Category Archives: Wisdom

And the next Judas is….

Today is the Feast Day of St. Matthias. If you are not familiar with him, he is the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot the betrayer of Jesus Christ. In fact, the apostles had to choose between Matthias and another witness of the resurrection, Barsabbas also known as Justus. Wow, how do you make that choice? Well, the apostles give us a great lesson in decision-making:

1) Identify the real problem. St. Peter does this well in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1: 15-17. Judas was “allotted a share in this ministry.” And now Judas is gone. Who will take up that allotted share?

2) Turn to God’s Word (the Bible) for solutions. Of course, at this time, it would be from the Old Testament, as the New Testament wasn’t yet written. St. Peter quotes the Book of Psalms, “Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it. and: May another take his office.” God is telling them that they must find another person to take up Judas’ office of ministry.

3) Consider friends or family who have walked the walk. St. Peter explains that whoever they choose to replace Judas should be someone “who accompanied us in the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Although there may have been quite a number of disciples, St. Peter understood how critical it was for their community to have leaders who actually saw and believed from the very beginning.

4) Pray for guidance. Even after selecting two candidates, St. Peter and the apostles called down the Holy Spirit to guide them in this decision.

5) Trust in God to provide the answer. Using lots, they discovered it was Matthias who should serve in Judas’ place.

I have always wondered how it felt to be St. Matthias. He was there since the beginning, hanging around the twelve apostles and Jesus. He actually witnessed the Resurrection. And now, God bestows on him the ministry that Judas turned away from. Did St. Matthias ever imagine this plan of God’s? He most likely had no idea that he would be called to fill in for such an important role in history. He was probably simple and humble and faithful (having been there since the beginning). He most likely thought that Barsabbas would be a better choice, but prayed that God’s will be done. What a surprise God had in store for him!

 

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What Happens When the Easter Bunny Forgets His Job

I knew our family had changed when I awoke early on Easter morning and realized that the Easter bunny had not come. Our family was so focused on the real meaning of Easter on Holy Saturday that even the Easter bunny forgot to do his job. As I crept past my youngest who had found her way onto the couch, trying not to wake her, I realized what an amazing change this was for all of us. On the counter was my youngest daughter’s favorite plastic bunny with a note hanging around its neck that read: “Dear Easter bunny, Wishing you the blessings and joy of Easter!”

As I frantically put together baskets as quietly and quickly  as I could, praying all the while to my youngest’ guardian angel to keep her sleeping while I did my duty, I realized that while Easter bunnies are signs of Hope, my family understands that Jesus Christ is the real Hope. By the time the family dog heard my scrambling and woke my daughter, the Easter bunny had safely delivered his baskets once again.

Fast forward to today. I think my son had it right. I told him this morning that he has soccer practice tonight. His response was, “On Easter Monday?” Because we celebrate the Season of Easter in our family, we take Easter week off. Yes, you read that correctly. Easter is not just Easter Sunday. It actually is a season that lasts 50 days. My son asked, “Why would they schedule practice during Easter Week? That doesn’t seem right.” Let me be clear, he loves to play soccer and never grumbles about practice. My response, “No one knows or they don’t care. But we do, so we have to both celebrate and offer up these crosses for them.”

Many Christians I know don’t even realize Easter is a season. They ask me, “Why 50 days?” Well, there’s this really important thing that we celebrate on day 50. It’s called Pentecost. That’s 9 days after the Ascension which is another celebration during the Easter Season. Of course, the Blessed Mother and the Apostles prayed for 9 days to prepare for Pentecost. That would be the first Novena! And the Pentecost is the founding of the Church. So, we have Easter Sunday, the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, followed by Divine Mercy Sunday, then the Ascension and it all culminates in Pentecost when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was so immense that a group of fearful, tentative followers began to share the Good News so profoundly that it changed our world forever!

If you have never celebrated the Easter Season, I suggest you find some resources about these next few weeks and learn more about how to glorify our good God and to prepare for the Holy Spirit coming into your life on Pentecost. It may fundamentally change the way you and your family will celebrate Easter.

 

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.

Responsibility and Authority Belong Together

My son turned 16 years old a few months ago and has been asking about possible jobs he could pursue. His buddies have jobs and now also have money. I think he likes the idea of having cash flow in his life. My husband and I have been discussing with him all the possibilities, and the pros and cons of each.

We have explained that his current vocation is “Student.” And this means that his top priority is learning how to think and growing in wisdom. If he fails at this, it will be a big problem in his life. It would be very easy to let jobs and activities crowd out study time and thought time. He’s a pretty thoughtful teenager already and he recognizes this could be true, but he still wants a job.

Having been in the workplace since I was 16 years old, I have experienced all kinds of jobs under all types of management. I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. Mostly, I have worked for Baby Boomers. I have listened and learned from some of them, but I also have been surprised by some of their “blindness.” As an example, many of them would share how they were hired for their “potential” and given tremendous amounts of training paid for by the company. How they were mentored by so-and-so and taught the ropes with a lot of hand-holding along the way. Yet, they saw their trajectory “up the ladder” as a result of their own hard work and talent.

When these same folks interviewed me, it was all about “What can you bring to the table? What skills do you already have that we can use?” And when I showed them I was willing to work hard, many of them dumped a lot of responsibility right onto my plate while giving me no additional authority or wage increase or promotion. Responsiblity without authority simply does not work. It is a nightmare to be in this type of disordered situation.  However, it was a beautiful thing for my supervisors. It freed them up to spend lots of face time with the important people, offering to work on special projects that helped their own supervisors look good. I never understood why those people at the top didn’t stop and consider that this person sure has a lot of spare time on their hands and wonder who was doing all of their work? It was this responsibility without authority that pushed me out of the employee mindset and into business for myself. I figured if I was going to carry that heavy of a load, I might as well be on my own. That way, if something went wrong, I only had myself to blame. I am okay with accountability.

The thought of my son working for people without integrity who use those around them for their own personal gain is a bit gut-wrenching. I would like to interview his future boss and see just what kind of person he is. Actually, I have been doing that without them knowing it. So far, I am liking what I see. Now, if only he will offer my son his first job!

The Difference Between Good and Nice

This has been bothering me lately–the difference between “good” and “nice.” The other day, my husband was telling me about a situation at work. He kept referring to a certain co-worker as a “nice guy” but then would go on to tell me of some awful things this “nice guy” was doing. After about the third time my husband called him “nice,” I just couldn’t take it any longer. I stopped him and asked, “Why is he a “nice” person if he is doing all of these things?”

Like I have mentioned, I have been listening more this Lent. I have come to realize that people use the term “nice” to mean that the person they are referring to is willing to tolerate just about anything so as not to rock the boat. Yes, they are peacemakers in a sense, but they also choose to overlook some very key issues. Their ability to deny the reality of the situation is a bit astounding to me. In fact, I would argue that at times they are participating in the evil around them simply by keeping their mouth shut because they are so “nice!”

I have been rolling these two descriptive adjectives around in my head for a couple of weeks. I have decided that I prefer people who are “good” to people who are “nice.” Good people are the ones who speak up when something wrong is happening. They are the ones who call their friend to accountability on an issue that their friend has been dodging or denying. They are sometimes called “mean” by the “nice” people. But I don’t think they are mean. They have courage. They have integrity. They are accountable to God and their neighbor. They love, so they suffer.

My closest friends are “good” people and true friends. They don’t always just tell me what I want to hear. They tell me what I need to hear. I do not think they are mean. I think they love me and want the best for me. I do the same for the them.

So, if you are nice, and you are reading this, I am sorry because you probably think I am mean. That’s easier to believe and makes you have to do absolutely nothing. If you are good, you know what I am referring to in this post. Keep up the good work!

Eaten by the Media Monster

Listening is a lost art.  Because I have chosen to listen this Lent, I am becoming supremely aware of all the “shouting” that goes on around me. Media messages are constantly bombarding us, and they do affect us. If you don’t believe this, I think you are either very naive or foolish.

The other day, I was driving in my car and praying. Sometimes, my car is a sanctuary because it is a place where I am by myself. I love my family, but we are all home together more than the average family in America. There are occasions when I need to have “alone time.” So, I found myself running errands and praying.

The first stop I had to make was at the Mall. I noticed right away the piped in music. I though to myself, “No silence allowed here.” Many of the stores had such large, graphic ads plastered across their storefronts that 20 years ago you would have only found in a PlayBoy magazine! I see families strolling together right past these ads, totally oblivious. Every store seems to have its own music blaring. “Who can think straight in this mess,” I wonder to myself.

I had to stop for gas next. As I turn on the pump, up pops a television screen and loud advertnewsment? As far as I can tell, there is no way to turn it off. “Wow,” I think to myself, “I cannot even fill up my car with gas without being bombarded by this junk.”

Finally, I get to the mechanic for an oil change. I have to wait in a lobby. You guessed correctly–giant screen television blaring away. I spy the remote. No one else is around. I pick it up and turn off the television. Out of nowhere, an employee appears. “Oh no, the television is broken,” he says. I explain that I chose to turn it off. The look on his face said everything. Apparently, turning off the television is forbidden or just plain odd. Since no one else was there, he allowed it. As soon as my car was ready, and I was backing out of the parking spot, I noticed him heading over to turn the television back on.

What happened to good old-fashioned conversation? What happened to clear thinking? What happened to ‘silence is golden’? Apparently, it got eaten by the media monster! And no one seems to have noticed or cared.

What Lies Hidden Beneath?

I’m in the midst of a remodeling project. Because I am thrifty, my family is doing as much of the work as we can. This means tearing things apart which my sons find quite wonderful. We have pretty much redone this entire house except for the kitchen and two bathrooms. This week, we are dismantling the kitchen and pulling up carpeting. It was our hope and prayer that the hardwood floors would still be in good shape. The question we all were wondering as we began the ripping out process is “What lies hidden beneath?”

Okay, you may find this odd, but I am constantly finding that God speaks to me even through carpet that is 40+ years old! Think of a green from the 1960s…not avacado but a more of a classic light green. This carpet looks pristine because it is wool and apparently no one was allowed to “play” in this area. However, as we rip into the carpet, layers of dust come at us as we choke . This is like our souls. We may look fresh and clean and well-kept on the outside, but beneath this “surface” is some pretty awful stuff.

Next, we get to the carpet pad. It is thick and red. “Wow, this was nice stuff when they bought it,” I say to my son. However, some portions of this thick, red padding have become hard as rock! Crumbling, chunks of substance like chalk. “Huh,” I think to myself, “this is like parts of our hearts where we sealed off ourselves because of unforgiveness. There’s nothing left to work with here. It’s just crumbling away into dust.”

Finally, we get to the floor. It’s hardwood and it is beautiful. Oops. I forgot. There are rows and rows and rows of large carpeting staples that need removing. I try my usual method (pliers), only to find that these staples have been in here so long, they are brittle and just break, leaving me to wrestle the tiny nubs out of the hard, hard wood. These are like our sins that have gone deep into the depths of us. They have become us, and we must work hard to ply them out of the beauty that God made us.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of this remodeling job has in store for me. I must admit though I’m a bit afraid of what lies hidden beneath.

Moving in with Grandma

About 8 years ago, my family uprooted and moved to a new city to care for my husband’s elderly mother. When my children found out that we were going to live with Grandma, they thought they had died and gone to heaven because Grandma pretty much kept a never-ending supply of ice cream and treats around the house. In kid world, this was definitely an upgrade situation.

But in reality, combining two households was challenging to say the least. Grandma had been living a solitary life by herself since my husband’s father’s death almost 4 years earlier. Meanwhile, we had rambunctious children ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old.  Also, Grandma had a very strong personality, plus liked to “favor” one of the children.  She didn’t seem to understand that when we were parenting our children, she couldn’t insert herself and have it work out very well.

Living with a octogenarian who has increasing dementia keeps life interesting. If you think toddlers are challenging, you are just beginning to understand what this is really like. Layer in a few of her adult children who are in denial about their parent’s condition, and who also conveniently live out-of-town, and you begin to get a picture of some of the fun we have experienced. Our family has definitely grown in many virtues because of choosing to serve Grandma.

Fast forward 8 years. We had to transition Grandma to a long-term care facility last year for a whole host of reasons. My family has been mourning the loss, even though she is only 1 mile away. We visit her often, but not many people seem to understand how it feels to embrace someone into your daily life like we did, then have to “let go.” I think that has been the hardest part of this transition. We love her dearly and she was part of our immediate lives for 8 years. She turned 90 years old last week, and we celebrated with her at the center. My children played piano and she sang along. We all ate way too much pie. Half the residents stayed and listened to the recital. One even claimed my children as her grandchildren, too. She also had a birthday next week. She thinks she is turning 92.

Grandma taught us many lessons which I want to share with you today. I hope you can learn as much as we did!

  1. A positive attitude is everything. Grandma lived through the Depression, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc…She knew what it meant to face difficulties. Her approach was to always keep a positive outlook. When she went into the long-term care facility, she never looked back. She takes “the bus” on outings once a week. She doesn’t have any idea where she went, but she sure enjoys it. She cannot get over how lucky she is to have such a loving, caring staff who she works with! I see that her loving attitude attracts the loving, caring staff.
  2. A simple faith to know that God loves you. Grandma was blessed to have many holy people guide her throughout her life. Some of the people who she had for direction are now famous names. She could recall all kinds of examples of how God opened doors for her. I noticed that she was always willing to step through them.
  3. Never, never, never give up. Grandma is like the Energizer bunny–she keeps going and going and going. She has more energy in one day than I will probably have in a lifetime. She keeps active and is persistent in what she pursues. Although, sometimes that would mean finding her dangerously perched on top of the patio table trying to open the umbrella over her head. I see that she was simply overcoming any obstacle in her path, even to her own detriment.

Grandma taught us many, many more lessons. She continues to show us how to live with dignity. She shines brightly around all of her neighbors and the staff at the center. We sure love and miss her in our lives, although we still get to visit. Thank you, Grandma, for showing us how to live. Happy 90th Birthday!

Tiny Teacups

It’s not every day you get invited to a tea party. One of my dearest friends spontaneously invited me to join her for tea. I love her tea parties because you never know what you will be served or who she will invite to join us.

When I arrived this time, I noticed a new tea set. I also quickly sized up the other guests: a well-loved but older gentleman whose clothing looked a bit rumpled, a younger blonde who appeared to have an unkempt appearance, and a very easy-going chap who had an interesting accent.

Once everyone was settled, the hostess began to serve. This time, she served banana-nut-raisin tea with “yummy” cookies. I learned that the honored guests’ names were Teddy, Dolly and Scooby Doo.

As you may have guessed by now, my hostess was a toddler. Don’t be fooled by her age. Within 10 minutes, she had taught me quite a few lessons:

When I asked for my tea, she reprimanded me, “We must say our prayers before we eat!” Thank you for the gift of gratitude.

When I slurped down my tea quickly and asked for more, she gently reminded me, “Let’s wait until everyone has had some before we ask for seconds.” Thank you for the gift of sharing.

When all was done and I made my excuses to leave, she looked at me with such sweet eyes and said, “You can have some more while we let the others finish.” Thank you for the gift of love.

It was hard to pull away from such a wonderful hostess and guests. My hostess even offered to let me make tea the next time! I just wonder who will be at the party and what they will be there to teach me.