Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving: Wherein I'm just a little peeved

My two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Easter.

I love Thanksgiving because, no matter what faith or beliefs you have as an American, we all stop one day and collectively give thanks to God for all the goodness He has bestowed on us.

We think about and voice our blessings. Little kids write what they're thankful for on construction paper turkeys they made by tracing their hands.

We tell our family and friends how much we love them.

We realize that, however much or little we have in the way of material possessions, we have much to give thanks for.

Americans make sure everyone gets a Thanksgiving meal: through our homeless shelters, our soup kitchens, our churches. We invite stragglers to our home to make sure they are not alone on Thanksgiving.

We bake and buy food that has meaning to us, our families, our traditions.

We reflect and laugh, get into arguments and love.

Here's where I get peeved:

Thanksgiving is being overrun by consumerism. We now plan our shopping around our Thanksgiving meal. When do the stores open? Who has the best deals? What can we buy for whom and when?

Buy. Buy. Buy. Buy.

My boss, Fr. Robert Sirico says, "The material abundance that capitalism produces does carry with it the possibility that people may begin to identify with what they possess instead of who they are."

Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is now a national holiday of consumerism. We slow down long enough to shovel in turkey and then it's off to the mall. We don't share stories of our wonderful time with family and friends on Monday; we tell our co-workers what deals we snagged.

Maybe we can't reclaim Thanksgiving. Maybe we're too fare gone. But my Thanksgiving is going to be days of being thankful to God, as intently and intensely as I can manage. Maybe you could do the same.

Monday Morning Musings

1. Spent yesterday with my sweetheart. Ate crepes at my favorite downtown Grand Rapids spot: Downtown Market.
2. Saw "Mockingjay." Loved it. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing.
3. Read "Winter's Bone." Now I have to see it, because...Jennifer Lawrence. (By the way, the book is terrific.)
4. Thanks be to God, my monograph on human trafficking is almost done with the writing phase.
5. Trisha Yearwood! Yes, new(ish) album, new single. Oh, I've missed that voice.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

1. Happy Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Roses and bread for all! We are all royalty in God's Kingdom, sons and daughters of the King.
2. 50 years ago, I was born. That was quick.
3. Accomplished so little this weekend: racked with pain and no sleep. Hopefully, the week will be better.
4. Our deacon gave his first homily at our parish this weekend, and he knocked it out of the ballpark. What a blessing that both our pastor and the deacon are terrific homilists.
5. Snow. A lot of it. And more coming. I can't remember the last time I had snow on my birthday, let alone this much of it. Not really the birthday gift I was hoping for.
6. Making Thanksgiving plans. Cannot wait. I love Thanksgiving - every American celebrates it, regardless of faith, it's all about food and family, no worries about gifts and those expectations.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Not my will...every day...

Every day, every moment, we have to renew our vow: Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.

I don't like that.

It rubs me the wrong way. I'd rather do things my way. I think I'm smarter and I've got a handle on things.

Until of course - everything falls apart. Then, God, if you could kindly step in and fix this mess. Oh, and be quick about it.

How often do I do this? Some days, every minute, it seems. Other days, I get a little closer (not a lot, but a little) to where I'm supposed to be in giving all to God. I inch forward and fall back a foot.

You remember Sisyphus, right? He's the guy he had to perpetually push a rock up a hill. He thought he was the best, the smartest...thought he had it all figured out. And look where it got him.

God wants to pick up the rock for us. He wants to say, "Here, my burden is much easier, and my yoke is a lot lighter than that stupid rock you're trying to shove up hill. Let me have it, and take what I'm offering."

We don't, most of the time. We keep putting our shoulder into that damn boulder and grit our teeth and put everything we have into it....and it falls right back.

God is patient. He'll wait. He won't jump in and do it without our invitation though. We have to assent - the pesky free will thing.

Today, am I going to keep trying to move that damn boulder up the hill, or will I choose God's burden and yoke? Will it be my will or His?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Do the Bishops Know Families?

A few years ago, when I was still teaching religion in a Catholic high school, the U.S. bishops came out with a new religion curriculum for all Catholic high schools. In theory, this was a good idea. It created a uniform program, so that if a kid transferred or moved, he'd be learning the same things. It also meant that the really important stuff got covered, not simply what a teacher liked to teach.

However, it was clear, at least from the first draft of the curriculum, that the bishops seemed to have never met a teenager. "Economy of salvation?" Teaching morality to 11th graders (when the horse had left the barn and was frolicking in a distance field)?

My thoughts are much the same with the recent Synod. Are the bishops familiar with families? Do they know what it means to Catholic parents who are struggling to keep their teens active in church? When their kid decides to "live with" their fiance' and maybe get married in the Church; they haven't decided yet? What about the struggle many of us have trying to be good parish members while earning a living to support our family? Or wanting to put your children in a Catholic school, but knowing that, financially, it just isn't possible on one income?

I think back to a young John Paul II, before he was John Paul II and was a parish priest and a young bishop. He went hiking and back-packing with his friends - young married couples with children. He talked to young people and their struggles with their faith. He was a pastor who didn't sit in an office all day, but made it a point to truly be with his parishioners.

I know bishops have many duties, and that most are good, holy men. I just wish they made it more of a priority to know families. It would be great to know that they really knew our concerns.

Monday Morning Musings

1. One, holy, catholic and apostolic. The four marks of the Church: that is who were are now; it is also our legacy to preserve.
2. Sometimes I think I have an invisible "C" on my forehead that only "crazy" people - people with issues, if you prefer - can see. I attract them. Doesn't matter where I am: church, bus, parking lot, store: that "C" is blinking bright for some folks...
3. Heard Christmas songs on the radio this morning. NOOOOOOO!
4. I've been learning a lot about essential oils for health. I have to say, I'm quite impressed. Impressed enough to start my own business. You can visit my new blog at Flask of Oil and follow my journey, ask questions, learn with me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nowhere to rest His head

On my way into work this morning, I saw three homeless people sleeping in the doorway of an office building.

Our city has plenty of homeless shelters and missions, but sometimes they are full. Sometimes folks who could use the help don't like the rules, and would rather find shelter somewhere else.

It doesn't really matter. Huddling in the doorway of a building, trying to sleep on cement when it's freezing....Most of us don't even let our dogs sleep outside.

When a group of would-be disciples enthusiastically told Jesus they would follow him anywhere, he replied: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” 

I see a lot of homeless folks every day. I work only a few blocks from the street where most of the shelters and soup kitchens are. I see people carrying all their belongings in garbage bags, people who stop you and ask for just $1 for a cup of coffee, people lined up outside the public library starting at 8:30, waiting for it to open at 9. At least they will have a warm place to sit for a few hours.

Like most of you, I will go home this evening and put on warm clothes, enjoy time with my loved ones, maybe watching tv or just chatting. I'll pour myself a cup of tea and knit or read. When I am tired, I'll put on pajamas and lie down in a soft, warm, safe bed, with pillows and soft blankets. I will sleep with no worries about being assaulted or poked by a cop and told to move (where??) or simply harassed. I won't worry about being cold and uncomfortable on my bed of cement.

Whenever I see a  homeless person, I think of Mother Teresa and what she said about the people she worked with: Jesus in his most distressing disguise.

Pray for the Jesus huddled in a doorway, the Jesus who needs just $1 for a cup of coffee, the Jesus who sleeps his day away on a bench.


Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day.

For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.

For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.

For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.

For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.

For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.

For those who are afraid and hopeless.

For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.

For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.

We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.  Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through the political means we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.  Amen.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Living the Beatitudes

artist Jeff Gregory
27+ years ago, as Dear Husband and I were planning our wedding (with a VERY recalcitrant priest), we chose the Beatitudes as our Gospel for the wedding.

The priest harumphed, "Well, that's not a very good reading for a wedding. It's just not very...celebratory."

We explained that the message contained in the Beatitudes were how we wanted to live our lives together as a married couple.

The priest allowed it, but he wasn't happy about it. (Just for the record, this poor guy wasn't happy about a LOT of stuff.)

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.  

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you." 

Let me say first: be careful what you pray for. We told that priest this is how we wanted to live out our vocation of marriage and God has provided ample opportunity for us to live out each of these.
Second, we just started a couples' Bible study at our church. It's based on the Beatitudes. The couples we met on the first night all have very different backgrounds and marriages - but we all know the struggles of living out the beatitudes. It will be very interesting to see where God leads this group.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Henry Ossawa Tanner
1. I am thanking God that Halloween is over (I'm a Halloween Scrooge) and that we have only one more day of those *&%&*(@ political commercials.
2. So grateful that I finished the first draft of the introduction and first chapter of my human trafficking monograph. They're off to the editor!
3. Enjoyed lunch with 3 1/2 of my kids yesterday! We celebrated the girls' birthdays', Tallest son was there, and Curly-Haired Daughter fiance' came, but had to leave early for work...so 3 1/2 kids...It was still great to have time to eat and laugh and talk.
4. Let's remember to pray for the souls in Purgatory this month. So many of us die a good Christian death, but need to be further cleansed from sin before we can enjoy the Presence of our Almighty God. Pray that they will soon be in our Heavenly Father's presence.
5. It's also a good month to be thankful! Every day, consciously think of at least three things for which you are thankful. Today: hot tea, music, and my beautiful Dark-Haired Daughter (it's her birthday!)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pray for Trafficked Children



From World Vision:

Jesus, we come to You humbled by the struggles many girls face every day. Restore them to trusting relationships and self-confidence. Inspire leaders to create policies that address the causes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.

Lord, we pray for the children, especially the girls who have been subjected to violence and exploitation but have been able to escape from their situation.  We pray that you help heal them and strengthen them.  Help their families to understand and embrace them, recognizing that they are still precious and valued.

Dear God, help those children who have been hurt.  We pray that they will be able to find assistance in healing their minds and bodies.  Through every nightmare or ache, we pray that you will be with them, to look over them and protect them.

Dear God, there are times when it is right—and righteous—to be angry. It is right to be angry about people who sexually exploit children. Let that righteous anger fuel action, Lord. Don’t let it fade into complacency.

Wowza: Recently Completed Giant Mural of the Crowning of the Virgin from Malaga, Spain

Get yourself over to David Clayton's blog and feast on some eye candy. I'll whet your appetite with just one pic. So beautiful! Haily, Mary!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Morning Musings 10.27.14

1. Put me in the "bad mommy" category: I  am SO relieved that I no longer have to worry about costumes, finding the treat buckets, getting everyone ready to go out....ugh, Halloween.
2. Queen Latifah is known for a lot of things: her rap career, acting, talk show host...but my favorite is this spiritual.
3. It's true that  the colors are past peak, but they are still glorious, and we had sunshine all weekend. People who don't live in this part of the world don't understand that trees can glow, but they do.
4. Spent time on Friday with a very generous and gifted artist. She allowed me to photograph some of her work for the cover of my monograph on  human trafficking. It was so much fun talking to her about how she approached her work, how she manages to paint such large pieces, etc.
5. Writing, writing, writing. That's my life now. Pray that I can not only finish my monograph on time, but give it the excellent treatment the topic demands.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's hear it for the nurses!

With the recent cases of Ebola in the U.S., please take a moment to reflect on the job of nursing. My mom is an R.N. (despite having been retired for 25+ years, she has never ceased being a nurse) and she has always maintained that nursing is a vocation - a calling from God.

Yes, doctors are awesome. But nurses are the ones who have the most patient contact. That means they are the ones monitoring medications, cleaning up messes, putting in and taking out tubes and needles, soothing jangled nerves and answering the questions of family members. They are the ones who stand watch all night. They answer the call buttons. They call the priest or minister. They prep the ORs, double-check the med orders, are the first-alert system when something is amiss.

They answer the phone calls, ask the patient all the right questions, pat the baby's back, cheer on the new mom. They suit up for the infectious patient, take the suit off, and then put another back on again...over and over. They play with the child who has cancer, sit with the teenage girl who tried to commit suicide, and applaud the obese young man who is finally losing weight.

Let's hear it for the nurses!

Gentle God, we come in thanksgiving for the nurses in our midst.  You have given them a lofty vocation – to mirror your love and compassion for the sick.  When we watch them at work, we sense your presence in their words and deeds.


Gentle God, we ask you to draw near to these women and men who have given their lives in service to others.  Fill their minds and their hearts with your wisdom and mercy that they might truly be your hands and feet in our institution.

Grant them the perseverance and strength needed to do their job well.

Give them courage to speak on behalf of those they serve and advocate for those in greatest need.

Comfort them in their sorrows and disappointments, in their losses and worries.

Shelter them in times of trial, creating spaces for them to rest and to listen for your voice.

Hear us, O Divine Nurse, and answer our prayer, for you are all good and all kind and never tire of ministering to our needs.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Like A Virgin" Redux

For those of us of a certain age, we remember the tiny earthquake of Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Let's just say that it was anything but virginal.

However, there's a new girl in town, and her version of this song is remarkable. Sister Cristina Scuccia, the Italian sister who won "The Voice" in Italy, has released her first single - yup, "Like a Virgin." She didn't alter the lyrics at all. And it works.


Monday, October 20, 2014

"God gives special kids to special people" and why that's a load of BS

Katie and her son
Katie Corkern knows what it means to be in the trenches of parenthood. She and her husband have a medically-fragile son.

Like every parent of a special needs kid (including yours truly), Katie has been told, "God gives special children to special people." Now, people are well-meaning, of course, but Katie is calling them out:

In all these years I’ve heard from family, friends and strangers about what a great job I’m doing raising my Connor man. I look down, shift my feet around and quietly say thank you. Then the dreaded words are said. “God only gives special kids to special people.” I kindly smile on the outside, but on the inside I scream. I hate that saying. I know these sweet people only have the most genuine thoughts behind this, but they need to know the truth — God can give anyone, yes, anyone, a child with special needs....

We’ve all heard that saying: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I call that BS. My God is a loving God but a challenging one. He wants to see me thrive and grow into the person I was meant to be. Challenges along the way are all a part of the journey He has created for me; how I deal with them is up to me. God will give me more than I can handle, but He guides me and gives me the grace to encounter them.

She's right. There is nothing special about us. We don't naturally have more patience or kindness. We aren't born with the medical knowledge it takes to raise our kids. We are befuddled and angry and at a loss of what to do many, many times.

When you’re given a child with needs that are far greater than you can imagine, you must rise to the challenge and become the parent the child needs and whose life depends on it. It will be a tough, long road full of potholes and dangerous curves trying to throw you off course.

You can read Katie's entire piece at The Mighty.

(Might I add that The Mighty is a great website - uplifting and honest.)

The Lord's Prayer: A Capella



Enjoy!

Monday Morning Musings

1. I'm grumpy. My weekend felt like it was 5 hours long...
2. I'm thankful. A small joke among friends that began years ago got resurrected when I received a package this morning. Thank God for old friends, inside jokes and laughter.
3. I'm singing. Audrey Assad. Pick a song, any song.
4. I'm seeing. The colors here in West MI are at their peak. It is glorious here.
5. I'm working. The monograph on human trafficking is progressing, but it is hard, hard work.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Being Joyful: Lessons from a skunk and my aunt

I've written on this before, but let's just go over this again: happiness and joy are NOT the same thing.

Happiness is always temporary, and always about external circumstances. It is fleeting. It is of this world. It's not bad, but it's not the be-all-and-end-all of life.

Joy, on the other hand, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a state that relies on faith, on the eternalness of God. It is a glimpse of Heaven on earth. It is what every person of faith should strive for.

Let's look at an example that gets this all wrong, shall we?


“I’m really trying not to let this experience steal my joy but it’s hard” — An owner of an Hermes bag that apparently smells like a skunk. She’s not alone; a large batch of bags reportedly smell. Devastating.

(If you're not aware, a Hermes purse can cost upwards of $20,000 easily. I'm not kidding.)

I feel bad for this lady. Not because her purse smells like a skunk (although that IS really disgusting) but because she thinks she is going to find the gift of the Holy Spirit in a hunk of leather you throw your car keys and cell phone in.  She thought that by getting this purse, true joy would enter her life. See, she's confusing happiness ("I got a pretty new purse!") with joy ("I am a child of God! No circumstance can rob me of my inheritance!")

I was sifting through a bunch of old greeting cards the other day. I was both cleaning out a drawer and trying to find some materials for scrapbooking (meaning I was going to chop up the cards.) I kept a few from the kids, with their barely-able-to-write scrawls, but most of them got cut up. 

Then I stopped. I found a card from my Aunt Ruth. It was a birthday card, dated more than a decade ago. Her familiar handwriting jumped off the card - a few simple sentences. That card I kept.

My Aunt Ruth was my pen pal of sorts. We wrote each other regularly, starting when I was in about 8th grade. Her letters and cards were always filled with her faith, her laughter (she had the best laugh - I cannot WAIT to hear that laugh again in Heaven!), her connection with her church, her friends, her family. She cherished people. She had a "club" of girlfriends from high school that had weekly lunch from pre-World War II until the last one died in her 90s. 

Aunt Ruth is who I think of when I think of joy. Regardless of what was going on around her, she laughed, she took time for people, she listened, she prayed. She was not a prophet, but rather an illustration - a painting of the Master's hand of what joy is meant to be.

She would have laughed at the poor lady with the skunky person. Not to make fun of the poor woman (really: poor. This lady has no idea what wealth means), but because Aunt Ruth knew that joy was not to be purchased, or draped over your arm. It is an rich out-pouring of a God who cannot be out-spent, out-done, out-lavished. And that is joy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Suggestion: Catholic Guide to Depression

Why, you ask, might a Catholic need a specific guide to depression? Do Catholics get depressed differently than other folks? Should depression be treated differently for a Catholic than say a Muslim or an atheist or a Baptist?

Author Aaron Kheriaty, who is head of psychiatry at the University of California/Irvine, makes a terrific case for Catholics needing specific care for depression. All believers, he says, must take into account their spiritual lives when battling this deadly disease.

Kheriaty, a Catholic, explains that the spiritual component of treatment is far too often left out by both patients and doctors. While depression is not spiritual in nature, spirituality plays a role in both the disease and the sound treatment.

Kheriaty draws heavily on both sound scientific study and brilliant theology (St. John Paul II spoke directly about depression, and Kheriaty also uses the lives of the saints to illustrate points.)

While this book is written for Catholics, I think any practicing Christian could draw much from it. It is also not just for those who are battling depression, but for their loved ones who are trying to understand the illness.

I highly recommend this book.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Lincoln sky
Whew! I've been a busy girl; I apologize for the light blogging.

1. Just returned from a human trafficking conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a great experience, for many reasons.
2. Heard a fabulous presentation from two men who work in Nepal, and who are making progress in stopping human trafficking there with some unique methods.
3. It was primarily an academic conference, and that often means "hostile to religious believers." This one was no different, although there were quite a few folks who were truly faithful to the Gospel.
4. Lincoln is a great town! I had plenty of time to explore, and enjoyed the beautiful weather, the friendly folks, and the vibe of a university town.
5. Good heavens, I missed home! Just the simple pleasure of sitting next to Dear Husband and watching a tv show together, with a cat on my lap...oh, there really is no place like home!
6. Wear your wedding garment! That was the message of our pastor yesterday. He reminded us of our baptismal garment that we were each given, clean and unstained. That is the garment we are to wear when we enter into the heavenly banquet feast.