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.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dr. Ben Carson: a few thoughts

I was privileged to hear Dr. Ben Carson speak last night at the Grand Rapids Right to Life dinner (over 2,000 people!!).

Here are a few of my take-aways from his talk:

  • Life is precious. All of it. Right now. Regardless of what a person can or cannot do.
  • We need to thoughtfully, humbly and generously engage people we don't agree with. If we disagree with them, ask what their position is. Ask if you can explain yours. Converse; don't argue.
  • Education is primary for getting and staying out of poverty. No excuses. If you can get to a library, you can get an education. 
  • Read. Commit yourself to spend 30 minutes every day learning about something you're not familiar with. If it physics, geography, history, quilting, landscape architecture - whatever. Pick something and learn.
  • The men and women who fought to found our nation should be our heroes and role models for today. They did not stand for the erosion of their rights, nor did they relinquish their God-given freedoms to an oppressive government. Nor should we.
  • Any political affiliations one has should be secondary to our love for America. This is a Judeo-Christian nation, and we must honor God and country above any political assignations.
All in all, a stirring evening. He is not a bombastic speaker, but a gentle story-teller with a serious message that we need to heed.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Lotsa love in this pic!
1. BUSY! Holy cow, I'm feeling the pressure! Prayers are appreciated as I head off to a human trafficking conference this week. Pray that it will be a fruitful event for all involved.
2. Going to the Grand Rapids' Right to Life dinner tonight to hear Dr. Ben Carsons speak. Quite excited.
3. I can't even begin to tell you what a glorious weekend I had with two of my dearest friends. We did ArtPrize, we ate and drank and talked and laughed. I'm full to the brim with the goodness of it all.
4. Saturday was the feast day of St. Francis - a good reminder to live in joyful service to God!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Did you hear that? It's probably your guardian angel

When I was little, if I came running to my mom and said, "Did you call me?" and she hadn't, she would respond, "It was probably your guardian angel."

When you think about having your own personal angel to watch over you, guide you, guard you, protect you from spiritual and physical harm, and pray for you: that's an awesome thought. Awe. (You still remember "awe" don't you? "An overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful")

I think angels get a bad rap. No, it's not that we ignore them; we don't take them seriously enough. They're not floating naked babies. We humans don't turn into angels when we get to Heaven. They aren't red-headed Irish (not that's there is one darn thing wrong with that!) girls running around saving people from bull-headed decisions. They are gauzy creatures who appear in the mist, flapping their wings. 

No, angels are pretty incredible.


328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.
329 St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel.'" With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word"
330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.

332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examplesFinally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.
333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God "brings the firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all God's angels worship him.'"Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church's praise: "Glory to God in the highest!" They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection. They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.
334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.
335 In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant te angeli. . .["May the angels lead you into Paradise. . ."]). Moreover, in the "Cherubic Hymn" of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).
336 From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.[emphasis mine]

Okay, that's a lot, but it's really important. REALLY. Because angels are really important. You have a protector and shepherd. Do you speak to your guardian angel? Ask your guardian angel to pray for and with you? Do you thank your guardian angel for watching over you, caring for you?

My sister-in-law once told me that one of the jobs of your guardian angel was to keep track of all those you pray for and all that have prayed for you. Should you reach Heaven, your angel will be able to say, "See him? He prayed for you when you were sick." "See her? That's the child you prayed for when your friend asked you for prayers. You never knew her in your earthly life, but you shall know her now."

You don't want to get to Heaven and have your guardian angel, your best spiritual friend, be a stranger to you.

Angel of God, 
my guardian dear, 
To whom God's love commits me here, 
Ever this day, be at my side, 
To light and guard, 
Rule and guide. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

1. Incredible sermon from our pastor yesterday regarding "obedience." He really dug into the second reading yesterday, that beautiful hymn in St. Paul's letter to the Philippians. Obedience really means "to listen" and if we do that, it will transform us into the image of Christ.
2. I'm happy that the Detroit Tigers clinched their division, but we really need a World Series this year, guys. It's the game in October that separates the boys from the men, if you know what I mean....
3. Friday night turned into an unexpected party. My Tallest Son came home, then Curly-Haired Daughter and Fiance' showed up, then my sister and her son! Whoot! Had a great time chatting with my kids, who are now human beings (past the teenage years where conversation genuinely resembles either mumbling or a shouted, "I KNOW!")
4. Much work to do: book review to write, interview to be done, and working on my human trafficking monograph for work. Prayer is appreciated!
5. An online friend who makes GORGEOUS handmade scapulars had a little contest, and I won! I'm getting an Our Lady of Fatima scapular. Can't decide if I'm gonna keep it or give it away....
6. It's the feast day of the Archangels:

 Through the power of Michael, leader of the heavenly armies in the war against evil,
Protect your people, Lord.
Through the word of Gabriel, message-bearer of the Gospel,
Save your people, Lord.
Through the intervention of Raphael, companion and healer,
Comfort your people, Lord.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Walking on Water

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.- Mt. 14:25-29

Walking on Water - Azurite

Yesterday was a day of faith. It was a day of life and death, of beauty and harshness. It seemed liked all of life, in just a few short hours.

Dear Husband coaches high school soccer; we're in the midst of the boys' season right now. Just before his team took the pitch on Monday night, they were informed that a classmate had committed suicide. It's a very small school, and all the boys knew the young man. It was tremendously hard.

Yesterday morning, Husband texted me and asked if I had any ideas for black armbands for the boys to wear for their games tonight and tomorrow. I first thought about making some, but I knew I wouldn't have time. I prayed a "Hail Mary" and Googled local sporting goods stores. There is one literally half a block from where I work, so I started there.

I got the owner on the phone. He knew the young man, and his family. We talked about some options and I walked over there. He handed me a box with the items, and said, "No charge."

As all this was going on, my Oldest Sister was texting me: her mother-in-law had died. It was not unexpected; "Ma" has been quite sick for sometime, and hospice has been in their home regularly, helping to care for her. Understandably, my sister was upset and needed to vent. I was trying to comfort her, find these armbands, and work. We had a rather large event at work last night.

Today marks the beginning of ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, and one of the artists my office is hosting was here last night to speak. Mako Fujimura is a New York-based painter who speaks - in dulcet tones - about faith, art and culture. His talk last night was transformational. He spoke not only on the work he has entered in ArtPrize, but about his work in general, and how his Christian faith informs his work.

While his work could easily be called "modern," he uses traditional Japanese methods. His ArtPrize work - Walking On Water - Azurite - was created with water on gesso, using crushed minerals, including azurite. He said last night, just as he pulverizes minerals to create, "God has to pulverize us to make us beautiful."

The painting is quite large (8'x11'), and Mako said he literally was "walking on water" as he was creating it. He referenced the Scripture passage above, and the need to walk out in faith, on something that does not hold us firm.

When I came into work today, I stood for a time before the painting. Water is one of the first things God created, an element of both life and death. It cleanses and baptizes, refreshes and drowns. It is only our faith that makes it "safe."

Yesterday was a day of faith and blessing, life and death. "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Musings


1. I got to watch Curly-haired Daughter try on wedding gowns on Friday. Yes, I cried.
2. Weren't the readings for Mass yesterday powerful? And our pastor gave such a wonderful sermon.
3. We welcomed a number of people at Mass yesterday into the Rite of Acceptance. This is the first step in a long, intense journey that leads to full communion with the Catholic Church at Easter. I'm so thrilled that one of my great-nieces was among these people.

The Rite of Acceptance is short, but powerful. The person's eyes, ears, shoulders, hand and feet are all blessed in order for strength for this journey, and they are given a Bible. After the homily, these people will be dismissed every week to further study the Word of God. It is a powerful witness to the rest of us - this journey requires much faith and prayer.

4. Dark-haired Daughter joined the youth group for bowling last night. Her highlight: she beat our pastor's score.
5. Dear Husband and I enjoyed a little time together yesterday, to see a movie. Have to sneak in this time, as it is still soccer season. Love the game, but I'll be glad when the season is done!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Amazing Grace

My brother hates the hymn "Amazing Grace." Or at least, he thinks it should never be sung in any Catholic Church for any reason. Protestant theology - "being found" and "wretches."

My friend Amy, on the other hand, calls it "America's hymn," one all Christians can sing together with joyful praise.

I am somewhere in the middle, I suppose. Yes, it definitely is chock-full of Protestant thought, but I don't think that should keep Catholics from singing it. I think it's full of truth as well.

"That saved a wretch like me." That is certainly true. I am a sinful wretch. No, I don't believe I'm a pile of dung covered up with a blanket of snow, but I know I am nothing without God. I am a sinner, through and through.

"I once was lost, but now am found" How many times has this happened in my life? Over and over, I wander from God, from faith, hope and love. I find myself lost, sad, angry, scared. Then I turn around, and my Father is there, arms out-stretched, waiting upon me.

My favorite verse is this one:

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.


I dare not be assured of my salvation, but I do hope in God's grace and I certainly hope I will spend eternity in His glorious presence. I cannot imagine eternity, but these words touch the fringes of this hope. And I know there will be music in Heaven, and I greatly hope I'll one day join in that amazing chorus of grace.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dilemmas, heartache and Monday mornin' quarterbackin'

Curly-haired daughter is getting married: Yay!

She's not getting married in the Church: ooph....

We have raised 5 kids. Only one goes to church (well, THE church. Curly-haired daughter does go to church, but not the one Christ founded.) It's a disaster of epic proportions and I'm not overstating the case. I know I'm going to have to answer to Almighty God for this one day, and I'm afraid I'm going to get a humongous red "F" for this.

What did I do wrong? Was it our decision to homeschool during those early years? Did I use the wrong curriculum? Did the kids hate family prayer in the mornings, half-asleep and cold? Was it all the time committed to the Church outside of Mass? Did I just talk about Jesus and Mary too much?

It sounds vapid put this way, but my heart really is broken. I've failed at the most important task a Catholic mother is given: to bring up her children in the Faith so that they will continue it with their generation and the next.

I know some of my family won't attend my daughter's wedding and I completely understand. I hope that they understand that I will. I won't put the opportunity for reconciliation with the Church at stake - to refuse to attend my daughter's wedding is to put up a rather severe roadblock to continued dialogue.

Well, if I screwed something up, I take full responsibility. At this point, the only thing I can do is pray and talk. The rest is up to God, and my children and their free will, their consciences and their willingness to seek Truth. For He is a Person, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, ever-loving, ever-patient, ever-just. I hope they all find Him again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Our Lady of Sorrows
1. Sick. Sick. Sick. Not really sick, but annoyingly sick. A cold virus has been kicking me around for almost a week. Sick of being sick.
2. Had a heart-to-heart with Curly-haired daughter last week. She is now engaged. She's been hemming and hawing about wedding plans, and I suspected the reason. She does not want to get married in the Church. My heart is broken, but I am trying to be calm. I know there is virulent and strong opinions about this type of situation ("No, you should not attend the wedding under ANY circumstances!") but we are trying to keep lines of communication open. But I'm sick about that, too. It's the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows; a good day to pray.
3. Just to top things off, had a horrible nightmare about Youngest Son last night. I could see and hear him suffering, but I couldn't get to him. Freud, anyone?
4. Dear Hubby is sick now too. I don't expect this will be another spectacular week in our home....