Friday, February 18, 2011

Silence is Grace

The world needs quiet. More. Surely.

I've been thinking about Katherine's post lately.

"It’s a great blessing to share words, but it’s a great grace to know when to be quiet."

Most people are simply trying to express their soul. They don't mean to be loud.
People are merely seeking to be understood.
They fear if they are silent they will be overlooked...like the shy child on the playground during recess.
No one wants to be that child.

But, chances are...years later...you remember that quiet, shy child...the one standing by himself on the playground...or sitting alone at the lunch table...and the silence speaks louder than words.

Over the noise and shouts and laughter of the past, you see that child and the silence is thick and loud and ripe.

So we talk and shout and laugh throughout our day in hopes that we won't become that child. Who wants to be a child pitied, ignored, and alone?

And in the noise, we all hear the silence of that child louder than ever before.

But no one moves towards the child.
Because no one wants to enter the silence.
We are scared of what we will find. Or hear.
We fear who we will find there.

So we turn and walk away. And the silence of that child yells at us. It haunts us.
Because it is louder than the words of the playground.

We never think, for a second, that entering the silence might be healing. Cleansing. Renewing.
In the silence...we might meet God....and realize how mute the sounds of the world are.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Little Bit of Heart

 Didn't matter that the wind sent their Animal Kingdom cards racing across the front lawn...
 Yesterday was as Golden...
 As today was Sweet!
 Even if a tad bit messy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

God's Love Letters & Signs

Have you ever felt God speaking to you through various mediums?

Yeah, me too.

I'm still randomly thinking about this and this.

Still more...

But it isn't me thinking. It's actually God sending love letters to me...through people I witness, words that are said, things that are done.

Today it was from my Magnificat...the parts within the passages which spoke to me concerning are in red bold.


February 13, 2011
Righteousness

The term that in the New Testament corresponds to the Old Testament concept of righteousness is faith ...For faith is walking with Christ, in whom the whole Law is fulfilled; it unites us with the righteousness of Christ himself. The people who are persecuted for righteousness' sake are those who live by God's righteousness --- by faith. Because man constantly strives for emancipation from God's will in order to follow himself alone, faith will always appear as a contradiction to the "world" --- to the ruling powers at any given time... The "I" of Jesus himself, fidelity to his person, becomes the criterion of righteousness and salvation... He himself is the reference point of the righteous life, its goal and center.
~ Pope Benedict XVI

February 14, 2011

Seeing God's Signs

Sometimes lovely things that are lost. Beautiful things God scatters everywhere. As Walt Whitman said, (in other words), that God is tossing down love letters in the street and everywhere, if only we would watch out for them. I think I have come to see that even the contradictions and the crosses of life are his "love letters."

I've begun to look for them [God's love letters] with a certain joy --- signs that tell me that Jesus is near. The unexpected delay, the negative response, the inopportune caller, the gimmick that won't work, the nice food that got overcooked, the lack of something needed, the ballpoint pen that smudges, the mistake one can't undo --- the list is endless. Not (I hope) that I concentrate on the unpleasant things but that they are little signs that I share in the life of Jesus.
~ Jessica Powers (a Carmelite nun)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jesus, Take the Wheel

My dear husband asked me last night why I sent him the article that I referred to in my blog post Will God Protect My Family? . I couldn't answer him. In sending it, I honestly thought everyone had sat in the seat of that atheist and been scared to be a Christian at some point in their life.

It enlightened me to the fact that I'm an oddball. I think a little differently than others. My experiences are not the experiences of others. My thoughts are not the thoughts of others. My feelings are not their feelings. My words do not reflect their life experience.

I think outside of the box and tend to get lost in the woods.

I found it strange that my husband has never been warped with paranoid suspicions that the closer to God you are the more suffering you might endure. But my husband doesn't worry about such things. That is not a cross he's been blessed to carry.

Remember I wrote yesterday:

"I assured them that God did not leave us orphans. He left us the Holy Spirit. And the keys to the kingdom in the hands of St. Peter and a long line of shepherds."


Today those keys are well-oiled in the hands of our current Shepherd.
A quote by Pope Benedict XVI left in the yesterday's comments:

"Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?" (Read the rest here)

Lucky for me, the Pope understands where I am coming from. There's peace in that.

Lucky for me, I've come to the point in my faith where I understand and accept suffering though I can't fully explain it, certainly don't like it, and, in fact, don't wish to face it. I am not of saint-quality yet. To wish for suffering means to deny my human-ness.

I did assure, encourage, and enforce to those 16 students that if they attempted to meet God halfway, He would not fail their expectations. If they made Sunday Mass, if they made a regular Holy Hour, if they embraced the Sacraments, if they made spiritual reading a part of their week, if they just attempted to embrace their faith; God would meet them halfway.

Again, I can't explain it. I used to shun my faith because I didn't fully understand it. But I made Sunday Mass because that was what our family did. And I made a weekly Holy Hour because of the example of a holy priest who married us. And slowly...oh, so slowly...as I was dragging my poor pathetic feet along the path that Bunyan's pilgrim trudged...God met me halfway. Simply from the graces I received weekly through the Sacraments, I began to accept and understand and fully appreciate my faith.

It's such an easy journey, really. There's nothing complicated about it. There is not one road map for every person, but all roads do lead to Rome. And the Church gives us the vehicles and the gasoline and food for the trip. But we must let Christ take the wheel and be our Navigator.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will God Protect My Family?

Will God Protect My Children?

At I recent Confirmation retreat, I voiced this exact concern to the 16 students sitting before me. I told them how serious...how adult...how extensive...how commiting was their decision to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Church. I told them how important their faith would be in their future lives. And I told them they must hold tight to it and cling to it because one day, that might be all they have to hold onto.

I told them this because...

Because...

Because I remember being young and uncertain.

Young, uncertain, and scared even. Scared to fully accept Christ as my Lord.

Because I didn't understand the awesome responsibility that came with that decision.

Because I remember lying in bed and thinking that if I prayed too much, believed too much, embraced Christ too much, loved too much; bad things would happen to my family.

Because I remember standing next to my mother and looking down at a beautiful young woman dressed in a lovely pink dress. She had been shot to death. I remember seeing her mother cry over her daughter's coffin. The mother was a loving wife and mother who attended our church.

I remember talking over the office counter to a couple whose only son had been killed by a drunk driver. Killed with his fiancee. Killed right before Christmas. Killed while selecting a Christmas tree. Killed in the Christmas tree parking lot. His parents were more Christian than the people I worked with.

I remember a little boy, younger than myself, striken with cancer. We were silently told that he wore a wig and we were not to stare, ask questions, or make rude remarks. His uncle was a priest.

I remember Sr. Annette, a holy and devout nun, with the swollen belly of cancer.

I remember hearing my parents speak in hushed tones of the teenager who had run-away from home. I vaguely recall us going to the parents house, but perhaps my memory fakes me. The family attended our church.

Good people suffered.

Bad things happened to good people.

That was the reality I saw. That was the reality that frightened me.

Did it pay to be so good?

I didn't share any of these scenerios with those 16 students. They have their own lifetime to unfurl.

But I wanted them to know the importance of Faith.

I went through life going ahead praying and believing and embracing and loving. And wondering. And hoping. And praying like crazy for God to protect my family.

I could think of nothing else to do...so I hung on tight.

To toss my faith away was, in my mind, throwing away the only hope I had...even though...I didn't understand what that hope was or where it came from. I just hung on for dear life.

Still do.
.
Even today I pray for my children's future spouses and my future grandchildren.

Because I don't. Know. What. Else. To. Do.

I understood this man completely. Here is part of C. Michael Patton story.

* * * * *

Will God Protect My Children?

"My friend was not a Christian, but he was seriously considering it. He was one of my wild friends that I hung with in my crazy days. I reconnected with him a few years ago. I remember the days of driving around from bar to bar (what we called “bar hopping”) looking for nothing but trouble. During those times we would often talk about Jesus. I was one of those dichotomy Christians who was doing what he could to evangelize while neck deep in the clutches of carnality (now I am just dichotomized in other ways). He was an atheist and pretty determined to stand his ground. Now, here we were a decade later having the same type of conversation in a different stage of life.

"We began to talk outside by his car. ...

'I get it. Call me whatever you want—a believer, Christian, or whatever . . . I get it. I believe. I believe all that stuff about Christ.'

Then there was some silence. I knew there was something more coming.

"He continued, 'But I am scared.'

“ 'Scared of what.'

'You love Jesus and have been doing so much for him,' he said. 'Yet look at what has happened to you. Look at what happened to your sister. Look at the pain of your family. Look at your mom. Especially your mom. Your poor mom. She has always been into Jesus. She is the best example of a Christian I know of. Look at what God is doing to her. I am scared. I am scared of God.'
"After another period of silence he asked the question of the hour, 'Will God protect my kids?'


"He went on, 'Will he protect them or is he going to do to me what he did to your mom? Because from where I sit it looks like that if you follow the Lord too closely, he brings terrible things into your life. I love my children and I am scared to death that he might hurt them or take them from me because I follow him . . . to test me or something. I don’t want that.'

"My friend was no longer questioning the reality of God, Christ, the resurrection, or even his own need for a savior. He was questioning God’s plan. He was questioning God’s intentions. Simply put, he was scared of God."

* * * * *

I know this man. I am his Christian twin.

Like this man I too, look out over life and, from where "...I sit it looks like that if you follow the Lord too closely, he brings terrible things into your life."

Like this man, I too, "...love my children and I am scared to death that he might hurt them or take them from me because I follow him . . . to test me or something.

Like this man, I too, "...don’t want that."

Please, dear God, I don't want that.

I don't want suffering.

I don't want hearts aching.

I don't want stomach viruses and scary night terrors and fevers that tremble in the night.

I don't want nursing homes and oldness.

I don't want hospital beds at midnight and the Paschal Mystery Renewed with the dawn.

I don't want the responsibility.

It has been years since I made my Confirmation, witnessed my belief to my faith in still stillness, accepted my baptismal vows and my belief as my own.

I don't think I know anymore than I did then. Perhaps a bit...

Yet I recently stood before those 16 students and told them how serious this commitment was. How this was their opportunity to publically embrace His teachings and commit to a life as a soldier for Christ. I told them how important their faith would be in their future lives. And I told them they most hold tight to it and cling to it because one day, it might be all they have to hold onto.

I assured them bad things would happen in their lives. I assured them that being a Catholic Christian was living against the grain and being a follower of Christ opens our beings up to hurt and suffering and presecution.

I assured them that God does not desire this for their lives. We are to transform the world by our presence and our actions.

It is not what happens in our lives. It's how we handle them. (Though I am scared...yes, scared...that I won't handle them well at all.)

I assured them that God did not leave us orphans. He left us the Holy Spirit. And the keys to the kingdom in the hands of St. Peter and a long line of shepherds.

Then I reminded them of the Resurrection. The flesh and bones and glory of our faith that strips away the blood and ache and hate and suffering.

St. Paul tells us:

"3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;

4 that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures;

5 that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.


7 After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles."

* * * * * 
The red is the kicker. That is the reality!

In a day with no cell phones, no Internet, no hidden cameras...in a day when communication and feedback were as slow as the camels that faxed it and the land of honey and milk that it traveled through, the evidence is overwhelming.

Over 500 people saw Christ after the crucifiction. That is what makes our faith real. That is our evidence that God is real. That He breathes. That He exists amidst a sinful, torn world.

And that all will be made new again. And whole again.
I still don't understand it.

But I accept it because...

Because if I don't accept it, than I have nothing to hold onto.

Or, worse yet, what I have to hold onto is ugly and hurtful and of no use to me or my children or my extended family.

I must hold onto my faith: a thing of beauty and glory in the midst of a sinful, hurtful, torn world. Because it is the only thing that shines through the gloom, the confusion, and the hurt.

It is all I have. All those 16 young people have. All any of us have.

Faith.

And to be Christ to a hurting world.

I'm still not sure I conveyed this message properly to those 16 young men and women but I figure, that's ok. I didn't get it either at their age.

I'll just keep praying for them. And for my family. And my children.
And let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

2011 About.com Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards

I was so tickled when the publishers of two medias which I write for, announced that their book and their periodical had been nominated in the top five Readers' Choice Awards finalists for:

Best Catholic Book Category:
Stories for the Homeschool Heart by Patti Maguire Armstrong and Theresa A. Thomas

Mater et Magistra
Not to influence anyone's choices and decisions but I know that these publishers are devoted to their Catholic readership, are diligent taskmasters in spreading the Word of God, and have a true love for Christ. They deserve the recognition and I'm just really proud to be a small part of their ministry.

These and all the nominees do so much good work in hopes that Catholics families may benefit. Please take a few minutes to show your support. I promise...it only takes a few minutes.

God Bless! And Happy Catholic Reading!



Thoughts on Serving God

Today from Sally Clarkson:

"...if we say we want to worship Him and serve Him all the days of our lives, then when our heart is tempted to doubt, and we choose faith, He sees. When we choose to seek Him every day and arrange our lives so that we can hear from Him and read His word, He sees. No one else really knows our personal integrity, but God who sees in secret, will see and will reward.

It is a lifetime of taking one holy step at a time, day by day, moment by moment, choice by choice, that gives one a “set apart” life. It is the secret life, not the public life, that creates this eternal service of worship."  (Read it all here: No One Can Be Holy for You)

Couple of days ago my friend Layla sent this reminder:

"God's love is based on your actions not your feelings."

Little things for me to remember as I step out in faith in the service of Christ.

{this moment}

I <3 the yearly Dad-Daughter Valentine Dinner

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments at Amanda's for all to find and see.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

God Speaks to Us...His Servants

  
"[Jesus] commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
Holiness and prayer are the keys to evangelization." ~ Magnificat

9 months ago, my pastor called me into his office to meet with him and one of our deacons.
They were looking for a new DRE.
Was I interested?

 "As Christians we are called to be apostles and share the Gospel of Christ." ~ Magnificat

At first I said no.

 "Sometimes we don't feel at all qualified for this task." ~ Magnificat

Then my husband told me to at least go and hear what Father had to say.
Perhaps find out why my name had even made the list.
He would support me, whatever I chose to do.

We are not alone! ~ Magnificat

I went in humbly enough. Just to hear their needs and concerns.
I had taught first grade for one year and fourth grade for four years.
There was my niche. There was my calling.

I had found my comfort zone.
I saw no reason to leave it.

"The prophet Jeremiah and the apostle Paul felt the same way. ...Their method was simple..." ~ Magnificat

Outside of my family and homeschooling community, I saw no need to do more.
The last two DREs (both more qualified and organized than I) had lasted a total of four years (two years each).
Trepidation, anyone?

"They trusted in God and let the Holy Spirit speak through them." ~ Magnificat

I told my pastor flat out I had never felt the call to be a DRE.

"When we reach out to the weak, going to them in our own weakness, we become truly 'the light of the world.' "

Our pastor laughed enthusiastically. With a roar. The kind of throw-back-your-head-and-laugh-a-deep-throat-laugh.

I wondered what I had said that was so funny and looked at the deacon for a clue.
He merely smiled, nodded his head, and scratched a note on his paper.
And they continued with the proposal. The job description. The offer.
The purpose. The mission. The appeal. 

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'You are the salt of the earth. ...You are the light of the world. ...Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.' " ~ Matthew 5:13

9 months ago I accepted a position as DRE in my parish church.
22 Teachers.
Approximately 200 students.

"Our Lord commands, 'Your light must shine before others.' The prophet Isaiah promises that if we share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked, and do not turn our back on our own, then our 'light shall break forth like the dawn.' " ~ Magnificat

Compared to other area parishes with 400-600-800 students, our religious ed program is small and contained.
I like that.
I like small. I like contained.

That is who I am. Small. Contained.

"Our lives are constantly bound up with those of other people in some way or another." ~ Abbot Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B.

And what of, some people who know me well might ask, my lack of knowledge, my lack of experience, my lack of skills, my lack of organization, my lack of degrees, and my stumbling usage of words outside the written page?

"When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." ~ Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 2:1-5

Whether I continue ten months at this position, two years, or ten years...I am to always remember that nothing is said, taught, or happens outside of His will. 

As long as I take this position upon my weak, fearful, trembling shoulders and know it is all done for His will, His honor, His glory, His power, His majesty...

...then it is All Good! All Grace! All Holy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cake Bites/ Balls/ Bliss

Sleet. Ice bullets. Possible snow. Cold blasts. Ice on bridges. Freezing rain.
Schools are closed across Louisiana. That's just odd.
I think it might be due to the fact they didn't have to close down during hurricane season.
I'm just guessing.
The children and I didn't rise from slumber until---roughly---10 AM---when Oma and Opa showed up for morning coffee. They were generous in waiting.
I will spend the day washing bedding, everyone's bedding!...caring for a 17-yr-old dog who has a bleeding ulcer (sorry, that's not exactly appropriate with the picture display)...and cooking.

I thought I'd share something easy and fun the girls and I made the other day.
Cake Balls! Or Bites! Whichever you please.
Chances are you've seen them on other blogs and around the internet but I had never made them.
They were so simple. So easy. So tasty!
Perfect holiday or birthday party treats!
Perfect!
Perfect for freezing cold days in February!
And they're very forgiving. If you don't have any toppings besides leftover Christmas sprinkles, you can still use that and call them Valentine Day sprinkles.

Ingredients:
Box of cake mix
Container of frosting
Bark Candy Coating

Instructions:
Bake the cake. Allow to cool completely. Crumble in bowl. Melt frosting in microwave until liquidy, but not too hot. Needs to be warm but slightly cool for little hands to work. Warm container of frosting approximately 35 sec in microwave.

Stir 1/2 of melted frosting into crumbled cake mix. Mix into a moist ball of dough with hands.

Shape into balls. Another idea is to press into candy molds and form shapes.

Place in freezer for 30 min-1 hr.

Melt Bark Candy Coating and dip balls or shapes. Place on wax paper to harden. Sprinkle with toppings immediately.

Enjoy!

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