Hope And False Hope

photo: Christian Slanec
I had an interesting conversation with Curly-haired Daughter this morning. We were listening to a local Christian radio station in the car. They are in their midst of their fund-raising effort, so they were sharing stories from listeners.

A week or two ago, a mother had called in, crying. Her 16 year old son was getting involved in drugs, not going to church (oh, how this sounds familiar) and generally going off the rails. She needed prayers and encouragement. This set off a flurry of phone calls - people calling in and saying "I've been through this" or "My kid did the same thing."

This morning, a man called in and said he wanted to reach out to that mom. He said he was 43, had been sober for three years, and he had "been that teen." He said "I know I put my parents through a lot" but he was now a Christian and trying hard to be faithful.

My daughter said, "I think that's false hope." I asked what she meant. She said, "Well, that mom is looking for help now. This guy is saying she's going to have to wait 30-some years for her kid to get straightened out."

I thought about it for a minute, and then said, "I don't think that's false hope. God has His own time. We don't like it; we'd prefer to get our prayers answered when we want, the way we want. I prayed a long time to have babies. I did, but not in the way I wanted. Now, looking back, I see God's hand in all of it. Hope means being assured that God is in charge, not that things will be perfect."

False hope is relying on our own choices and desires; real hope is putting yourself at the feet of the Lord.

Of course, I have to remind myself of this all the time as well.

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. - Romans 12:12

Discerning, Discerning, Discerning

Wouldn't it be nice if God simply took out a billboard along our daily route that stated in 5 foot high lettering the answer to our prayers? Alas, not so.

Dear Husband and I are still discerning what to do regarding our parish situation. We've visited a new (really, a brand new!) parish near us, and the pastor himself warmly invited us to join. We do like it there, and the pastor is not only inviting, but a sound homilist. We also know that as a new parish, our gifts of time and talent will be welcomed.

But it's so tough to leave our old parish. Our friends are there. We've celebrated so many sacraments there. It's a good place...but perhaps not the place for us.

We don't want to straddle the fence. We want to make a decision. We just wish it were an easier one.

Maybe that the point: God is showing us the way, but it's a hard way and we are still resisting a bit. Another narrow path, another road that requires carrying a cross.

And now a word from our Holy Father...


From recent remarks about families:

A saying of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew speaks to us: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Life is often wearisome. Work is tiring; looking for work is exhausting. But what is most burdensome in life is a lack of love. It weighs upon us never to receive a smile, not to be welcomed. Certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings. Without love, the burden becomes even heavier. I think of elderly people living alone, and families who receive no help in caring for someone at home with special needs. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden”, Jesus says.
Dear families, the Lord knows our struggles and the burdens we have in our lives. But he also knows our great desire to find joy and rest! Do you remember? Jesus said, “… that your joy may be complete” (cf. Jn 15:11). He said this to the apostles and today he says it to us. Here, then, is the first thing I would like to share with you this evening, and it is a saying of Jesus: Come to me, families from around the world, and I will give you rest, so that your joy may be complete.

Freakin' Friday Fun



The good news is that, according to the Obama administration, the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you're rich. - P. J. O'Rourke

Are you being called to foster or adopt?

Many of us heard or saw the story of Davion, the young man in Florida who went to church to plead for a "forever family." The 15 year old was tired of being bounced from foster home to foster home, and wanted a real mom and dad.

"I'll take anyone," Davion said. "Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be." 

Apparently, so many people responded that they crashed the phone lines of the adoption agency working with Davion.

You know what? There are a million Davions out there. In Michigan alone, there are about 14,000 kids in foster care at any given time, and there's always kids that need care and can't get it. Nationwide, the numbers are closer to half a million.

Pro-lifers are always being accused of caring for the fetus, but not the mom or the child in need. A baby is adorable, a terrible two year old or a teen with a past - not so much. But that is where Christ is calling us. In fact, he might be calling YOU. Not the family next door, not that really "good" family at church, not someone else - YOU. Your family.

Is it easy? Nope. Is it fun? Not always. Will it be disruptive and difficult? Yup.

You might be called to it anyway.

Will it cause you to re-think your sanity? Undoubtedly.

You might be called to it anyway.

Pray. Talk with your spouse and kids. Talk to your pastor and spiritual advisor. Pray some more.

There are so many kids. True orphans. Is Christ calling you?

Borrowed Blog: Acuff's "The Ugly Truth About Bravery"

This nails down my parenting life ON THE HEAD:



When we think about bravery and courage, we often imagine those moments from movies.
A hero is up against impossible odds. It’s difficult but he leans into the challenge and survives! His girl, who is probably the brunette tomboy he ignored for the hot blonde all too long, will kiss him as the credits play.
Yay, bravery!
Bravery is grimaces and grinding it out and wiping sweat off your brow as you save the day!
Here’s the truth about bravery:
Bravery makes you want to throw up.
Bravery makes you cry. A lot.
Bravery makes you lose sleep.
Bravery makes you lose weight or gain lots of stress pounds.
Bravery is ugly and messy and not at all heroic looking when it’s really happening.
It’s hard. Next time you feel like a coward because you’re about to make a difficult decision and you feel like throwing up, don’t beat yourself up.
That’s not cowardice, that’s bravery you’re feeling.
Next time you cry those tears that feel so stupid because you think brave people wouldn’t, stop listening to that lie.
You’re brave.
With bloody knuckles, you’re brave.
With doubters laughing at you, you’re brave.
With butterflies not just fluttering in your stomach, but drunk on four loko shouting lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ “We can’t stop,” you’re brave.
Keep going.

JP II, We Love You!


And now a word from our Holy Father....

Since today is the feast of Bl. John Paul II, I thought I'd give a quote from him:

If one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened his suffering to man, because he himself in his redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched with a new content and new meaning.

APOSTOLIC LETTER: SALVIFICI DOLORIS

Having a boy

When you have a boy, you pick out baby clothes with bold colors and trucks on them.

When you have a boy, you learn to put a diaper over him while changing his diaper.

When you have a boy, you always remember to check the pockets before the jeans go in the washing machine.

When you have a boy, you learn that coins swallowed typically come out all right in the end.

When you have a boy, you learn that at one point in his life, you can't keep him out of the tub, and at another point in his life, you have to drag him into the shower.

When you have a boy, you step on Legos. When you have a boy, you learn not to swear while doing it.

When you have a boy, you learn their hearts are just as tender as girls.

When you have a boy, you realize that you can put both feet inside one of his shoes.

When you have a boy, food doesn't just disappear, it vanishes at alarming speeds, and he is still hungry.

When you have a boy, you learn that "I'm good" is a conversation.

When you have a boy, there are often several years when you don't see his eyes due to his bangs hanging in his face.

When you have a boy, you learn you must immediately take him for a haircut after a girl on the bus says, "You'd look really cute with short hair."

When you have a boy, you get used to the smell of Axe. No, you don't; that's a lie.

When you have a boy, there is nothing sweeter than hugging him, even though he's much taller than you now. Maybe especially because he's so much taller.

When you have a boy, you get the pleasure of having him call you up and say, "Mom, how about lunch tomorrow? My treat."

When you have a boy, you get the joy of seeing the man he has become.

Freakin' Friday Fun


We are all lepers

Lepers of Molokai
If you know the life of St. Francis of Assisi, you can skip this first part. If you don't, he was a young man of what appeared to be joy: parties, lots of friends, women, wine and song: the 12th century version of a playboy.

He wanted something more, though. Despite all the fun, he knew he was missing something. He though going to war was the answer - he'd be a hero. That didn't work out well.

He was used to a life of luxury and fun. The people he knew were the "beautiful people" - dressed in fine cloths and had all the advantages.

Francis, in his search for whatever it was that he was missing, took to walking in the countryside near Assisi. That's when he saw the lepers. Oh, he knew about the lepers; everyone did. They were committed to staying outside the city walls, left to their grotesque disease, without any means of support - medical, financial, emotional. They were disgusting. Francis was rightly repelled.

But there was something about them...

One day, Francis came face to face with a leper. Imagine being in a dark alley, in a foreign place, faced by a huge man with a knife. That's the fear that Francis felt. More than than that, he was horrified, disgusted.

And then, Francis (for reasons that only God knows) embraced and kissed the leper. From then on, Francis' life took on a new tone - one that heard the music of God's voice.

On my way to work this morning, I saw a man waiting for the light to change so he could cross the street. He became impatient, and starting yelling and flailing his arms - as if he could make the lights change at this will. Outwardly, the man looked fine, but he is a leper.

I had to take my Dark-Haired Daughter in for her monthly blood draw this morning. She has to do this because of a medication she takes for bipolar disorder. She's a leper.

Last night, at my husband's soccer game, the father of one of his players showed up and caused a disturbance. That man too has bipolar disorder, and isn't taking care of himself. He's a leper.

One of my friends is studying nursing. She was working in the ER when a drunk driver was brought in and she had to care for him. She learned he had killed two people in a car accident, one of whom was a friend of hers. She did not want to care for this man - she wanted nothing more than for him to die. They are both lepers.

We are all lepers. There is something in all of us that repels, makes us disfigured from the image that God has for us, that makes us outcasts in His Kingdom. We choose things that make us ugly: anger, lust, alcohol, control, power, selfishness.

Unlike a person with leprosy, however, we can change. We can look at ourselves honestly and pray for the strength to become clean. We can see whatever it is that Francis saw in that leper and embrace it, draw strength from it, acknowledge it, and know that God loves us in our imperfections, but wants so much more for us.

Yes, we are all lepers, in need of aid, and God offers it to us in His Son. We are all lepers.

And now a word from our Holy Father....

Who are the martyrs? They are Christians who have been “earned” by Christ, disciples who have learnt well the sense of that “love to the extreme limit” which led Jesus to the Cross. There is no such thing as love in installments, no such thing as portions of love. Total love: and when we love, we love till the end. On the Cross, Jesus felt the weight of death, the weight of sin, but he gave himself over to the Father entirely, and he forgave. He barely spoke, but he gave the gift of life. Christ “beats” us in love; the martyrs imitated him in love until the very end.
The Sainted Fathers say: “Let’s imitate the martyrs!” We must always die a little in order to come out of ourselves, of our selfishness, of our well-being, of our laziness, of our sadnesses, and open up to God, to others, especially those who need it most.
We implore the intercession of the martyrs, that we may be concrete Christians, Christians in deeds and not just in words, that we may not be mediocre Christians, Christians painted in a superficial coating of Christianity without substance – they weren’t painted, they were Christians until the end. We ask them for help in keeping our faith firm, that even throughout our difficulties we may nourish hope and foster brotherhood and solidarity.

Feed me!

My mom used to tell us, in the '70s when everybody in the Church was weirding-out, that if the priest showed up in his bathing suit and swim flippers, so long as he said the Mass correctly, Jesus was truly present. And she was right. But...

The Church suffered a lot in those days, and I mean both the universal and the local Church. Right after Vatican II (which apparently no one took the time to read), we kids in catechism class were left to making felt banners and being told that we didn't need to memorize prayers anymore. Our church was torn apart - literally and figuratively. The beautiful little country church I grew up in was re-modeled; they tried to make a circle out of a rectangle (neither geometry nor theology were strongpoints), tore out the kneelers (Mom made us kneel anyway), and put all the statues in the basement. It was ugly.

We have, thankfully, come a long way since then. Bl. John Paul II gave the Church new hope and new evangelization. As I became a young adult, we were urged to re-examine our faith, our learning, our whole lives. Plus, I was blessed with people in my life who loved me enough to make sure I knew my Faith.

And now, Dear Husband and I are struggling because we just aren't finding that type of enthusiastic faith in our parish. Our pastor is a good man and a good priest, but he doesn't preach well. (Yesterday, he literally read the parish stewardship form to us and told us how to fill it out...like we can't read directions nor have we filled out the same form for the past 10 years...)

I want MORE. I want to be encouraged, evangelized, sent forth, fed. I have heard enough pablum in my life and I don't want anymore. I NEED to be bolstered in my faith. I want to hear how the readings fit together, how Christ is speaking to us in those particular readings at this particular time. And what I get is..."Check this box if you want to renew your commitment to lectoring or choir, or check this box if you are interested in a new ministry..."

Sigh.

I know, I know. I'll pray. I focus on the Eucharist. I do spiritual reading. We will follow our spiritual directors. And I'll ask God to feed me, as He sees fit.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Jesus heals the lepers

Silence and God





Our own silence is not disagreeable to God; it does not repel him. He listens to the longing deep wihtin our soul. with God we musst learn a new language of love in whch words are often unnecessary.


Tired words leaking from an ashen heart, words that sound like a reproach toward our soul, reminding us what cannot be attained without love - would it not be better to accept defeat and stop praying? Remaining in silence can seem a surrender to emptiness, a refusal of effort. But sometimes no wods are necessary to express our desire to God. Our longing for him hides beneath words. A bedraggled, branded spirit may be the reality of the day, the humbling truth of the current hour. But it does not preclude a cry of love from the silent core of our being...

There is in a sense no option. One cannot seek God after a while except inside a greater density of interior silence in prayer where there is no help from words, no distinct utterance that would predictably cast open a door. The soul can only wait in a poverty of speech. - Father Donald Haggerty

Freakin' Friday Fun: Lovin' Autumn!


Living through the imperfections

I sighed last night. My kitchen was a mess...again. I cannot, for some reason, get the two teens currently living there to find the garbage, and therefore, the kitchen counters accumulate wrappers, cans, bottles, twist ties....all the flotsam and jetsam of a kitchen.

Every Saturday, I face an avalanche of chores and laundry. Most people like their weekends - I just try to survive mine. It's worse now that we're in the midst of soccer season. Dear Husband not only coaches a local team, he's the president of the local soccer association, so once soccer season hits (twice a year!), I'm nearly a single parent.

I have a 16 year old son who is a functional mute, like most boys his age. He finds his tongue when money needs (in his opinion) to change hands. Dark-Haired Daughter tries her best, but with her disabilities, I often end up doing more work.

Yet.

Yesterday, I was feeling ill - found out I have an eye infection. That functionally mute son of mine brought me lunch, asked if I needed anything else, and tucked me into bed.

My daughter, who often must be told to tone down her makeup or take off a piece or two of jewelry or clothing, never fails to hug me hello or goodbye, to say she loves me, or to tell me how pretty I look. I often find notes tucked into a book I'm reading from her, saying she loves me.

I would love to walk into a clean house every day, and have it immaculately appointed. I really, really would. But I'm trading the other stuff. Even if it is really messy.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

“Open up your heart and listen to what God is saying to you. Allow your life to “written” by God”. Just as the Good Samaritan did when he stopped to help the stranger, we must all listen to God’s voice and sometimes put our own projects on hold to do his will."

Want to see a drop in teen pregnancy? Get Planned Parenthood out of your town

These are the ads aimed at teens from Planned Parenthood. Really.

As a part of American Life League’s just-released meta-study of Planned Parenthood, Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP) researchers analyzed the teen pregnancy rate in 16 counties of the Texas Panhandle. In those counties, over an 11-year period, closures of Planned Parenthood facilities were ongoing in the face of strong community opposition to the abortion giant’s presence.
Our study of teen pregnancy rates in the Amarillo area was prompted, in part, by news reports that Texas Department of Health State Services statistics for 2010 showed that the teen pregnancy rate is lower in Potter and Randall Counties of Texas—where Planned Parenthood’s business was focused and headquartered—than it has been since records have been kept.

Be clear: Planned Parenthood is not interested in teen health or the health of babies. They are in the abortion business, plain and simple. And to stay in business, they need pregnant women in crisis.

Monday Morning Art Jam

The Good Samaritan - Tissot

Blessed Feast of St. Francis!

Study of St. Francis of Assisi Adoring The Cross - Bernando Strozzi

"What then is true joy? I return from Perugia and arrive here in the dead of night; and it is winter time, muddy and so cold that icicles have formed on the edges of my habit and keep striking my legs, and blood flows from such wounds. And all covered with mud and cold, I come to the gate and after I have knocked and called for some time, a brother comes and asks: 'Who are you?' I answer: 'Brother Francis.' And he says: 'Go away; this is not a proper hour for going about; you may not come in.' And when I insist, he answers: 'Go away, you are a simple and a stupid person; we are so many and we have no need of you. You are certainly not coming to us at this hour!' And I stand again at the door and say: 'For the love of God, take me in tonight.' And he answers: 'I will not, Go to the Crosiers' place and ask there.' I tell you this: If I had patience and did not become upset, there would be true joy in this and true virtue and the salvation of the soul.'"

A long and winding day

This post is going to ramble - just warning you.

I've been thinking about Dear Husband's and my dissatisfaction with our current parish. Again, none of this is based on superficial things (we don't like the lady who cantors at 11 o'clock Mass or the fact that there's a Children's Liturgy of the Word), but rather deep hurts and spiritual harms.

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. As most of you know, Dear Husband and I have strong ties with an order of Franciscan Sisters, and St. Francis is very dear to us, and has great influence on our spiritual life. I was thinking about St. Francis last night as I was trying to fall asleep after a very long and trying day. After his conversion, he heard God tell him, "Francis, rebuild my Church." Now, ultimately, God meant for Francis to reform what had become a very lackadaisical and bland Catholicism. But Francis - at first - took it to mean that God meant for him to rebuild a tiny stone chapel just outside of Assisi that had fallen into ruin. Day after day, Francis rolled up his sleeves and place stone upon stone until the chapel was useful again.

Are we meant to stay right where we are at and rebuild our parish, stone by stone? Are we meant to set an example in a place we'd rather not be right now? This will take some prayer.

My day yesterday, by the way, started with an IEP for my Dark-haired Daughter. For the uninitiated, IEP is a swear word that stands for Individualized Education Plan. It requires a cadre of people and a mountain of paperwork that asks things like, "What are the child's strengths and weaknesses?" and "Does the child continue to need special education?" The process takes at least an hour and usually longer. The parent is typically politely asked for input, but the IEP can be done without a parent's presence or agreement (at least in our state). On my daughter's part, her IEP hasn't changed in years, but it has to be done every year. Yeah.

Then, I had to get to the federal courthouse for a hearing related to a lawsuit. I've never been to a federal courthouse - just a county one - so I didn't realize getting in was like going through airport security. Shoes off, everything out of your pockets, why are you here, where are you going....and you can't bring your cell phone in. Huh?

Nope, the gentlemen in the blue blazers said, "No cell phones. No cameras. No recording devices." Uh.

"You can take your cell phone and put it in your car." Well, not really an option as I was running late and parked blocks away.

"Is there anywhere I can put the cell phone and pick it up after I'm done?" Not an option. At all. Very serious: "No."

Finally, one blue-blazered gentleman took me aside and said quietly, "Some people just hide them outside..."

So, I put my shoes back on, headed out the door and looked around. I spied some rather attractive landscaping with thick ornamental grass. Saying a quick prayer to my guardian angel (Feast of the Guardian Angels, doncha know!), I shoved by phone into the thick grass and headed back into the courthouse, cleared security and headed to the hearing.

And yes, my phone was still there when I got back out.

What happens when you don't like your parish anymore?

 Dear Husband and I are struggling right now. We don't feel good about our parish right now. We've
been there over 20 years, all our kids have been baptized there, we've weathered a number of priests, been deeply involved in many of the ministries and activities, but now...

We've been deeply hurt by members of the parish staff and their actions not just towards us but towards our children. Several of the ministries (which we believe to be vital, such as youth ministry) are languishing - "good enough" seems to be the attitude of some in charge.

We are praying, and talking to our spiritual advisors. I'm so angry about some of the things that have happened that I have a hard time even attending Mass there right now. I know it's not about personalities and people, but Christ and His Passion, Death and Resurrection, but the people are getting in the way right now.

Do we stay at "our" parish and try to improve things? We know that at least one member of the parish staff will not work with us. Do we go somewhere else until the current pastor retires? Doe we just "drift"? Do we join another parish and plant our feet solidly there, not looking back? Oh, Lord, lead us!

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...