Becoming Holy

Rich Man/Poor Man

ImageI cried like a baby.  Joe handed his handkerchief to me and looked at me quizzically.  I COULD NOT stop the tears from streaming down my face.  I dabbed at my eyes, tipped my head back and blinked rapidly, then dabbed some more.  It was the homily.  The words of the precious priest from Poland were both opening and ripping up my heart. Evidently he hadn’t been kidding when he suggested we “fasten our seat belts” for the morning’s readings and Gospel. The first reading from the book of Amos carried warnings from God to a people lounging on beds of ivory, drinking wine from bowls,  who ate the choicest lambs and calves from the flock while Joseph was suffering.  Amos was sent to warn them that this would come to an end and they would be exiled.  The Gospel, from Luke, was the story of the rich man(nameless) and the poor man(Lazarus) who was lying just outside the gates of his house, starving and covered with sores. Day after day, the rich man passed by Lazarus and failed to see him or do anything to help him.  Both died and Lazarus was with Abraham while the rich man suffered in torment.  

Most of us have heard these Scriptures before…I had.  I’d never been reduced to tears by them.  Fr. M’s insights about Amos, a minor prophet, included the fact that Amos means “burden bearer.”  Not much is known of him except that he was a shepherd and a keeper of sycamores, as Father said, “just a normal farmer.” God sent Amos to speak to the people of Samaria.  The message wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t politically correct.  The women of Samaria were called “fat cows” and condemned for their indifference to what was going on outside their palaces.  The people of Samaria were condemned for not caring about Joseph (Israel) and warned of their coming exile. Father reminded us that we, too, live in relative abundance. We have warm homes, nice cars, clothes, cell phones, etc. We are some of the richest people in the world. What are we to do? Father observed that the problem was not “wealth” the problem was INDIFFERENCE!  Being wealthy in Israel was perceived as an earthly reward for living a just life.  The harm was not in the wealth. The Gospel further acknowledges this.  The problem was not the wealth of the rich man…it was the fact that he “passed by” Lazarus every day without seeing him.  A man, sick and covered with sores, lying outside the gates of his home and he never even saw him.  It was easy to classify the rich man as a bad, uncaring, selfish person and accept that bad people end up in torment.  However, Father M. burst that bubble when he said, “The rich man was most likely a very good person.  He was so caught up in his own life, he was indifferent to those around him.”

This is when the tears started. Father M. continued his comparison of the Scripture to our daily lives.  “Who is Lazarus in our lives?”  The lonely? The poor? The elderly? Who do we walk past EVERY DAY and not even see? He spoke of an elderly man in a nursing home~a man with seven children. This man receives visits from his kids ONCE every two or three months.  A quick peek in~not a real visit. That elderly man is as abandoned and sore covered as Lazarus. Do his children realize the role they are playing? Do I realize the role I’m playing? Do I really SEE everyone around me? Is there a neighbor I haven’t met? A person at church I don’t take time for? A child in my family who needs attention? Do I know a relative needing support? A stranger needing a smile? A homeless person needing eye contact? The tears are running as quickly as the thoughts are darting around in my brain. I struggle to listen and think at the same time. I am spellbound by Father’s honesty and his clarity of purpose. In the Gospel, the rich man asks Abraham to send a messenger to his brothers, still living, and warn them to change their ways. Abraham declines, saying they have already been taught by Moses and the prophets. I cannot help but recognize the warning is for me. I have been told to “see” the less fortunate. I have been advised that someone may be outside my gate, needing help. I, like the rich man, would like to think of myself as a “good person.” In my mind, I had to evaluate that this “good person” ended up in torment and the same could happen to me. 

Which of my beds are made of ivory? Is it our new home? What is this wine Amos speaks of? Is it flavored coffees at home and pilgrimages to Dutch Brothers? Are the choicest lambs and calves representative of the myriad of choices I have at my fingertips? One often hears, “He/She was a good person.”  I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be who God wants me to be.  If He places a “Lazarus” outside my gates, I am going to pray for the wisdom to see him or her. If Fr. M is correct and the sin of the rich man and of the Samarian women was not wealth but indifference, then a positive change would be to seek the opposite of indifference.  The words of Elie Wiesel echo in my soul~

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”

Ahhhh…so the opposite of indifference is love, beauty, faith, and life. Seeking those things in EACH person I meet.  To love them, to see their inner beauty, to keep and share faith, to live and share the life of Christ~these opposites will eliminate indifference.  Huge challenge.  So the tears ran and they will run again.  Lazarus will be overlooked and sorrow will stream from my eyes. I think this will take effort and perhaps minimizing distractions.  It’s hard to “see” Lazarus if I’m luxuriating in the ivory tower, phone in one hand, coffee in the other.  Must put some of these things DOWN. It’s our life’s journey~looking forward to making it with each of you…perhaps together, we will more easily see and help each Lazarus in our lives.  

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News from the Kingdom

Shrek

The Prince is far, far away in Chicago.  He has received word of my Blog and the many responses. He sent a reply and would like it to be known that he “is not an ogre!”  I assured Prince Charming that all is well here~neither of us has been banished to the swamp!  However, we both agreed that the Facebook discussion generated many amazing responses.  So many of us use Facebook as a touch point with family and friends who are far away.  It is an almost “magical” connection which previously was not possible.  Many others climb out of bed and check in with FB for words of inspiration and affirmation~we all know how the right words can be “day changers.”  

Several people expressed concern about getting “pulled in” by FB and allowing it to eat up the extra time in their day.  I have been guilty of this. But this is not the fault of Facebook, just as it is not the fault of television or video games or even phone conversations.  Each of us is responsible to monitor how we use our time.  It is extremely easy to go from link to link and story to story.  Setting time limits or checking FB at certain points in the day are two great ways to keep everything in order.

Two friends shared concerns about face time replacing “REAL” time.  What has happened to taking a walk down the street and visiting people or picking up the phone and talking to someone?  I think that is a great question to ask ourselves~are we replacing real time with face time?  Or are we spending face time with people we would have no other way of connecting with?  Are we using face time as a gift?  Do we work as hard at real time relationships as we do our face time relationships? No easy answers~great challenges though.

Thanking God for all my wonderful face time friends on Facebook and in the blogging world!  Know that you are loved and prayed for~not just once upon a time, but always and ever after!

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Happily Ever After…really?

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I’m beginning this blog with a romantic picture of Prince Charming and I together in Maui. Isn’t that what life is about?  Romance, extravagant vacations, happily ever after with the Prince?  Or is that all make believe?  

I’ve been speaking with a lot of friends and even strangers about Facebook.  A lot of them are seriously considering dropping their accounts.  Why? Because they are tired of feeling like a “Less Than.”  We’ve all been there~scrolling through the posts on our wall~reading the latest account of a friend’s vacation, seeing pictures of another’s new car, reading about all the awards another has won.  By the time we leave our wall, we feel depleted~we feel “less than.” Facebook can be like Christmas Newsletters on steroids!  I personally love a good Christmas letter but some of them give me pause. Prince Charming likes to give me the business about Facebook.  He had an account for ONE DAY and realized it wasn’t for him.  He recently attended a conference and the guest speaker spoke about the harms of Facebook and the false front it presents to the world.  There were incredible statistics linking depression to FB usage.  An entire generation is basing how they feel about themselves on how they compare to the Facebook lives of their friends.

Prince Charming challenged me~asking if I was going to drop my account after hearing those statistics.  I wasn’t sure where he was going with this.  I reminded him that I try to use FB as a positive force in my own life.  To write status updates that challenge myself for the day and force a certain accountability on how I measure up after posting them. He pushed me a little further and said, “Did you ever think that posting all those positive statuses gives a false impression of who you are~that people think you are like that all the time?”  OUCH!  This discussion actually turned into a pretty funny bantering session with us going back and forth about FB presentation versus real life.  

You see, the Prince and I had been dueling for the past few weeks~not really meshing on how to make our way through all the changes life is presenting.  One day, he asked if I could treat him as nicely as I do my friends on Facebook.  I told him I wasn’t sure I could~I reminded him that my FB friends do really nice things like hitting the “like” button, leaving little heart icons and smiley faces on my wall.  Many of them respond positively to things I say and affirm me in different little ways.  We found ourselves using facebook terminology to discuss our real life dilemma. There was talk of “deleting” comments from each other, reminding each other to hit the “like” button, threatening to “SHARE” arguments and potentially “unfriending” or changing passwords!  Gasp! We actually have found using “facebook speak” to be an effective way to diffuse conflict in our daily lives.  

 I share this because I don’t want people to have a false picture of who I am.  Happily Ever After is something I strive for but I realize it takes constant work.  Happiness is a choice.  Love is a decision. Sometimes I simply don’t measure up.  I’m sure the Prince is often wondering if he is dealing with the Princess of the wicked stepsister.  I will always be a fairy tale seeker.  The problem is, there is no reference to God in fairy tales.  Fairy Tales are all about magic.  Real life~our lives~have a significant advantage.  We have a God who loves us and created us to be happy with Him.  We only need to do our best and strive for more and one day, we will have our happily ever after!

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My Biggest Challenge

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“Do what you are supposed to be doing when you are supposed to be doing it.”  

These are words from a talk I listened to last night~words that have awakened a new spirit in me. The speaker began with Revelation 12:6, “The woman herself fled to the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”  He placed emphasis on the word, “place” and repeated how important it is for each of us to find the place God has prepared for us and to be fully present there.  This has been my biggest challenge of late…perhaps it has always been my biggest challenge~knowing my place and being fully present there!

I have been struggling to figure out my place.  New community, new circumstances.  Children growing up, moving out.  Lots of change.  Something the speaker said struck a chord in me.  He spoke of “acedia”~better known as sloth.  I had always associated slothfulness with being lazy and hadn’t given that sin much thought.  Slothfulness took on new meaning for me when it was defined as “not doing what your supposed to be doing when you are supposed to be doing it.”  Now that is a problem!  It is easy for me to be “out of order” ~doing things too late at night or in a hurry. Previously, this had seemed virtuous~working to the end of the day to get it all done! As I was processing this, he added that being a workaholic is slothful. If one works hard at something that is either not what they are supposed to do or works at a time when they are not supposed to be doing it, it is sloth.  

A second category of sloth was being curious.  He spoke of the early desert fathers and how they went to the desert to find their place. They focused on what they had to do~not engaging in curiosity, but living a life of prayer. People today, self included, are so into what everyone else is doing.  It is easy to compare and worry~”how do I measure up?” Being curious leads us to make a great deal of far off places.  To always live in the future and imagine how things will be great when this or that happens.  Curiosity and living in the future keeps us from doing what we are supposed to be doing when we are supposed to be doing it. It makes us forget our place.  Our here.  Our now.

His words spoke to my angst.  I know my place.  I am wife.  Mom. Teacher. Friend. I live in THIS house, not the one we are building.  I am raising THESE children~not saving the world.  I have floors to sweep and beds to make.  I have ouchies to bandage and foreheads to kiss.  I have students to teach and prayers to say.  I do not need to be Joe.  I do not need to be one of my amazing friends. I do not need to start a group.  It is not time to look to far off places and imagine how life will be.  I need to do what I am supposed to do when I am supposed to do it.  The time is now. Challenge accepted.

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A Heart full of Love

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“The Passion of The Christ” is one of my all time favorite movies.  It’s hard to watch and even harder to process the kind of love it would take to die the death Jesus died. It’s the First Friday of the month again~a day to meditate on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to unite our sufferings to His.  In Colossians 1:24, St. Paul says, “‘Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.’  This Scripture verse always bothered me and even more so after watching the Passion.  There was simply NOTHING lacking in the afflictions of Christ.  However, in digging deeper into this verse, I am particularly drawn to Scott Hahn’s explanation.  He compares this “lack” or “need” to that of a parent. Though we do not “need” our children to do the dishes or vacuum, we want them to grow up to be responsible adults so we allow and encourage them to help us for their own good.  Christ did not “lack” or “need” us to accomplish salvation but He chose freely to allow us to be part of His Body and to unite our suffering with His for the good of the Church.

It is also noted that though nothing is lacking in Christ or lacking in God the Father, there is definitely much lacking in the world.  The only reason there are people who lack food is because of a lack of generosity.  People lack clean water and clothing despite the extreme wealth of many.  I often lack the heart and hands of Christ.  There is more work to be done.  Without the Apostles we would not know the Good News.  We have each been commissioned to spread and to live the Gospel.  Until we do, the world will lack.  Jesus incorporates all of our help into His plan for the Salvation of the World.  First Friday is a beautiful reminder to add our sufferings and sacrifice and prayer to those of Christ. He desires that each of us have a heart like His.

The trick is, it is easy to talk about having a heart full of love.  Fantastic to blog about it, until one of the kids interrupts my holy thoughts and intentions and I have to LIVE my blog!  Seriously?!  Life would be so easy if I could just blog all my grand plans and ambitions without really having to put them into practice.  So…I will sign off and try to be a mom with a heart full of love.  If the going gets tough, I will remind myself to unite my sufferings to those of Christ.  After all, Paul has reminded me I am needed by Jesus. I remind myself how very much I need Him.

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I love you, too.

i love you mom

Our first day back from NYC.  Up early adjusting to the time change.  Grabbed coffee and drove to the new house with Prince Charming.  Enjoyed sitting on our deck looking across the prairie.  Then back home to seize the day.  The first item to catch my eye as I emptied the dishwasher was this mug~my going away gift from Jordan.  A precious simple mug with two little flowers and the words, “I love you mom” on the side.  I am sitting here with this goofy grin on my face thinking of our mighty God and His goodness in the little things.  Of course, my Christian mix CD is playing in the background and the song that just started opens with, “Nothing can separate.  Even if I run away.  Your love never fails.”  Another little kiss from God.  Nothing can separate.  Not even a continent, three hour time span, or change in family dynamic.  We cannot be separated as the Body of Christ.  God has worked out all the details to bless us in the every day.  

Our trip to NYC was a blessing for each of us.  We had two beautiful days in the City, filled with laughter and adventure.  We celebrated Joe’s birthday with gusto.  We tackled Times Square, Central Park Zoo, Build-A-Bear, the American Girl Store, Bubba Gumps, Juilliard, Museum of Natural History, street vendors, Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, TGIF, McDonald’s triple decker restaurant for Gabbie, and more.  We laughed.  We sweated (intense humidity).  We ran.  We argued.  We enjoyed.  We were just family for two amazing days.  Knowing time was running short, we truly embraced each moment to the best of our ability.  Jordan purchased little gifts for each of her siblings in NYC.  Build-A-Bear outfits, a tent for Max’s bear, t-shirts and wall hangings.  Each returned with another reminder of Jordan’s love.  

The Mass of entrance is another blog.  Meeting the sisters and spending time with them put our family so at ease.  We did not lose a daughter, we gained 80 Sisters in Christ.  They are now part of our family.  Each has a beauty and a deep inner Joy.  My heart melted as I saw each of our children and Joe fall in love with the Sisters as I had in December.  Everything was going to be okay.  Jordan had found a home among these beautiful women.  They will care for and love her deeply.  Together they will live out their mission to witness to the beauty of each and every human life.  

Back home, we will figure out how to readjust to this new family life.  I woke up in the night and the time on the clock was another hug from God.  3:16 a.m.  Seeing 3:16 on the clock triggered the words from  John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.”  God loved the world that much.  God loves each of us that much.  The love of God is beyond understanding but deserving of much meditation.  I think I’m going to refill my mug from Jordan now and ponder the love of God.  I’m also going to ponder the love of my oldest daughter and cherish the words, “I love you mom.”  I love you, too, Jordan.  I love you, too…

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