Worth Revisiting: Grandma’s Lessons

 :

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.

 :
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,

Signature

Advertisements

In My Corner

 :

Backs up against the wall prepared for an uphill battle, or at the very least a ready argument we turn anxiously to look for just who is in our corner. Even for the smallest of tasks we seem so ready to face everything on our own and only when we see the overwhelming odds do we recognize the depth of our need. Like a boxer, we stand bruised and bloodied with eyes nearly swollen shut before we fall on our knees .And yet, the fact of the matter is that it never has to be this way.

Corners

First a little observation about corners. As a friend of mine recently noted, corners are not the neatest, most brightly lit or cared for of places. That is where we keep the things we choose to hide or cannot deal with in the light of day that simply form the cobwebs of our lives. It is where we relegate the things that we hold onto, just in case we might find them of use one day. Now while it is true that God is needed to shine light on all of the hurt, guilt, and sin that lies here his love is never meant to only exist in this confined space. For if we let him, he longs for us to lay our heart and lives wide open for him to walk and guide our every movement.

Trust

So then why are we content to relegate God to the corner, asking only for his help when we feel we need him most?  Quite personally, it has been for me when I have suffered most from a misplaced trust in my own abilities or those of others. Forging ahead without consultation or consideration of his advice, I set off assuredly on a course that most certainly was doomed from the start. “Where did it all go wrong?”, I ask myself knowing the answer even before I ask the question.  It isn’t even a new story either. For time and time in the scriptures, God is asking us to include him in the planning, to wait to act. And yet time seems to stand still, and the uncomfortableness of the silence and the restlessness in the waiting tempt us to action. What I do not see, however, is the interplay of God at work in the hearts and lives of others seeking to bring us all to be a part of his master plan. While God can most certainly accomplish it all without me, he longs to have my trust and participation in the effort.

Rightful Place

Well, if the corner isn’t the sole rightful place of God in our lives, just where should our  Advocate and Comforter, Counselor and Deliverer  be? Truth is at times God is more than willing to take the lead, to walk beside us, and albeit carry us when we think we cannot go any further. All he asks is that he be first in our lives. The first consultation, the first consideration, the door that we first approach and move through in our day.Yet, how do we invite God to occupy that space in our lives if we have only turned to the coach’s corner in times of crisis?

  1. Pray- talk, surrender your concerns and difficulties but also  be willing to share your joys and blessings. It is all important to our loving Father.If we ever want to move God from the remote corners we have to give our all the good and the bad and include him in the decision making.
  2. Reconciliation- In considering what remains in our corners, now is a good time to “clean house”, maybe even do a little construction and eliminate the corners all together. Add some light to the darkest areas of our life by throwing open the shutters through confession and allowing God’s love to penetrate our hearts.
  3. Discernment- When a big decision seems to suddenly erupt on the scene..chances are that there were several smaller issues that were went unnoticed  or that led to this crossroad. Take time to allow God to lead. Discernment may appear at first glance to be inaction when really it is the most important part of any action that we take in our Christian lives.

My hope for you today is to recognize the friendship that our loving Savior is calling you to- not just a hiding place but a constant light, shield and hope of our life to come. Not for a moment does he ever forsake us. Isn’t it only rightful that we honor his choice to be with us always?

Peace,Signature

 

 

Worth Revisiting: 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,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Examening Exhaustion

Many of us might be quite familiar with the scripture that urges us to onward to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. (Heb 12:1) I myself have always loved that verse, and yet there are remarkably times when endurance and perseverance are indeed in short supply.

Weak, hungry, in need of healing we stop running- begging for respite and often questioning what lies ahead. Even when our exhaustion comes from a full day of joyful or productive work, we may very well find ourselves depleted and in need of renewal to meet tomorrow with the same vigor. So then, does God leave us with a goal that is unrealistic, or fail to see our very human shortcomings? Not at all,  for God promises to refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jer. 31:25)  The utter gratitude in this knowing that the God of all is there to meet us in our every moment I find unsurpassable.

  1. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Rom8:26-27)

Perhaps you find yourself so unbelievably exhausted that you are unsure of how to even pray, or words fail you completely. No worries- the Holy Spirit is there to take over when we cannot. Even the desire to pray is the beginning of prayer already.  Take this opportunity to simply close your eyes and allow your “soul find rest in God”

  1. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28)

Looking back on the day or days’ events are there moments when you felt God near? Maybe it is here now, in the silence of your heart, you suddenly feel God’s presence. Accept the invitation to thank God for his loving presence, mercy, and continual guidance when the way forward is uncertain. For  praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel  just as he promised.” (1 Kings 8:56)

  1. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

What does it mean to accept that God is God and in control? To surrender ourselves worn, torn and broken and find hope in His strength? Prayerfully, I invite you to offer up yourself, paying attention to how you are feeling both physically and emotionally. Take note of the areas of resistance, to where you might be still seeking control or holding back from God’s healing touch.

   4. “I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.” (Philemon 1:20)

There is quite often something to be gained from reflecting on the time leading to this present moment. When we are exhausted we can easily blanket the day and miss incredible insights into ourselves, and the work of God around us. And yet, I find this exercise so beautiful to do as my head lies on the pillow at the close of day. Maybe, there a conversation, encounter or remarkable pause that stands out, or that you wish to return to briefly. Imagining the scene, notice the details- the sights, sounds and even smells surrounding you. Pray for openness and guidance to rediscover this moment.

5.“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Phil. 4:13)

This is by far one of my favorite verses in the entire bible. Here, I am reminded that God is not asking me to continue alone or without the essentials necessary for the tasks ahead. Particularly during long stretches of time, whereby I know that my calendar is full and the demands many, I find comfort in knowing that tomorrow holds the gift of a new day. “For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure” (Ps. 18:31-32)and it is He who is my hope.

Father, thank you most gracious advocate for guiding, supporting , and strengthening me when my knees are weak and my feet no longer wish to move. You are my source of strength, and from you I now take my lead in the way ahead. Heal, nourish and allow me the privilege of offering you the gift of self though what I have left may seem small. Use my weakness to show how truly great you are.

Peace,

Signature

40 Days in His Way

 :

Working in ministry, liturgical seasons just simply move way too fast. It seems like yesterday Advent was on our doorstep and now we are almost 2 weeks into Lent. Our 8 week bible study with Jeff Cavins is drawing to a close and small group Lenten study has already begun. We have a food pantry drive and collection over the next 2 weeks, and a Collaborative Lenten service event for End Hunger where volunteers meet to package simple, nutritious meals for those in need within the New England area. Not to mention, as new collaborative (2 parishes now working together) there is evangelistic and leadership training, council and liturgy meetings, and the gathering of individuals to write a new pastoral plan. We are most certainly a collaborative on the move! In fact, several of the leadership team are flying out today to be a part of the Amazing Parish Conference in Atlanta.

In the midst of all these incredible community blessings, I have been trying to take the time myself to rediscover all the ways God is calling me personally to conversion and transformation. This year’s Lent for me has been all about trust. Why trust? Well, with so many balls in the air, including seeking the sale of our home, I have needed to go deeper than a mere lip service of saying I trust God. Over and over again these past few weeks I have had to let go of timelines, expectations and results. Not an easy task when you are detail oriented by nature. Yet, what I have noticed is that when I am truly keeping my eyes focused on Christ, all the rest fades away into the background.

One service project that has surfaced for me this Lent is the 40 bags/boxes in 40 days challenge of de-cluttering for simplicity and charity.Perfect timing as my family prepares to potentially move out of our home of 20 years. So many things we have not used over the years that could be of use to someone else. Why do we accumulate stuff and hold on to things that we honestly do not need anymore? Sentimentality, and security? With every bag or box packed, however, my family is gaining valuable space and awareness of the way that clutter can occupy our lives. In our culture of accumulation I can honesty say we could do with “Less” in order to appreciate what it is that we”Need”. We need space in our days and our homes that only God can fill.

Reflect:

Take time today to see what is filling your day, your home, and occupies your time. Is there room for growth, and space for need?

Peace,Signature

Worth Revisiting: Sacrifice

“It is by the apostolic preaching of the Gospel that the people of God is called together and gathered so that all who belong to this people, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, may offer themselves ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’.”

Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 2

With Lent fast approaching, this word sacrifice frequently looms and weighs upon our hearts as something undesired or sought after and yet something we are being asked to pursue. Could it be that we are working with a poor understanding of the rich true meaning of what it is to sacrifice? First as Christ has shown, and St. Paul reiterates, a sacrifice isn’t static or dead. In fact, rather than as an action performed it is more of a state of being. We are to be a ‘living sacrifice’, a testament to the continual love we have come to know as followers of Christ.

So, then we are brought to the heart of the matter. Sacrifice flows out of love. One cannot truly offer sacrifice without having experienced love otherwise it becomes a complaint ridden, shallow and inadequate substitute. It also entails giving of ourselves at a cost- from our need rather than our surplus. Just like the widow’s might, this is what it is to give and witness love.

As a young mom, I remember the countless sleepless nights- of feedings and changings, of fevers and nightmares, as well as, the meager availability of sleep and time. Yet, I cannot imagine making any other choice, than to give all that I am for the life and welfare of this great love entrusted to me. Sacrifice then also carries with it gratitude and responsibility. It is a graced notion of incorporation, for the needs of others can then remarkably become our own.

This Lent, take a moment to think of the profoundly beautiful invitation to sacrifice, to be a living witness to the love of a Father, the gift of the Son and of the Spirit’s renewal of hearts and lives.

Am I seeking to be transformed this Lent?

Is my sacrifice deep and life affirming? If not, what might God be asking me to do differently?

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving…Without sacrifice there is no love.” –Maximillian Kolbe

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“True love grows by sacrifice and the more thoroughly the soul rejects natural satisfaction the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes…”           –Teresa of Avila

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

 ― Thérèse de Lisieux

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. I want to see you as a sacrifice of living love, which only then carries weight before Me… And great will be your power for whomever you intercede. Outwardly, your sacrifice must look like this: silent, hidden, permeated with love, imbued with prayer.”

– Diary of Saint Faustina

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”-St. Ignatius Loyola

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”- Mother Teresa

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Those who are willing to lose their own consolation for their neighbors’ welfare receive and gain me and their neighbors…and so they enjoy the graciousness of my charity at all times. […] Then she must love her neighbors with such affection that she would bear any pain of torment to win them the life of grace, ready to die a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for their salvation. And all her material possessions are at the service of her neighbors’ physical needs.” –Saint Catherine of Sienna

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens.
If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”       –Dorothy Day

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love.”

Pope Francis

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Love Jesus, love Him very much, but to do this, be ready to love sacrifice more”. –Padre Pio

Peace,

Signature

Be Transformed

“The saints are living and practical proof that Christ’s philosophy works. The saints show us that it is possible for a human to be fully transformed in Christ” 

 Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly

This Lent we are asked to engage in a transformation, a continual conversion of heart. To do so, however, we must become vulnerable- recognizing and forgoing our attachment to sins, habits, and impediments to change. Then we are better able, as Richard Rohr, OFM would say, to “get out of the way enough” as to be influenced by God’s will for our lives. The grandest works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are worth little if done without an inner turning to God. Likewise, once we experience the profound love and mercy for our repentance and  take on a “radical reorientation of our whole life”(1431 CCC) it is very difficult for this transformation not to overflow. For, all those we encounter- our families, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers can then be witnesses to God’s love in our lives.

Take a moment today to consider what this transformation in Christ might look like, by listening to the saints and soon-to-be saints in their walk of discipleship.

“Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things.”
St. Augustine

“There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection.” Pope St. Gregory the Great

“First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow.”
St. Philip Neri

“We need silence to be alone with God, to speak to him, to listen to him, to ponder his words deep in our hearts.  We need to be alone with God in silence to be renewed and transformed.  Silence gives us a new outlook on life.  In it we are filled with the energy of God himself that makes us do all things with joy.”  Blessed Mother Teresa

“Let us allow ourselves to be touched by this love, to be transformed, so that the resurrection may really be realized in us. I invite you, therefore, to live the Paschal Triduum intensely.” Pope Emeritus Benedict

“Breathe that in: the doorway to joy is GIVING.Give whatever. Many give for the purpose of holding the title in giving. Yet there are those who give nothing of material yet give a smile from their heart, for it is the energy within you that are giving that matters most – not the form, what comes from your heart in that moment of your giving, that is what touches life, that is what will transform your world.” St. Germain

“Everything in life especially the things we like least about ourselves and our life situation become, from God’s perspective, the place of divine transformation and an invitation to intimacy with God who is present to all that is human..The abuse we may have suffered, and the difficult situations we face daily are the places where glory works itself out in us. Our specific woundedness is integral to the unique image of God that each of us is.” St. Thérèse

“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others. ”
St. Clare of Assisi

“While it is quite true that the essential vocation and mission of the lay faithful is to strive that earthly realities and all human activity may be transformed by the Gospel, none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice…” Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium 201)

“And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
so that you may prove what the will of God is,
that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” St. Paul (Romans 12:2)

Peace,

Signature