Category Archives: Listening

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue Teach Us How to Pray

May is Mary’s month. Today, my children and I held a May Procession to honor the Blessed Virgin. My eldest daughter was voted “May Queen” and carried the crown of roses. We sang our favorite hymns, processing to our statue of Mary in the front yard. My daughter crowned her as we sang, “Immaculate Mary.” We honored Our Blessed Mother as best we could out of love.

My devotion to Mary is a deep part of my faith life. I completely understand why St. Pope John Paul II chose the motto, “Totus Tuus” for his pontificate. He, too, had a very deep devotion to Our Lady. You see, Mary is the reason I found my way back to Jesus and God. Just like a good mom, she waded down into my mess and helped me rise up through it. She didn’t yank my arm or scold me. She just gently nudged me then offered her hand. Actually, it started one Christmas.

My husband and I had gone to university and become “brilliant.” We both walked away from our faith, although we both now acknowledge we really didn’t even know our faith. We went to a state university and got liberal arts degrees. We listened to the “enlightened” and questioned everything we had been taught, including our faith. Thankfully, neither one of us chose to go agnostic or atheist. We were Christians, but had no clue how to put that into practice outside of the Catholic Church.

We started visiting all different denominations to “church shop.” Sometimes, we would stay for a month or a year. We would always get involved, help serve, join Bible studies and try to get to know the Truth. But, when we asked the hard questions, the minister would either dodge or give a non-answer. The congregation was no help either. Half of them didn’t even understand why we wanted to know these answers. Honestly, we didn’t realize that the questions we were asking were theology questions. That’s how ignorant we were. Most of these denominiations’ theology was illogical or fundamentally flawed. Somehow, we both saw through this pretty quickly. That’s why we never stayed at a church long. To be sure, we were lost, but at least we were seeking the Truth.

Then, one Christmas, we were shopping at Barnes & Noble for Christmas gifts. I have mentioned before that books are my weakness. But after a few hours, even I was “booked” out. My husband suggested we stop at the in store Cafe for a refreshment. The store was absolutely packed. We decided to cut through a row of book shelves to beat the crowd. As we are speedily walking through, I abruptly halt, turn my head and pull a book off of the middle of a shelf. I say to my husband, “I am supposed to get this book.” He says, “What are you talking about? What book is it?” I didn’t know. I read the title, “Medjugorje: The Message” by Wayne Weible. My husband asked, “What is it about?” I said I didn’t know but Mary was on the front cover. He thought I was crazy but said, “Get it if you want.”

As I read this book , it changed my heart. After reading it, I wept in the shower for days. I turned to Mary for guidance and direction. I converted and handed my life over to her in a big way. I didn’t say a word of this to my husband. It was the beginning of a long journey back to our Catholic faith.

A few years later, I met the author Wayne Weible at a Catholic seminar. I introduced myself and shared my conversion story. He smiled and said that Mary has used him as an instrument for conversion. His book is not his own. It belongs to Mary. He shared enough stories with me that I realized that many, many people are finding their way home because the Blessed Mother is gathering them under her mantle. She is so gentle and loving. She shows us the surest path to her Son and like a good mother, makes sure her little ones are cared for along the way.

In all my brokenness, I had turned away from God. The sins of my past life weighed me down like an anchor. Seeking the Truth felt like running in circles because we could not find answers to our deepest questions. Enter Mary. Mary taught me how to pray. She opened the doors of my heart and allowed me a graceful return to my faith. When I was ready, she began to walk me through the life of her Son and explain what He has done for me. I haven’t always been the most disciplined or humble daughter, but she has never given up hope in me. Now, I see just how precious our Blessed Mother is for all of us. Jesus’ gift from the cross of His Mother is indeed one of the greatest gifts we could receive from Him. It is with deep gratitude and humility I pray, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”

 

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Worry or Pray

I occasionally struggle with worry, especially when it comes to my dear ones facing problems that are out of our control. Today, a friend of mine shared this story:

A long time ago, a wise judge was faced with a room full of upset people. They all had many worries and wanted his advice. He asked them all to write down the one most important worry that they had in their life and place it in a large earthen jar. After everyone had placed their worry in the jar, he asked them to now draw one worry out of the jar. As probability would have it, each drew a different worry than their own. After reading their selected “new” worry, they all decided they would like to have back their own original worry!

As a Christian, I know that I am called to either worry or trust. It is that simple. But as a human, I find myself with my stomach in knots and my mind racing about how I can help. I get so caught up in the emotional side of the event, that I totally neglect the spiritual side.

This week, my family received heart-breaking news. It was so out of our control that we all felt helpless. Being physically far away forces me to simply pray because it’s all I can do. I realize now that it is what we should do first anyway! While my family scrambled to take action, I took to prayer. In my many sighs and tears to God, He revealed to me that the family member needed healing–spiritual healing. That’s when I took action. I made phone calls and helped arrange for a priest in another city to visit this family member. At first, I met with lots of barriers. But I have a not-so-secret weapon called “The Divine Mercy Chaplet.” At the hour of mercy (3:00 p.m.), I begged God to send me a holy priest. I was getting nowhere by myself and needed His help. Within 30 seconds of finishing my prayer, the phone was ringing and a priest was on the line. The ending of this Chaplet prayer is: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Such a simple prayer, yet so easy to forget, and even harder to do!

Running from Job

God has been telling me lately to read the Book of Job. I have read the Book of Job many times, and the last time I read it, I really liked it. I liked that he had tremendous faith. I liked that he had the fortitude to even respond to his “friends” who were not being very understanding of his situation. I liked that although he had some pretty frank discussions with God, he ultimately revered and trusted in Him.

Last year, my sister told me she was supposed to read the Book of Job, and she really didn’t enjoy that book of the Bible. I told her all these encouraging words about how great Job was and how amazing his faith was. I told her that this was a story of triumph. Yes, it was a difficult story, but it had a really good ending.

Today, I am about halfway through Job. I should have already read it by now. I just cannot seem to want to read it. Here I was, encouraging my sister when heavy things were coming into her life. And now that I am heading there, I’m running away. I have had to force myself to read Job. How hypocritical am I? This is embarrassing to admit, but I have let my feelings get in the way of listening to God. Because I am not feeling good about reading Job, I’ve dragged my feet. I’ve even taken to reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations! My son told me it was a good book, and even though I have read it before, I thought now would be a good time to dive into this massive piece of fiction! Ha, Ha. Oh the lengths we go to so that we can avoid facing what we need to face.

Tonight, I plan to read another chapter of Job. I plan to listen to what God has to say to me. Then, I will fall asleep finding out what’s in store for Pip. I have a feeling that his “great expectations” may not end up so great after all.

Challenges of a Foster-Father

Today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. He is so special as the Foster-Father of Jesus that he is the only saint that has two feast days– March 19 and May 1. Of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary has a whole host of feast days, but most saints just have one.

I have been seeking to understand the Holy Family more deeply–how they lived, what example they provided for every family, and specifically, what role St. Joseph played in raising the Son of God and living as spouse with the Mother of God.

I am pretty certain of a few things:

1. St. Joseph was humble. Everything about this man speaks of humility. He was a carpenter who provided for himself, then his family by the work of his hand and the sweat of his brow. Although he descended from the kingly line of Judah, he was content to work for his living.

2. St. Joseph was pure. When he discovered that his fiancée was with child, he knew the child was not his. But he also knew that Mary was not the type of girl to cause this to happen. He cared deeply for others and that’s why he was willing to quietly divorce her without fully understanding why or how this came to be. He didn’t worry about himself or his reputation first. His intentions were pure. That’s why God sent an angel to help him understand more deeply.

3. St. Joseph was receptive. When angels came to him in dreams with warnings or clarifications, he listened. It doesn’t mention that he argued back with them. He was open to hearing from God in this way. Also, we have no quotes from St. Joseph. He is silent in the Gospels. His thoughts and prayers were saved for God alone.

4. St. Joseph was faithful. His response to all requests from God (and most likely the Blessed Virgin) was immediate action. That takes tremendous faith! Again, we hear no account of St. Joseph questioning God or the angel-messengers. He took action. If you want to see how to put your faith into action, simply follow the example of the life of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph lived a simple yet faith-filled life. He ordered his entire life around God, and more specifically His Son and the Mother of His Son. He had the same responsibilities of fathers today–to provide for their families. He didn’t always have it easy, especially as an immigrant in Egypt! But he walked by faith and humbly accepted his role in the Holy Family. St. Joseph, Patron of Families, Pray for Us!

Should I stay or should I go?

The lyrics from on old song came roaring through my head this morning: Should I stay or should I go now?/ Should I stay or should I go now?/If I go there will be trouble/ An’ if I stay it will be double/ So come on and let me know/ Should I stay or should I go?

We are remodeling our kitchen and clearing many things out of our home. Through this process, we are trying to determine if we should stay in this home or move. There are a whole host of reasons for choosing to stay or choosing to go. I used to be the kind of person who would list out all the pros and cons and decide from there. Boy, have I changed!

Nowadays, I am learning and practicing the 4-step:

Step 1 = STOP
I stop when faced with a big decision like this. This takes a tremendous amount of will power for me because I am by nature a decision-maker. So I force myself to completely halt everything to do with the decision.

Step 2 = PRAYER
I step up my prayer life and go directly to God. My weekly Adoration hour has been focused on listening. What does God want us to do? Is there a reason we should stay? Is there a reason we should go?

Step 3 = WISE COUNSEL
I turn to someone who knows our Lord better than anyone else, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I started a Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel which has turned into what feels like an eternal novena! I am way past 9 days of praying, but I keep asking for guidance. However, it has been revealed to me that the Blessed Virgin’s guidance is guaranteed when it concerns your eternal salvation. This made me realize that staying or going may not affect my eternal salvation, so I may not need or receive much guidance here.

I usually find myself scheduling a meeting with my Spiritual Director, who always has practical yet difficult-to-hear-and-do advice. Honestly, I haven’t done that just yet….

Step 4 = CLARITY
I wait for clarity through this discernment process. This is the hardest part of the 4-Step. Hanging around when you are living in no-man’s land is a test of patience, fortitude, perseverance and faith. Especially when everyone around you–your spouse, your remodeling help, your family, your friends, your neighbors–is really badly wanting an answer. Waiting is difficult, but waiting while being pestered can be intolerable. Ask any mom who has toddlers in the grocery store check-out line.

This 4-Step has taught me to be more patient. I used to pray things like, “God, I need to know by next week if you want me to sell my house. If I don’t  hear from you, I’m going to assume you want me to stay.” Wow, what pride I had/have to demand things of God. His ways are not our ways, and his time is not our time. I am feeling this truth tremendously right now.

Please do not think that I am “perfect” in this regard. At the beginning of this process, I jump-started into action, then realized I had broken the rules of 4-Stepping. I had to backtrack, apologize to some folks, and undo some things. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I once again overlooked God in a big decision in my life. So, my hope is that by sharing this with others, I will feel even more compelled to follow it in my own life.

Today, I still am under tremendous pressure to answer this question: Should we stay or should we go? And just like the song states,”if I go there could be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.” But I am not asking a person to answer this for me. I am asking an all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, awesome God and His handmaid, Mary the Untier of Knots, to help me. I am sure I will know with much clarity what I am supposed to do soon enough.

 

Holy Wood or Hollywood?

“Putting on Christ” changes everything. It changes the way we see other people, it changes the way we spend our day, it even changes the way we act! My son just finished his role as Jesus in the Passion of Christ. We had two requests for the children to bring the play to other groups. I found this a bit odd because our group is just a group of 14 children with very limited resources and no real acting experience.

However, an email arrived this morning that explained why there was so much interest. Our director, a professional actress who is on the national scene, explained that she learned a tremendous amount from our children. “Really?” I thought to myself. As she explained the details in her email, it all started making sense.

Apparently, there are two significant problems for professional actors: 1) Memorizing their lines and 2) Delivering those lines with sincerity that fits the character.  Our children did the “impossible” by conquering both of these quickly.

Our director spent some time explaining how modern acting has really moved away from Stanislavski who encouraged his students not to manipulate the scene but to find the truth of the scene and to be open to the truth each time that a scene is performed. If you and I go to most theatrical shows, we will see the actors manipulate the scene in a way to manipulate the audience.  As an audience member, we might not even realize that we are being manipulated, because some directors and actors are very good at this craft.  Also, if that is all we see as an audience member , we just accept that is how it is supposed to be.

Stanislavski did not know that when you put this discipline in practice that what you are in fact doing is opening yourself to The Truth and allowing the Holy Spirit to cooperate with it using the actor as an instrument.  I think this is what happened when our innocent acting troupe took their memorization and listening skills seriously. I also saw how many people wanted their photo taken with my son, “Jesus” after the play. They just wanted to share in the moment of Truth which we all had just experienced. What a blessing we had a Director who showed us the truth and beauty of the art of acting!

 

Seeing past appearances is a gift

I don’t know why God gave me this gift, but for as long as I can remember, I have always been able to look past the “appearance” of someone, and see their true self. For example, I had a friend who told me that she struggled with obesity. When she said this, I really thought she was joking. Not only because she is naturally hilarious, but also because I never saw her as simply her “size”. She was such a creative, funny, brilliant person that her size just never registered for me. When I told her I thought she was kidding, she got angry. Then she was confused. I tried to explain that I never seriously thought of her that way. She simply could not believe me. She had been holding on to this body image since she was a child. She could not conceive of someone not seeing her this way. I tried to explain, but she could not hear. I really and truly never thought of her as obese, but in all physical reality, she may just be obese.

Another example that comes to mind is people with disabilities. I would never have thought to call them that, but I have learned that “people with special needs” is the politically correct thing to say. I wouldn’t refer to them as either of those two things. I always just see them as people. I see how kind they are and how open they are to others. They are my friends, not my projects!

The last example of this gift is when I see certain people, I can see how they were as children. They can be the biggest, grumpiest mess of an adult, but somehow, I see them as an innocent child. I cannot really explain with words how this works, but it changes the way I interact with them. And people around me cannot understand how I could possibly be friendly to such a person. They cannot see what I see.

For many years of our marriage, my husband wondered what I was saying to people because they all seemed to want to share very intimate conversations with me. I really wasn’t saying anything. I was just appreciating them for who they really are, and they must have sensed that. They opened up and would talk with me in ways that you don’t talk to strangers. As my husband puts it, they share more with me than they may even have shared with their spouse! I am okay with this, and he is now, too. He just smiles when he hears other people start down the way-too-personal-for-normal-conversation path. He finally recognizes and appreciates my gift, too.

 

More True Tales from Life in the Circus

My friend who knows I have experience dealing with the media called me to ask for some help. She was promoting the circus which was coming to the town where I live. She needed someone to drive the talent to the local television stations for their interviews. Because I am her friend, I agreed. Then she asked if I still had a minivan. I said, “Yep,” while thinking to myself, just what might I need to be fitting in my minivan? The image that came to mind was a minivan full of clowns. Oh boy.  Then she sweetly asks, “Do you mind having live animals in your car? I will pay for a thorough wash afterwards?” This, I could tell, was going to be interesting.

So, after some discussion, I discover that I will be transporting miniature goats along with their keeper. Phew! I was worried about a tiger or something. The goats travel in large dog carriers. Phew! I had a sense that they probably were not house trained. Then she started to explain where I needed to go to pick up the trainer. As I recall it went something like this, “Take this exit, then you will go about two blocks, turn right on this street, than watch for this gravel/grass road. You cannot really see it, but it’s okay to turn onto it. You will cross over some railroad tracks, and you’ll have to look for railroad car number xx, and that’s where they will be.” I felt like I was in a movie.

I found the trainer, the whole while wondering to myself why I sign up for this kind of volunteer job. He was a very clean cut African-American dressed like a Cowboy. We drove over to the area where the Circus was keeping the animals. He introduced me to his “kids.” Since I only had room for two goats, he had to pick which two to bring. I have never seen such a doting daddy. He honestly couldn’t decide. He just loved his goats. He started to tell me the different tricks each goat could do, and asked my opinion of which I thought he should bring. I thought about television and which trick would be the most visually rewarding for the audience, and suggested which two to pick.

Once we arrived at the first television station, I helped unload the goats. The assistant producer was waiting for us. Immediately after the goats were unloaded, they unloaded. The assistant producer began to freak. She was asking me and the trainer, “Don’t you have something that catches this? Do they do this all the time? Oh, this will not work!” I am speed dialing my friend, who informs me that she told the assistant producer about this reality and the assistant producer insisted that it would not be a problem. Well, apparently it was a big problem!

The trainer got his feelings hurt. He started to decide his time was worth more than this. He was backing out of the interview. I hung up with my friend and made some decisions. I pulled aside the trainer and explained that this assistant producer must have changed her mind. I told him that her behavior shouldn’t keep him from talking about his goats and their awesomeness. He wanted more people to see them at the circus, yes? I promised to drive his goats back to their staging area in the air-conditioning. I then turned to the assistant producer and explained that when a goat has to go, it has to go. No, there was no way to catch or stop it. I suggested she go ahead and have the trainer on the show, but next time, to seriously consider when someone explains that having animals on a set can be a messy ordeal.

I did manage to get the goats safely to their staging area while the trainer went forward with the interview. My friend had another volunteer driver who was able to help from that time forward. I’ll have to share the rest of the Circus story in a future post. And remember these are all true stories–no kidding!

 

The Eyes of Jesus

Could you take 14 kids, ranging in age from high school to kindergarten, spend only 7 1/2 hours with them, and then produce a Passion play? That’s what our awesome director did, along with myself and 2 adult volunteers. Our production had lights, music, scenery, props, costume changes–basically the works! The kids had to memorize their lines, follow all the staging cues, and work without a few actors due to illness during part of the rehearsal time. Truly, we had less than 7 1/2 hours of time with them before this group had to perform before a live audience.

Tonight, during the actual performance of The Passion of Christ, the children took to heart what our director said during rehearsal. They fully understood that their performance was to give glory to God. Their honesty and openness made quite an impact on our audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from octogenarians to newborn babies.

After the performance, many people wanted to thank my son for his role as Jesus. He is very humble and graciously accepted their kind words. On the drive home, I asked him how he thought he did, since I was mostly backstage and didn’t see the performance. In his usual low-key manner, he said, “Well, I think I had a lot of help.” I asked, “From the Holy Spirit?” He said, “Yes, definitely.”

You wouldn’t know it from seeing him on stage or from talking with him afterwards, but my son’s role as Jesus Christ deeply impacted him. He told me this was a very difficult role for him for a variety of reasons. Knowing my son, I didn’t ask for those details just yet. He will slowly reveal them as he sees fit. I am so proud of him for taking on this enormous role. After the play, I saw a transformation in my son. I don’t think I can put into words what I saw. It was in his eyes. I think some of my photos captured it. I don’t know, but I think I saw the eyes of Jesus.

Lessons I learned from the circus

My education and upbringing really emphasized having a game plan and goals in life. Leadership was presented as being strategic, setting goals, and working your plan. I thought that being a leader would mean having success. What I apparently didn’t spend enough time thinking about was what type of success would really fulfill me as a person. I honestly never took the time to think deeply about “success,” what it was, what it means, or why I should care. Here I was pursuing it, yet not really even sure what I was pursuing.

I share all of this to say that I am experiencing what my wise friend calls “hang time” right now.  I went to him for spiritual guidance and he always has just the right example to help me visualize what my real problem is. He talked about the circus, which at first, I must admit, bemused me. I thought to myself, “The circus? Really? What does the circus have to do with this serious issue I am having in my life?” But he explained with patience and kindness: “When the trapeze artist swings from one swing to another, there is a point in time when he has to let go of the first swing, hang in the air, then catch the second swing. He has to trust and have faith that he will be able to grab that second swing.”

Sometimes in life, we are in that moment where we have let go of one thing and are waiting for God to show us what’s next. We have to “suspend” between two things. This feels so unnatural, especially for someone like me who has been groomed to have goals and plans and strategy. It feels like letting go of the steering wheel while driving 100 miles per hour. It feels dangerous! Now, I have long ago worked through my view of success which is probably quite different from a worldly view of it. Money, power, status, and position no longer matter to me. These are passing things that definitely do not bring me fulfillment. I am trying to follow God’s strategic plan which has a much longer vision for me, as in eternal! However, in these moments of “hang time” when I am waiting for the next prompting of the Holy Spirit, it feels like a wasteland and seems to last for eternity, even if it is only a blip on the timeline of my eternal soul.