Monday, August 31, 2009

On Love

I saw a commercial on television the other day where a cute little puppy was bringing its favorite toy and giving it to its master. And the man said: “For me? You don’t have to give Mr Squeeky to me; you’ll want him some time.” It was an “Awwwwwwwwwww” moment, as we saw the tender love the dog had for its master; it was willing to give away its favorite thing to him. And we heard the master’s loving response.

Mom’s live-in caregiver is gone for a few days again, and I spent the last night on mom’s sofa. Waking up early as usual, I left for mass and was a bit anxious about leaving her alone, even for a short while.

As I prayed at church, I asked for God for his love and care for those in my life who were in particular need of Him -- those suffering in any way -- that He would comfort them and ease their pains and, that if he chose me to help in his work for them, to guide my ways. Then I thought about mom, and I prayed: “And dear Lord, please care for my mom while I am away. If she calls out my name, please YOU answer and give her comfort, and ease her anxieties. I trust in you, Lord. And when that time comes where she calls out my name a final time, whether I am there or not, please Lord, you be there to give her final, eternal comfort. I trust in You.”

It came to me then that in my words I was voicing not just a Trust in the Lord, but a Love. I loved him so much I would trust him with my dearest possession, my mom. I love him so much, I would give him anything dear to me, anything I possess.

And then I looked up at the cross.

As I was thinking of what I would give to him, I saw what he gave to me. As I was voicing my trust in him, he showed me his trust in me. I’ve spoken before that a real Love is one that gives, but this trust aspect is an underlying reason of WHY we love. We choose to give love to someone because we think they are “worth it”. We give to them because we trust in them. And we give them the most precious, the most personal things we have to give. We give to them ourselves, our very lives, and we trust they will hold it precious.

Our culture broadly doesn’t understand this definition of love. It equates love with something we get, not something we give. We get someone who says “I love you” back, we get great sex, or we get someone who will help us with our goals and who will raise our children. And that explains why when we no longer get those things, we think love is gone. And with it goes our happiness. We are a society of much unhappiness because we believe we are much unloved. Because we are not getting what we want, because we are not getting what, many believe, we deserve. We are not getting the THINGS which make us happy.

Many people absorb this cultural definition of love as getting THINGS into how they act in their lives. They believe they show love to others by giving THINGS. So a government which gives jobs or medical care or money to the poor is a wonderful way of showing love to those people.

A government cannot love! A government does not have a heart! You cannot pay someone, whether a government or a person, to love for you. Love is what YOU give to another person. You give.

In the puppy commercial where the dog gave its toy to the owner, we know the owner didn’t really want the toy. He wasn’t getting any THING he wanted, or needed. Yet we know that the owner was moved by the dog’s gift and its TRUST in him. The owner knew THAT was why the dog gave. If we can see and understand a love like that from an animal in a commercial, why can’t we see a love like that as appropriate for ourselves? Why can’t we love – and trust – that way? Why can’t we give ourselves a big feeling of “Awwwww” in reaction to our own love?

Jesus spoke of the love we are describing often. He described it as the love of a father. He used it to describe God’s love of us. He knew we could understand this analogy. We could understand a father’s gentle holding of his child and loving him, and willingness to do anything for him, and trusting he that he was worth it. And the child? We could understand the child’s love, and willingness to do anything for the father, and trusting that he was worth it. That is an example of a true loving, mutual loving, relationship. And if one or the other should fail in some way, there would always be that underlying love and trust. Faults could be forgiven, intentions were always assumed to be for the best – even if not always understood. Their separate lives might take them apart, but in love, they’d always be together.

That is how a father gives love. That is how a child gives love. That IS love.

That’s the love we are supposed to imitate in our lives. Love is not what we GET out of it, it’s what we choose to GIVE, because we trust someone, because someone is “worth it”. God showed us how to love someone, even to the giving of his life.

We think of someone we love as being someone special, and that is true. It’s important to remember though, who Jesus gave his life for. Us. He knew that we were special. Each one of us. Even you.


Good afternoon! While I was typing, I heard that small, still, almost unheard voice calling to me, and so I listened.

It was mom. When I went into her room she smiled and said: “I’ve been calling you. I got troubles.” When I asked her what, she said: “I think I wet the bed.” That was a bit of an understatement. So we got her up for breakfast, changed the bedding, did the laundry, watched some tv together (and read the paper), and even went outside on the swing for a bit. Then, with a big yawn, she said: “I think it’s time for a nap”. And so I’m back to this writing.

Let’s see, I was talking about what love is – and isn’t. I think I could go on and on, but I’ve probably written enough. It’s time for YOU to think.

Relative to what you are giving, and what you are getting, how are your love relationships? Relative to trust and “deserving it”, how are the ones you love – and the ones who love you? Do they “deserve” to be loved? Do you? Before you do too much thinking here, remember: Jesus KNEW that each one of us deserves to be loved. He KNEW. Do you think you know more than him?? Is what you are GETTING (or not) clouding your judgment of love?

Don’t let the culture define who you can or should love, or how you should love. Don’t let it define your worth, or anyone else’s.

Jesus already set the definition of your value – and he died for it.

(And I just wrote this silly blog :-) )

I hope you are having a good day!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yea, Tho I Walk Through The Valley of ...

Yea, tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil PS 23:4

Yesterday I wrote for those who might think of choosing death. Today I write for those whom death has chosen. It can be a most difficult time. The answer to yesterday’s anxieties was the knowledge that “you are not alone”. It is the answer to today’s also.

I know friends and neighbors who are on their last journey. They know not the day nor the hour, but they know it is soon, very soon. Sometimes when I pray, words just won’t come to me, but I know that God can read them my heart. Sometimes, however, the words just cannot remain unsaid. I need to hear them. I need to know and feel that the words are right, that they reach deep enough into my fears, and into my hopes. Anyone close to death needs to find this comfort also.

The below poem-prayers are from my Liturgy of the Hours. I read the first one once or twice a week to remind myself of where I am in life’s journey. I read the second to remind myself where I am going. They are well-written. When I read them, I know they are the words which would be in my heart in my final days and hours.

Perhaps you might wish to forward them to someone you know, who is near the end of his journey, who needs to pray – and hear – these words in his heart, and make use of them to ease his anxieties, to comfort his soul.

Abide With Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

Hold thou thy Cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
H. F. Lyte

His Litany to the Holy Spirit
In the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the artless Doctor sees
No one hope but of his fees,
And his skill runs on the lees,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When his potion and his pill,
His, or none, or little skill,
Meet for nothing but to kill,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the passing-bell doth toll,
And the Furies in a shoal,
Come to fright a parting soul,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And the numbers more than true,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the priest his last hath prayed,
And I nod to what is said,
‘Cause my speech is now decayed,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When (God knows) I’m tossed about,
Either with despair or doubt,
Yet before the glass be out,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the Tempter me pursu’th
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the flames of hellish cries
Fright mine ears and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!

When the judgment is revealed,
And that opened which was sealed,
When to thee I have appealed,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!
Robert Herrick

Wisdom From Gracie Allen

Orig: 01/30/09

It’s snowing again. And it’s still cold, very cold. And windy. And Ford’s results stink. And the market’s down. And Congress thinks Christmas is in January – even if they don’t think it is politically correct to say that word.
I don’t own a dog, but I’ve thoughts of going out and buying one, just so I could have one I could come home to and kick. Life sucks, and I want it to stop!

You know I don’t mean that literally, but sadly some people do. Suicides are up lately, and so are people who, if not thinking about it, wish that somehow they could end this period of their lives.

Yesterday morning, I read Fr Benedict Groessel quoting (of all people!) Gracie Allen. Gracie said: “Never put a period where God has put a comma”.

Change is happening in all our lives. We’d like to think that we are in control of changes in our lives, but if we are honest we’ll admit we’re not. We roll with the changes in our lives and try to make the best of them, and sometimes, like now, we can’t see a “best”. And we feel much anxiety. We want this time to end. But read Gracie’s quote again. We can’t see the future, but God can. We want this time to end, but perhaps God sees a bigger story here, and this time is just the start of it.

You remember your grammar lessons on sentence constructions. Subjects and verbs don’t complete the full thought in the sentence. In fact, the thought of the sentence is never over before the period at the end. That’s why we all remember the sentence that ends with a comma, followed by: “and then they lived happily ever after”.

God does intend for us to have happy endings, even if there are recessions or depressions - or kissing of frogs - before then. The dreariness of winter and downs of the economies happen, but remember there WILL BE a springtime, and the flowers will smell wonderful again.

Don’t think that winter doesn’t end.

And if you can’t get your mind off it, stop reading the Wall Street Journal and go read a good book. I’m reminded of the one by George Burns called: Gracie, a Love Story. It’s a great book; you’ll love it: you laugh, you cry, you’re anxious, you’re elated, you see trials, you see triumphs, and most of all you see a strong, continuing love through all of it. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I can see it as kind of being an analogy of the book of our lives, only there God is the author.

Go ahead, buy Gracie -- and sneak a peek at the ending. It is a happy one, just like yours will be.

I hope you are having a great day ","

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This is my 50th post to this blog. I've tried to post items supporting its title: Do Not Be Anxious. But I know so many people who are still so anxious, who need to read these words. Perhaps now is the time to publish my own worst anxiety, and how I got past it.

Orig: 01/20/09 (to a few friends)

I think suicide has touched my thoughts a number of times in the past: the thought of giving up. Some have written that suicide is the sin against the Holy Spirit, the one which cannot be forgiven. I don’t know about that. Some others have written that we can never judge this as an unforgivable sin, we never know, even in cases of very obvious despair, how God will judge. I CERTAINLY don’t know about that.

I do know that despair can be overcome, if we just think about things instead of reacting to them. The thing we often forget, in our despair, is that if we give up, it is not “the end”. God is eternal. Our life is eternal. Even if it ends on this earth, our life will go on in eternity. At some point we will be able to look back at our moment of despair, and reflect on it, just as we can think back now on earlier events in our lives. What will we think of our despair then? One thing I am sure of is that we will look back and see that while we had given up, with us at that moment was God’s Holy Spirit – and He had not given up. I know that, even now, for He didn’t give up on me.

Look at that last sentence I wrote. What do you think are the key words? “We will look back”? “God’s Holy Spirit”? “He had not given up”? No, those are all important, but there is only one key word in that last sentence: “me”.

In reaching my own despair, I believed had done my best; I had tried hard; and despite my great knowledge of things, I could not see a solution. And although I did not consciously think it, I felt alone. If I even thought of anyone else, it was to quickly dismiss them: they cannot help me, and they don’t know and/or they don’t care. They cannot understand me and what I am feeling. That’s what I believed. Perhaps, I considered that even God didn’t care.

That’s the point, I think, that now gives me pause on the forgive-ability of suicide: If I thought that even God didn’t care, I was not thinking rationally, no matter how organized I believed my thoughts to be. By the very definition of who and what He is: God cares. Even if I gave up, He never did. He never does, on any of us. Not even you.

We are not alone. Despair can be overcome by realizing that God is with us now, and his eternal being will be with us in the future.

The one word which REALLY describes our problem is: me. In our despair, our frantic thoughts, our looking for a way out of our problem, we think we are alone. We’re not. We think WE have to fix what is wrong. WE don’t. We think the only thing we can do is end things. It’s not the only thing, and it won’t be the end of things. In our despair, we’re confused on many points, but let’s end the confusion on the key point …

We’re not alone. There is not just a me!

The solution to our problem is to reflect on the point that we are not alone. The Catholic Church teaches that we are all part of the Body of Christ, a sometimes difficult concept to grasp in our hearts. In simple words, it means we’re not alone. As head of the Body of Christ, Jesus can find a solution to any of our problems. And what of the others who are members of the Body of Christ, our friends and neighbors? We are but a small part in the Body of Christ, and relatively speaking, perhaps our despair is just an itch to the whole body– a minor irritant which will go away, if we don’t focus on it. Or perhaps some other part of the body can reach over and scratch it. Alone, we may not be able to stop the irritation of our life, but WE ARE NOT ALONE.

Every life has ups and downs, high points and low points. Sometimes the low points can be pretty far down – and it seems getting back up is impossible. I had reached such a low point in my life and not many things seemed right. I couldn’t see a way out to happiness, or at least to end the sadness. I “kinda” prayed, but in truth it was usually for others. I had to find a way out of my problems – only I couldn’t. And, yes, thoughts of suicide sometimes flittered in my mind – but I thought I was a pretty sharp guy, and I just hadn’t figured a way out of my problems yet. I had some confidence of success in the future, even if I couldn’t see how. I was still muddling through my unhappiness, trying not to burden others with my sadness, when – of all things – God called to me! Oh, I didn’t hear any voices, but I became convinced that I must do something totally irrational for me: I must go on a pilgrimage.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly smart guy, and friends and business associates’ reactions to my ideas seemed to indicate their agreement. I studied situations and rationally decided what to do or recommend what to be done. I didn’t do things on a whim. But, in truth, I could have come up with a hundred reasons why a pilgrimage made no sense, and virtually no reasons for doing one --- but I was convinced I had to do it. And so I went half way around the world, behind communist border lines, to live in a mud hut for a few days. Insane! Even on the way over, I remember thinking: “This is insane. I’ll spend a few days sight-seeing and then go home.”

Instead, I spent three hours each night in a small church, kneeling on a concrete floor, and I realized in my very being that I was not alone. I prayed over and over to this God I KNEW was there: “OK, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to say. God, you gave me many talents to use, but either they are not enough or I don’t know how to use them.”

“I give up!!!”

“You tell me what to do. You tell me where to go. You tell me what to say. I promise you here and now, I will stop living my life – it’s Yours now. Tell me.”

“I give up!!!”

Looking back, I can see that where my own thoughts at that time were leading me to was one conclusion: I wanted to end things. Only unlike some of my fleeting thoughts of suicide, I felt compelled to let God end things for me, and to lead me from that point. I was asking for an end to my thinking that I knew all the answers – or had to find them; and end my thinking that I knew the way – or had to find it; and mostly, I was asking for an end to my unhappiness. And it did end, only not in the suicide I might have been headed for, but in a continuation of my life with not me, but God being in charge.

At first it was hard to listen for what God might be telling me, but as I became open to even the smallest opportunities put before me, results happened. I did not have to think of what to do, it was shown to me in opportunities to act. One new thing I found in taking the opportunities that God gave me was that to make me happy, I had to make others happy first. Them, then me – happy. I did seem to know where to go, and more and more opportunities to serve appeared. I did seem to know what to say when – much to my surprise, the right words came. Reflecting on what was happening, I think that was because I wasn’t pausing to use “my great wisdom” to figure out the words. They came, just like I had asked Him to give them to me.

If I was truly open to listening, I found that God was willing to tell me. Tell me how to be happy. And I am.

After I learned how to be happy, twice people I knew came to me with thoughts of suicide. Both were in despair over being unloved – by a husband or a boyfriend. Life was not going on as they thought it should, and so they did not want it to go on at all. They wanted to give up; they wanted the sadness to end. Both knew I had gone through divorce, and yet I appeared happy. I think they spoke to me not because they thought I had any words of wisdom, but rather that they thought I could empathize with their feelings. They just wanted to talk.

I don’t know what words my mouth said to them, but I know they were not my words. God did tell me what to say. I know that part of what I related to them was the discovery I made that being loved by another human being did not lead to happiness. Loving another human being leads to happiness.

God loves us, even if we do not know he exists. He created us, and he knows we exist. And he loves his creation. God’s love is a given.

Other human beings may choose to love us, or not. They have free will. It’s not something we can make happen. Being unhappy because someone does not love us is something we can control --- there are many people who don’t love us; most people don’t even know us. But … But … The human beings WE know, we can choose to love. And making that choice, with our free will, is imitating the choice God made with us. The choice to love. And, as I found out, choosing to love others does bring me happiness, whether I love a little or a lot. I chose to love others, and as a result, I’ve found a way to choose my happiness.

My two friends are still alive, and they have learned what love really is. The series of homilies by Pope John Paul II titled The Theology of the Body explains well what love really is. The solution to our happiness is in realizing that we are part of the Body of Christ, and if we scratch others’ itches, they will scratch ours. Happiness can always be found in our life, we only have to be open enough to let Him show us. Being able to sincerely say: Tell me what to do.

Every morning as I see a beautiful blue sky, the sparkling red clouds, the glorious sun rising and spreading its light – everywhere – I know that God is there, and he loves me. I don’t see a day as starting that I must plan and live through. It’s not about me.

I am not alone.

Neither are you, my friend. Neither are you.

Some Little Words of Wisdom

Orig: 01/16/09

I picked up “Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons”, by Raymond Arroyo. If you’ve never heard of her, Mother Angelica is a little old nun who, at age 58, launched the world’s largest religious media empire, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). She’s a crusty old lady, who has spoken many words of blunt wisdom. These are a few I liked from the first chapter of the book:

God’s Choice
God is not hindered if He wants to use you, whether you are holy, perfect, imperfect, good or bad. He can speak through an ass if He wants to. And He did. Remember, that’s how He spoke to Balaam the prophet (Num 22:28-30).

So there is hope for all of us.

A Master’s Degree
We’re all trying to get master’s degrees, and so often we forget the Master.

Forgiveness means “to fore-give.” It means to give before your neighbor does.

Loving God
Since a stroke in 2001, Mother Angelica has been fairly quiet, speaking only when she has to. On March 22, 2006, one of the sisters asked Mother Angelica for a bit of wisdom. Without hesitating she said:
He who loves God loves everybody. He who hates God hates everybody

Friday, August 28, 2009

St. Augustine, August 28

Oh how I wish I could pray like this …

O eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you, and I thought I heard your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me. Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Confessions by St. Augustine

Morning Meditations From Today

Orig: 08/24/07


He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Luke 6:12

Sometimes people who make pivotal decisions with long-range implications spend days asking what their friends think or consulting with the "experts" or seeking advice from self-help gurus -- and less than five minutes seeking God's will about the issue at hand.

But before Jesus chose his twelve apostles, he spent the night in conversation his Father. Even though he was the Son of God, he did not feel it a waste to spend the whole night in prayer. By his example he taught us that major decisions require major prayer and that one of the best ways to use our time is in communion with God.

Psalm 1:1 tells us, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly". We cannot have peace or wisdom regarding our circumstances when we spend our time seeking the advice of the "ungodly". And who are the ungodly? Those whose minds are not in the process of being transformed (see Romans 12:2).

Jesus sought the wisdom of the Father. He spent the night in prayer when he chose his board of directors. What about you? Do you pray when you hire or fire someone? When you change jobs, careers, or locations, do you seek your Father's counsel? Do you have other important decisions that would benefit from godly wisdom? (Are there any other kinds of decisions?)

Jesus "order my steps in thy word" (Psalm 119:133). What is your word concerning my life and the decisions I must make?
Between Sundays Thursday, Week 12

Ant: As morning breaks, I look to you, O God, to be my strength this day, alleluia.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.

On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

Ant: As morning breaks I look to you, O God, to be my strength this day, alleluia
Psalm 63:2-9

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Words of Hope

This blog isn’t meant to be a daily weather report but, well, it’s a dull, dreary, rainy morning – a perfect morning to sleep in, to put a fire in the fireplace, or to cuddle up with a good book. On the other hand, it seems a good morning to feel down about all of life’s problems, and just worry.

I hired a part-time helper last week. ‘M’ needs work to make ends meet for his family, and I have some chores that I’ve been “getting’ around to” for a few months now, or years. I can always afford a few bucks for my neighbor in need, and so he’s helping me. He trimmed the overgrown hedge like I asked, and trimmed the overgrown trees like I didn’t ask. “They were damaging your gutters and roof.” Good grief! Another person to take care of me!

I think we’ll get along well.

Fr Pat read the gospel yesterday morning, and then spoke of sins of omission, ones we don’t often think about, or confess, yet they are often very important – the things we should be doing, and really sinning if we don’t. Neglecting the commandment to: Honor your Father and Mother, might fall into that category. (I don’t think neglecting the hedge fits in with sins of omission, but sometimes I DO feel guilty about how it looks). The sin of omission which I do worry about is not based on a commandment, though. It’s the one many of us ask of ourselves: Am I doing enough, am I doing all I can, am I doing all I should, am I doing it right?

I’ll never forget the words of Kierkegaard saying that the most important thing we could ever do in our lives is to be who we were created to be. I always pray that I might be that. I always wonder if I am. Thinking on it on this gray morning, I realized that I had thought of “being who God created me to be” as a thing, like a doctor, or a priest, or a spouse – being the “right” one of those. But then as I thought about who and what I had been in my life thus far, and I realized my understanding of the concept might be wrong. I had considered myself a piece in God’s puzzle of creation, and I wanted to be the right piece and fit in the place he had planned for me, but my life is not a “thing”. I live in time, and who I am and what I do, changes from day to day. And so do my opportunities to “be who he created me to be” at that moment.

At that moment.

I can’t worry about the past. I can only plan for the future, and those plans might never happen. I can live in this moment, and will, and pray, that it is in accordance with the opportunities, the talents, the love which I was given which brought me here. I can be as good as I can be now, today, and not worry about the rest. It’s all you can be, too.

(Meanwhile, I'll let my newfound helper take on some of my worries :-) ). Perhaps you should invite your spouse, your kids, or your God to help with yours. They are all great blessings for you, and were put in your life to help make your worries go away.

The morning meditation I later read seemed to confirm my thoughts (I like when that happens), and so I share it with you now.


Mt 6:25, 32, 34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear, … Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. … So do not worry. …”

But my needs burden my mind. How can I not worry?

Padre Pio’s assurance: “Do not anticipate the problems of this life with apprehension, but, rather with a perfect hope that God, to whom you belong, will free you from them accordingly. He has defended you up to now. Simply hold on tightly to the hand of his divine providence, and he will help you in all events, and when you are unable to walk, he will lead you; don’t worry. …Don’t think about tomorrow’s events because the same heavenly Father who takes care of you today will do the same tomorrow and forever.”

“Live tranquilly. Remove from your imagination that which upsets you, and often say to the Lord, ‘Oh, God, you are my God, and I will trust in you. You will assist me and be my refuge, and I will fear nothing’ …”

Forgive me for worrying, Lord, I place my trust in you. Amen.
Padre Pio’s Words of Hope, Meditation 3

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oh What A Beautiful Day!

Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day! I’ve got a wonderful feeling …

It’s a beautiful, clear crisp fall morning – in the middle of summer – and I feel like singing. (For those who have heard my singing – think other thoughts.) The bright sun was in my eyes as I returned from mass a few minutes ago, and a beautiful symphony was playing on the radio. All is well in my world. I’ll write this note, jot off a few letters to friends and relatives, and then head out to the garden.

The second picking of green beans is ready. They were wonderful this year, long and straight and crisp. Then I’ll pick a couple of the large butternut squash, and maybe even cook one up for dinner. And maybe I’ll even pick a couple of the tomatoes which are starting to turn red. Soon, I’ll be making large batches of spaghetti sauce and chili for freezing for the winter. Mmmmmm. Ain’t God grand!?

I know not a few of you are saying something like: “Well, lucky you.” You don’t exactly feel like singing right now. I have no quick “This will make you feel better” response. In most of life’s challenges, there are no quick answers. If you are feeling down, you either need to have faith that it will pass – and it will! -- or work on making yourself feel better. And that WILL take WORK. I’ve tried to help you with the meditations I’ve been writing, but just reading quickly through them won’t help much. Many of the reflections are on how I have been helped, but they are primarily for you -- for you to read, and reflect upon, to help you to WORK on your life, to make it better, to make it happier. I want you, my friends, to feel the Joy I feel in my life – even in the hard times. With Joy in your heart, even the worst will not seem so bad.

I stopped for coffee at the 7-11 on the way to church. The woman there said she was reading her Social Security statement, and believed that if she continued to work 6 nights a week until she was 70, she could live on Social Security. She commented that she heard one woman come into the store and complain how she couldn’t make ends meet on “only” $1500/week. “I’ll never see that kind of money in my life,” she said. But I’ve spoken to this woman for years. She has Joy in her life. With her meager salary, she still cares for the needs of her adult “children”, takes the grandkids out for a day, and helps her poorer neighbors. She does have joy.

I’ve written in the past that your Joy isn’t about money. It isn’t about your present relationship with your boss, your spouse, your kids, or even your God. From moment to moment, those relationships will change – sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. But they will be that way for only the moment. If you have faith, if you have true, giving love, if you really know God, you will not ever be alone at those hard times. You will know he is there, holding you, caressing your hand, drying your tears. And even in the absolute worst of times, you will find Joy.

I wish you Joy, always, my friends. If you haven’t found it, begin to WORK. It’s there to be had. It will make your life easier. It will make you happy in each and every moment, and in all eternity.

It’ll make you want to sing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do You Know The Way?

Do You Know The Way To San Jose

We all know that life is a journey. The Burt Bacharach & Hal David song about directions to San Jose, California points out the difficulties of any travel: “I may go wrong and lose my way”. It also points out why we bother with the trip: “I’ve got lots of friends in San Jose”. The song’s a good place to start humming about our life’s journey. We have a place we want to go: heaven. The question is, “How Do We Get There?”

There are lots of ways to get to San Jose. You could just start hitching a ride – stick out your thumb and get going. But would you be going in the right direction, or just the direction of travel of the person you hitched a ride from? You might end up in San Jose all right, but it would probably be a matter of dumb luck. I wouldn’t recommend this method of getting to where we want to go.

A little more focused method would be for you to get in your car and start driving. At least in this method you are in control. But is that much better? Do you know how to get to San Jose? Well, you may have some general idea of its direction, the Western United States, so you could follow the sunsets. If you were lucky, you might see some road signs along the way mentioning San Jose. You would probably end up closer than you are now, but it would still be a large bit of luck to stumble across San Jose using this method.

Perhaps a better way to get to San Jose is to use the help of someone who’s been there: a map. Maps are a huge help. You find San Jose on the map; you find at where you are; you plot the highways between here and there. And off you go -- assuming the map is current. Assuming there are no detours along the way. Assuming our vehicle has no difficulties. Assuming we don’t run out of gas. And (and this is a BIG ‘and’), assuming we don’t get distracted by something along the way -- and then we may never get there. We may end up like the song, “parkin’ cars and pumpin’ gas”.

Let’s apply the San Jose trip analogy to our trip to heaven.

A first traveler might try to hitchhike to heaven. A person who would choose this method of getting to heaven is either not very serious of wanting to get there or very naïve about how to go about it – but they might get there anyway! Maybe. Who are these types of people? These are those people who never got beyond the basic longings of every human being. Made in the image of God, there is an innate longing in man for heaven, something beyond this earthly life. Some people describe themselves as non-religious, but ‘searchers’ nonetheless. They want to get somewhere ‘better’, serve a ‘purpose’’ with their life, and end it with a summation of meaning. They may have heard of San Jose; they may have heard of heaven. They’re not absolutely sure they want to get there, but they might give it a try. They’ll start out. By virtue of our being alive, we ALL start out.

A second traveler to heaven might get in his own car, versus hitchhiking. He is serious about getting to San Jose – about finding it all on his own. On the road to heaven, we’ve all met these types of individualists. They wander through a lot of religions, cults, or New Age methods of “finding the way”. Wandering is what they do most of, but they are often very enthusiastic about it. They want to tell us of the latest wisdom they’ve come across, or the newest technique for getting in touch with heaven, the saints, ghosts, their inner self, or “the great oneness”. In some ways, we are happy that they are searching, even if what they find is sometimes more amusing to us than anything else. Remember, in their searching, some WILL get to San Jose – I mean, heaven! We may meet them in heaven and be very surprised. A few of these searchers come across the Catholic faith and have the grace and wisdom to stop searching. Some are great defenders of the faith after having wandered through many false paths. These contribute to the benefit of using the Catholic Church as the map.

The third traveler to heaven might use a map by someone who has been there. On the road to heaven, Christ is the traveler who has been there; Christianity is the map. A detailed route is laid out in the words of the bible. We read of the man who has been there, and of the many trials he had along the way. We learn to be confident that we can overcome any of these problems which might slow us down or detour us because He has shown us the way. “I am the Way.” In fact, we can see various routes to heaven on the map. Some may choose one way; others may choose another. The map provides for our free will.

So why of all Christian churches choose the Catholic Church to try to get to heaven? It is the “techy” solution to the map to heaven. Up to date, a veritable GPS map, so that we are guided and don’t lose our way. In step with the latest beautiful stops along the way, aware of the latest detours, and constantly redefining the map addendums to make it easier to understand, easier to follow. Added tools, like the sacraments, make sure we don’t break down or run out of gas. And if we do, a route to repairs, confession, is readily available. The Catholic Church is the best thing available to ensure we travel through this life and reach our eternal home in heaven. Other Christian churches have the bible, and provide very good directions to get to heaven. But the Catholic Church provides the most sure-fire method. How much better is the “techy” stuff than just a map? You may get differing opinions on that, but invariably if you find someone who has the techy stuff and uses it, you will find that he will not give it up for anything. He becomes used to the ease of staying on the path, versus having to check himself continuously versus the map. The Catholic Church is the best, but still not the sure fire way to heaven.

There is that BIG assumption: that we don’t get distracted along the way. What do we do about staying on the way to heaven? This is the BIG one all right. Even many Catholics become distracted, and earthly joys and pleasures along the way become very tempting. Many want to, and many do stop. Many look at the distractions and wander from the map’s optimum route – even if the “GPS” is telling them to turn back!

The real bottom line on getting to heaven is the desire, the will to get there, the love of who is waiting for us at the destination. It is a lifelong journey, but only your earthly life. It’s a short 70 or 80 year journey, and you can relax in heaven for all eternity. The Catholic Church provides the optimum map to get there, and all the associated support documentation. The Church constantly updates the map, considering changes in worldviews and “temptations” along the way. It answers the ever new challenges of “I know a better way”, or “it’s not worth the trip”. The saints have written of the trials of their journeys, so we can know what to expect along the way. And there is an enormous cheering section of the entire Body of Christ, on earth AND in heaven, urging us on. Praying for us. If there is one thing I know that I need on my journey, it is prayers – to the mapmaker.

If you are stuck somewhere right now, pick up your bible, your catechism, and some good books and hit the road. The journey is long and hard, but there are so many beautiful things to see along the way. Have fun! Don’t get lost! Give me a call if you get stuck.

I can’t wait to get there and hit the beach. It’ll be a glorious never-ending vacation. Hope to see you there!


Orig: 02/19/08

My friends, I haven't recently typed up any of the meditations I read daily, and I'm worried about you going to hell --- just kidding! Actually, I'm more worried about Ford going to hell, especially after watching the first 10 minutes of the new Knight Rider show -- but that's a whole 'nother story.

The reason for sending out today's meditation on building character through perseverance is that it gave me pause to reflect on my reactions to problems: my mom having a bad day; a friend rambling on and on about his problems and looking to me for comfort -- and I have none, or even the stock market's fall impacting my retirement funds. My initial reaction is to say "God, we could use a little help here!" And when no help is immediately forthcoming, I sometimes get into a funk. Not a good way to react to problems. Not a good reflection on my character.

The Price of Character
Tribulation produces perseverance: and perseverance, character Romans 5:3-4

Do you sometimes find yourself looking at the seemingly good life of others and saying, "Why not me, God? How come they seem to get all the blessing?" What you may not know is the crises they have endured and the storms they have encountered that have brought them to that level. What trials have they faced that have caused their roots to sink deep into the true knowledge of God? How much wisdom have they gained in their pursuit of God? These are the questions that must be asked. Character is built by the way we choose to respond to the hard times and crises.
Jesus said those who "have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (money)" cannot be trusted with true spiritual riches (Luke 16:11). In other words, those who are not good stewards over what they have now, whether it is natural or spiritual, cannot be entrusted with more. Only those who show themselves faithful in the small things will find themselves "trusted with much" (16:10).
As character grows, so grows the capacity to serve. As our relationship with Christ grows, so grows our responsibility in his kingdom. As our ability to follow grows, so grows our ability to lead.

Father, on the other side of the storm, I see a stronger child of God. Oh Lord, give me a heart that trusts you.

Between Sundays -- Shawn Craig Tuesday, Week 31

(I especially liked that last line.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Orig: 09/26/08

I am not a pessimist, nor do I claim to have answers to any of the major problems to facing our country, but sometimes the actions of our "leaders" just make me a little sad. I think I read in one of my grammar school books that democracies try to elect the best and brightest to help lead their countries. I think the operative word is "try".

Meanwhile, my best and brightest friends, it is among the last days of summer-like weather. Even if you can only look out the window as you work, take a moment to ponder the many blessings you have. And in all humility, trust.


A Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

I think the Catholic Church does it right. In times of deep crisis, the death of a pope, it locks its church leaders in a room away from cameras and microphones. There are no public debates; no citizen's "right to know". No one screaming to the microphone that he knows the answer -- vote for me! And they begin each of their deliberations with a prayer, calling on the one they believe who DOES know the answers.

History says that some individuals they elected as pope seemed to be far from perfect, but the church has survived very well for over 2000 years. Wouldst that our congressional "leaders" were wise enough -- and humble enough -- to act as the Catholic Church leaders do in crisis. Unfortunately, they seem to act as if there is no need for quiet and humble deliberations. Each seems to be saying to the others: "Listen! Turn to me! I have the answers!" That sounds a lot like what the Catholic Church leaders are in fact doing -- but the person they are turning to is not at a microphone.

How sad how far this country and its leaders have fallen to pride. I think I can now understand how in some countries generals have taken over from elected leaders, and in others governments have been dissolved in mid-term for lack of confidence. And I sometimes ponder what would have happened if a flight had not crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania.

Are You Successful?

Orig: 09/17/07

Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it. – Joshua 1:7

Many people think success means acquiring great wealth and having friends who pat them on the back and say, “Man, you’ve got it made!” Others think they’ll be a success only when they’ve climbed the corporate ladder and acquired an impressive title.

Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, said such goals are nonsense. He described these worldly endeavors and achievements as nothing but “vanity” (Eccl 2:11), “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Instead, he advised us to pursue a nobler goal: to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Eccl 12:13). Being obedient to what God calls us to do, he said, is he only true measure of success.

We should not look upon obedience with dread. For most of us, obeying God’s mission for our lives does not mean a lonely life devoid of material prosperity. Success can’t be measured by sacrifice any more than by abundance. The Bible tells us that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1Sam 15:22). Obedience doesn’t necessarily mean sacrifice; it does mean being faithful to what he as called us to do. Whose success are you striving for?

Lord, let me find joy in obedience, living the fullest when I am
Faithful to my calling and my purpose.

Monday, Week 16 – Between Sundays - Shawn Craig.

September 16
We have reached the deepest root of religious courage then we hear Saint Paul exclaim that he speaks “… not to please mortals, but to please God …” (1Th2:4). To please God – that is his criterion. Because in the last analysis everything depends on “pleasing God”, Paul is therefore free and independent of the favor of mortals; faith is therefore, not a form of adulation for him, but a preaching of the truth and consequently of true love. To please God – that is what makes Paul free. God must become a reality for us, too, must be more real to us – no! not just more real – than the things we can grasp, so that to please God can become for us a criterion that is also a final liberation from the question of success. “To please God”” can thus become the center of our life, that which sustains and guides us. When faith experiences God as a reality and pleasing God is recognized as the sustaining sheltering joy of our life, then faith makes us free. Only faith can make us truly free. These words of Saint Paul, behind which we can detect freedom, the freedom of all the great messengers of the Gospel, ask us: Have we ourselves such a faith? These, I think, are words about which we must examine our conscience: Is God a reality for us in our life? Is pleasing him a meaningful concept for me? Is God so truly present in my life that pleasing him is a criterion for me and that I am sustained by the knowledge of what is pleasing to him, even if it is not pleasing to men? Have I found the freedom of faith? Has it become a guiding force in my life? Have we the courage to undergo the struggle of faith? Paul’s words become for us, at the same time, a prayer: that God will let faith of this kind flourish in our days, in each of us, and with it the freedom and liberating power of faith; that he will give us the courage, even amid the failures of the Church, to look to him, to the Lord, whose successes ended on the Cross but which also, on that same Cross, introduced a new period of history and a new life for the world.

From: Zeitfragen und Claube, pp70-71
Co-Workers of the Truth Daily Meditations - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Judge Not -- Why Not?

Orig: 09/10/08

I had a friend call me last night and talk about her son, who has been having some increasingly difficult mental problems. She didn’t call me for advice, but just to talk to someone who would listen – contrary to the screaming, berating commentary she sometimes feels from our culture. And it sometimes makes her sad, confused, afraid, and alone.

The recent media commentary, written and implied, on Sarah Palin, I think, contributed to her angst. Palin recently gave birth to a child with Downs Syndrome, when routine ambio-tests identify that illness early in pregnancy – and over 90% of the babies are then killed in this country. The media hasn’t asked the next question of Palin, but everyone knows what it is. And my friend is sometimes troubled over her decisions, those early in the life of her son, and now. And while she absolutely, totally wants to do what is best for her son, our culture leaves heavy, unasked questions on her mind not about her son, but about her and her decisions. I think she feels judged by our culture and our media, and sometimes feels alone with the questions no one will ask aloud.

This morning I read the following lines which I believe point to the righteousness of my friend and of Sarah Palin – regardless of what ANYONE else my say or believe:

“If we are able by our love to give meaning to another person, just one other person, our life will have been infinitely worthwhile.

Only by helping to liberate others are we ourselves liberated; only by sheltering others do we ourselves receive shelter; only by caring for others will we ourselves find someone to care for us.

If we seriously undertake to concern ourselves about the protection of others, we will soon discover that others will be concerned about us. Perhaps we are so antagonistic today, so notably helpless in our efforts to be Christian, because it is so often ourselves that we are attempting to help.”

Co-Workers of the Truth; Meditations for Every Day of the Year – September 10 - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

I think my friend, Sarah Palin, and so many others understand and live what love, caring, and concern for others is really about. It’s not about ourselves. Want more meaning to your life? Read the above quotes again.

P.S. About my friend, did she feel less sad, confused, and afraid after she spoke to me? I don’t know about those things, and I’m not sure she does either. But after getting the kids off to school this morning, she went to mass. I think it’s a safe bet she knows she’s not alone.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Do You Love Me?

Do you love me? … Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. Jn21:15

Peter answered the Lord’s question from his heart. The question was not an intellectual one, to be answered with thinking or logic. Peter could have answered: “Yes, Lord, but I really don’t understand some of your teachings or why you’re not raising an army to fight the Romans right now”. There are a few people who say he should have answered that way, since that likely was one of his concerns. But the second answer would have been Peter as a human addressing Jesus as a human. It would have been a mistake, but it’s one which we, ourselves, often make.

Love is not just a sensual or thinking, a human body, reaction to another human being. You can love a rose, your dog, or the weather. You can love/lust another human body. There different words for those types of “love” in Latin; the Latin helps clarify things (see C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves). The “love” which Jesus questioned Peter about, however, was none of the examples I gave. Jesus was talking about a spiritual love, a Godly love. Jesus was asking Peter: “Do you love me as much as I love you?” As much as he was capable of loving to that degree, Peter answered “Yes”. Peter understood the question, and the appropriate answer. So often we don’t.

If your wife asked you: “Do you love me?” you could answer as Peter did, or you could say: “Yes, but you know your butt is getting a little large lately.” The latter answer would be, perhaps, a logical and well-thought out truth, but it wouldn’t be appropriate at all – unless you desired sleeping on the couch for a few nights. You don’t have to figure out that answer, you KNOW what is appropriate. Love is not a “truth” of the moment, to be answered with logic and reasoning. “Do you love me” is not a question like: “What time is it now?” The Godly love being asked about has grown over the past, and is growing over the future. It is a state of being, better described by a question like “Do you breathe air?” You can tone up your body to breathe air more efficiently; you can tone up your will to love more deeply. You can, and must, grow in love, or like the body without air, love will die. God asking “Do you love me” is like him asking “Are you alive or dead to me?”

Some friends were discussing the Nativity story in the Gospels, and were stuck on Joseph’s dreams. They were logically considering Joseph’s reactions to his dreams: to trust that Mary was pregnant – “don’t worry about that Joseph”, and to “get up and take your family to Egypt – now!” My friends discussed the faith of Joseph versus their own. “I don’t have any dreams that I immediately go out and do”. “I’m always asking God for things, but he never has talked to me – how do I hear this voice like Joseph did? I listen for that small, still voice, but I hear nothing.” Their discussion soon turned into frustration-driven laughter at the questions. The real answer, however, is that Joseph did not only react out of faith, he reacted out of love. My friends were confusing their reactions to God, with Joseph’s. It’s a mistake we all sometimes make, in part because we’re confused about faith and love.

If we ask God a question, to intervene for us, to lighten our cross, to give us an answer, we are often treating God as we would treat another human being, like our boss or some other authority. We have a faith in them, and trust their answers. “Boss, can you fix this problem? Boss, I can’t get all this work done, what should come first? ” Or even, “Teacher, he hit me.” Yes, our relationship with God often hasn’t changed much since we were little children. Often we treat him as the authoritative answer man. But if we are loving God, if we are growing in love with God, our relationship SHOULD be changing. And we shouldn’t just have a faith in him, we should have a growing Love for him. Our prayers and the answers we seek should reflect that.

Do you ask your wife: “Can you fix this problem?” Do you ask her: “I can’t get all this work done, what should come first?” I suspect not often. You, through your love, know her desires. And if you do ask such questions, most likely the answer will be a nod, a shrug, or a raised eyebrow. And you’ll know what that means, because you love this person and know what she LIKELY wants, and the answers to your questions don’t have to be long drawn-out, explicit responses. You know from the little signal; it settles all your doubts. And even if you aren’t sure what that little response meant, you will take action as if you did. Your love spreads to a trust of her, and her of you. Even if you did something wrong through a misunderstanding, she will know your heart. It will not be a problem. This is love, and how love reacts.

Our relationship with God should be the same. We can ask him questions; we can ask for help. The answers we seek, however, shouldn’t be a voice from the sky, or a sign by the side of the road – or a dream. It should be the little nod, the whisper in our heart. After seeking his help or response, we should then act according to the small opportunities he gives us, and use our knowledge of him to act as we KNOW he would be inclined to tell us. It’s how you treat someone you love. And if you received no discernable answer and you have no idea what God might will? Well, perhaps that is the answer, and it is best to do nothing. He’ll read your heart. He’ll know you’re trying to do his will. He’ll know you love him.

The start to understanding the answers to your prayers is not to be searching for miracles, but by searching, in love, throughout your life, to know God. Knowing him, his word, his actions, will not only help you understand him better, it will help you grow in love with him more. And then you won’t have to ask many questions, you’ll know the answers. You’ll respond to his nods with love.

As you deal with your wife, often asking her not for what YOU want, but giving her what you think SHE wants, acting in love, is the way you should deal with God. And for all you give your wife which she doesn’t ask for, she will love you more. And for all you give to God which he doesn’t ask for, he will love you more.

Love is not about what you want; it’s about what you want to give.

“Do you love me” is not a question which has to be asked. Actions speak louder than words.

A Bad Day

Orig: 05/20/08

And You Thought Your Day Was Starting Bad ...

This poor guy went to bed last night on my front porch with his two brothers and mom, and this morning ......

(Below was a picture of a little bird sitting atop my front porch bench, with a fallen and broken nest below). -- Sorry, I can't figure out how to post that!

Orig: 05/222/08

Bad Day II

In light of Ford announcements today, and some of your responses to my birdie "bad news day" note, I thought it appropriate to follow up to my original note.

In response to some of the comments I received: 1)Awww. Are you going to feed it? 2)Did you get a cat? and 3)You need to set up a bird feeder, since they like your porch. My responses are 1)No. 2)No. and 3)Most emphatically, NO!

The real points to be had from the picture and the bird's shock at being thrown from the nest were, in my opinion: 1)For my godchildren whom I also sent the pictures to: Someday you too will be tossed from the nest by mom. Don't be surprised like the bird in the picture. 2)For the moms/dads: Ahhhh, there will come a day of peace in the house when they're gone -- ready or not, and 3)For the rest of us: Shit happens.

But the real point for everyone is the bigger picture of life, all life, including ours. There is a constant growing up, radical unexpected changes, and scary events -- like an unexpected Ford announcement. But in thinking about the bird, what is scary for him now will be a very joyful memory in the future, as he soars among the clouds in a freedom he couldn't have imagined in the crowded nest. The same for us. Things often don't go as we planned, but we're more intelligent than a bird, and we know all things are temporary, and we'll eventually soar even higher. Just have faith.

Relative to that particular bird in the picture, like his brothers/sisters, a half hour after I took the picture, he was gone. I saw him throughout the day flying between trees around the front of the house, getting more confident in his abilities and freedom. Mom I never saw again; I guess she went to Florida to celebrate.

OH, and relative to this note's subject line: Shortly after I sent the note on the bird to you, I went out to clean out the garden, in preparation for this year's planting. In the middle of the garden I found a nest of bunnies. You know, the garden which I have rabbit fencing around to KEEP THE BUNNIES OUT. Oh well, I guess the garden will wait for a week or so until they are gone also.

Shit happens.

Hope you are having a good day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Watch What You Pray For ...

Orig: 07/28/08

"A number of years ago I took a leap of faith and prayed a very dangerous
prayer: 'Lord, whatever you need to do to change me, do it. I want my mind to be like your mind.' He has answered my prayer every day since then, even though I have tried to rescind it on many occasions. For example, I have noticed that whenever I criticize someone for something, I do exactly the same thing within twenty-four hours. What embarrassment! What humiliation!
Yet, it is through these little embarrassing, humiliating incidents that God prunes us."

Sr. Ann Shields
Pray and Never Lose Heart: The Power of Intercession, Servant Publications

It's Not Gonna Rain

Orig: 08/28/08

It hasn't rained around here in about a month, and everything is brown. So with today's dreary skies and high humidity it seems a no-brainer that it's going to rain. It's not -- at least not today. What we expect to happen based on our view of the moment often isn't what is really going on -- especially when we're thinking in terms of forecasting.

Things are going pretty bad right now, and they'll probably get worse. Not necessarily.

Things are going good right now, and I don't see why it can't continue. Not necessarily.

Or even: Things are so bad right now, they've GOT to get better. Not necessarily.

Even if we're 80 years old (and no, that's not me!!) and remember all our life's experiences, there's no guarantee that what happened to us in the past -- even many times in the past - will happen in the future. Not if it's something happening TO us. What can make the future more certain is based on what WE do. We can choose a better future through our actions and attitude.

Today's the feast day of Saint Augustine, a man I very much admire. He took what was happening TO him in his life and decided to take charge -- despite the fact that things that were happening to him seemed pretty good at the time: he had a sharp girlfriend who did everything for him -- along with many "temporary" girlfriends, he had a good education and a respectable job, he had money, he had friends -- things were great. Right? Well, they were "great" for him like they are great for many of our Hollywood and sports stars -- who are killing themselves either directly or indirectly with drugs, and find that all the "great" things happening to them are making them pretty miserable. Only Augustine was wise enough to see that, and to want to change.

Augustine tells the story of a drunk he saw, singing in the gutter. He realized that the guy was very happy -- a lot happier than Augustine was at the moment. But Augustine reflected that "I would prefer to be myself". He recognized the difference between the joy of the moment versus true and lasting joy. "It does indeed make a difference where a man finds his joy. This I know, and the joy from hope and faith are incomparably greater than such an empty thing."

What's happening to us right now, today, is what it is. But the future is what we choose. "It does indeed make a difference where a man finds his joy." So: Where're ya lookin?

Hope you are having a bright sunny day today, and finding much joy

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Unanswered Prayers

Lord Jesus,

It was when OTHERS prayed over me that I felt the love of your Holy Spirit flow down upon me, and my tears flowed as rivers at the joy and love I felt. Perhaps it is well that I feel no such response to MY prayers.

I need to know that I am no special child of yours, that, perhaps, you love others more. Then maybe I’ll work harder, I’ll pray more often and more seriously, I’ll listen more closely to your words, your actions, your little nod, and your quiet smile, that I might learn to do what is pleasing to you. Then I might try all the harder with the gifts you have given me (which I don’t appreciate at all!) to love you more.

It's Not About Me

Orig 06/18/08

It's cool and damp outside, and inside I am taking laxitives in preparation for some tests tomorrow. I know: Too much information! But I just want to point out that in retirement as in working as in raising a family, we all have crummy days.

However, even in the worst of days, there can be light if we but look for it. I found some light in the darkness in recent days; perhaps my light may warm you a little.

Hope you are having a good day -- and don't worry! Trust!

It's Not About Me
This note is not so much a copying of a good meditation I read, but a witness to what God has been showing me in recent days. Perhaps, in it, you’ll see something for you also.

For many years a concern of mine has been “Am I doing enough? Am I doing things right? Am I making a difference?” The words of the old soldier at the end of Saving Private Ryan kind of sum it up: “Did I earn it? Did I earn your sacrifice? Did I lead a good life?” I search for answers to that in the impacts I can see: on my family, my friends, my co-workers, my church and my company – and even in some cases on strangers. Did I/am I making a difference. Often my prayer of “My Jesus I trust in You” is not one of hope that He will help make things happen, as much as a prayer of despair that I can’t make anything happen myself – help me. This week I received some answers to my prayers.

It started last week when out of the blue the young woman behind the bar began to speak of some of her troubles to me. I offered her some of my “wisdom” and went home saying “Well God, thank you for the opportunity to serve, I leave her in your hands now”. I felt pretty satisfied. That is until I read the morning meditation the next day. Addressed to priests, teachers, and learned people, the talk I read exhorted them to be aware that God loves all his children, and that although he may have given some an abundance of wisdom, he has not forgotten his other children. He provides a degree of wisdom to ALL of us, and we need to not only pass on what we receive directly from him, but also to LISTEN to his wisdom as presented even to the most lowly of his children. We can learn from everyone, but we must listen! I thought of my conversation in the bar and the “wonderful thing” I thought I had done for someone else. The morning meditation helped me realize that although I may have indeed passed on some wisdom, I learned nothing. How prideful of me. The meditation, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now pope, gave me pause.

Of course it didn’t give me pause for long because a couple of nights later I was discussing politics with a friend and life-long Democrat (pray for him!) and I got angry at how stupid he could be, and ranted in my “wisdom” why he was wrong. In truth, I had many facts to back up my points while he had largely “feelings” about things, but I awoke the next morning and immediately remembered: I had spoken much, and listened little. I remembered the earlier meditation and, for the first time in about 30 years, sent a sincere note of apology to my friend. I felt a little humbled that it seemed that God had to slap me upside the head again. Why couldn’t I treat others, and their opinions, a little more considerately?

Last night I was in my church’s adoration chapel. When I entered there were two women there quietly praying, and I began to read my Night Prayers. My mind was wandering as I read when suddenly the quiet was broken by the soft cries of a baby, and I noticed the small cradle on the pew, and the baby’s arms reaching up to its mother. I smiled and turned back to my prayers and immediately read the following:

Unless you acquire the heart of a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Psalm 131
O Lord, my heart is not proud
Nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
Nor marvels beyond me.

Truly I have set my soul
In silence and peace.
As a child has rest in its mother’s arms,
Even so my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
Both now and for ever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, you declared that whoever receives a little child in your name receives you, and you promised your kingdom to those who are like children. Never let pride reign in our hearts, but may the Father’s compassion reward and embrace all who willingly bear your gentle yoke.

This morning’s readings included one from the book of Judges. It was about Gideon, who raised an army of 30,000 to defend Israel but was very worried about the larger army he faced. So God told him not to fear, that victory would be won, but “you’ve got too many soldiers, Gideon, send some home”. So Gideon sent home 20,000 (and I suspect worried). But God said “No, no, that’s still too many. When you win the battle people will say what a great general you are, but it is my victory, so send away more”. Finally God helped Gideon pick out what seemed to be 300 of the weakest, worst soldiers and said “There, that’s your army. Go get ‘em Tiger”. And Gideon won!!

Finally, there were these lines in this morning’s readings also: We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil? (Job 2:10) And: Incline my heart according to your will, O God. Speed my steps along your path, according to your will, O God.

Do you see what I see in all these things? I want to do the right things with my life. I pray for wisdom to do the right things. I try to do the right things. I worry I am not doing the right things. Did you notice that all these last sentences started with “I”? The above events point out to me that my life is NOT “all about me”. I need to be open to wisdom and consolations from those around me, and perhaps even more importantly, to Trust. Even when it doesn’t seem to make sense and I’m afraid of the outcome of my actions, I need to do what I think is best and then: Trust. I’m reminded of the story of the king with no clothes, who wanted so much to be the best of everything and admired by all, but was eventually laughed at by all. He relied on his wisdom, when there were thousands of “stupid peasants” who could have advised him better.

In my dealings with my family, it is not my wisdom that will make the teenager see the truth, nor “because dad says so”. My friends won’t necessarily believe or respect my wisdom even if I back it up with 1000 facts. And this fall those “stupid” Democrats will likely win landslide victories in Washington, showing me that the majority of the country is stupid -- but I’m not. Oh really!! And my employees will argue with my ideas, and my bosses won’t accept them – and it makes me so mad. They just don’t get it.


I think I can better realize after this week, that all my concerns and worries will achieve better outcomes and cause me less stress if I can do one major, important thing: Realize I am not alone. There are many others in my life who want the same good things I want, for me and for themselves, for our country and for our God. I need to achieve as much wisdom as I can in my life, but never fail to recognize, humbly, that other people are also a source of wisdom. I need to listen. And the ultimate source of Wisdom and “The right thing to do” is God, and I need listen to Him and to trust in Him to make things right with my family, my friends, and my work. Even if it seems like the odds are against me, I need to go forth into battle as best I can, and Trust. And even if it should seem that the battle is lost, I must still trust – for the war may be won based on what I have done. Even if I don’t live to see the end of it. Trust.

Unless you acquire the heart of a child…

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Life's A Wreck

Being an analyst by nature, I like the investigative television shows, CSI, NCIS, etc. There the people take a murder or an accident and re-create what happened from all the evidence. Sometimes the evidence is very limited and very complex tools are used to analyze sometimes minute pieces of evidence. I like it on NCIS when the analyst starts to explain a very complex analysis, and the star of the show (“Gibbs”) wants her to explain it more simply: “In English, Abby, in English”.

When we have a major (or ongoing) wreck in our life, it would be nice to be able to ask for explanation: “In English, God, in English”. What do you mean? What has happened, God, and why? I don’t understand why this happened to me. Unfortunately, God doesn’t work for us like Abby does for Gibbs. Fortunately, however, he hasn’t left us “without a clue”.

Abby, the analyst, learned how to analyze a wreck by reading about other wrecks which had been studied intensively. Although each wreck is unique, many have much in common. And, in studying a wreck, she could see clues of what caused it – and how it might have been avoided. We can learn what to do about our lives’ wrecks in the same way; we can look at the wrecks of other peoples’ lives – and how they fixed them. Unlike a car, a human life that has been in a wreck NEVER has to be totaled, it can always be repaired.

There are many good stories about wrecked human lives which have been repaired. Augustine is a good one. He had everything, and he had nothing. He was envied by most in society, but disgusted with himself. And he VERY, VERY reluctantly turned to a master mechanic to help fix his wrecked life. (I think, in part, he was reluctant to go to the master mechanic because his mother told him he should. In my mind, I could just hear him: “Aw mom, I can fix it myself. I don’t need any help.”) But after many attempts to fix himself and his life, he gave up and turned to the one who SHOULD know how to fix him, after all, the master mechanic had MADE him. (And besides, mother always knows best.)

In his attempts to fix his life, Augustine stepped back and looked at the bigger picture: Why was I made? What is my purpose? He looked for answers from the great philosophers, and then, ultimately, from God. Frank Sheed, in his book A Map Of Life, notes how critical Augustine’s question was. “Complete knowledge demands a knowledge of purpose. And in the face of the general proposition that nothing can be used aright until its purpose is known, the man who uses anything at all without such knowledge is acting blindly.” No wonder why many people’s lives are wrecks: they’re acting blindly; they don’t know the purpose for which they were created. And as Sheed further noted: “The perfect way to know the purpose of a thing is to find out from its maker.”

Your life’s a wreck? To fix it, and keep it fixed, you have to ask some questions of your maker. You can’t fix it alone; you can’t fix it blindly; you can’t fix it if you don’t know how it should work, what it was made to do. As Augustine found, sometimes the hardest thing is to accept, with humility, that we can’t fix some things. Like him, we so often try and try again to fix things ourselves. We change schools, we change jobs, we change churches, or we change spouses. We change drugs. And nothing seems to work. We know we are broken. It’s hard to be humble enough to admit we don’t know how to fix things, and to ask for help from our neighbor. Sometimes we find it even harder to ask from God.

It is very humiliating to say: “I failed”. I think, perhaps, part of the problem is that we are a little too hard on ourselves. The car analogy works again. It is one thing to wreck your car if you were totally careless, drunk driving, not looking at the road, or failing to do ANY maintenance on your vehicle, but it is another thing to wreck you car avoiding a child who jumps in front of your vehicle. Yes, some people almost deliberately wreck their lives through their carelessness, but I think most people are trying to do their best. And accidents happen anyway. Sometimes the CSI-type analysis of an accident has real benefits to help us avoid the accident in the future – we need to change our lives. Often, however, the re-hashing over and over again of the evidence does nothing but cause us unneeded stress: it was an accident, beyond much of our reasonable efforts to avoid. Get on with your life’s journey. You have a purpose, and you’ll never fulfill it unless you get going again.

Accidents will always be happening to some people at some time. Life has its crosses to bear. But we have an insurance policy for accidents, regardless of our level of contribution to the wreck. Jesus is our insurance policy. By his life, and death, he paid the cost to fix all our wrecks. The damage can and will be fixed by the manufacturer. All we have to do is file a claim. And what is the ongoing cost of this insurance policy? Well, I think all he asks is that you occasionally have dinner and chat with him – and if you come to mass he’ll even provide the food!

Analyzing a wreck is important, to avoid it again, but we shouldn’t so worry about the wrecks of the past that we don’t enjoy the journey today. God is good. All wrecks are repairable. There is still much to be enjoyed in this journey of life. You have a purpose.

Humbly get on your knees to ask the master repairman to fix your life, to help you steer it towards its purpose; ask the manufacturer to ease the pain of the visible scars. Then get on with your life, even if for a time you still have to drive around in the damaged vehicle while “the repair parts are on order”.

Just trust they will be delivered. They WERE paid for


Orig: 07/14/08

I didn't title this "Today's Meditation" because I think that, for me at least, it will take weeks or more for this to settle within me. The words echo within my being:

"Even if you knew by heart the whole Bible and the sayings of all the philosophers, what would it profit you without the love of God and his grace." "'Everyone has a natural craving for knowledge, but of what avail is knowledge without the fear of God?" "An unlearned person who serves God is surely better than a learned one who proudly searches the heavens while neglecting himself." "'Give up your excessive desire for learning. Therein are to be found only illusion and inner emptiness."

- Imitation of Christ as quoted in Principles of Catholic Theology, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

May you have peace on this beautiful day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Need Money

I suspect there are many people in this country, indeed even around the world, speaking or thinking those words this morning. Further unsaid, but assumed, is the word more. I need MORE money, for it is a virtual certainty that you have some money. I write these words today not that I, or you, might be entertained for a while, but that we might give thought to the meaning of these words for us – and/or give prayers to God that he might give us the Wisdom to understand our need – from his perspective. If you sincerely believe that you need more money, this is no trivial matter. Take some time to think about this; don’t assume that you’ve considered and analyzed all you need to. Not ALL, for certainly you can never consider and analyze and know ALL the mind of God. And that is what we are talking about today.

I need money. You could certainly ponder each word by itself, and its implications: I, vs my family or my community; Need, vs want, could use, will go to jail without, or will die without; Money, vs pity, understanding, or love. I think, however, often our real meaning in stating words or doing actions are the words unsaid, and in our hearts. The word “more” says lots about who we are, and what we assume.

I have a running challenge to a friend, who has often stated: “There are people starving in America.” I offered $10,000 if he could prove to me that a single person has starved to death in this country because he could not get food; show me the headline, show me the death certificate. He hasn’t gotten my check yet; he hasn’t even tried to back up his words. We live in a most unusual country in the world, in the history of the world. We live in a most blessed country. There is no one starving for lack or food, of medical attention, or even – if they but sought it – lack of love. Often when I hear the story of the city of Sodom and the angel who says he would spare the city if but 10 good men could be found, I wonder how many good men could be found in our country. But then I know, it is way more than 10. Sometimes that gives me Hope, for all of us. And these many good men are praying for us, are there for us and our needs. But what of the assumption that we need “more” money? What if it were really only an assumption, and that the assumption was wrong? Can you challenge yourself to get past your assumptions?

What if you prayed: “Oh God, I need more money” and you heard a loud voice of thunder respond most clearly: “No you don’t!” What would you “assume” then? I think, perhaps, then you would challenge your own assumption. This space and time is dedicated to St. Paul, the evangelist who spoke new words to many people. While it was a gift of the Holy Spirit which led to their conversations, St. Paul’s words provided a start for the process: he gave them new knowledge and made them think. They challenged all of their assumptions.

Think! I,need, MORE, money. What if God said: “No, you don’t!” Stop! Think! What if?

In being so bound up in our daily lives, we often just go marching along without much thought of our actions. God, the family, our job, our neighbor, we have knowledge about them and have filed the knowledge into neat slots, which help drive our actions. We don’t think about many things we do: we react using our prior knowledge of the people and events. Knowledge can be superseded by even greater knowledge, but Wisdom concerns itself with eternal Truth. We react using our prior knowledge; we need to react out of Wisdom. Wisdom is associated with things of God. Throughout our whole life, we need to pause and pray to God for Wisdom, that our knowledge might be expanded, and applied in ways according to his will. He made each of us, he made YOU. He made you uniquely, like no other. He made you with a purpose in his eternal mind; you fit as a special piece in his creation puzzle, and no other piece can fit there. Why did he create YOU? What did he create you to do? And where do some of those “basics” of our life, like money, fit in the purpose, YOUR purpose? Maslov said food, shelter, and clothing are at the top of man’s basic hierarchy of needs. And even though those things are virtually guaranteed for everyone in this country, we worry about them. But what we are really worrying about is: More.

Some of my friends take regular trips to various poor areas of South America. They are rightly concerned with helping the poor; this is a good thing we must all do. They try to spend some time living and sleeping with them, so they can really understand them, their NEEDS, and how they can help. Indeed, they feel they MUST help. I’m sure they have thought and prayed much about their work, and perhaps this is indeed the very purpose for which they were created. They’ve found their place in God’s puzzle, how wonderful for them. When you truly find God’s purpose for you, you will find peace, you will find Joy, even in the hardships of your life. Your crosses will just be obstacles to get around, so you can continue the journey laid out before you. Your purpose, your path. We can’t however, let the obstacles become so big in your mind that you think of eliminating THEM as being your purpose. Our Lord didn’t come to earth to give us example of how to eliminate the world’s financial poverty, for he affirmed: The poor will always be with us (Dt15:11; Mt26:11). So will the sinner. For some, it is the purpose of their lives to reduce the burden of the poor or to preach to the sinner, but it is not the central purpose for each of our lives. Our Lord gave us the example and Wisdom of how these things are to fit into our lives, just a new (and higher) priority of our basic needs to living life: Love your neighbor. But it’s just one of the priorities. My friends who visit the poor in South America sometimes comment that they are amazed how happy the poor are, despite their poverty. I’m not amazed. Perhaps these poor people have more wisdom than us. Perhaps they have even found their eternal purpose, and it has little to do with money. It may be a need, but “more” isn’t. Perhaps it isn’t in our lives also.

When I asked “What if God said you don’t need more money”, it was intended to make you pause and think. Look at the example I gave of the poor. Certainly they have much less than you, yet many, perhaps even most, don’t worry that they need more money. Perhaps because they know that opportunities are very limited to get more, so they worry about how to best use the money they have. And fitting it into their priorities of life, they find happiness and peace. Why can’t we?

What if you can’t have “more” money? What if even God himself told you so, if that’s what it takes to make you think about the matter, and not just “assume” (or even obsess) that must be so. What then? No one will starve in this country; no one will go without medical care; our basic needs can be met. There are more than 10 good people in this nation. So what if you can’t have “more” money, what is your problem then? What is your solution, you very wise man? What remains of your problem?

Ahhhhhh, I think we are getting there, aren’t we? It is YOUR problem. Your ego, your pride, your own perhaps over-inflated sense of self-worth. What are your options if indeed you must assume you will not get “more” – the options are out there, you are lying to yourself if you think there are none. How will you tell your family to get by without “more”? How will you tell your church? How will your co-workers perceive you living or dressing or projecting not having “more”? How embarrassing it will be to talk to the bank that you accept the position that, at least for now, you won’t have “more”. How much will all these things hurt your Pride? You thought you needed more, but perhaps you need to come to grips with what God thinks you need. And what might that be??

Well, a starting point to asking that question, and considering his answer might be in Matthew: Do Not Be Anxious. It’s a starting point, the starting point of this blog. Your assumed need for “more” money is just an obstacle in your path, my friends. I previously wrote before some thoughts on Asking and Giving, and I continually note that we must grow in holiness, in knowledge AND WISDOM, our whole life. My words here are certainly a poor place to find any wisdom, but perhaps they can provide some knowledge. Then it’s up to you to seek, to ask, to grow. Your entire life, to find where you fit into that puzzle. To find peace and joy. It’s there to be found, my friends.

Do not be anxious. Read Matthew’s thoughts, and Jesus’ words on the matter. He is giving you good advice; he is giving you eternal wisdom. He IS giving you “more”.

Lord, our very existence is a gift from you; to you we offer all that we have and are. -- from Morning Prayers, Liturgy of the Hours, Saturday Week II

Friday, August 7, 2009


Orig: 11/20/07

To all my friends -- please enjoy this Thanksgiving Day Message. I know all of us at one time or another have suffered in some way, and can relate to this email.


Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes when she pulled open the
florist shop door, against a November gust of wind. Her life had been as
sweet as a spring breeze and then, in the fourth month of her second
pregnancy, a "minor" automobile accident stole her joy. This was
Thanksgiving week and the time she should have delivered their infant
son. She grieved over their loss.

Troubles had multiplied.

Her husband's company "threatened" to transfer his job to a new
location. Her sister had called to say that she could not come for her
long awaited holiday visit. What's worse, Sandra's friend suggested that
Sandra's grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to
empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling,"
thought Sandra with a shudder. "Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she
wondered. "For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when
he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life, but took her

"Good afternoon, can I help you?"

Sandra was startled by the approach of the shop clerk. "I . . . I need
an arrangement," stammered Sandra.

"For Thanksgiving? I'm convinced that flowers tell stories, " she
continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything
that could go wrong has gone wrong."

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the clerk said, "I
have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the bell on the door rang, and the clerk greeted the new customer,

"Hi, Barbara, let me get your order." She excused herself and walked
back to a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an
arrangement of greenery, bows, and what appeared to be long-stemmed
thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped:
there were no flowers.

"Do you want these in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched - was this
a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for
laughter, but neither woman laughed.

"Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think
after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its
significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said,
as she gently tapped her chest.

Sandra stammered, "Ah, that lady just left with . . . uh . . . she left
with no flowers!"

"That's right," said the clerk. "I cut off the flowers. That's the
'Special'. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet. Barbara came into the shop
three years ago, feeling much as you do today," explained the clerk.
"She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had just lost
her father to cancer; the family business was failing; her son had
gotten into drugs; and she was facing major surgery. That same year I
had lost my husband," continued the clerk. "For the first time in my
life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband,
no family nearby, and too much debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra.

"I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've
always thanked God for the good things in my life and I never questioned
Him why those good things happened to me, but when the bad stuff hit, I
cried out, 'Why? Why me?!' It took time for me to learn that the dark
times are important to our faith! I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of
my life, but it took the thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort!
You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and
from His consolation we learn to comfort others."

Sandra sucked in her breath, as she thought about what her friend had
tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost
a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

"Hey, Phil!" the clerk greeted the balding, rotund man.

"My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement . . twelve
thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a
tissue wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind
telling me why she wants a bouquet that looks like that?"

"Four years ago, my wife and I nearly divorced," Phil replied. "After
forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and
guidance, we trudged through problem after problem, the Lord rescued our
marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems
to remind her of what she had learned from "thorny" times. That was good
enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to
label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that
problem taught us."

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life" Sandra
said to the clerk. "It's all too . . . fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that
the thorns make the roses more precious. We treasure God's providential
care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember that it was a
crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent
the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the
accident, she loosened her grip on her resentment.

"I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to
choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a

"Thank you. What do I owe you?"

"Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart The
first year's arrangement is always on me."

The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to
your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read:

"My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a
thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the
glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that
I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that,
through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Praise Him for the roses; thank Him for the thorns.

God Bless all of you. Be thankful for all that the Lord does for you.

"Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the
rest to God."

We often try to fix problems with WD-40 and Duct tape. God did it with

I'm the worlds worst at not thanking God for my thorns, only for the
roses. My prayer today is to start being thankful for the thorns I know
they will help me grow. I pray this for you also.