Worth Revisiting: God and the Small Stuff

It’s Monday morning and I have reluctantly left the warm comfort of my bed to embrace the day and week ahead of me. Why reluctantly? It wasn’t as if I had failed to enjoy the weekend, or conversely had enjoyed it so much as to need the added rest. Yet, whatever the reason I needed help, indeed strength to rise and greet the sunrise as it would soon be greeting me. So, I prayed.

“Father, you are indeed so great as to set the world in motion- help set my feet and spirit in motion too towards what I am to do today. Yes, You have my yes…Spirit lead and strengthen me.”

As morning routines have ensued, and I have found space and time for reflection, I am reminded again of God’s constant and faithful promise to always walk beside us. Growing up, I watched both my mother and grandmother go to God throughout their day with the great and small stuff of life. For my grandmother, this time was spent with daily scripture, and silent prayer. If she didn’t know the answer she knew who did and went straight to the source. My mom, though less attentive to scripture reading, found also great humility in her immense dependence on God. With petition and praise she thanked God for the food on the table, the roof over our head and gift of one another each day. Yet, she likewise would pray for good news to arrive, the sun to shine, the rain to stop, peace to come or the strength to endure the day ahead.

With a beautiful gleam in her eye, I was invited to listen to her retelling of the story of working the family’s fields alongside her brothers and sister. As the sun would beat down relentlessly in the heat of the day, exhausted and worn, they would sing and lift up this prayer for rain.

Oh, Let “there be showers of blessing..
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Refrain:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

—There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

Daniel Whittle 1883 (Ez. 34:26; Psalm 115:12; Gen 32:26)

What a gift God has in store for us if we come to him not only with our heavy burdens but also with our daily cares, questions, and humble petitions of the heart! Yet, repeatedly in ministry I hear the contrasting refrain of

Doesn’t God have more important things to do? I wouldn’t want to bother God with the small things..shouldn’t I save my requests when I really need Him?

To which I joyfully answer,

“No. God has nothing better to do than to sit and converse with You! He can move the mountains, calm the seas, guide ships, rescue the lost, and listen to the smallest of prayers. He is God after all.”

Our Father wants to be our friend all along- not just when we are in dire trouble. Today, let’s invite God into our day, into the little things of life..He’s here waiting for us to bid him near.

Father you come to me whenever I call! I know you smile to see me reach for you. And like a loving dad you hold out your arms to guide, encourage and catch me when I stumble. You know how difficult those first steps can be each day, and though our strength may fail..Yours always remains!

Peace, Signature

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Grandma’s Lessons

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My grandma was a teacher- as was my grandpa, my mom and all but one of their children. Long after her classroom days, she continued to teach in Sunday school and most profoundly by the sheer witness of her life. I spent many a summer day there, learning even when I failed to recognize that indeed there was a lesson she was passing on. So, with a bit of humor, I share a few of the finer points of her credo that have remained with me over the years.

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Grandma Ferrell (top left) with local school children
  1. The Early Bird Gets the Berry- I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. (Ps.119:47)

Literally. Having grown up on the farm, she was accustomed to getting up early and starting the chores before the sun raised its weary head. Quickly donning a work shirt, and galoshes we each would grab hold of the small green baskets to gather the blackberries that grew all along the outskirts of her property.  What a treasure these berries were! So much so that, if left unattended, there would be little of the spoil for the taking after the birds had their bellies filled. After our collecting, and sitting down to breakfast, Grandma would spend some early quiet time in reading scripture, pausing to pray and taking notes. There was a lesson in the importance in all her motions, an ordering of her day and awareness of the One who created it all.

  1. Waste not..you’ll miss it the second time around!- When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)

The small plot of land behind her home beheld a large garden, overflowing with vegetables and fruits of every kind. Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, beans, okra, strawberries, rhubarb..all had a purpose long after the growing season. What she could not eat or bake into pies was canned and set aside for the long winter months. Often given the duty of procuring a jar of preserves or apple butter, my eyes would light up at getting to choose which sweet goodness to spread on my toast in the morning. This philosophy extended to meals as well, and each was packaged, labeled and placed in the freezer for a later date. All was a gift from God, and as such was to be valued rather than easily discarded. I too have carried this forth in my family and even find a special delight in creatively repurposing food to equally enjoy it the second time around.

  1. Set Sunday aside for God..or you just might be given a reminder! “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”(Exodus 20:8)

While my grandma wasn’t superstitious or fearful of God, she did share with me an amusing childhood story that kept her from letting her completion of work dominate her Sabbath. Her mom, my G. Grandma Connelly, was a busy bee- always moving from task to task. And when not working, she was socializing with everyone. One morning before Sunday service, she suddenly remembered that she had been chatting the day before instead of collecting the eggs from the hens. Swiftly she moved, gathering the eggs and placing them neatly in a wicker basket on the back porch steps making it just in time for church.  Sitting in the pew, she smiled to herself that it all got done. Yet coming home, to her surprise, she was met not with a basket full of eggs, but a curled up snake resting after its catered meal.

To this day, when I find myself in mass running down the laundry list of things done or things to do I am reminded of this antidote. What good is the work done if I neglect to prayerfully give focus to the readings or God’s presence? If I am in such a hurry to get to those chores, that I leave communion and community without awe and appreciation for the gifts received?  Carried forth into everything I do that day, it is to be my guide. In truth, every day is to be holy, properly balanced and ordered. Still, we all need time to rest and replenish both physically and spiritually from the week. Taking this time is recommended care for our bodies and souls.

Reflect:

How have I made time for God in my day? In my week? Is there any waste in my life? Do I recognize the need for both work and rest? For communion and community?

Peace,

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Why Pray the Stations of the Cross?

 Re-posting this today  as the stations are a beautiful invitation to walk with Christ ..and one that in true Jesuit imagining I invite you to consider. If you possibly can,  make time today to pray the stations as a community.

This past week as I accompanied my 4th grade students, from this past summer, for the Stations of the Cross I began to think…Why do we not do this more often? Here, we have been given this beautiful imaginative way to immerse ourselves in the story of the Passion of our Lord. More than merely listening we are asked to contemplate the scene, and walk in faith with Christ on the way to the cross. As we picture the faces of the crowd, the thoughts of the disciples, and the heart of Christ himself we glimpse the magnitude of the sacrifice of love that has been given to us. If you have never participated in the Stations of the Cross before, all are welcome, just call your local parish for the date and time. This is a graced pilgrimage and one that I hope that you too will make this Lent.

The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned – Tried unjustly for crimes he didn’t commit, would we have spoken up for Jesus? Do I speak up for others?

The Second Station: Jesus Takes up His Cross – Oh the sight of Christ beaten, crowned with thorns, and now asked to carry the cross! Do I seek to feel compassion for those carrying burdens?

The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time –Would I have rushed to His side? Am I a source of strength for others?

The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother – As a ‘sword piercing her heart’, the pain Mary felt to see her Son had to have been tremendous and yet she was there beside him. Do I meet others in their pain or only in joy?

The Fifth Station: Simon Helps to Carry the Cross – Chosen because he was different, Simon was called upon to carry Jesus’ cross. What unique gifts do I have that could serve Christ today?

 The Sixth Station: Veronica Offers Her Veil to Jesus – This woman seeing a way to help Jesus, in turn leaves with his image on her veil and in her heart. Do my actions today bear the image of Christ?

 The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time –  Weak and weary, the weight of the cross with our sinfulness was greater than anything we have ever known. How does my own sinfulness weigh on me today?

    The Eighth Station: Jesus meets the Weeping Women –  Jesus meets the women with a profound understanding of the pain our sin carries. Do I consider the effects of my sin on others though the things I do or fail to do?

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time – Pushed and prodded on, there was to be no rest for Jesus on the way to the cross. Yet, we find rest in Christ who continually strengthens us and shares our burdens.

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Clothing- Humiliated and stripped of his dignity, oh how our Savior seeks for us to see the suffering of our most vulnerable.

The Eleventh Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross – What a cruel scene that lays before our eyes- and yet the love that is poured out as You take on our sins upon Yourself! Help me dear Lord to live this life in gratitude for your sacrifice, help me to love You and your creation as I should.

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross – Forgiveness You have given for those who sought to crucify you. Christ forgive me of my sins, and guide me to extend forgiveness to all I encounter in life.

  The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross – Holding the body of her Son in her arms, we dare to imagine the loss and pain that Mary felt in this moment. In those times that I have experienced loss, do I rely on the strength of God and my brothers and sisters in Christ to carry me?

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb –  As  Joseph and Nicodemus lay Jesus in the tomb, joined by Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalen  we imagine the stone that is rolled into place.  For those times we too are asked to place our trust in the events of our lives, unknowing what is to come next we pray for guidance.

The Resurrection – We know that this last station is not the end of the story- For Christ has risen and calls us all to a new life in Him! Let my life be a witness to his Passion and revealing of his love to the world!

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: Lisa Hendey & Sherry Brownrigg

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! 

As it is Lent, I invite you to tune in with several of our featured Lenten authors… 

Radio Interview with CRS:Lisa Hendey and Sherry Brownrigg

 

Catholic Relief Services Columbia Trip 2016 Recap with Lisa Hendey and Sherry Brownrigg This Lent, as they have for four decades, millions of Catholics around the United States will place a colorful cardboard box and calendar in their homes to begin a spiritual journey that changes lives around the world.

Worth Revisting: Poetic Examen-ation

This is a day that was long awaited,
A time dreamt of and indeed anticipated,
With months albeit years of preparation,
And a myriad of readings and connotations.
Today, I awoke knowing that there was nowhere I had to be.
There was truly no post to edit,
Or theologian I needed to credit,
An argument carelessly ignored,
Nor deeper meaning to explore.
I now wondered in this stillness what was to be of me.
On the surface I had considered,
Neglected tasks that could be bettered,
Domestic duties that once were small,
Sat waiting to be again forestalled.
Feeling there was a greater more fruitful use of my time.
Where was that book that had been given,
read when my free time too would beckon?
What was it now that I would write,
if granted this instant of respite?
Ah, yes  these too cannot be my compass prime.
For always when I come in prayer,
The answer seems to find me there,
No longer doubt or thoughts amiss,
At the day’s events that carry bliss.
Since You know where it is that I need to be and what I am to do.
But rather surrender to Thy will and grace,
To lead me to my rightful place,
Perchance beside the lost, or dying,
Or counseling a friend whose day is trying-
Where ever my feet are needed to go Lord I give them to You. 

 Peace,

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A Belated Thank You :Thief on the Cross

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In reading the passages from Luke today on the way of the cross and crucifixion of Jesus, (Lk 23: 26-49) I was struck with gratitude for the thief on the cross beside Christ. Mocked, insulted and shamed- Jesus endured not only the painful, sorrowful physical pain of the cross but rejection of the people that he loved and came to save. There were those like Simeon, Veronica and of course his mother Mary who were present along the way of the cross to offer strength, tenderness, and comfort. Yet, it was the unexpected conversion of the thief that was there beside Christ in those last moments. His witness of faith is to me a gift to our Savior, a beautiful reminder of the redeeming potential of mankind.

Over the years, I have heard many scoff at the thief on the cross, as I am sure they would have done in his day. “So sad to see how his life turned out, he was brought up in the faith you know. I heard he asked the priest to come at the end…guess that is between him and God.” Yes,  and still this holds true for each and every one of us. One glimpse at the story at the woman to be stoned and the heaviness of the stone in our hands, the weight of our sins, should remind us of the profound unmerited gift of salvation.

So what differentiated the thief on the cross and the other criminal hanging there? Awareness and Repentance.

First, the thief on the cross was attentive to who he believed Jesus to be- in light of an intimate unique relationship to God. Saying to the other criminal beside him, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?” (Lk 23:40) Here too, the thief acknowledges his own sin, unworthiness, and deserved punishment. In the considered opinion of the world, there was no redemption, no more chances, this was the end. Yet, the thief also confesses an understanding that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world and a new desire to belong to Christ. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Lk 23:42)

Wait..there was still hope? Was it truly possible to trade the consequences for his decisions, the weight of his shame for a place in God’s kingdom that very day? And, “He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”(Lk 23:43) The beauty of Christ’s victory over death reminds us of the ever present reality of the eternal promise of life.  Yet, as God’s divine love and mercy are always more than we could ever conceive, gratefully we are reminded that God has yet to give up on any of us. So, to the thief on the cross I would like to say thank you.

“Thank you for witnessing that not one spiritual journey is ever the same. Called to conversion, continually, we are a people always in need of a Savior. Though in mankind’s eyes your profession of faith might be considered last minute… it is in truth timeless. It is truly a graced beneficiary of the unrestrained and limitless love of a Father- who time has no hold upon.”

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith:Laura Alary

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! 

As it is Lent, I invite you to tune in with several of our featured Lenten authors… 

Radio Interview with Laura Alary

Laura AlaryLaura Alary is a writer, storyteller, and religious educator. She has a B.A. from Dalhousie, an M.Div. from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. from University of St. Michael’s College. Laura has three creative and curious children. She leads workshops,teaches university courses, and works with children at a local congregation. Laura lives in Toronto, Canada. She joins us today to discuss Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter.

Worth Revisiting:Mid Retreat-Consecration to Mary

Co-blogging my reflections with Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet on 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC in preparation for Marian Consecration.

Familiar with Louis de Montfort’s treatise on Mary, I have thoroughly enjoyed Gaitley’s use of modern saint stories that bear vivid witness to lives devoted to Marian consecration. Here we follow St. Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa and St. JP II. who also had devoted themselves to Mary to glimpse how that was manifested in the course of their everyday.

As a convert to Catholicism, I began this path of understanding and growing in Mary a little more than 20 years ago. Still, it is this later discovery that has prompted a desire to fully seek who Mary is in the life of Christ, the life of the Church and quite personally for me. Oh, how very much I still have to learn!

This retreat is said to be undertaken with ‘fire in one’s heart’ with generosity and desire. Where we lack these things, the Holy Spirit, Mary and the saints are there to lovingly guide and support us.

1. “Doing the Lord’s work does not always turn out according to our plans.”//This is none more evidenced than in the lives of the saints who were often redirected in their efforts to serve. For me, it speaks to the need to let go of the outcome and instead to seek God’s will and guidance in every instance of my desire to serve. Many times, I may never know the results of the work begun.

2. Because of sin, there is a great need to continually renew our baptismal promises and recommit our lives to Christ.// Mary’s life is a beautiful witness to a life fully committed to God’s will, and devoted to the heart of Christ- she is there to help us daily to honor our own promises.

3. Give Mary our prayers, sacrifices and gifts to distribute to those who need it most.// Initially, this was difficult for me to grasp. If I have been asked to pray specifically for someone, how can I let go of who my prayer’s intention is for? Because our efforts are not lost but she “augments, increases and purifies the spiritual gifts we give her”. Moreover, it isn’t that we cannot pray for those we love we just let go of the “final say”.

4. Why did Mary call herself the Immaculate Conception at Lourdes and not rather I am Immaculately Conceived?// I had never given this much thought before and yet much like St. Kolbe I was now enthralled with the distinction. As the spouse of the Holy Spirit she had in fact taken the name of the One who creates, sustains, and renews the face of the earth- the uncreated Immaculate Conception. Born without original sin, Mary also knows within her the Holy Spirit as “uncreated Love” which bears divine fruit within her womb in Jesus.

5. W+ w =S. In short, when we seek to unite God’s will with our own it is then we are led to sanctity or holiness.// Following God’s will is difficult but when look to Mary’s beautiful example we see she is there to lead the way.

6. Every day “people give themselves over to Satan to be possessed by him…why can’t people give themselves over to God to become an instrument of love?// Mary implores us to not be content in our own salvation, but to lead others, indeed the entire world, to conversion and to the love of Christ.

7. Christ longs, undeniably “thirsts” to be close to each one of us. “Hear your name. Not just once. Every day. If you listen with your heart you will understand”.// Moreover, this intimacy calls us to see the suffering of his children who are left lonely, hungry and uncared for. This too is a “thirst” of Christ which goes unfulfilled when we walk away from those most in need.

Father, thank you for this gift of time spent with you to seek how to better serve you in all that I do. Holy Spirit help me to conform and unite my will, as did Mary, with you. “Help me to listen (and respond) to the thirst of Jesus” 

Peace and Love,

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A Daughter’s Love

There is obviously one thing wrong with this picture.The text is incomplete. It fails to convey the full truth that not merely do I Like Mary but I “LOVE her!”  However, it wasn’t always this way, as for so many years I did not really know my heavenly mother. For loss of better words, I was an estranged daughter.  I more or less assumed who Mary was and dare I say..had taken her for granted.What was it then that led me to rediscover my mother’s love? First there was my conversion to the Catholic faith. Like a newborn baby I needed to grow in understanding who I was in light of a mother’s love.

Still, I grappled a bit with the new found love I felt for my heavenly mother and the ever present closeness I had always had with my earthly mother. Inside I almost compartmentalized each of these relationships not able to glimpse their intended congruence. Unable to see that the love that I already knew in my birth mother’s arms was but a reflection of the immense love that Mary had for me. That is..until I faced the sudden impending death of the only mother I had known for the first 21 years of my life.

The news of my mother’s lung cancer prognosis literally rocked my world. Earlier that year, I had already generously grieved my grandmother’s death, who I was perhaps the most like in disposition and priorities.Then just weeks after giving birth to my youngest son, I was told by the doctor that my mother had perhaps a mere month left on this earth. I could never forget that day. As scheduled workers hammered away on the installation of siding, everything around me noisily shook and reverberated. Then the windows, ripped out and curtain less, utterly expressed the bare and vulnerable feeling that I could not seem to cover.

I sought refuge and strength. However, everywhere I turned, revealed the reality that I would soon be without the two most influential and loving women who helped shape my very being. After the news, the first trip to see my mom would be as a family. A twenty-four hour car ride amid carefully worded conversation, I knew I had to be strong. Easing them into understanding how important it would be to cherish this time, I wiped tears and held little bodies close.Yet, who would mother me now? While eternally grateful for a loving hubby and good friends, I longed for the smothering maternal presence that I was so accustomed to.

Returning just a week before my mother’s passing, I traveled only with my youngest this time. So in need of respite, there were moments in the beginning days that I found it difficult to even let down my emotions to nurse or sleep. That is when I realized, my profound need to go to my Father’s house. Little did I know that here too, waiting for me was my Mother. As I sat in the small chapel of the aptly entitled Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, ceiling of sky blue adorned with gold fleur de leis, I spied her graceful silhouette once again. In the stillness I cried out “I am too young to loose my mother, Lord. I am just a new mom myself.I need help, I need guidance, I need strength… from my mom”

“When have you ever been alone, when have I ever left your side?” “Never Lord..you have been with me always. Please forgive me Lord, if I may persist..this is a different emptiness.” “I am here too..I have given you my very own mother, look to her.” In this moment, whereby my heart heard his, my entire body sighed releasing the weight that I had felt since the diagnosis. For some time I sat there, comforted and strengthened by the warmth of the love that I felt.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I would return to this safe haven,trusting the promise that Mary was more than ready to fill the void that I felt. In fact, she had been waiting for me to merely ask.

“Mary, my blessed mother, how very sorry I am to have held your love at bay. It must please you, though, to know how I yearn to draw close and follow your son. Please help loving lead my steps and support me through this time, as well as, in the years to come with my own children. And when I forget, remind me of your presence and witness of faith through both joyful and difficult times alike.  One more thing..please let my mom know how much she has taught me and that I will forever love her.”

Your loving daughter,

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An Engaging Faith: Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! *Today 3/11/16 we also have a Live show with Margaret Felice!

As it is Lent, I invite you to tune in with several of our featured Lenten authors… 

Radio Interview with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

donna-marie-cooper-oboyle.pngDonna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, is an award-winning Catholic writer, speaker, retreat leader, and host of Catholic Mom’s Café and Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms on EWTN. A wife and mother of five, Cooper O’Boyle was recognized as one of the Top Ten Most Fascinating Catholics in 2009 by Faith & Family Live. She enjoyed a decade-long friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and became a Lay Missionary of Charity. For many years her spiritual director was Servant of God John A. Hardon, S.J., who also served as one of Mother Teresa’sBringing Lent Home with Pope Francis spiritual directors. Donna  is the author of several books on faith and family, including the Bringing Lent Homeseries, Rooted in Love, Mother Teresa and Me, and The Kiss of Jesus. She has been featured in a number of religious publications and on Catholic radio, and is a frequent guest on EWTN’s Bookmark, Sunday Night Prime, and EWTN Live. She lives in Connecticut with her family. Here to talk to us about her Lenten book, Bringing Lent Home with Pope Francis.