HOPE

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

by Emily Dickinson

Hope, what a blessing it is!  The one who possesses hope possesses everything.  In my mid- twenties and early thirties, I was really into poetry.  I made my poor students memorize countless poems and act them out in class.  Oh what wonderful memories!  (Sorry guys!)  I loved the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Edgar Allen Poe.  I think that during that time of discovery, I loved the eccentricities of the different poets and their wonderful play with words.  I love to play with words, myself!

During the time that I was recovering memories of the abuse I suffered as a child, I wrote a lot of poetry.  Much of it, in the beginning, was pretty angry and dark.  Pain seems to bring the creativity in me.  It just flowed right out and was very cathartic.

At the beginning of this healing journey, I felt pretty hopeless.  I knew that I had to step into the “darkness of the tunnel” and could not yet see the light at the other end.  I wanted to turn back to unknowing.  Even though it was not really living, it was familiar, and in a strange way comfortable.  It took tremendous courage to enter the darkness of the tunnel that was the healing journey.  I knew that the process would not be short or easy, and I was filled with dread.  I would be chartering waters unfamiliar, and felt as though I were traveling with blinders on.  However, hope miraculously came to me, held my hand and guided me through the scariness and darkness into the light of day one small step at a time.

Hope is not a “thing with feathers.”  For me, it is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ.  No matter what happens in this life that comes along and just plows the feet out from under us, we can cling confidently to the one whose feet were nailed to a cross.   He has conquered humiliation.  He has conquered poverty.  He has conquered hunger and thirst.  He has conquered torture.  He has conquered death.

Isn’t it the most beautiful Truth that Our God humbled Himself to share in our (sometimes) miserable humanity?  He so could have done things an easier way, but He chose to live our experience – both the good and the bad.  When we cry out for help and hope and healing to Christ, we are calling upon the Savior who has been there done that.

He is our rock, our strength, our answer, our Savior, our Lord, our friend, our HOPE… A song from an old Elvis record my momma used to play just came to me…”He is my reason for living.  He is the King of all Kings.  I long to be His possession.  He is my everything!”

Thinking tonight of my friends who are suffering – physically, mentally and spiritually. Grab onto HOPE, and don’t let go.  You are not alone!  Praying for you all!

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Sweet Sunday in Swamp Country

IMG_6949 IMG_6941 IMG_6960 IMG_6891 IMG_6995 IMG_6950 IMG_6926 IMG_6974 IMG_6920 IMG_6887 IMG_6966

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Reflections on the Readings for Sunday, September 14, 2014

Readings for Sunday, September 14, 2014

Often times, we get just plain tired of life.  My husband’s grandmother frequently quipped, “The first 100 years are the hardest-”  She would know.  She nearly made it to the ripe old age of 100.  Well, life is tough at times.  It can leave us absolutely frustrated and exhausted.  When we are feeling this way, we often do not display our best selves.  On our pity pot, we whine and complain, as if doing so will garner some pity or change the situation. Instead, we should unite our sufferings to the cross of Christ.

The Israelites in the desert were tired, hungry and frustrated.  They complained about God and Moses.  They scoffed at the food provided.  How often are we less than excited about the food on our plate?  How often are we ungrateful for (or take for granted)  the sustenance the Lord has supplied?  Do we believe that He is the supplier, and that we could do nothing without Him?    I find kids today – mine included at times – especially those living in areas of plenty, very ungrateful for food – turning their noses up at it, or wasting it.  We have so many choices – maybe too many for our own good!

The second reading is so incredibly beautiful.  I encourage you to read it slowly, line for line, pausing after each to REALLY reflect on the meaning…  He emptied Himself.  He humbled Himself.  He was obedient unto death.  He loved us so much that He took on our wretched humanity.  He died a grueling death on a cross.  He sanctified an instrument of torture by dying to redeem us.  He was exalted.  At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, every tongue confess…

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

How many time is the Holy Name of Jesus misused in today’s world?  What can we do to make reparation for this?  How can we better honor His holy name?  If we won’t stand up for our Lord, who will?

Finally, the gospel contains the most quoted verse in the bible:  John 3:16.  “For God SO LOVED the World that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have Eternal Life.”   This is our Jesus.  This is our hope.  He was triumphant over the cross, and with His help we will be triumphant over our crosses  – even death.  We must have single vision in order to do so – keeping our eyes focused pointedly and steadily on Him.Unknown

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Book Recommendation

UnknownOn Labor Day, I was stuck in the great parking lot that was the road between the Florida beaches and New Orleans –  thousands headed home after the three-day weekend – my family included!  I was beginning to get frustrated when I remembered that I had tucked a book under my seat.  A friend of mine had recommended it to me, so I ordered it specifically for the Labor Day weekend.  I thought I’d want to read on the beach, but it turned out that the wave action was so exciting that I thoroughly enjoyed watching my husband and kids ride the waves again and again.  (I even joined in a few times!)

Anyway, I began reading Miracle Man by Judy Landrieu Klein in the car when it was still daylight.  I was quickly drawn in by the story, and literally could not put it down.  When the sun set, I read with a flashlight!  When we arrived home, I unloaded our laundry from the suitcases into the washing machine, and climbed in bed to finish.  I knew that I couldn’t sleep until I had completed it.

It is the story of a very difficult time in Judy’s life – the illness and eventual death of her beloved husband, Bernie.  Don’t be fooled by the subject matter, however.  The book is not a downer.  I found Judy’s writing to be highly relatable and very inspiring.  She shares the many little miracles that happened throughout Bernie’s illness, and the important spiritual lessons she learned along the way.  The book is a must read!

Please visit Judy’s website:  memorareministries.com for more information.

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Reflections of the Readings for Sunday, September 7, 2014

Readings for Sunday, September 7 

The message of the first reading reminds me of one of the spiritual works of mercy:  to admonish the sinner.  Does anyone know these works of mercy anymore?  Do people think that they are a “To Do” list from the past – a different time and place?  It seems as though the world looks down upon those who admonish the sinner as being intolerant and judgmental.  Of course, making a person aware of his/her moral misstep must be done with kindness and charity, but it should be done nonetheless.  In today’s reading, we are told that if we do not do so, we too will be held responsible for the death of that person’s soul.  Yikes!  People think that they are being charitable by smiling and looking the other way, however, in some instances, a person’s eternity may be at stake.  Wouldn’t it be more charitable to give them the opportunity to make amends – to repent?  Maybe he/she won’t take the knowledge well, but at least you’ve tried AND you have planted a seed – a thought in his/head that may grow with time and prayer.  We do this with our teenage and young adult children.

The psalm made me think of two things – the NEED for silence so lacking in our lives today.  How can we ever hear God’s voice – His whisper – in our hearts – if we can’t be still – if we cannot tolerate solitude or inactivity?  Are we afraid of what He would say?  Are we avoiding?  Secondly, the tone of the psalm is Happy, Happy, Happy.  It speaks of “singing joyfully” to the Lord.  I was told by one of my children last Sunday that I sing and respond too loudly in church – that it doesn’t “count more if I’m louder.”  That annoyed me.  I know that my voice carries.  I’m not trying to drown out others or “be heard.”  I just truly enjoy singing at mass.  I think that the responses are there for us to actually say because we are a part of the sacrifice that the priest is offering on our behalf.  Hardly anyone sings at mass anymore.  It makes me very sad.

I find the gospel very interesting.  We are given a prescription for handling conflict.  We are told to go through the proper channels. Then, if none of the steps resolve the conflict – “straightens out the one who harmed you” – then “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”  Wow!  These folks were not well-respected – in fact, in many cases they were loathed.  Is Jesus telling us to hate?  I don’t think so.  Matthew, the fellow who wrote this gospel – the one who is telling the story was himself a tax collector.  How did Jesus treat the Gentiles and tax collectors?  He healed them. He dined with them. He forgave them.

The gospel concludes with something that families would do well to remember:

If people can agree about “anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

These are powerful words of encouragement for family prayer.  Family prayer is unitive and transformative.  We would all be prudent to work toward increasing the use of this wonderful spiritual tool in our own homes.

 

 

 

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Movie Must Sees

I watched two movies this weekend that were outstanding.  I rarely make such a statement.  It seems decades ago that I was a movie buff.  I would hit the video store every Friday night to rent the new releases. Nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be much out there that interests me.  Occasionally, there will be something, but most of what is out there is morally offensive on multiple levels – much like what is on TV.

“God is Not Dead” is a story about a college freshman (a Christian) who comes up against an atheist professor. This philosophy teacher tries to get his students to deny God’s existence, so that “they don’t have to waste class time debating that (foolishness).”  Josh’s parents and girlfriend advise him to simply go along with the teacher’s demands so that the professor will not ruin his college career or his promising future.  After thinking about Christ’s great sacrifice for him, Josh doesn’t want to let Jesus down, so he decides to stand up to his professor. He studies night and day seeking information that will prove God’s existence.  The movie addresses atheism, agnosticism, religious persecution, injustice, standing up for what you believe, why God allows suffering, Divine Providence, God’s direction in our lives and so much more.  I highly recommend this movie for preteens, teens and adults of all ages.  It is truly inspiring!

The second movie is called “For Greater Glory.”  Given the state of our world, it is a must see for all Christians.  It will leave you feeling charged, and more determined to do whatever is necessary to protect our religious freedom.  It is the story of the Chriteros who fought the oppressive Mexican Government in the 1920’s.  The religious freedom of the Catholics in Mexico during that time was being trampled.  Priests, bishops and lay Catholics were hung, tortured, and shot for practicing their faith.  Churches were closed, destroyed, and worship was forbidden.  The Christeros rose up to fight the government.  They would not compromise.  Many lost their lives, but ultimately, religious freedom was restored.

This movie is a difficult one to watch because of the violence.  I do not recommend it for children.  Older teens and adults, however, need to see this. The determination and unwavering faith of the Mexican martyrs is incredibly inspiring.

Is anyone willing to die for their faith anymore? There are people who would die rather than denounce their faith.  Most regretfully and horrifically, it is happening  in the Middle East right now.  We must show solidarity with those fighting religious persecution.  I pray that it will never come to United States soil, but we, as a country have done so much (and continue to do so much) to offend our Lord.  As a result, He may withhold His protection from us.

My advice – Pray for conversion of souls in great numbers!  Pray for the courage to defend our faith!  Pray for the protection of religious freedom!    Watch these two great movies and be inspired to do so!

Unknown-1 Unknown-2

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Sweet Saturday in the French Quarter

IMG_6402For more photos from our NOLA visit please check out my page at Fine Art America.   IMG_6420 IMG_6406 IMG_6458 IMG_6462 IMG_6432 IMG_6425 IMG_6435 IMG_6430 IMG_6445 IMG_6407 IMG_6409

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Changing a Dreaded Chore into a Cheerful Challenge

Yesterday morning, I woke up early, put on my combat apparel, and readied myself for battle – at the local big chain grocery store ( to remain unnamed).  I dread this task – most especially at this particular store.  I love shopping at certain upscale markets for a few specialty items, however, I can’t purchase all of my groceries at these places, because I need to be frugal – make that paycheck Ssttrrreeetttccchhhh!  You know what I mean???

Since I’m back at work on Monday – Fridays, I’ve got to shop with the rest of the world on Saturday.  Ugh!  I leave early so that by the time the store starts getting crowded, I’m on my way out.

Yesterday, I decided that I was going to make the grocery shopping experience a joyful one for myself and for as many people as I could.  I challenged myself to smile and to say, “Good morning,” to every person in that store with whom I made eye contact.  I also strolled through the store as though I had all of the time in the world, not letting the inevitable shopping cart traffic jam imagesaffect my blood pressure.  I was surprised by the number of smiles and pleasant greetings I got in return.  I would say that I got about a 90% return on my investment.  That’s pretty darn good if I must say so myself!

I left the grocery store with a spring in my step and a song in my heart!  I hope that I helped fellow shoppers to do the same!

 

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Reflection on Today’s Readings, Sunday, August 24, 2014

Readings for Today

A few verses that really stood out for me today:

The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  (the Church)

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever.

I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.

As Catholics, we rely upon the Magisterium for interpretation of scripture.  We are discouraged from pulling verses out of scripture to prove a point – usually because it’s our own point we wish to prove!  We must read scripture as a whole  – using the paragraphs surrounding the verses as context clues – just as we would do as a student in a reading class.  A Catholic Study Bible is highly recommended, as in the footnotes, it explains history important to understanding a passage, cultural innuendos and translation issues.  All of those aspects are important in understanding the scriptures.

That being said, one of the wonderful things about the Word of God is that it is a living word.  It is not something that was written thousands of years ago that has lost its relevancy for modern times.  I find that each time I read a passage, depending on what is going on in the world at the time, or what is going on in my life, I will discover another facet of the jewel that is God’s Word.

Today, the words that I posted at the top spoke to me – giving me strength and hope for this day.  Often times, I feel that our Church – the same beautiful one that Jesus instituted – has become a mess. Sometimes, I wonder if it will ever get straight again.  Then I read the reassuring line, “the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it.”  No matter how imperfect it is, it will not succumb to evil, because the Lord has promised this Himself.

When speaking to Peter, Jesus tells him that God has revealed to Peter Jesus’ true identity.  I really believe that God operates like this still today.  If we pray for His will – and His alone –  If we make the time for Him – time to be silent – amidst the noise and chaos – if we are humble like a child – He reveals Himself to us.

From Him, through Him and For Him are all things.  Being a former English teacher, I must tell you that my favorite part of speech is the preposition – “anywhere a bird can fly.”  There are 3 very meaningful ones used in this short passage that say  soooo much.  We come from His desire, His love, His creative hands.  From love, He calls us into being.  Through Him – I’m still thinking about that one.  Hmmm.  For Him.  Did He need us?  No.  Yet, we were created For Himself.  We live For Him.  We were created to know, to love and to serve Him…Remember that little ditty?

Finally, I give thanks to God who is Truth.  I thank Him for Truth, which in loving Him, we are blessed to possess.  There is this awesome little video that I will post at the bottom of my page, “Isn’t Truth Relative?” – great for pondering!!   When we pray, He always hears us.  He always answers us.  We might not get the answer we want, but He always provides the strength needed for whatever it is that we may be facing.  Often, we have difficulty with God when someone we love dies, or gets cancer.  We think, “If You love me like You say that You do, why did You let this happen to me?”  Jesus is God’s beloved ONLY Son.  As an only child, we can imagine how very much Jesus meant (means) to Him.  He allowed Jesus to suffer a horrible death for a greater good.  If this happened to Jesus, what makes us think we should be exempt?

I hope that I gave you some food for further thought on today’s readings.  Here’s the video I promised:

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My thoughts on the Laborers in the Vineyard

Today’s gospel is about the foreman of a vineyard and the laborers.  Remember, he payed the men who worked all day the same as the ones who worked only an hour or two.  Upon first reading it, human emotions of the need for justice/fairness surface.  When we look more closely, however, we see that the parable is really a metaphor for salvation – who gets to go to heaven.

Some people try very hard to live a Christlike life, follow the commandments, care for others and go to church on Sundays.  The life of a Christian can be difficult, for sure, but these folks persevere with and for the love of God. Eventually, they are admitted to heaven.

Then there are those who live a self-centered life, filled with greed and “jerkiness.”  They don’t feel the need for religion or God.  Then when things get rough and life’s fragility is laid bare, they call out to the Lord for forgiveness and help.  We are taught that where there is repentance, there is forgiveness.  So, we can assume that these folks get to go to heaven (eventually) too.

If this seems unfair, we must examine our motives.  Why do we really try to live as God commands?  Is it just to earn a spot in heaven, or is it truly out of love for God and neighbor?  Are we just as concerned about the souls of our brothers and sisters as we are about our own?  Are we willing to make sacrifices for the salvation of others?  Do we demand justice over mercy?

Charles Spurgeon was a Baptist preacher in the late 1800’s.  I don’t agree with all that he spoke, but I do like his quote on concern for others souls:

“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” He continued, “The saving of souls, if a man has once gained love to perishing sinners and his blessed Master, will be an all-absorbing passion to him. It will so carry him away, that he will almost forget himself in the saving of others. He will be like the brave fireman, who cares not for the scorch or the heat, so that he may rescue the poor creature on whom true humanity has set its heart.”

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