I now am probably speaking just as she did..."ya betcha!") I was just seven years old...47 years ago!

It was because she cared!

And so it was that yesterday, as I conversed with the senior high kids as they came through my own lunch line, I asked one,"are you excited for the end of the school year? I know that I am!" He gave me a smile and replied, "yeah...but I will miss you!" I stood there, greeting other students who came through with their trays...I tried to quash down that lump in my throat which grew bigger by the minute. I didn't want to cry in front of those kids. And as I thought about that, I realized that what we do each day CAN be an opportunity--a calling--to lead others to God. You don't HAVE to stand on a street corner and hand out literature to be a witness. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to not only work but to leave a legacy for that when you are no longer on the face of the earth, you will be remembered somehow--by someone somewhere.

That desire alone is worth more than the millions of dollars in book sales--to me anyway.

All it takes is a fervent and ready heart.

Friday, March 17, 2017

what do you know about St. Patrick?

ahhh...St. Patrick's Day! The wearing of the green and all that! Parades,!

With all of the positive hoopla that surrounds this day, you'd think that bein' Irish, just for today, no matter what your ancestry has occurred for many many generations. In fact, being Irish was never very popular.

After the potato famine more than 100 years ago, Irish people were starving. They came here to the USA seeking a new life. However, many were shunned and given menial work for little pay and long hours in dangerous conditions. There were no social programs, no sympathy. However, today it is a wonderful thing to be Irish. The first Irish parade was held in Boston in 1937. Notre Dame's mascot is the Fightin' Irish. The Irish have blended in very well into our society.

Today however, we still have immigrants who wish to come to America. Some have hopes, dreams and visions of a future while some also have malice within their hearts. What is said about history repeating itself has come true once more--immigrants face hostility here, they are given menial jobs for low wages and have little to look forward to.

When you read about the life of Jesus, He too was an immigrant, a refugee...Joseph and Mary moved from place to place while Jesus was young. When Jesus began His ministry, once more He roamed from place to place, preaching to the many peoples. In His time there were hostilities among Jew and Samaritans. In His time, He taught us about tolerance...about compassion...about peace.

Yet the world has forgotten. In a way, we are like animals: "this is mine and what is mine certainly is NOT yours!" We put up fences, we tear down bridges, we build walls. We create rules and regulations that say, "yes, you MAY have permission to visit, but please don't stay longer than a short while, here is your green card, now get out!" Even in worshiping Jesus, we have walls...we have buildings (this one is for me...that one over there is for you..") and God forbid a Catholic partakes a religious ceremony in another church! "That's NOT the way we do it HERE, so it doesn't count if you worship...on a Sunday...over THERE!"
Yes...sadly, I have been in that situation. It breaks my heart. Why are there barriers to God? Why can't I clap my hands and dance at a Baptist church, sing His praises in  a Lutheran ceremony and cry at a Methodist funeral? Why can't I have dinner with Jewish people and breakfast with the Sikh? Why must ALL Muslims be feared all because of some extremist faction whose presence sends fear into our hearts...why?

And I grieve.


Today is St. Patrick's Day. Patrick used shamrocks to teach about the Trinity. He spoke to many people about the Love of God. Patrick was also NOT Irish, as many believe. He was born "somewhere in Britain," but rumors also have him born in what is now Scotland. It doesn't matter what his ancestry was so much as what he did while here and how we too should emulate his role in Christianity, namely, how to live as Jesus taught, by living and preaching the Gospel message. What IS that message: quite simply. to love God as you love yourself...and love others note...OTHERS no matter who they are! as God loves you!

Erin go Bragh!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

what would YOU like to say about yourself?

Life sure has a way of browbeating people! Listening to news reports or even backstabbing that can happen at work, in families or within friendships can leave us bruised, scarred and give our self-esteem quite the kick! However, the key word for today is "deflection." Deflect those negative words and find the good in your life! "Why am I here?" is a question I always used to ask myself.

"God, why am I here? What good shall I serve?" 

I posted this today on a Facebook page and some of the answers astounded me! Go through the following list and ask yourself these questions. Be prepared to do some soul searching. It doesn't have to be right now, but perhaps, if you should awaken at 3 a.m., give it a thought, and thank God for being the YOU many people have come to know and love!

If the world had one thing to say about you, what would you want it to be? What would you most of all want to hear the world say? What would you like to be able to say about yourself?

Now, your answer does not have to be holy. You are not required to give a holy answer such as: "He or she was a saint."
What you would like said about you is something you desire for yourself. It's possible you would be content with? Would you like to know that you mean more to God than you had realized?
"I made hearts happy."
"People liked me."
"I lightened hearts."
"I looked right into people's eye."
"I made people laugh."
"No one was more loved than I."
"I changed the lives of others."
What means a lot to you? What matters to you?
"I learned how to live life."
"I like me."
"I am worth something."
"I will be missed."
"I mean the world to someone."
"I opened eyes."
"I opened hearts."
"I was always straight with everyone."
"I saw something in others that many didn't."
"I was liked."
"I took chances."
"I loved life."
"There is no else in the world like me."
"I always said Yes."
"I always said, Hello."
"I taught people to dance."
"I helped others to see with new eyes."
"I didn't take life too seriously."
"I didn't take myself too seriously."
"Wherever I went, I saw rainbows."
"I took friends to the moon."
"I understood a lot."
"I was here beside you, God.
"What would you most like to be said about you? What would you most like to be said about you today? Or tomorrow? What would mean a lot to your heart? Say it, and make it true.